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“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”. Joseph Pulitzer. What Is A Free-Response?.

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“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”

E. Napp

Joseph Pulitzer

what is a free response
What Is A Free-Response?
  • Every student is required to write three essays on the World History AP examination
  • The writing section of the examination is called the free-response section
  • A student has 130 minutes to write three essays or three free-responses

-However, the first 10 minutes of the free- response section of the exam begins with a mandatory period of reading the documents for the DBQ essay

-During this 10 minute period, students may take notes but not work on actual essays

E. Napp


Once the mandatory reading period is over, a student may want to take a moment to plan his DBQ essay.

It is important to remember that if you know where you are going, you have a good chance of getting there.

E. Napp

the dbq the first free response
The DBQ – The First Free-Response
  • A DBQ is a document-based essay question
  • Four to ten documents will be included in the DBQ and must be used when writing the essay
  • Most documents will be primary sources from books, memoirs, and essays or transcriptions of speeches, etc
  • Images or poetry may be included
  • Authors may be famous or not
  • Students should plan to write

the DBQ essay in 40 minutes

E. Napp

Image Courtesy of ETS


A student’s DBQ essay provides evidence of the student’s ability to evaluate and comment on primary documents

  • Of course, the student must write a good essay with a clear thesis
  • The student must also incorporate all, or all but one, of the documents in his essay
  • And the student must also comment on at least one other type of document, not included, that explains the thesis
  • Yes, outside information must be included

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The highest grade a student can score on the DBQ essay is 9 points

  • In order to be eligible for 9 points, the student must first score 7 points on the basic core
  • If a student receives 7 points on the basic core, the student is eligible for the expanded core points or a maximum of 2 additional points

E. Napp

the basic core
The Basic Core
  • Acceptable thesis (1 point)
  • Addresses and shows understanding for all (or all but one) of the documents (1 point)
  • Thesis is supported by evidence from all documents or all but one (2 points)

-But if only supported by all but two documents, only 1 point

  • Analyzes point of view in two or more documents (1 point)
  • Analyzes documents by clustering them in two or three ways (1 point)
  • Identifies one type of additional document and explains why it is needed (1 point)

E. Napp

by the way what is point of view
By the Way, What is Point of View?
  • Every person has an opinion or a point of view
  • Questions to consider about a person’s point of view

- Who is the speaker or writer of the document?

- What is the speaker’s socioeconomic class, gender, background, ethnicity, etc.?

- What is the speaker’s opinion?

- What does the speaker believe or want or need?

This is the speaker’s point of view!

E. Napp


If the student addresses all tasks required for full points in the basic core, the student is eligible for the expanded core points

  • Expanded Core:

-Expands beyond the basic core

-The student has addressed all aspects of the basic core’s task and provided more information than was required by the basic core

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sounds mysterious but it isn t
Sounds Mysterious but it isn’t
  • For the expanded core points

-Has an analytical, clear, comprehensive thesis

-Demonstrates careful and insightful analysis

-Makes convincing use of documents as evidence

-Discusses point of view for most or all of the documents

-Compares, groups, and synthesizes documents in additional ways

-Employs useful external historical content

-Identifies and explains the need for two or more additional document types

E. Napp

categorization is important
Categorization is important
  • Of course, in order to receive expanded core points, the student needs to group documents into useful and meaningful categories
  • Ultimately, several documents will be similar in ideology or point of view
  • For example, nationalist leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Gamal Abdel Nasser often share similar perspectives about conquerors and imperialism
  • Nonviolent resisters like Mohandas Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau share similar ideas as well

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look for similarities
Look for Similarities
  • To group documents effectively, look for commonalities or similarities
  • Strong categorization provides a strong foundation for writing the DBQ essay

E. Napp

consider a sample document
Consider A Sample Document:
  • Source: Mikhail Bakunin, nineteenth-century anarchist, “Principles of Revolution” (1869)

“We recognize no other activity but the work of extermination, but we admit that the forms in which this activity will show itself will be extremely varied – poison, the knife, the rope, etc. In this struggle, revolution sanctifies everything alike.”

E. Napp

what to look for in the document
What To Look For in the Document:
  • Who is the speaker (Think socioeconomic class, gender, political affiliation, ethnicity, etc.)?
  • What does the speaker believe?
  • Why does the speaker believe this?
  • Are there other speakers in the documents who believe similarly?
  • What is this speaker’s point of view?

E. Napp

dbqs are fun
DBQs are Fun
  • Yes, writing a DBQ is fun because it is truly a free-response
  • There are many ways to group the documents
  • There are many acceptable thesis statements
  • There are many sources of outside information
  • It is a free response because the student has the freedom to decide how to structure the essay and how to write it

E. Napp

by the way
By The Way
  • The question for the Bakunin document was:

“In the modern world, major political and social changes have been brought about by different means. Using the documents presented below, discuss the various methods of political and social transformation that they call for or advocate. Be sure to explain the need for at least one additional type of document.”

E. Napp

and the 2010 dbq question was
And The 2010 DBQ Question Was:
  • Using the following documents, analyze similarities and differences in the mechanization of the cotton industry in Japan and India in the period from the1880s to the 1930s. Identify an additional type of document and explain how it would help your analysis of the mechanization of the cotton industry.

E. Napp

~Courtesy of ETS

continuity and change over time essay question or the second essay
Continuity and Change Over Time Essay Question OR the Second Essay
  • The CCOT essay tests a student’s ability to trace a broad trend or development over a long period of time
  • Topics may include cultural interchange, global trade, the movement and migration of peoples, the role of minorities in a given society, the status of women, environmental issues, biological developments, changes in technology, artistic and cultural attitudes, and scientific innovations
  • Always keep in mind how long-term trends develop within areas and across borders

E. Napp

sample ccot from ets
Sample CCOT from ETS

From the World History AP 2010 examination:

Describe and explain continuities and changes in religious beliefs and practices in ONE of the following regions from 1450 to the present.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Latin America/Caribbean

(~Courtesy of ETS)

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A student should spend 5 minutes looking over the question and outlining thoughts

  • It is recommended that the student take 40 minutes (which includes the 5 minutes for outlining) to write the essay
  • Concentrate on showing how and what changed
  • Establish a baseline: what were things like at the beginning of the time period…What changed? …Why did it change?... What were things like at the end of the period?... What differences did those changes make?... What remained the same?

E. Napp

scoring guide for ccot
Scoring Guide for CCOT
  • Basic Core (For a possible total of 7 points)

-Acceptable Thesis (1 point)

-Deals with all parts of the question, though not necessarily evenly or completely (2 points – partial credit can be given)

-Backs up thesis with appropriate historical evidence (2 points – partial credit can be given)

- Uses historical context to illustrate continuity and change over time (1 point)

-Analyzes the process of change and continuity (1 point)

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the expanded core for ccot
The Expanded Core for CCOT
  • A score of 7 must be earned before a student can gain expanded-core points (Total of 2 points)

Examples of Expanded Core:

-Begins with an explicit, analytical, and comprehensive thesis

-Deals with all aspects of the question

-Gives ample historical evidence to back up thesis

-Creatively links topic to relevant ideas, trends, and events

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by the way1
By The Way
  • For the religion CCOT from 2010, the student would consider the time period and realize that certainly for Latin America and the Caribbean the date 1492 will lead to profound cultural changes

-Think introduction of Roman Catholic religion

-Think religious syncretism (the blending of earlier animistic beliefs with new Christian beliefs)

-Think that while Roman Catholicism becomes the dominant religion of the region, it is a distinctly Latin American Catholicism clearly influenced by earlier religious beliefs

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And if sub-Saharan Africa was chosen:

-Think by 1450, animistic and Islamic traditions were practiced in much of West and East Africa

-Think the disruption of the Atlantic Slave Trade and a European presence on the coast

-Think the conquest and colonization of Africa during the 1800s and the increased presence of Christian missionaries

-Think the continued presence of Animism, Islam, and Christianity today in Africa

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the third essay the comparative essay
The Third Essay: The Comparative Essay
  • On this essay, students will be asked to compare and contrast the ways different societies deal with major issues and phenomena
  • These may include technological innovation; the social and economic impact of warfare; the treatment of minorities and women; the evolution of political systems; international trade and economic exchange; and systems of labor organization

E. Napp

sample from 2010 world history ap
Sample From 2010 World History AP

Analyze similarities and differences in methods of political control in TWO of the following empires in the Classical period.

  • Han China (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.)
  • Mauryan/Gupta India (320 B.C.E.–550 C.E.)
  • Imperial Rome (31 B.C.E.–476 C.E.)

~Courtesy of ETS

E. Napp


Students should devote 40 minutes to complete the comparative essay

  • Students should spend 5 minutes looking over the question and outlining thoughts
  • Concentrate on comparing and contrasting how at least two civilizations or nations responded to a historical event or experience
  • Give equal weight to civilizations or nations chosen
  • Balance similarities and differences, although a student may decide that one is more important than the other

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scoring the comparative essay
Scoring the Comparative Essay
  • Basic Core

-Acceptable thesis (1 point)

-Deals with all parts of the question (2 points)

-Backs up thesis with appropriate historical evidence (2 points)

-Provides one or two relevant, direct comparisons between or among societies (1 point)

-Analyzes one or more reasons for a difference or similarity discussed in a direct comparison (1 point)

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expanded core
Expanded Core
  • The basic core of 7 must be earned before a student can earn a maximum of 2 additional points

-Opens with an analytical, clear, comprehensive thesis

-Deals with all relevant parts of the question: comparisons, chronology, causation, connections, themes, interactions, content

-Gives ample historical evidence to back up thesis

-Links comparisons to larger global context

-Draws several direct comparisons

-Regularly examines the reasons for and the results of key similarities and differences

E. Napp

basic core and expanded core
Basic Core and Expanded Core?
  • The Basic Core demonstrates competence
  • But the Expanded Core demonstrates excellence

E. Napp

by the way2
By The Way
  • The 2010 comparative essay was about the classical civilizations
  • And the Romans and the Han are a classical comparison

-The Romans and the Han Chinese conquered lands and expanded their empires, established new cultural traditions that lasted long after their respective empires collapsed, were regularly threatened by nomadic invaders, and increased trade greatly

-But there were differences, the Han adopted Confucianism. The Romans executed Jesus and then years later, adopted his religion

E. Napp

so what is so free about a free response anyway
So, What is So Free About A Free Response, Anyway?
  • While the question is given, the student is free to answer the question from the perspective he freely chooses
  • There is no one correct answer
  • There are a multiplicity of answers
  • But an excellent answer has a clear thesis and detailed supporting evidence
  • An excellent answer is clear, well-written, and replete with ample evidence for support

E. Napp


“One should aim not at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand.”

E. Napp