APUSH Unit 1 SAQ Practice Prompt Answers & Feedback

6 min readjanuary 5, 2021

Caleb Lagerwey


SAQ practice is one of the most important ways to prepare for the APUSH exam! Review these student responses to a unit 1 practice prompt focused on the Columbian Exchange, as well as the corresponding feedback from Fiveable teacher Caleb Lagerwey! It is opinion-based but definitely helps strengthen your skills for short answer questions.

SAQ Unit 1 Practice Prompt

What ONE commodity or otherwise transmitted item was the most important consequence of the Columbian Exchange? Give an explanation and/or justification for why your choice was the most important.

SAQ Writing Samples & Feedback

Practice Submission 1

I definitely think that transporting enslaved people was the big item that impacted both the Americas and Europe during the Columbian Exchange. Considering that slavery is such a HUGE part of American history, I would say it is the most important thing transferred. It wasn’t just about bringing people to work in the U.S. It developed the American culture and eventually led us to the Civil War. The impacts of slavery can still be seen today!

Teacher SAQ Feedback

Great answer! Enslaved people coming over from African were certainly important to later US History, and you made that case well. Supporting an assertion with evidence is important for the APUSH exam FRQs, and you did that well. Consider adding even more evidence such as the Middle Passage just to strengthen that APUSH knowledge. Nice work!

Practice Submission 2

I definitely believe that potatoes were an essential crop item transmitted from the Americas to Europe during the Colombian exchange. Potatoes were highly nutritious and introduced a new diet to the Europeans which prompted a huge population explosion all across the continent. Potatoes were the most important because they were a calorie dense food that was easy to grow in European soil, and the Europeans reliance on the crop would later on lead to events such as the potato famine in Ireland prompting the Irish to seek refuge in America and migrate to its shores.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

This is a great answer. I personally think the potato was hugely important in world history. If you ever get the chance to read What If 2: Prominent Historians Imagine What Might Have Beencheck out the essay by McNeill called “What If Pizarro Had Not Found Potatoes In Peru?”. It’s a great read and makes many of the points you make about the importance of calorie-rich potatoes for central European peasants (especially since the potatoes grow underground and can thus survive the trampling of armies). 

Practice Submission 3

Tomatoes were the most important of the items exchanged by the columbian Exchanged. By introducing tomatoes into the new world, the common associations made between tomatoes and European cultures were able to be made. This new food source allowed for a variety in food and culture not previously available. This exchange allowed for the eventual creation of foods consumed throughout the world that were developed or created in Europe such as the pastas, pizza and other tomato based foods of Italy.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

Nice work! This isn’t a formal Short Answer Question (SAQ), so it’s more of an opinion question. Your reasoning was definitely valid! 

Practice Submission 4

One commodity that was arguably the most important consequence of the Columbian Exchange was the sugar brought to the New World from Asia. The Caribbean Islands and tropical areas grew a large amount of sugar, and thus needed a plentiful amount of African labor (also since it was difficult to grow). Since many Native Americans died due to the diseases that were brought from the Columbian Exchange, many colonists resorted to African labor brought from the gruesome Middle Passage. Thus, the growing of sugar led to the initial heavy usage of African labor, which continued to be a pivotal part of all American society and debates throughout U.S. history (socially, politically, economically, etc.). It was the main cause of many historically significant events, such as the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

This was a great response. You tied it into a specific commodity (sugar) well, plus you gave lots of persuasive evidence as to why sugar mattered in later history.

Practice Submission 5

I think the most important exchanged commodity during the Columbian Exchange would be tobacco because it not only helped to redefine Europe’s economy, but it is still around the world today! Tobacco aided Jamestown to recover from the harsh winters and to thrive as a colony and it was sent to Europe where it could be used too. Tobacco changed Europe forever while aiding people in the Americas, therefore it is the most important transmitted item.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

Nice work! This answer supports its assertion (tobacco) well by using evidence on both sides of the Atlantic.

Practice Submission 6

One commodity that was traded in the Columbian Exchange was weapons that the Europeans brought to the Americas. For example, the Europeans traded guns to the Native Americans in exchange for crops. This was an important exchange because the guns helped the Natives fight back against the colonists that tried to overtake their land.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

This is a good answer. I like how you explained how guns enabled more Native resistance against European incursions. If this was a formal SAQ, consider adding a war or battle (e.g., King Philip’s War) as addition evidence to show how Natives used Europeans firearms successfully.

Practice Submission 7

The transportation of slaves if the most important consequence of the Columbian Exchange because it leads to the even more extreme Triangular Trade which led to mass populations of enslaved Africans being sold off to rich white men in the Americas and Europe. The increased prevalence of chattel slavery went along with this and dehumanized slaves and treated them like abused animals. The transportation of slaves during the Columbian exchange led to the continuation of American slavery until the 19th century which therefore indicates an important consequence and continuity.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

That was a well-written response. Slavery is one of the saddest parts of the Columbian Exchange, but it certainly is one of the most consequential. Your use and description of “chattel” added excellent evidence too. Nice work.

Practice Submission 8

I believe that the most important commodity would be the potatoes that were sent to Europe from the Americas. Crops in general that were sent to Europe helped increase their population but potatoes were convenient as their roots were deep and can withstand a lot. Not only did their population increase significantly, but it allowed Europe to shift from feudalism to capitalism. This in turn, allowed European countries to turn their sights on expansion into the New World: leading the English (and other European countries) to pursue permanent colonies in the Americas.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

Nice work! Your mentioning population growth and the shift to capitalism was a great move that supported your potato argument well. Someone earlier mentioned potatoes too, and here’s what I said:
I personally think the potato was hugely important in world history. If you ever get the chance to read What If 2: Prominent Historians Imagine What Might Have Beencheck out the essay by McNeill called “What If Pizarro Had Not Found Potatoes In Peru?”. It’s a great read and makes many of the points you make about the importance of calorie-rich potatoes for central European peasants (especially since the potatoes grow underground and can thus survive the trampling of armies). 

Practice Submission 9

For the New World, the spreading of the diseases, like the smallpox, was the most important consequences of The Columbian Exchange. Because of the disease, the Native African population suddenly dropped. It is more important than other exchanged food products or horses because the population decreased faster than the gains from more food and resources. For the Old World, potatoes were the most important because it greatly increased the population. Potatoes have a lot of starch in them. They are also nutritious and make people feel full, It is better than other products in increasing European population.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

This was a well-formed answer. Smallpox is a useful example of an Old World disease, and you supported it well. The same is true of potatoes. Remember, if it’s a real SAQ, you don’t have to give two examples unless you have time. But, for the purposes of this prompt and the modified DBQ we’re doing this year, you’re off to a great start!

Practice Submission 10

One of the most important commodities was sugar. This is because as sugar canes were discovered in the Caribbean Islands, the mass production of sugar began. This required lots of manual labor which made the slave trade increase even more with the high demand for sugar.

Teacher SAQ Feedback

Your answer gets the point! Nice work in tying the effects of sugar (a specific crop) to the slave trade. You backed up your argument well.

Was this guide helpful?

💪🏽 Are you ready for the APUSH exam?
Take our diagnostics quiz to find out where you’re at and what study plan can help you level up.
START QUIZ
FREE APUSH Survival Pack + Cram Chart PDF
Sign up now for instant access to 2 amazing downloads to help you get a 5
Join us on Discord
Thousands of students are studying with us for the AP US History exam.
join now
Browse Study Guides By Unit
📆
Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep
📑
Document Based Questions (DBQ)
✍️
Exam Skills (MC, SAQ, LEQ, DBQ)
🧐
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
🚀
Thematic Guides
🌽
Unit 1: Early Contact with the New World (1491-1607)
🦃
Unit 2: Colonization of North America (1607-1754)
🔫
Unit 3: Conflict and American Independence (1754-1800)
🐎
Unit 4: Beginnings of Modern American Democracy (1800-1848)
💣
Unit 5: Toward the Civil War and Reconstruction (1844-1877)
🚂
Unit 6: The Industrial Revolution (1865-1898)
🌎
Unit 7: The Early 20th Century (1890-1945)
🥶
Unit 8: The Postwar Period and Cold War (1945-1980)
📲
Unit 9: Entering into the 21st Century (1980-Present)