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2012 Dbq Ap Euro Essay

One of the best ways to prepare for the DBQ (the “document-based question” on the AP European History, AP US History, and AP World History exams) is to look over sample questions and example essays. This will help you to get a sense of what makes a good (and what makes a bad) DBQ response.

That said, not all DBQ essay examples are created equal. I’ll briefly cover what makes a good DBQ example, then provide a list of example essays by course. Lastly, I’ve provided some tips on how to best use sample essays in your own preparation process. 


What's a Good DBQ Example?

Without a doubt, the best sample resources come from the College Board. This is because they are the ones who design and administer the AP exams. This means that:

  • Any DBQ essay example that they provide will include a real DBQ prompt.

  • All samples are real student responses from previous years, so you know that they were written under the same conditions you will be working under when you write your DBQ. In other words, they're authentic!

  • They not only have scores, they have explanations of each essay's score according to the terms of the rubric.

  • Each prompt includes several sample essays with a variety of scores.

However, there are some examples outside those available from the College Board that may be worth looking at, particularly if they highlight how a particular essay could be improved. But in general, a superior example will:

  1. Include the prompt and documents. It will be much easier for you to see how the information from the documents is integrated into the essay if you can actually look at the documents.

  2. Have a score. Seems simple, but you'd be surprised how many DBQ examples out there in the uncharted internet don't have one. Without a real, official score, it's hard to gauge how trustworthy a sample actually is.

With that in mind, I have below compiled lists, organized by exam, of high-quality example DBQs. 


Don't spend all your study time sharpening your pencil.


Every DBQ Example Essay You Could Ever Need, by Exam

Here are your example essays! We'll start with AP US History, then move to AP European History, and finally wrap up with AP World History.


AP US History: Official College Board Examples

Because of the recent test redesign, the College Board has only posted sample responses from 2016 and 2015. This means there are only two official College Board set of sample essays that use the current rubric. 

Neither of these links include analysis (so you can look at the question separately from the scoring guidelines). When you're ready for the sample responses, here are the DBQ samples from 2015 and the samples from 2016.

If you want to see additional sample sets, you can also look at older College Board US History DBQ example response sets, all the way back to 2003. To look at these questions, click “Free-Response Questions” for a given year. For the corresponding DBQ examples and scoring guidelines, click “Sample Responses Q1.” 

Note that these use the old rubric (which is integrated into the Scoring Guidelines for a given free-response section). General comments about the quality of the essay, outside information, and document analysis still apply, but the score is on a nine-point scale instead of the new seven-point scale, and some of the particulars will be different. Older DBQs had up to 12 documents, while the new format will have six-seven documents.

If you do look at older DBQ examples, I recommend using the new rubric to “re-grade” the essays in the sample according to the new seven-scale score. I'll also give more advice on how to use all of these samples in your prep later on.


Mr. Bald Eagle is an AP US History DBQ Grader in his spare time.


AP European History: Official College Board Examples

Unfortunately, there aren't as many sample resources for the AP Euro DBQ compared to the other AP history tests because 2016 was the first year the AP Euro test was administered in the new format. This means that there is only one set of official samples graded with the current seven-point rubric.

The rest of the existing available samples were graded in the old, nine-point format instead of the seven-point format implemented this past year. 

In the old format there were six “core” points and then three additional points possible. The old rubric is integrated with the sample responses for each question, but I’ll highlight some key differences between the old and new formats:

  • In the old format, you were given a brief “historical background” section before the documents. 

  • There were more documents—up to twelve. The new format will have 6-7.

  • There was an emphasis on “grouping” the documents that is not present in the new rubric.

  • There was also an explicit emphasis on correctly interpreting the documents that is not found in the new rubric.

The essential components of the DBQ are still the same between the two formats, although you should definitely look at the new rubric if you look at any of the old AP European History samples. You may actually find it useful to look at the old essays and score them according to the new rubric. 

Samples by year:

You can get samples in the old format all the way back to 2003 from the College Board. (Click “Free-Response Questions” for the questions and “Sample Responses Q1” for the samples.)

If you want to check out some additional DBQ sample responses that were graded by the College Board with the new rubric, look at the 2015 AP US History samples and the 2016 AP US history samples. The content will of course be different, but the structure and scoring are the same as they will be for the AP Euro 2016 test.


AP European History: Unofficial Samples

Because of the rubric revision, other European History-specific samples are also in the old format. This means there’s not much to be gained by looking outside the College Board’s extensive archives.

However, the New York State Regents exam also has a DBQ on it. The format is not identical, and it is scored out of 5 under a different rubric, but I do like this European-History themed example from Regents Prep because it has highlighted sections that show where the documents are used versus where outside information is referenced. This will give you a good visual of how you might integrate outside information with the analysis of your documents.


Consider how you might integrate this castle into the DBQ that is your life.


AP World History: Official College Board Examples

The World History AP exam has just transitioned to a new format to more resemble AP US History and AP European History for the 2017 test. This means that all currently available samples were graded in the old, nine-point format instead of the seven-point format to be implemented this year.

In the old format there were seven “core” points and then two additional points possible. The old rubric is integrated with the sample responses for each question, but I’ll highlight some key differences between the old and new formats:

  • There were more documents—up to ten. The new format will have 6-7.

  • There was an emphasis on “grouping” the documents on the old rubric that is not present in the new rubric.

  • There was also an explicit emphasis on correctly interpreting the documents that is not found in the new rubric.

  • In the old rubric, you needed to identify one additional document that would aid in your analysis. The new rubric does not have this requirement.

The essential components of the DBQ are still the same between the two formats, although you should definitely look at the new rubric if you look at any of the old AP World History samples. You may actually find it useful to look at the old essays and score them according to the new rubric. 

For whatever reason the questions and the samples with scoring notes are completely separate documents for World History, so you’ll need to click separate links to get the question and documents and then the responses.

If you want to take a look at some DBQs that have been graded with the new rubric, you could check out the 2015 and 2016 samples from AP US History and the 2016 samples from AP European History. The historical content is different, but this will give you an idea of how the new rubric is implemented.  


Don't worry, the old format isn't as old as this guy right here.


How Should I Use DBQ Examples to Prepare?

So, now that you have all of these examples, what should you do with them? I'll go over some tips as to how you can use example DBQs in your own studying, including when to start using them and how many you should plan to review.


What Should I Do With These DBQs?

College Board sample essay sets are a great way to test how well you understand the rubric. This is why I recommend that you grade a sample set early on in your study process—maybe even before you've written a practice DBQ. 

Then, when you compare the scores you gave to the scores and scoring notes for the samples, you'll have a good idea of what parts of the rubric you don't really understand. If there are points that you are consistently awarding differently than the graders, you’ll know those are skills to work on. Keep giving points for the thesis and then finding out the sample didn't get those points? You'll know that you need to work on your thesis skills. Not giving points for historical context and then finding out the AP Grader gave full credit? You need to work on recognizing what constitutes historical context according to the AP. 

You can check out my tips on building specific rubric-based skills in my article on how to write a DBQ.

Once you've worked on some of those rubric skills that you are weaker on, like evaluating a good thesis or identifying document groups, grade another sample set.  This way you can see how your ability to grade the essays like an AP graderimproves over time! 

Obviously, grading sample exams is a much more difficult proposition when you are looking at examples in an old format (e.g. AP European History or AP World History samples).  The old scores as awarded by the College Board will be helpful in establishing a ballpark—obviously a 9 is still going to be a good essay under the 7-point scale—but there may be some modest differences in grades between the two scales. (Maybe that perfect 9 is now a 6 out of 7 due to rubric changes.)

For practice grading with old samples, you might want to pull out two copies of the new rubric, recruit a trusted study buddy or academic advisor (or even two study buddies!), and each re-grade the samples. 

Then, you can discuss any major differences in the grades you awarded. Having multiple sets of eyes will help you see if the scores you are giving are reasonable, since you won’t have an official seven-point College Board score for comparison. 


How Many Example DBQs Should I Be Using?

The answer to this question depends on your study plans! If it's six months before the exam and you plan on transforming yourself into a hard diamond of DBQ excellence, you might complete some practice grading on a sample set every few weeks to a month to check in on your progress towards thinking like an AP grader. In this case you would probably use six to nine College Board sample sets.

If, on the other hand, the exam is in a month and you are just trying to get in some skill-polishing, you might do a sample set every week to 10 days. It makes sense to check in on your skills more often when you have less time to study, because you want to be extra-sure that you are focusing your time on the skills that need the most work. So for a short time frame, expect to use somewhere in the range of three to four range College Board sample sets. 

Either way, you should be integrating your sample essay grading with skills practice, and doing some practice DBQ writing of your own.

Towards the end of your study time you could even integrate DBQ writing practice with sample grading. Read and complete a timed prompt, then grade the sample set for that prompt, including yours! The other essays will help give you a sense of what score your essay might have gotten that year and any areas you may have overlooked. 

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to using sample sets, but in general they are a useful tool for making sure you have a good idea what the DBQ graders will be looking for when you write your DBQ.


Hey, where can we find a good DBQ around here? 


Closing Thoughts on Example DBQs

Example DBQ essays are a valuable resource in your arsenal of study strategies for the AP History exams. Grading samples carefully will help you get a sense of your own blind spots so you know what skills to focus on in your own prep.

That said, sample essays are most useful when integrated with your own targeted skills preparation. Grading a hundred sample essays won't help you if you aren't practicing your skills; you will just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. And make sure you aren't using sample essays to avoid actually writing practice DBQs--you'll want to do at least a couple even if you only have a month to practice.

There you have it, folks. With this list of DBQ examples and tips on how to use them, you are all prepared to integrate samples into your study strategy!


What's Next?

Still not sure what a DBQ is? Check out my explanation of the DBQ.

Want tips on how to really dig in and study? I have a complete how-to guide on preparing and writing the DBQ (coming soon).

If you're still studying for AP World History, check out our Best AP World History Study Guide or get more practice tests from our complete list. 

Want more material for AP US History? Look into this article on the best notes to use for studying from one of our experts. Also check out her review of the best AP US History textbooks!


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:


Every AP European History student struggles with the DBQ section of the exam. This is a simple reality of the AP coursework. Despite this, the DBQ section of the exam is not impossible to conquer.

If you are feeling a little anxious about your DBQ skills, don’t worry. There have been scores of students that came before you, and many of them have succeeded in acing their exams. That’s why we’ve created this AP Euro review—to let you in on the best 3 Ways to Tackle the AP European History DBQ.

These three methods to approaching the most daunting section of the AP Euro exam have been used by AP students throughout the years and they are the most successful techniques around.

Let’s get started!

What is the AP Euro DBQ?

The DBQ has been seen as the bane of the AP Euro student’s existence. The more you work on it, however, the less mystical the whole DBQ section of the exam seems. So, make sure you allot serious study time out of your day just for the DBQ section of the exam.

Before we go straight into the 3 Ways to Tackle the AP Euro DBQ, we wanted to get the nuts and bolts out of the way.

Like we stated above, the DBQ, which stands for Document-Based Question, is arguably the most difficult part of the AP Europe Exam. You will have 55 minutes to answer a single question. Your answer is going to revolve around 6 to 7 primary-source documents that range between photographs, letters, legal cases, etc.

Unlike the multiple-choice section of the exam, however, the answer you provide is going to have to be in a concise essay format with a thesis that covers nearly every single document. The point of the DBQ is for you to show that you understand the complexities of the historical narrative being discussed. That means structure and argumentation matter nearly as much as the evidence you use.

The first thing you’ll need to do is look through the CollegeBoard Websiteand the AP European History Course and Exam Descriptionfor information on how the DBQ is structured and the expectations that the CollegeBoard has for students taking the AP Euro exam.

Once you’ve gotten a good feel for how this part of the exam works, read over the CollegeBoard’s DBQ rubric. You’ll notice that the DBQ is broken down into these four sections:

Thesis and Argument Development

1 Point. Presents a thesis that makes a historically defensible claim and responds to all parts of the question. The thesis must consist of one or more sentences located in one place, either in the introduction or the conclusion.

1 Point. Develops and supports a cohesive argument that recognizes and accounts for historical complexity by explicitly illustrating relationships among historical evidence such as contradiction, corroboration, and/or qualification. 

Document Analysis

1 Point. Utilizes the content of at least six of the documents to support the stated thesis or a relevant argument.

1 Point. Explains the significance of the author’s point of view, author’s purpose, historical context, and/or audience for at least four of the documents

Using Evidence Beyond the Documents

1 Point. (Contextualization)

Situates the argument by explaining the broader historical events, developments, or processes immediately relevant to the questions.

1 Point. (Evidence beyond the Documents)

Provides an example or additional piece of specific evidence beyond those found in the documents to support or qualify the argument.


1 Point. Extends the argument by explaining the connections between the argument and ONE of the following:

A) A development in a different historical period, situation, era, or geographical area.

B) A course theme and/or approach to history that is not the focus of the essay (such as political, economic, social, cultural, or intellectual history).

C) A different discipline or field of inquiry (such as economics, government and politics, art history, or anthropology).

No matter how you decide to tackle the DBQ section of the exam, you will need to make sure that you nail each of these requirements in order to ace this section of the exam.

Each of our 3 Ways to Tackle the AP European History DBQ takes these requirements into consideration, providing you with the best routes to achieving that perfect score. Try all of these ways to approach the DBQ out when you study, but use whichever method that works best for you when it comes to exam time. They are all tried and true techniques and each will definitely work with whatever learning style you prefer.

3 Ways to Tackle the AP European History DBQ

1. The Standard 5

At this point in your intellectual endeavors, you’ve probably come across the standard five-paragraph essay. This is the true blue method of essay writing that primary school teachers typically use when first introducing students to essay writing. However, there’s some magic in its simplicity.

Five Paragraph essays are easy to follow, they tend to flow logically while staying on point, and they are the perfect tool for timed essays like the AP exam.

According to the five-paragraph format, essays should be broken down according to this structure:

1. Introduction

2. Supporting Evidence 1

3. Supporting Evidence 2

4. Supporting Evidence 3

5. Conclusion

First, the introductory paragraph. This paragraph does so much more than introduce the topic. This is where the crux of your argument lies, i.e. your thesis. Your thesis is what holds the entire essay together. But it is also where you show off your understanding of historical complexity and knowledge of the topic. Think of the thesis as the glue that holds your entire essay together; without it, your ideas begin to unravel.

The middle three paragraphs contain all of the supporting information that backs up the claims you make in your thesis. In other words, this is where you discuss the documents.

The difficulty of the five-paragraph format can be found in these paragraphs. Since the DBQ section of the AP exam typically asks you to analyze 6 to 7 primary-source documents, you are going to have to lump them into three categories. Lucky for you, history is commonly broken into categories.

For these overarching categories, you need to think along the lines of the course themes that you read about in the AP European History Course and Exam Description. For example, you could have a paragraph that discusses the role of economics (Theme 4), one that centers on a discussion of class (Theme 2), etc.

No matter what categories you choose, you need to make sure that each paragraph connects directly with your overarching thesis. The conclusion also acts as a perfect spot for you to reiterate the ways that your three themes in your body paragraphs fully support that argument that you’ve made in the thesis.

2. The Grouping Plan

Another tried and true method of AP European DBQ success centers on grouping the documents together before you write out the essay.

Unlike the process that takes place during the five-paragraph essay outlining, the grouping plan places the center of attention on the documents. Once you’ve figured out how to put the documents into a relationship with one another, you create a thesis around those groupings.

Let’s take a look at the DBQ prompt from the 2016 AP Euro Exam:

“Evaluate whether the policies of Otto von Bismarck’s government represented traditional conservatism or a new kind of conservatism in nineteenth-century Europe.”

As with any AP DBQ, once you’ve read over the requirements you’ll want to read through the documents. When reading the documents, take notes on their qualities.

You’ll notice, for example, that Document 7 represents a criticism of von Bismarck for being too leftist (i.e., socialist) in his policies. Similarly, Document 2 was written by a socialist who thought that von Bismarck was too conservative. Document 5 also shows how von Bismarck’s negotiated the demands of socialists with those of conservatives by emphasizing the ways that working-class benefits were used to help get anti-socialist laws passed in the legislature.

With these perspectives in mind, these three documents could be grouped together as representations of the ways that von Bismarck used his ideas about Realpolitik to create a new form of conservatism: one that combined socialist policies but remained politically conservative.

Some documents overlap in theme as well. Document 5, for example, represents both socialism and legal reform in von Bismarck’s political career. Because of this, Document 5 can be used alongside Documents 1 and 6 under the subject of legal reform ad freedoms.

Once you’ve grouped your documents together according to their similarities and/or differences, a thesis can be constructed.

According to the CollegeBoard, an appropriate thesis for this DBQ would be,

“Essentially, von Bismarck’s government policies represented a new kind of conservatism in nineteenth-century Europe in which he valued traditional ways but also pushed for open-minded, idealistic reforms that were aligned with socialism and helped the nation as a whole.”

A thesis such as this can be constructed perfectly through the grouping plan that we have just covered. Once the thesis has been hammered out, you can commence writing the rest of the essay with your argument, paragraph groupings, etc. ready and well-thought out

3. The Time Traveler

The final example of the 3 Ways to Tackle the AP Europe History DBQ is the most straightforward one: go in chronological order.

Some DBQs will ask you to think about a time period that extends over a century, perhaps even longer. This DBQ from the 2012 AP Euro Exam represents this type of question perfectly:

“Analyze various arguments that emerged over the course of the nineteenth century about how to improve the lives of European workers.”

Note: This DBQ was written before changes in the AP European History course became effective for the 2016 exam. When you are using previous exam questions in your studies, make sure that you are all caught up on the rules and expectations for this year’s exam by reading the AP European History Course and Exam Description.

If you’re lucky, the documents will even follow in chronological order just like the 2012 DBQ. The way to best approach this method would be to think about how each document represents change over time.

The 2012 DBQ documents begin with the words of an English economist, who argued that social class has no relationship with government. By Document 6, however, we see the words of Karl Marx who argued that politics, economics, and historical change were all interrelated. By the last document, we see evidence that socialism became a viable political party in France by the end of the 19th century.

Your job as the essay writer would be to use the evidence provided in these document to explain how and why these shifts occurred over time.

No matter your thesis, there is a clear historical narrative here about the changing views of economics, politics, history, and social change over a period of about 100 years. This type of chronological historical narrative may not be the perfect fit for every type of DBQ asked, but if you come across one that’s similar to the 2012 exam you can’t go wrong with this essay style.

Don’t Limit Yourself!

Our final piece of advice would be to not limit yourself in your AP Euro studies. You’re going to want to practice all three of these essay-writing methods and become proficient in each one. That way, you’ve got an arsenal of essay-writing styles to use to your advantage when it comes to test day.

We have covered 3 Ways to Tackle the AP European History DBQ in this AP Euro review. Each are tried and true approaches to the AP Euro DBQs.

Which ways to tackle the AP Euro DBQ have worked best for you?

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