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DBQ, LEQ, & SAQ Rubrics Points Explained

⏱️  5 min read

written by

Danna Esther Gelfand

danna esther gelfand

August 3, 2020

AP World History Rubrics

📓  AP World History LEQ and DBQ Rubrics 

To ensure that you receive all the points possible in the Free-Response section of the exam you should be aware of and follow the criteria expected of you. It is important to note that AP World History graders are searching for specific things in your Short Answers, Long Essay, and Document-Based Essay.

You might be thinking, "I have to write the best essay possible to get all the points I need!" I assure you, that's not the case. The essays and brief responses you will be writing on your exam are not exactly similar to the ones you write in your English class. You're not expected to write the most thoughtful and well-structured piece that'll leave everyone in awe. AP graders take into consideration the time constraints on the exam and are only searching for rubric criteria to be fulfilled in your work. As a result, don't waste time perfecting every minute detail of your writing to impress and earn extra points.

Use your time wisely and efficiently. If you can't use the knowledge you have in the format expected of you, you will most likely and unfortunately lose points. Furthermore, the written portion of your exam is worth 60% of your grade, while the multiple choice is 40%. Therefore, understanding the rubric is your key to passing the AP Exam.

Document-Based Question (DBQ) 📝

⚡ Live Stream Replay - 🎥 Mastering The DBQ with Melissa Longnecker

⚡ Doing the DBQ with Charly Castillo

THESIS/CLAIM (1 point) 

⚡ Live Stream Replay - 🎥 Doing the DBQ: Thesis with Patrick Lasseter

  • Write a valid response to the prompt - don't just restate it.
  • Clearly and coherently create a logically reasonable claim that is argumentative that is about 1 to 2 sentences long.
  • Included either at the end of your introduction or within your conclusion.

I suggest including your thesis in both area if you have enough time. This is because sometimes towards the end,  you have a better understanding of your work as a whole once you're done with establishing and proving your reasoning and will therefore write a more fitting, proper thesis in the conclusion. Make sure you include it in your intro paragraph, though! You don't know if you'll have enough time for the conclusion and you want to earn as many points as possible!


⚡ Live Stream Replay - 🎥 Doing the DBQ, Part 3: Contextualization with Evan Liddle

Give historical background information or context relevant to the prompt, such as significant events or developments. Try to write about 3 sentences. I suggest that give context taking place either during or within 100 years before the time period of the prompt or 100 years after what's given.

EVIDENCE (maximum of 3 points)

⚡ Live Stream Replay - 🎥Doing the DBQ, Part 2: Evidence with Caroline Castellanos

  1. FIRST evidence point: Refer to, describe ,and relate at least 3 of the documents included to the prompt (question).
  2. SECOND evidence point: Refer to, describe, and relate at least 6 of the documents included to the prompt AND your argument/claim.
  3. THIRD evidence point: Historical evidence that goes beyond the text documents included. Include any specific information you can remember that relates to the prompt and is not mentioned in the documents.

ANALYSIS AND REASONING (maximum of 2 points)

⚡ Live Stream Replay - 🎥 Doing the DBQ, Part 4: Reasoning with Melissa Longnecker

  1. FIRST analysis and reasoning point: Remember to use HIPPO (Historical Context, Intended Audience, Point of view, Purpose, or Outside Evidence) for at least 3 documents and explain how that relates to your overall argument. Establish your analysis of those documents using at least one of the options in the acronym for each.
  2. SECOND analysis and reasoning point: Known to be quite tricky for AP History students for it is the dreaded complexity point. Not to fret! It's not as impossible as it seems to most. You can definitely get it! All you have to do is showcase a complex understanding of the historical development in the prompt.
      • Some ways include:
        • Explaining nuances (subtle differences) in an issue
        • Providing both comparisons and contrasts if the essay is compare and contrast, or both continuities and changes if its a CCOT essay, or both causes and effects, making connections, etc.
      • To earn the complexity point it should be laid out and develop in multiple parts of your essay, not just in one sentence or paragraph.

Long Essay Question (LEQ) 📝

⚡ Watch - 🎥 Answering the Long Essay Question (LEQ) with Melissa Longnecker

⚡ Watch - Sharpening Your LEQ Skills with Melissa Longnecker

⚡ Watch - Writing the Long Essay Question with Safiya Menk

THESIS/CLAIM (1 point)

Same as DBQ.


Same as DBQ.

EVIDENCE (maximum of 2 points)

  1. FIRST evidence point: Identify specific historical details or examples that relate to the prompt.
  2. SECOND evidence point: Use the specific historical evidence you identified in earning your first evidence point and connect it to an argument presented in response to your prompt and explain its relevance.

ANALYSIS AND REASONING (maximum of 2 points)

  1. FIRST analysis and reasoning point: Use historical reasoning to build a framework for your overall argument through (comparison, causation, continuity or change).
  2. SECOND analysis and reasoning point: The dreaded complexity point previously mentioned in the DBQ has the same criteria for the LEQ.

Short Answer Question (SAQ) 📝

⚡ Watch - 🎥 Answering Short Answer Questions with Melissa Longnecker

⚡ Watch - Answering Short Answer Questions with Caroline Castellanos

⚡ Watch - Answering Short Answer Questions with Eric Beckman

  • The FIRST and SECOND SAQs are required. Both address content within units 3-8.
  • The THIRD and FOURTH SAQs are optional in a sense that you can choose to answer only one of the two.  The third addresses content within units 1-6, while the fourth addresses content within periods 6-9.
    • They also assess a skill of either causation or comparison.
    • This is where you would have to use your prior historical knowledge to earn points in these questions.

ACEing the SAQ

  1. First, ANSWER the question with a clear claim.
  2. Then, CITE the relevant evidence you know based on your knowledge of the content referred to in the prompts.
  3. Finally, EXPLAIN the relevance of your evidence and how it relates to your response.


This may seem like a lot to remember but I assure y'all that practice makes perfect. The more SAQs, DBQs, and LEQs you write following a specific format that will earn you the most points possible, the easier it will become. Soon enough you'll be following the structure without even realizing it. There's no doubt that you can get a 4 or 5 on this exam. This test is not based on solely your ability memorize random facts. That won't earn you more points. Your critical thinking and analysis skills coupled with background knowledge are key.The fact that you're challenging yourselves by taking an Advanced Placement College credit course is incredible and I applaud y'all for it! You got this! 💪



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