|AP WORLD HISTORY - THE COMPARATIVE ESSAY, TIPS AND RUBRIC
THE COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY
The Basic Point Structure (To Be Memorized)
HAS AN ACCEPTABLE THESIS THAT ADDRESSES BOTH COMPARISON AND CONTRAST, WITH BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE EVIDENCE - (1 point)
DEALS WITH ALL PARTS OF THE QUESTION, or HAS BOTH TWO VALID POINTS OF COMPARISON AND TWO VALID POINTS OF CONTRAST - (2 points)
BACKS UP THESIS WILL APPROPRIATE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE, NO LESS THAN SIX POINTS OF EVIDENCE REQUIRED - (2 points)
PROVIDES AT LEAST TWO RELEVANT, DIRECT COMPARISONS BETWEEN OR AMONG SOCIETIES - (1 point)
ANALYZES TWO REASONS FOR A DIFFERENCE OR SIMILARITY DISCUSSED IN A DIRECT COMPARISON - (1 point)
1) What is the Format?
For this one, the format will look like this.
1) The COMPARE paragraph that deals with the FIRST part of the question. TWO COMPARISONS ARE REQUIRED.
2) The CONTRAST paragraph that deals with the SECOND part of the question. TWO CONTRASTS ARE REQUIRED.
3) The REASON for a DIFFERENCE or SIMILARITY paragraph, TWO REASONS required, and
4) The THESIS.
Now, wait a minute . . . .
That’s right. The thesis will be LAST and it will be MARKED as “Thesis” in the margin of the test booklet. Here’s why.
Unlike the DBQ, the thesis on the comparative question is a VERY HIGH BAR. This means that a lot of students use precious time crafting a thesis and don’t get very far. Recalling that on the AP World exam the thesis can be the LAST paragraph, I think it best that you write a SUMMARY of your essay and call it “thesis.” This may improve the odds of scoring this hard-to-get point. Why mark it as “thesis” in the margins? Even though readers are smart folks and very well-trained, reading is a long, brutal slog. You want to be sure that a tired and hungry reader is, in fact, going to KNOW that the last paragraph in your essay is the thesis. An “insurance policy.” So let’s break it down.
2) The Question
The comparative, like the DBQ, is pretty easy to mine for points if some common-sense mechanics are observed. Here’s a sample.
Compare and contrast the degree to which TWO of the following regions modernized between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second World War.
The Middle East
STEP ONE: What Time Is It?
SO many students screw this up. This is called PERIODICITY. Your essay will be about one of these regions IN THE PROPER TIME. Sometimes, the essay prompt will give you a span of years. This one is sneakier, and assumes you know 1918 and 1939.
IF YOU WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING OUTSIDE OF THE RELEVANT TIME PERIOD, IT WILL NOT COUNT!!!!!!!
That stinks. But it is a hard and fast rule.
STEP TWO: Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?
The prompt on the comparative will ask you to choose two of three. TWO MEANS TWO. No more, no less. And, of course, you pick the pair you know something about. If you don’t know diddly about the Middle East between 1918 and 1939, forget it. Drop it. It’s toxic.
This question might give you a specific region. Or, it may give you one of World History’s accepted regions. You must know them. And here they are:
a) North America – The United States, Canada, the First Nations of this region
b) Latin America – Mexico, the Caribbean, South America
c) Western Europe – Spain, France, Italy, Britain, Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, Austria, Germany
d) Eastern Europe – Greece, the Balkans, Poland, Czech Republic/Bohemia, Slovakia, Finland, Baltic States, MAYBE Turkey or Sweden, depending on the time period.
e) Russia – Russia stands alone
f) South Asia – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka
g) South East Asia – Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand/Siam, Burma/Myanmar, Malaysia
h) Australasia – Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia
i) The Middle East – All countries of the region INCLUDING Israel (ancient and modern) and NORTH AFRICA after 607 B.C. Turkey may be included.
j) Central Asia – The “Stans,” including Afghanistan
k) Sub-Saharan Africa – The nations and First Nations, ancient and modern, of Africa south of the Sahara Desert, including Ethiopia
l) East Asia – China, Japan, Mongolia, and Korea
DO NOT GUESS HERE. IF YOU WRITE ABOUT THE WRONG PLACE, IT WILL NOT COUNT!!!!!
Ouch, that stinks, too. Sorry.
So, going back to the prompt, you are going to choose two regions. And once you do, you have one last thing to do. Pick the countries. Let’s say you choose South Asia and Southeast Asia, and you decide to devote the bulk of the essay to Vietnam and India as your paradigms. You are ready to write. But, about what and how?
You need TWO comparisons and TWO contrasts. The question specifically asks you about “modernization” and “degrees.” Those can mean many, many things. So make it simple.
Modernization = Industrialization, Why and How. Maybe social movements based on Western ideologies, why and how.
Degrees = To what extent were they successful, and how/why did they succeed or fail?
If you notice, you already have two comparisons and two contrasts into which many, many different factors and forces just might fit. What you choose will be up to you.
3) WRITING THE ESSAY
A) THE FIRST PARAGRAPH
In this paragraph, you will make TWO, and no less, RELEVANT AND DIRECT COMPARISONS between the societies/civilizations SUPPORTED BY RELEVANT EVIDENCE.
A comparison is really a “general similarity.” So, the first thing you want to do is “set the stage.” Here’s a possibility.
“Before World War One, both South Asia and the Middle East were directly or indirectly dominated, economically and militarily, by the warring European colonial powers, including the Ottoman Empire. After 1918, following the crack up of the Ottoman Empire and Britain’s economic exhaustion, independence movements based on MODERN imported Western ideals broke out and gained more and more popular acceptance with the general population of both regions.
You have already set up a general similarity, the emergence of popular independence movements in reaction to European domination. You might continue in this way.
However, in both regions, another similarity is the level of violence each side deployed in their efforts to either achieve independence or retain control, leading to military clashes after the use of “Western reason” against the West itself failed to achieve the desired political results.
After this set up, you will then marshal TWO PIECES OF EVIDENCE for each point and explain why they are important to your analysis. Maybe like this.
“In India, while the British did attempt some small, liberalizing reforms by using the supposed “collaborators” of the Indian upper class as pawns, Gandhi’s appeal to non-violent resistance among all castes, which appealed to the mass of Hindus who could identify with this message, gave all sectors of Indian society a basis through which they could achieve eventual independence, in spite of the British using increasingly repressive methods like arrests and occasional mass shootings to maintain the authority of the Raj? The Vietnamese had a SIMILAR experience with their French overlords, and, while Ho Chi Minh did not call for non-violent resistance, this only really occurred after the Western allies, including the United States, failed to entertain Vietnamese appeals for independence consonant with the “Fourteen Points” during and after the Versailles Conference.
COMPARISONS – Independence movements broke out after the West failed to make good on its promises AND violence. Evidence, the Amritsar Massacre, Gandhi’s arrest, collaboration, Gandhi’s use of mass mobilization tactics, Ho Chi Minh seeking Vietnamese independence at Versailles.
In truth, this is a difficult choice to argue because “ideas” are not concrete. But, notice that how you use the word MODERNIZE makes all the difference. And notice I used it inside the paragraph. Notice I also used the words “another similarity.” You should USE THE PROMPT WORDS AND THE WORDS “COMPARE, CONTRAST, SIMILIARITY, DIFFERENCE.” GUIDE the reader.
B) THE SECOND PARAGRAPH – CONTRAST
One of the “dirty little secrets” of this essay is that, just by tweaking a couple of words, you can turn one into the other. And that’s OK.
“A major difference between Indian and Vietnamese independence movements was the level of violence it took to achieve “modern” independence. While both Gandhi and Ho Chi Minh were educated in the West and sought to bring Western ideals of independence and self-determination to their nations, each man became convinced for his own reasons that confrontation was not only inevitable, but required. A devout Hindu, Gandhi adapted the Hindu principle of ahimsa to political action, non-violence, and made a revolutionary appeal for support of all the castes in united action. Not having Hinduism or religion as a cultural unifier, Minh was forced to appeal to Vietnam’s long tradition of physical resistance to outside domination established for centuries, beginning when Vietnam successfully resisted the Han and Mongol efforts to conquer their nation.”
For whatever reason, students have a hard time with contrast. My suggestion is that you take a similarity and “turn it on its head” in a historically credible way. This is also why I want it in a separate paragraph.
You need TWO CONTRASTS WITH EVIDENCE.
Does that mean you can just turn paragraph one “on its head’ and get away with it?
It’s a stupid trick no one will buy, so don’t even try it. “Vive la difference.”
C) WHAT IS “EVIDENCE?” or "The Rule of Eight"
Everyone is aware that you only have a brief amount of time to write. The neat thing on this essay is that “evidence” does not have to be all that elaborate. In the paragraph I wrote above, believe it or not, there are not less than FOUR PIECES – ahimsa, appeal to all castes, no religious unifier in Vietnam, Vietnamese national tradition of physical resistance to exterior invasion. And that’s pretty good. The MORE THE BETTER! Why?
If you get a point of evidence WRONG, it will not count FOR you, but it will not count AGAINST you. The reader will just ignore it! So you need to “go to town.”
So how much do you need? NO LESS THAN EIGHT PIECES, THE "RULE OF EIGHT." Personally, I would shoot for ten seeing as how easy evidence points are easy to obtain. And what if you get one wrong? So what? It cannot be used against you! I will be ignored.
4) THE THIRD PARAGRAPH, or “The Word Because is Your Friend.”
This paragraph is best constructed as a “mad lib.” Like this:
“ONE REASON for the (SIMILIARITY/DIFFERENCE) in both societies’ _______________________________ is BECAUSE ______________________.
I’m dead serious. It’s that easy. Of course, what you say matters. If it’s wrong, you get nothing. And, it needs to be fairly well developed.
“One reason for the similar appetite for war in both North and South was because both regions, as they developed, perceived that the other was attempting political domination over the whole because of southern politician’s efforts to expand slavery into new territories in the west and northern politician’s efforts to create tariffs that would increase trade in northern manufactures but depress the profitability of southern cotton. “
That sentence is a train wreck, structurally. A run-on. And it does not matter in the slightest. All the moving parts are in place. POINT! And note I used the words REASON and BECAUSE. THESE WORDS ARE YOUR FRIENDS AND MUST BE USED. But also note that the “because” is not all that general. “Because they hated each other” does nothing. It means nothing.
You need to do this TWICE in one paragraph. Why? If one is wrong, you get another “bite at the apple.”
5) THE THESIS
This stupid point is so hard to get. I would write it like so. Recount your comparisons, recount your contrasts, make a general statement of the evidence for each, and conclude, making sure that the thesis answers all parts of the prompt. It’s really just like the DBQ thesis with a little more specificity. IF YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME, BLOW IT OFF.
I'm dead serious. If you have completed everything but the thesis satisfactorily, you should be sitting on at least three to five points. If you have time, write it, and don't be afraid to restate key arguments YOU have made, NOT THE PROMPT. If you are out of time, drop it and move on.
DO NOT PUT ANYTHING NEW IN THE THESIS. Why not? For the simple reason that the reader may consider the thesis for the thesis point, NOTHING ELSE. Not evidence, not point of view, nada. This has been a point of contention over the years, and I have seen "point mining" both allowed and disallowed, but the trend seems to be against it. So, putting new arguments and new evidence in the thesis paragraph is really an unacceptable level of risk.
IF YOU WRITE THE THESIS, PLEASE BRACKET IT IN THE MARGINS AND IDENTIFY IT AS THE THESIS. Just a little insurance to make sure the bleary-eyed reader doesn't miss the boat.