AP Exams-What is a DBQ?

AP Exams-What is a DBQ?

When you first begin writing, it is hard enough to formulate an argument and back it up with evidence. Synthesizing information is not something that comes very easily to high school writers. I remember when I was assigned my first Document Based Question (DBQ), and I was anxious about where to begin. Luckily, my teachers had effective lesson plans, and I understood how to write a DBQ after some time and practice. In this blog post, I will explain what a DBQ is and why it is on several AP Exams, in order to show parents and students that this exam question is actually easier than the others!

Document Based Question may seem like a vague term. You may be wondering: what kind of documents is this title referring to? What kind of prompt will I have to answer? How can I get the most points on this part of the exam? I will try to answer these questions for you in this blog post!

The title of the essay question format, Document Based Question, actually refers to documents. These documents are pieces of historical or contemporary news articles, historical sources like diaries, letters or legal documents, pictures, maps, political cartoons, and many other types of documents. Instead of having to come up with your own reasons why your argument is correct, you are given evidence by the College Board on this part of the exam. This evidence should guide your thesis and the rest of your essay. You should always go through the documents thoroughly, in order to see how you should compose your thesis.

Usually, prompts on AP English Language and Composition Exams ask questions about contemporary issues and ask students to formulate arguments about these issues. For example, a popular AP English Language exam question focuses on the ramifications of social media on society. This is different from the prompts a student will be assigned on Social Science Exams, which pose questions that pertain to the subject matter of the course.

On AP US History exams, you are required to use at least six documents in your analysis, while on AP English Language and Composition exams, you are required to use just three. Depending on the exam, the number of documents needed in the analysis changes, so be sure to ask your teacher or tutor about the specifics of your exam. By correctly analyzing the documents and using more than the specified number of documents on your exam, you will gain extra points on that portion of the essay.

You may still have questions about why this type of essay exam is important to assess your knowledge of the course, especially after completing an entire multiple choice portion of the exam prior to this. DBQs are important because they require the high-level analysis that the College Board cannot judge just from the multiple choice portion of the exam. In addition, DBQs are important because these questions are the most like those you will find in a real college end-of-term exam. In fact, in humanities courses in many colleges, multiple choice exams are rarely used. Professors more than likely will require students to write essays in class in order to pass their class’s final!

My next blog post will focus on how to write a DBQ. Stay tuned for more info!

Blog Post by Rachel S. Stuart a Tutor and Featured Blogger for Academic Advantage Tutoring

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About Rachel

I have always been a proud “nerd.” When I could, I always helped my friends with their homework because I just loved to teach them how to think about the world differently. In particular, history and writing have always been my specialties. When I was a little girl, my aspiration was to one day be a history professor! I hope to begin Master’s classes in the field of education and continue to be fascinated by changing technology in the classroom and different ways of engaging my students’ creativity!
Honors and awards: Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Honors in History Honors Program at Emory, Recipient of the Theodore H. Jack Award, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Sigma Alpha, Dean’s List at Emory.

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