For high school teachers and their students getting ready for next month’s AP US History exam, the National Archives has primary sources and educational resources to help prepare you for the modified DBQ format.
This year’s test on May 15th will be significantly different from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to it being taken at home, the exam is also considerably shorter, with multiple choice questions, short answers, and a long essay removed. Instead, the test will be comprised of a single Document Based Question (DBQ) including 5 primary sources (instead of the typical 7), one of which will be a non-text based primary source.
One helpful resource for students to practice their DBQ skills is our series of Document Analysis Worksheets. These tools are designed for both written and several non-text based sources (photos, maps, posters, political cartoons, etc.) and could be used to support analysis of primary sources from any institution.
These resources have questions that are especially helpful to prepare students for the DBQ essay as their response is evaluated based on “how or why the document’s point of view, purpose, historical situation, and/or audience is relevant to an argument.”
Regardless of the document type, the analysis sheets walk students through the same basic routine:
- Meet the document.
- Observe its parts.
- Try to make sense of it.
- Use it as historical evidence.
In addition to the worksheets, DocsTeach has several activity types that are particularly helpful for preparing for the DBQ essay. Any teacher can access and share learning activities created by National Archives educators; and with a FREE account, educators can modify activities or create their own activities from scratch.
The Analyzing Documents tool is an online interactive version of the worksheets where educators can use any primary source, and even add customized text-dependent questions to focus their students on specific details.
Weighing the Evidence activities ask students to analyze documents and place them on a scale according to how they support a historical interpretation. Weighing the Evidence can help students focus on finding evidence with primary sources to support specific arguments and evaluate the strength of that evidence on a spectrum.
The Making Connections tool is also helpful for DBQ essay prep. It presents a string of primary sources to convey historical progression or some related theme and prompts students to make connections among the events. Making Connections is easily adaptable to the AP DBQ format. Give students a DBQ prompt and place 5 primary sources from the National Archives (or from other institutions) in conversation with each other.
With this year’s reduced historical time periods for the DBQ (only focusing on Unit 3 – Unit 7, or 1754-1945), there are over 7,000 documents in DocsTeach to help build that content knowledge or incorporate them into model DBQ activities. Search for key terms, and filter by era and type to manage your results.
With a free DocsTeach account, teachers can even curate their own folders of highlight documents for each Unit. Just star the document on the document detail page, then add it to a folder in the My Documents section of your account.
Or you can share one of the folders we have curated for each Unit. Students do not need a login to see any activities or folders that you create or share with them.
- Unit 3, 1754–1800: https://www.docsteach.org/shared-documents/favorite/MTgwNjk=
- Unit 4, 1800–1848: https://www.docsteach.org/shared-documents/favorite/MTgwNzA=
- Unit 5, 1844–1877: https://www.docsteach.org/shared-documents/favorite/MTgwNzE=
- Unit 6, 1865–1898: https://www.docsteach.org/shared-documents/favorite/MTgwNzI=
- Unit 7, 1890–1945: https://www.docsteach.org/shared-documents/favorite/MTgwNzM=