AP US History
Writing the Long Essay
The AP U.S. History Exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long and includes both a 100-minute multiple-choice/short-answer section (Part I) and a 95-minute free-response section (Part II). Each section is divided into two parts, as shown in the table below. Student performance on these four parts will be compiled and weighted to determine an AP Exam score. AP Scores are 5 – 1.
Number of Questions
Percentage of Total Exam Score
Part A: Multiple-choice questions
Part B: Short-answer questions
Part A: Document-based question
Part B: Long essay question
1 question (chosen from a pair)
The Long Essay
The AP American history exam requires students to write a long essay within thirty-five minutes. They will have a choice between two questions that focus on the same historical thinking skill (HTS) but may apply to different time periods and thematic learning objectives. Each essay will be evaluated on the following criteria:
· Argumentation. Develops a thesis or relevant argument that addresses all parts of the question.
· Use of evidence. Supports the thesis using specific evidence, clearly linked to the thesis.
· Targeted historical thinking skill. Each question will assess an additional thinking skill, such as causation,
comparison, continuity and change over time, or periodization.
· Synthesis. Written answers need to extend the argument of the essay, connect it to a different time historical
context, or connect it to a different category of analysis.
The following steps have proved useful in developing the skills needed to answer the AP long-essay question under the pressure of a limited time frame.
Step 1: Analyze the Question
Take the time to consider what the question really asks. Identify the targeted HTS in the question: causation, comparison, continuity and change over time, or periodization. Circle the main tasks required and organize your answers according to them. They might be verbs such as analyze, explain, support, modify, or refute. Underline the time period in the question.
Be sure to identify all the parts of the question that need to be addressed. Two, three, or more aspects of a question may be embedded in one sentence. Consider the following question: Evaluate the relative importance of domestic and foreign affairs in shaping American politics in the 1790s. Students must deal with both foreign and domestic affairs.
All questions require the use of HTS and analysis of the evidence. A long-essay answer will not receive full credit by simply reporting information. Therefore, be on your guard for questions that start out with the verbs “identify” or “describe”. Such a question is usually followed by “analyze” or some other more demanding thinking skill.
For example, examine this AP essay question: Consider two of the following and analyze the ways in...