Approximately 20 percent of the questions deal with the period through 1789, 45 percent cover 1790 through 1914, and 35 percent cover 1915 to the present including questions on events since 1980. Within those time periods, 35 percent of the questions are on political institutions, behavior, and public policy; 40 percent are about social and cultural developments; approximately 15 percent of the remaining questions cover diplomacy and international relations; and 10 percent cover economic developments.
There is a mandatory 15-minute reading period at the beginning of the free-response section. Spend most of that time analyzing the documents and planning your answer to the DBQ in Part A. It's recommended that you spend 45 minutes writing the DBQ essay.
When appropriate, the DBQ will include charts, graphs, cartoons, and pictures, as well as written materials. This gives you the chance to showcase your ability to assess the value of a variety of documents. The DBQ usually requires that you relate the documents to a historical period or theme and show your knowledge of major periods and issues. For this reason, outside knowledge is very important and must be incorporated into the student's essay if the highest scores are to be earned. To earn a high score it's also very important that you incorporate the information you learned in your AP U.S. History class. The emphasis of the DBQ will be on analysis and synthesis, not historical narrative.
Your DBQ essay will be judged on thesis, argument, and supporting evidence. The DBQ tests your ability to analyze and synthesize historical data, and assess verbal, quantitative, or pictorial materials as historical evidence.
Standard Essay Questions:
You'll have a total of 70 minutes for the standard essay questions. It's recommended that you spend 35 minutes on each essay: five minutes planning and 30 minutes writing.
The standard essay questions may require that you relate developments in different areas (e.g., the political implications of an economic issue); analyze common themes in different time periods (e.g., the concept of national interest in United States foreign policy); or compare individual or group experiences that reflect socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, or gender differences (e.g., social mobility and cultural pluralism).
Although historiography is not emphasized in the examination, you are expected to have a general understanding of key interpretations of major historical events. Some questions are based on literary materials but the emphasis will be on the relationship between the material and politics, social and economic life, or related cultural and intellectual movements, not on literature as art.
Standard essays will be judged on the strength of the thesis developed, the quality of the historical argument, and the evidence offered in support of the argument, rather than on the factual information per se. Unless a question asks otherwise, you will not be penalized for omitting specific illustrations.
Scoring the Exam:
The multiple-choice and free-response sections each account for one-half of your final Exam grade. Within the free-response section, the document-based essay question counts for 45 percent and the two standard essays count for 55 percent
Content Outline 1. Pre-Columbian Societies
Early inhabitants of the Americas
American Indian empires in Mesoamerica, the Southwest, and the Mississippi Valley
American Indian cultures of North America at the time of European contact
2. Transatlantic Encounters and Colonial Beginnings, 1492-1690
First European contacts with Native Americans
Spain's empire in North America
French colonization of Canada
English settlement of New England, the Mid-Atlantic region, and the South
From servitude to slavery in the Chesapeake region