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How to Write a DBQ Essay? | DBQ Writer Tips |


DBQ writer: How to write a top DBQ essay?

DBQ essays are often included in AP History Exams. This type of task includes the analysis of an important historical event or issue. For that, you need to consider historical context, perform document analysis and review other resources. According to the statistic, only 11% of students scored 5 on their AP tests in 2021, so you'll want to prepare thoroughly for DBQ essay writing.

A document-based question assumes a response that is several paragraphs in length. Moreover, to write a DBQ format essay well, you have to answer the question precisely, as, if your response is well-structured but off-topic, it won't bring you a desired score. In this post, expert history essay writers from will share helpful strategies for preparation for your DBQ exam effectively.

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DBQ essay writing: what does your score depend on?

In a DBQ assignment, you need to demonstrate some specific skills you've learned in class. In particular, you are expected to do the following:

  • Analyze the historical context behind the documents provided and the intended audience;

  • Reveal the connections and differences between the documents;

  • Formulate a thesis and prove it through the provided documents during AP exams; 

  • Meet the general requirements set for students in the AP essay writing. 

How to write an effective DBQ essay

The format of DBQ essay question may seem puzzling at first. Yet, if you understand the purpose, the process and the expectations, it's more than manageable. And since this type of essay is always present in AP American History and AP European History exam, it's best to familiarize yourself with the process early.

Here's how to approach writing essays of DBQ type:

Remember about the time limit

During the test you'll have 15 minutes to review and evaluate the documents, and 45 minutes to create an essay. Keep in mind that time is limited, otherwise, you might get stuck with the introduction or outline and won't have time to complete everything. Use time management skills: think how much time you'll need at each stage and don't exceed the limit.

Read the question several times

This may sound obvious, but if you understand the prompt incorrectly, you can lose points. So, reread the question until you clearly realize what is expected of you. Do you need to analyze the importance of some historical event, compare and contrast, or analyze certain time period? Move on to writing and analysis only after you clearly understand the task.

Analyze the documents

Once you've understood the questions, review all the documents that you have at hand. Examine the documents and think what information you can use to answer the essay question. Highlight the most important keywords and ideas. Consider the political and economic context aligned with the historical evidence to provide a stronger response.

You may use background knowledge here as well, yet, experts state that analytical abilities are more important for a successful DBQ than background knowledge.

Don't explain or rewrite the sources provided

Students often try to explain the content of documents in their essay, yet, this is not correct. The commission will have the summary of each document at hand. Your task is to analyze or compare, not to reiterate. Similarly, avoid using quotations or rewrite. A teacher might think that you are trying to cover the lack of analysis. Focus on answering the essay question and omit the rest.

Draft DBQ essay outline

Think through the essay structure and prepare a brief DBQ outline. Remember that your essay needs to contain an introduction, 3-4 body paragraphs, and a conclusion that sums up the key points.

Create a good introduction

An introduction has to contain your thesis statement (more on this below), provide some background information or explain the significance of the issue. Generally, students are recommended to use a hook in an introduction to draw attention, but in case with the DBQ, this isn't a must.

Develop a strong thesis statement

Temporary DBQ thesis deserves special attention as the quality (and grade) of your essay depends on it. The simplest way to formulate the thesis is to reiterate the prompt, but it's better to dig deeper. Experts recommend that you make a feasible claim, answer the question or explain the direction of your analysis. In this way you'll compose a more focused essay and use a new approach.

When providing evidence, use one main idea for each body paragraph. This will make your text more logical and structured.

Write and edit the essay

You may be asked to write a DBQ essay on historical development, world war, women's suffrage or the related topic. Once you're analyzed everything thoroughly and formulated a thesis, start writing. Make sure you've referenced all historical sources used. Don't forget to restate your thesis and main points in a conclusion. Once the answer is ready, take a few minutes to check it for grammatical mistakes and consistency. 

The history teacher evaluating your essay will pay attention to every aspect of it. So, if you would like to understand how perfect DBQs are written, consider our services. At, you can hire our expert to write a DBQ based on your detailed prompt. Your essay will be built from scratch and meet all requirements set for academic writing. 

Bonus: Strategies for AP exam preparation

DBQ essay writing is only one element of a complex AP exam. It takes knowledge you've gained during your history class as well as developed writing skills to take this exam well. Check our key recommendations for getting perfectly prepare for the upcoming AP exams: 

Start preparing months in advance

If you start practicing a couple of weeks before the exam, you are unlikely to make time to thoroughly revise all historical periods and important events. Do not cram - study smart. Start revising a few months in advance, and devote some time to preparation every day, or at least every other day. 

Choose a learning style that appeals to you. For example, you may use flashcards, watch educational videos or revise notes on every subject covered with class. Also, consider creating study groups with friends to revise together and motivate each other to stay on track. If you start early, you'll have enough time to understand how the test works and get fully prepared. 

Create a study schedule

To streamline your learning, allocate time frames for each historical period and spend 1-2 weeks revising for each such period. If you need help, the United States College Board has posted a detailed outline explaining what topics, historical periods and tasks will be included in a test. Moreover, they shared exam guidelines and requirements. The guide is available on website. 

When you write down the deadlines for each topic, you'll be motivated to keep revising. You can also allocate time for extensive revision, for example, on Tuesday and Sunday at 11 AM to stay organized. 

Find a comfortable environment for study 

When you need to prepare for an exam extensively, environment matters. Find a place where you'll feel comfortable to study and keep focused. If your room has too many distractions, consider a public library or a coworking space. 

In addition to finding a quiet place, eliminate the distractions that could come your way. Don't open YouTube and put your phone in a silent mode. Use time management skills to make the most out of your study sessions. 

Get a consultation from your teacher

If you feel stuck at some especially tough topic or concept, don't be shy to reach out to your teacher for help. Researching things on your own is helpful, but in many cases it's much faster and more effective to ask your history teacher to clarify something. Firstly, it's your teacher's job to explain and direct your learning, so don't hesitate to ask to explain some key details. Moreover, a teacher can point out your knowledge gaps that require extra revision. 

And secondly, they are usually familiar with the AP exam challenges and grading, so they could give you helpful insights. 

Develop 'historical thinking'

To pass the AP successfully, you need to develop the so-called historical thinking. It means the ability to analyze sources, synthesize, compare and contrast various documents and make conclusions based on them. It also assumes the ability to draw connections between actions of some groups in the society and their consequences. Once you've developed this ability, you'll find it easier to hanlde DBQ essay assignments and see the core of every historical event. 

Take practice DBQs 

Official AP practice test is an essential element of your preparation, so don't neglect it. It puts you in real test environment, as you'll have to complete all the tasks presented within a given time frame. Moreover, you'll know how to expect and learn to manage your time so that it's enough to complete every task in the test. Practice exams are available on the website and include the most common questions. 

Analyze your mistakes and take practice tests again 

Once you've completed a practice test and received the result, review your answers. Take a look at the tasks where you scored low. Chances are, you need to revise some topic or historical period extensively. Also, pay attention to answers where you had to guess. You might want to practice multiple choice questions as well. 

Having identified the patterns and topics you feel shaky with, pay special attention to them and ask for advice from your teacher. After you've figure out your weaknesses and spent a couple of weeks revising, take the full-length timed test again to see your progress. 

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