Document Based Questions
The Advanced Placement exams in history (American, European, and now World) include multiple-choice questions, free-choice essays, and a document-based question (DBQ). This third type of question poses a question or asks the student to analyze an issue within the context of a group of documents, some of which the student may have seen, but many of which are new to the student.
The purpose of this page is to provide some DBQ Do's and Dont's, give examples of DBQs released by the College Board (other past DBQs are copyrighted and must be purchased from the College Board), provide a list of the past quarter-century of DBQ questions and offer other links to DBQ resources.
The U.S. History 2001 DBQ will be taken from the period 1810 -1860. The actual question will be a secret until the day of the test, which is Friday, May 10.
Photo of antebellum slavery auction house.
Economics & Politics of American Slavery:
possible DBQ topic?
DBQ Do's & Dont's
Do the following things with a DBQ
Don't do the following things with a DBQ
Read carefully and make sure you understand the question being asked.
Respond to a question that isn't asked. Quickly jot down the major themes/events/people you associate with this topic or question.
Use "I" statements such as "I think that Document A portrays..." Read over the documents, noting the year and author/source of each one. If the document seems to support or oppose a possible perspective or opinion on the question, note that in the margin.
Summarize the documents. The reader knows the content of the documents and is interested in how you view the document relating to the question. Write out a preliminary thesis and outline of your major points.
Quote long passages from the documents. Use an ellipsis "..." if you need to quote. As you begin to write, remember to weave the documents into your answer, always focusing on the thesis.
Try to impress the reader with big words that are used incorrectly. This has the opposite effect of what is intended. Include your knowledge of the era along with your analysis of the documents.
Spend so much time reading and underlining the documents that you have to rush your writing. Be sure to include your own analyis/perspective on the question.
Begin writing your answer until you have a good sense of your thesis and how you want to approach the question. If you can knowledgeably quote or refer to an historian who has a perspective on this question, include his or her perspective.
Write "I ran out of time" on the bottom of your essay. You had as much time as every test-taker in America. Keep an eye on the clock so that you can have time to re-read your essay for any obvious technical errors.
Be as specific as possible when you include historical information.
Be assertive and forceful in making your points.
1997 Exam: Women's Rights: 1890-1925
1998 Exam: Jeffersonians and Strict Constructionism
1999 Exam: Colonial Attitudes Prior to the American Revolution
Past Document-Based Questions
The College Board has been creating DBQs for over 25 years. This list puts the questions in chronological order.
What is a DBQ question?
Beginning in June 2000, the Global History and Geography Regents Examination will require students to respond to a DBQ question. Likewise, the U.S. History and Government Regents Exam will follow suit in June 2001. While similar to a traditional essay in many respects, the DBQ question also has several unique characteristics. Quite simply, a DBQ question:
· Requires that students analyze a series of documents from Part A of the DBQ question and answer a specific short answer question about each document.
· Presents a specific task in Part B which must be addressed in an essay response using information obtained from the documents presented in Part A and the student's knowledge of social studies. · Is graded using a...
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