Even though the AP Short Answer Questions (SAQs) on the Advanced Placement History exams are well… short, they are still a significant portion of the exam because they can highlight your knowledge and understanding of history.

SAQs shouldn’t be overlooked when preparing for AP History exams. They provide an excellent opportunity to practice historical thinking skills and to quiz your content knowledge of history.

3 Steps to AP Short Answer Questions

Remember these 3 steps to writing your SAQ responses.

Every SAQ response requires you to

  • answer the question;
  • provide specific factual knowledge;
  • and explain how the evidence supports your answer.

You will do this by

  • analyzing primary and secondary sources;
  • analyzing other interpretations and perspectives of history;
  • and providing evidence to support your ideas.

One of the easiest parts of your answer to forget is providing specific factual knowledge. This may include

  • dates;
  • names of events, people, actions, and ideas;
  • and concepts.

The SAQ Cupcake

Think of an SAQ like a cupcake that has sprinkles on it. Cupcakes can be good without the sprinkles, but it feels like they are missing something. SAQ responses are the same way; if you want to gain the maximum points possible, you need to add the sprinkles to your answer, aka, the specific factual knowledge.

Some pointers to keep in mind:

  • Be to the point and specific; do not ramble. Answers will typically range from 9-12 sentences for each question.
  • If comparing historians’ arguments, make sure to explain the differences in their arguments, not just what they have in common.
  • Differences may include perspectives (i.e., social, political, economic) or how something affects something else (i.e., the impact).
  • You do not have the luxury of time in this section of the exam. You have 50 minutes to answer 12 prompts across 4 questions. That is roughly 4 minutes per prompt.

If you have not already done so, practice the SAQ section of the AP History exam under timed circumstances. Pull an old SAQ that you did in class and time yourself answering it. Look at your review book for sample questions. Do a Google search to find practice SAQs.

The more you practice the more comfortable you will be when it comes to exam day.

Need extra help? Contact Histropolis Teaching & Learning for tutoring services today!

References

Griffin, N. (2017, April 11). How short should a short answer be? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from https://classroomcompass.bfwpub.com/community/history/blog/2017/04/11/how-short-should-a-short-answer-be

AP® and Advanced Placement® are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this product.

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