Ap european history: short answer questions – Examples and Rubric Let’s start with a Reminder

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Let’s start with a Reminder:


The Short-Answer Section – Explanation:

Short-Answer Questions
On the AP European History Exam, the short-answer section will consist of four questions that require students to use historical thinking skills and content knowledge to respond to stimulus material, a historian’s argument, or a general proposition or question about European history. As in the multiple-choice section, stimulus material may consist of a primary or secondary source, including texts, images, charts, graphs, maps, etc. At least two of the four short-answer questions will include stimulus material. Each short-answer question will directly address one or more of the thematic learning objectives for the course and assess one or more of the nine historical thinking skills. Each short-answer question will ask students to analyze historical developments and/or processes using examples drawn from the concept outline or other examples explored in depth in classroom instruction. The short-answer questions may require students to take a position based on the stimulus material presented, identify a significant cause or effect, or account for differences and similarities in perspectives, historical developments, etc.1

Though this was also mentioned previously (in my syllabus!), here is another reminder:

Course Themes:

Course Skills:

  1. Interaction of Europe and the World

  2. Poverty and Prosperity

  3. Objective Knowledge and Subjective Vision

  4. States and Other Institutions of Power

  5. Individual and Society

  1. Chronological Reasoning

  1. Analyzing Historical Sources and Evidence

  • Analysis and Interpretation

  1. Creating and Supporting an Argument

  2. Making Historical Connections

  • Comparison

  • Contextualization

  • Synthesis

Sample Questions and Responses:

Short-Answer Question #1:

The Protestant Reformation led to multiple Christian faiths throughout Western Europe. There were many significant individuals who contributed to this time period, including:

  • Desiderius Erasmus

  • Martin Luther

  • John Calvin

A). Briefly explain why ONE of the individuals on the list contributed most to this era of religious reform.

B). Provide at least ONE piece of evidence to support your explanation.

C). Briefly explain why ONE of the other individuals was less significant than the one you chose in Part A).

Sample Response:

A). Martin Luther was the most influential individual of the Reformation Era in European history. Luther’s scripture-based questioning of the Catholic doctrine and corrupt practices as well as his eventual complete schism from the Catholic Church resulted in the religious division of Western Christendom and ushered in a period of violence/warfare, social upheavals, and new political configurations. Conflicts and reforms inspired by Luther’s teachings changed the way governments would interact with the church and the way the rulers as well as the ruled would define their place in their community or society.

B). Lutheranism was spread and embraced in parts of the Holy Roman Empire and Scandinavia. Princes and kings in those European societies, such as Phillip of Hesse and Christian III of Denmark, played a crucial role in promoting Luther’s brand of Christianity and establishing state-run churches. (If you choose to focus on the religious warfare: Catholic-Protestant split led to bloody conflicts within as well as between various European states. More specifically, interpretations of Luther’s teachings inspired the peasant uprising in the Holy Roman Empire during the 1520s. It also played a significant role in the wars of religion in Switzerland as well as during the 30 Years’ War).

C). Though he was an accomplished Biblical scholar in his own right, Desiderius Erasmus was not as influential as Martin Luther during the Reformation Era. In his numerous works, Erasmus criticized various corrupt practices of the Catholic Church and emphasized “the philosophy of Christ” or simplicity in practicing Christianity. However, Erasmus’ approach was not radical enough, and he chose not to push for a complete break with the Catholic Church. Erasmus’ moderation and focus on reforms within the Church inspired other “men of knowledge” and, inadvertently, laid the foundation for Protestant leaders later in the 16th century, but it did not have the popular appeal of Luther’s ideas nor did it have widespread political support from European nobles and princes.

Short-Answer Question #2:

Use the image below to answer parts A, B, and C.


“The Directors of the East India Company” (“Governors of the Hoorn Chapter of the VOC)” by Jan de Baen, 1682.

A). Briefly explain ideas expressed in this painting regarding the Golden Age o the Dutch Republic in terms of ONE of the following:

  • Economic status

  • Social hierarchy/influence

  • Economic policy

B). Briefly explain ONE cause of the emergence of the Dutch Republic as one of the leading economic powers of the seventeenth century.

C). Briefly explain ONE non-economic factor that contributed to the sustenance of high status and privilege of the Dutch commercial elite.

Sample response:

A). This painting, most likely commissioned by the Directors/Governors of the East India Company, portrays members of the elite of the Dutch society in the 17th century – wealthy merchants-entrepreneurs. These affluent citizens of the United Provinces were able to accumulate wealth through profits from international trade in variety of commodities as well as from domestic manufacturing. Their economic clout allowed these men to control local governments in the Dutch Republic and form “cozy,” mutually beneficial relationship with powerful nobility and the stadholderate.

B). The emergence of the economic prosperity in the United Provinces during the seventeenth century was underpinned by its recognition as an independence state as a result of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In addition, even prior to their full independence, the Dutch positioned themselves as the financial and commercial center of Europe, acting as the main transporters of raw materials from the Americas and Asia to Europe through the Atlantic trade circuit.

C). Calvinist-inspired lifestyle, which stressed the importance of hard work discipline, and humbleness, allowed the Dutch merchant elite to maintain their high social status. Calvinism, at least in the way it was interpreted and applied by the Dutch entrepreneurs, inspired individualism and self-sufficiency as well as encouraged political participation. Calvinist thought discouraged frivolous spending and flaunting of wealth, so the Dutch merchants emphasized simplicity in their household maintenance as well as in their clothing.

Now it is your turn!!!

Short answer question:

The sculpture below, “The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa” (1645-52) by Gianlorenzo Bernini illustrates the “baroque” style. Using the image and your knowledge of European history answer both (A and B) questions below.


A). Identify and explain TWO characteristics of the “baroque” style illustrated by the example above.

B). Explain ONE way in which the “baroque” style differs from the artistic character of the Renaissance.

Provide your response below:

One more short answer question for practice!

Using your knowledge of European history, answer parts A, B, and C below:

A). Briefly explain ONE important similarity between the wars of religion in France and the English Civil War.

B). Briefly explain ONE important difference between the wars of religion in France and the English Civil War.

C). Briefly analyze one factor that accounts for the difference you identified in part B.

Provide your response below:

There is no official grading rubric for the short-answer section of the AP European History Exam. So, here is the rubric I will use for the upcoming short-answer section of Unit 2 Test (Chapters 13 and 15).

Identification and Description of Graded Elements

Possible Points:

Points Earned:

1. Argumentation – responses directly address each part of the question and

reflect historical thinking skills (cause-effect; similarity-difference, etc).


2. Historic Accuracy – answers contain historically accurate facts.


3. Concrete Evidence – responses include specific examples that support

provided argumentation. Examples include, but not limited to, individuals,

products, countries, etc. that are directly related to the question / time period.


4. Format – responses follow the proper format (They should be brief and each

part of the answer must be clearly identified) .




1 https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/digitalServices/pdf/ap/ap-european-history-course-and-exam-description.pdf, p.139.

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