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In its role as an Advanced Placement course, AP US History exists not only to teach you historical facts, but to help you understand how to approach and analyze historical content in the way that college-level courses will eventually expect you to be able to do.
One of the most popular AP exams is AP United States History, which was taken by nearly half a million high school students in 2016.
This exam consists of 55 multiple-choice questions, four short-answer questions, a longer essay with a choice of two prompts, and a special type of essay question: the Document Based Question, or DBQ.
Most of them will be the type of written sources you’re used to seeing in history classes, such as letters, speech transcripts, newspaper articles, or passages from scholarly works.
However, the term “document” is used broadly here, and the documents you’re given could also include such diverse sources as song lyrics, graphs of data, maps, political cartoons, or photographs.
Mentioning these documents isn’t enough—you’ll need to show that you really understand them, from the meaning of the text to the historical context of the authors’ identities and points of view. It should have the same components as any other short essay, including a strong thesis statement and ample supporting evidence for this thesis.
Most of all, it has to be coherent and make sense as an argument for your point.
As its title indicates, the AP US History exam and its accompanying course curriculum deal with the history of the now-United States, starting in the 1490s with the arrival of European colonists and extending until the present day.
It covers not only events and people from this time and place, but also broader historical trends that have shaped US history.
When you’re studying for your DBQ, it’s important for you to keep in mind that the question and accompanying documents may come from any part of the AP US History curriculum.
There’s no way of knowing what material your DBQ will involve, so it’s essential that you have a strong overall strategy for reviewing the full scope of what you’ve learned.