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Before students plan and write essays, they must understand the tasks that the prompts ask them to perform. This begins with understanding the words that prompts use.
Compare and Contrast prompts ask students to either compare and/or contrast. It is critical that students understand the difference so that they perform the correct tasks. The prompts may ask students to compare OR to contrast or to compare AND to contrast

Using a dictionary, define these words. Include any close synonyms.

              1. COMPARE



Compare and contrast essays begin with a prompt. The prompt will specify the actions a student is required to perform. It will also specify a definite chronological period from World History and provide two to three geographical or cultural regions from which a student may choose. All compare and contrast essays will follow this format. It will also designate a specific historical theme used within the AP World History course guide.
In their essays, student must address all parts of the prompt. This means that in the course of the essay, a student has to have a comparison, a contrast, mention both regions/countries, and the time period. If the prompt specifies themes to discuss, then students will also have to discuss each of the themes at least once. There is a higher and lower standard on the rubric.
“I.E. vs E.G.”

In the prompt the College Board may use a terminology when identifying themes. In one recent essay it said “e.g. politics, social, and economics.” E.G means “for example” in Latin. I.E. means “that is.” When the College Board prompt uses ‘e.g.’ it means a student may use the examples provide. If the prompt says ‘i.e.’ then the student MUST use these examples.

The Time Period

Compare and Contrast Essays for AP World History will specify a time period. Students are expected to not only recognize the time periods, which are based on the chronological perimeters of the AP World History Course Guide but major developments within each period.

Prompts will also identify one or more of the FIVE overarching themes used in the AP World History course guide. PERSIA helps students remember these themes. The prompt may specify one only theme or it may specify two or three. If the prompt specifies a theme, a student must address that in his or her essay. However, if the prompt only identifies one or two themes it is always best for the student to divide the theme into some of its parts or sub-themes related to the prompt.
The GeographIC Focus
Failure to understand cultural and political geography can be disastrous during the Compare and Contrast essays (as well and the Change, Continuity over Time). If a student is asked to write about East Asia and includes Vietnam, a Southeast Asian country in the essay, the essay could be invalid. Or if a prompt specifies Southwest Asia and a student includes India, a country of South Asia it will change the focus of the essay. All compare and contrast essays specify geographic or cultural regions that a student should use. This requires students to understand the cultural regions included in the AP World History Course Guide. Students need to know at least two countries within the region. If you are not sure, please consult the map(s) from the AP Summer Assignment.
All essays must have an acceptable thesis, which address the issues and themes specified in the prompt. One of the simplest and most successful ways is to use a format called WAHP3 – “What is it about, how will you prove it - give me three ways?”
For instance if the prompt was “Compare and Contrast the formation of empires in any two Classical civilizations (a) the Mediterranean; (b) South Asia; and (c) East Asia” an acceptable thesis sentence would look something like this: While both the Classical Roman and Han Empires centralized power and militarily expanded their frontiers, the Roman Empire did not utilize a political philosophy to structure and rule their empire while the Han Emperors used a blend of Legalism and Confucianism. The “WA” part of the thesis is empire formation in Rome and Han China while the “HP3” includes (1) both centralized power and (2) both used militaries to expand; and one difference (3) different political philosophies. Please note that this thesis contains themes specified in the prompt (empire building), two regions (Rome and Han China), at least one comparison (there are two) and at least one difference, and the time period. Please note that is critical to include the time period because without it an essay might not be historical valid.
It is best in the thesis statement to make at least two significant and direct comparisons – one should be a similar and one a difference (if the prompt asks you to compare). It is not acceptable to simply say, “the two civilizations were similar and different.” This is paraphrasing or copying the prompt. A student must qualify the prompt by fleshing it out in detail.
A thesis may constitute two sentences but they must be next to each other. Many of my students have separate “WA” and “HP3” sentences.
As are the Document Based Question and Change and Continuity over Time essays, the Compare and Contrast essay in AP World History is graded through a process called Core Scoring. Students must earn all points of the Basic Core before earning points of the Expanded Core. No matter how sophisticated an essay is if a student misses on indicator of the Basic Core, he or she cannot earn points of the Expanded Core.
The introduction paragraph is the single most important paragraph you will write; the second most important is the first body paragraph. These two contain the first ideas and proofs a grader will read. The quality or lack of quality of these sentences can prejudice a reader about your whole essay. Introduction paragraphs need contain only two sentences – a hook and a thesis sentence. But hook sentences or historical introductions add color and are the attention grabbers that start an essay. The best hooks tell the history of the essay prompt’s topic leading up to that essay prompt. A thesis paragraph usually begins with a historical introduction. Students should tell the history of the topic and region leading up to their thesis statement.
The body paragraphs that follow should compare and contrast three themes or groups. Do not create two paragraphs solely on the two geographic regions. Nor is it quality writing to create one paragraph on similarities and one on differences. Create paragraphs using themes (PERSIA) and within each compare and contrast your two regions or states. Maintain parallel order as articulated in your thesis sentence. And each paragraph should have a detailed and specific topic sentence.


Students must make two or more relevant, direct comparisons between or among societies. Students should organize their essays by grouping in a relevant manner. The acronym PERSIA will suffice, and they should use three major groups. Within the groups, the student should compare and contrast the two civilizations. They set up directed comparisons. Often students fail to make direct comparisons or contrasts. One of the simplest ways is to use vocabulary that sets it up. Listed below are words denoting “similar” and “different.” There are variations based on word combinations and tenses but this list should provide some assistance in making directed comparisons.
Similarity: Differences:

Similar Differently

Similarly On the other hand

The Same As Even though

In Comparison Although

Comparatively Whereas

Both But

Also Unlike

Comparable Dissimilar

Commensurable Distinctive

Of the Same Order Oppose

Match Up With Varies

Parallel Distinction

Analogous Disparity

Correlative Distinct

Like Diverge

Equal Otherwise

Correspond Unequal


Within a Compare and Contrast Essay, students must analyze at least two reasons for a similarity or difference identified in a direct comparison. Remember: the analysis point must begin with a direct comparison and explain why the similarity or difference arose or occurred. The easiest way to do this is by giving explanation statements (the “why” or “how”). Such a construction could be:

France and Mali both had decentralized political structures yet for different reasons. France had to give local nobles power in order to repel Vikings and to halt invasions. Paris and the king were too distant to respond to local problems immediately and swiftly. Had power not been granted locally, France could have been destroyed in the early Post-Classical Age. Afterwards, the French kings tried to reclaim power. Mali however came about by conquest. The Sultan of Mali conquered an enormous area and established a tributary relationship with the defeated rulers. The defeated subjects had to pay yearly tribute but could continue ruling. The Sultan rarely intervened unless tribute was not paid. They had to fight to prevent their subject provinces from throwing off the sultan’s rule.


This is the least critical paragraph you will write. National graders insist you can forget a conclusion and still receive the highest score. But when you write research papers later in college classes, you will learn you cannot do this. It is the last time you can tell your reader what your thesis or main idea was. Therefore, learn to conclude in some appropriate manner. Whatever you do, do not waste an inordinate amount of time concluding. The time is better spent on analysis and interpretation.
Most critically, however, a conclusion can function as a thesis IF your thesis is missing or does not meet the criteria of the rubric for the point. Consequently, a conclusion is critical.

There are several other tips to writing a superior essay. Each is listed below. Read the following prompt and thesis sentence.


Parallel structure organizes subsequent paragraphs based on the internal order of ideas outlined in the thesis sentence. When students write thesis sentences, they should put their stronger points first and weaker points last.


The most common form is a five-paragraph essay. This includes the introduction paragraph, conclusion paragraph and three body paragraphs. The body paragraphs should not conflate ideas into one paragraph. Different themes should be separated into their own paragraphs. The number of paragraphs should match the number of points in your thesis plus introduction and conclusion paragraphs. Also skip two lines between paragraphs- this helps for easier reading and grading.


Students have forty minutes for this essay. Spend five minutes organizing your essay with a brief outline. Use thirty minutes to write. But save five minutes to reread the essay and to make corrections. Check to see that you have addressed all portions of the prompt. If you have left something out, and want to add ideas, insert them in the margin or at the end of the essay but find some way to tell the reader where the new portion goes.

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