How do you get a 5 on APUSH test? Below is a description of how to tackle the APUSH DBQ?

The Document-Based Question (DBQ) is an integral part of the Advanced Placement (AP) United States History exam. Typically, the DBQ section contributes 25% of the total exam score. This section tests students’ ability to analyze and synthesize historical data and to form a persuasive argument based on a series of documents. It’s worth noting that the DBQ section’s weight in the overall score emphasizes its importance in mastering the course content and historical analysis skills.

The APUSH DBQ is scored according to a seven-point rubric established by the College Board, the organization that administers the AP exams. The scoring rubric is made up of four main components: thesis/claim (1 point), contextualization (1 point), evidence (2-3 points), and analysis and reasoning (2-3 points).

This means that for a student to score the full seven points, they must successfully establish a clear thesis or claim, provide a relevant contextualization of their argument, use sufficient and relevant evidence from the provided documents, and demonstrate a high level of analysis and reasoning. Remember, the DBQ is not just about regurgitating facts, but about synthesizing information from various sources to form a coherent, persuasive argument grounded in historical fact.

Thesis Statement

The thesis or claim component of the DBQ is the cornerstone of your response and the starting point of your argument. It’s responsible for framing your essay and setting the stage for everything that follows. The thesis must answer the question directly and completely, providing your unique interpretation or argument on the topic. It’s important to note that a successful thesis should not be a mere restatement of the question, but a clearly articulated stance that you will support with evidence from the documents. Moreover, it needs to be precise and concise, since it’s typically just one or two sentences long. Always remember to craft your thesis with care, as it sets the tone for your entire DBQ response and can significantly impact your score. The thesis must reflect the main idea of your argument!


Contextualization in a DBQ response refers to the ability to place your argument within a broader historical context. This entails providing background information about the time period, geographical location, cultural environment, or societal conditions that are relevant to the question. The purpose of contextualization is to give your argument depth and relevance, showing how your thesis is connected to larger historical trends or events. While it’s not necessary to provide a comprehensive history lesson, your contextualization should be substantive enough to show the reader that you understand the complex factors at play. This could include referencing significant events, influential figures, prevailing ideologies, or anything else that helps to situate your argument in its proper historical context. A successful contextualization not only enhances your argument but also demonstrates your understanding of the complexities of history. It’s an opportunity to show that you don’t simply know facts, but can interpret them in a meaningful way.

Evidence and Reasoning

The next key components of a successful APUSH DBQ response are evidence and reasoning. Providing evidence is about utilizing the documents provided to support your thesis statement. It’s not enough to simply reference or quote the documents; you must demonstrate how they substantiate your argument. This process involves analyzing the source of the document, its content, and its historical context, then connecting these elements to your thesis.

Meanwhile, reasoning is about explaining the significance of the evidence and how it proves your thesis. This involves drawing connections between your evidence and your argument, and interpreting the evidence in a way that supports your thesis. Remember to fully explain your thoughts, as mere statements of fact without explanation won’t earn you full points.

For instance, if your thesis argues that economic factors were the primary cause of a particular historical event, your evidence could include specific economic data or quotes from primary sources that highlight economic concerns. Your reasoning would then explain how this evidence demonstrates the importance of economic factors in shaping the event.

In both your use of evidence and reasoning, clarity and precision are crucial. Your goal is to build a compelling, factually-supported argument that demonstrates your thorough understanding of the historical complexities.


The final component of a strong APUSH DBQ response is the analysis. This involves interpreting the evidence in relation to the historical context and demonstrating an understanding of the complexity of the historical evidence. You should strive to show the relationships between different types of evidence and how they interplay with the historical context.

For example, when analyzing economic data or quotations, consider what they reveal about the social or political circumstances of the time. Were there specific policies that influenced economic conditions? How did these economic factors influence society or politics, and vice versa?

This part of the essay should not merely repeat information but should build on the evidence and reasoning you have already provided. Your analysis should delve deeper into the implications of your evidence, exploring nuances, contradictions, and different perspectives.

A well-conducted analysis will also address any potential counterarguments or alternate interpretations of the evidence, demonstrating your ability to critically engage with historical material. Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a detailed, nuanced picture of the historical event or period in question, showing that you don’t just know the facts, you can interpret them in a meaningful way.


The conclusion of your DBQ essay should serve as the final brushstroke of your historical analysis, tying all of your arguments and evidence together. It’s important to restate your thesis here, but not verbatim – instead, echo your original argument in light of all the evidence you’ve presented. Summarize your main points briefly to remind the reader of the ground you’ve covered.

Beyond restating your argument and summarizing your points, an effective conclusion will also consider the larger implications of your analysis. What lessons can be drawn from the historical event or period you’ve analyzed? How does it relate to broader historical themes or developments? A thought-provoking conclusion might also pose further questions that have arisen from your analysis, hinting at potential areas for future research or investigation.

In sum, a strong conclusion to a DBQ should encapsulate your argument, synthesize your evidence, and offer insights into broader historical significance. This provides closure to your response, leaving your reader with a clear, lasting impression of your understanding and interpretive skills.

Document Use and Grouping Strategy

For a comprehensive and effective DBQ essay, it is recommended to use all the documents provided in the prompt. This shows a thorough understanding and utilization of the resources at hand. However, quality always takes precedence over quantity. Hence, ensure that each document you use contributes significantly to your argument.

When grouping the documents, aim to create 2-3 categories that will serve as the basis for your body paragraphs. Each group should represent a distinct perspective or theme related to the prompt. For instance, if the prompt deals with societal changes during the industrial revolution, you could group the documents into categories like “Economic Impact,” “Social Changes,” and “Political Reactions”. This strategic grouping not only helps to structure your essay logically, but it also enables you to showcase a multifaceted understanding of the historical event or period.

The APUSH DBQ rubric is designed to evaluate your ability to formulate a quality argument and support it with historical evidence. Here are the major components:

  1. Thesis and Argument Development: This assesses how well you’ve established a thesis, developed an argument, and connected it to the larger historical context.
  2. Document Analysis: This section evaluates how effectively you’ve understood and interpreted the provided documents to support your argument.
  3. Use of Additional Evidence: This component focuses on your ability to incorporate additional relevant historical evidence beyond the provided documents.
  4. Synthesis: This measures how well you’ve connected your argument to other historical periods, events, or processes.
  5. Contextualization: This checks your ability to relate your argument to broader regional, national, or global processes happening at the same time.
  6. Complex Understanding: This assesses your ability to demonstrate a complex understanding of the historical development that is the focus of the prompt, using evidence to corroborate, qualify, or modify an argument that addresses the question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *