Tips for Writing a Strong DBQ Essay

1. Build a Baseline

First, you’re going to need a baseline. Define at what point you are now in terms of your DBQ skills. That’ll make it possible for you to have a good idea of the aspects you’ll need to focus on while preparing for an AP History test.

We recommend you to practice writing an essay at home and find somebody who can grade your work as per the rubric.

Please, note that you can always find a new DBQ rubric, practical questions, and prompts on the Official College Board website.

2. Practice Your Writing Skills

Apart from learning and reviewing new material, you have to improve your writing skills. The secret to getting a good grade lies in having constant practice.

While working on a DBQ essay, you’ll need to include the following:

  • Clear thesis statement — develop a brief and convincing main idea. It should comply with your prompt and let the reader know what you’ll be writing about.
  • A thorough analysis of documents — conducting a good source analysis will earn you 2 points (1 point for making use of 6-7 recommended documents and 1 point for a detailed interpretation), you’ll need to look into the author’s opinion, goals, and historical context.
  • Relevant information from external sources — by supplying evidence from external sources, you can earn extra points. Give one more example to back up your thesis.
  • Synthesis — trace the connection between the evidence contained in the documents and a different epoch or period.

We strongly suggest that you create a DBQ essay outline. You can either come up with a plan or supply visual cues that’ll help you make your thoughts more structured.

A typical DBQ essay follows a specific format. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should comply with it no matter what. Your outline can look like this:

  1. Introduction (brief historical context and a good thesis)
  2. Body paragraphs
    1. Paragraph 1 (contextual information and background knowledge from external sources)
    2. Paragraph 2 (the first point — make sure you use the documents that back up your 1st point)
    3. Paragraph 3 (the second point — make sure you use the documents that back up your 2nd point)
    4. Paragraph 4 OPTIONAL (the third point — make sure you use the documents that back up your 3rd point)
  3. Conclusion (restate your thesis and draw a comparison with a different historical period or situation)

3. The Day Before the Exam

It may sound a bit banal, but you should try your best to relax before the exam day. You’ve been working so hard, and you deserve some rest. You will be more confident during the exam if you don’t try to make a last-ditch attempt to learn everything in one night.

Have a good night’s sleep before the exam day. That way, you’ll keep your memory in a perfect “working” condition.

Also, have a substantial breakfast or lunch so that you don’t feel tired if you’re taking an exam on that day.

4. During the Exam

1. Carefully read the prompt and documents

Make sure you understand the essay question. You may highlight keywords like “describe,” “analyze,” “compare,” and similar ones related to the task to know what you are supposed to do.

It’s also a great idea to jot down some contextual details you are already aware of. It’s fine if nothing comes to mind. Read the documents to get a better understanding of what you’ll need to be writing about. As you do so, take notes or mark things that might help you with your essay.

Put the documents into different categories, depending on how they may be useful to you. Then choose the four ones you will be analyzing more thoroughly and reread them.

2. Plan your essay

It’s vital to develop a strong thesis statement. If you don’t know what to write about, spend some more time brainstorming new ideas. Always prepare your thesis before working on your essay’s body. Otherwise, you risk ending up with a paper making no sense.

Once you have an effective thesis, you should draft a good outline. Work out relevant topics for the paragraphs in your body section and back them up with the provided documents. Make sure you use every single document you have to get easy points.

3. Write your first draft

Once you’ve created a good outline, you can start transferring your ideas to paper.

Avoid making your introduction excessively long. Just introduce the central question in 2-3 sentences before moving on to your thesis.

Concentrate on ideas and avoid using complex language. By setting forth clear arguments, establishing connections between different pieces of evidence, and using specific information in a broader context, you’ll be able to get the paper you need.

Also, make sure you’ve got some time left. You’ll need several minutes to revise and edit your DBQ essay. Make sure you’ve addressed all points from your outline and backed them up with evidence.

Perhaps, that’s too much for one article to cover. But you wouldn’t want to flunk your exam, now would you?

Check Out Our Free Samples of DBQ Essays

Below, you will find sample DBQ essays that will help you get more points during your History exam.

We wish you good luck and hope the recommendations contained herein will let you hand in a paper you’ll be proud of.