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Jamie Goodwin

How to Prepare for the APUSH DBQ Section

prepare apush dbq

The DBQ APUSH section requires you to use your own knowledge with support from the provided documents. The essay question is graded on a scale from 0 to 9. To earn a 9 on your essay, utilize these 7 tips:

1. Practice Time Management

After the 15 minutes set aside for reading, you have 40 minutes to write your APUSH DBQ essay from start to finish. You need to answer the prompt, write a solid essay, include citations, and check your grammar. Can you write an essay worthy of a 9 in the time given? Yes! Just give yourself plenty of practice. Set up an environment similar to the one you’ll experience on test day, and practice acing the APUSH DBQ section.

2. Utilize Your Reading Time

During the 15 minutes for reading, you can’t start writing the essay. However, you can start the pre-writing process. Mark up the documents, write notes, develop your thesis, and make an outline. Then, you’ll be better prepared to start writing when you can open your booklet.

3. Include a Focused Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is one of the most important parts of the essay. It’s not going to be good enough to just reword the question.

You need a thoughtful thesis that addresses ALL parts of the question. Review the question, and circle words like analyze, describe, evaluate, or compare. Then, make sure that you complete each task.

When you’re ready to write your thesis, underline it in your booklet. That way, it stands out to the grader.

4. Use as Many Documents as Possible

Don’t quote large parts of the document. Use your own thoughts and ideas to craft your essay. However, if the test provides 3 documents for you to use, try to use all 3 documents on the exam.

Refer to each one directly, such as Doc. A, when citing them. Remember that the documents are only meant to be used for evidence. So, use your own words to explain the citations, as needed.

5. Practice Good Essay Writing Skills

The DBQ essay is no different than any other essay you write at school. Use the 5-paragraph essay format with an introduction, 3-4 supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. Keep your essays organized by using transitions throughout, and don’t write your essay in first person.

6. Craft a Solid Conclusion

If you need to use your time writing strong introduction and body paragraphs, you can get away with a quick conclusion. Just take a sentence or two to wrap up your essay. However, if you can control your pacing, a solid conclusion can leave the grader with a great impression.

If you haven’t already done so, the conclusion is a great place to make connections to later history, too. Think about what event you could relate to the rest of your essay.

7. Check for Grammar and Spelling Errors

Before you close your booklet, don’t forget to check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. A quick read through of the essay could help you discover a missing word or punctuation mark. It may not seem like much, but it could impact your score.

As you prepare to confront the DBQ APUSH section, consider these tips to help you prepare to earn a 9 for your essay. Practice these tips with your practice DBQ prompts now, so you’re confidence to excel when writing the essay on test day.

ACE your APUSH exam! Start here.
About Jamie Goodwin

Jamie graduated from Brigham Young University- Idaho with a degree in English Education. She spent several years teaching and tutoring students at the elementary, high school, and college level. She currently works as a contract writer and curriculum developer for online education courses. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her boys!


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