Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.
Short Answer Questions Can be Challenging
For many students, short answer questions on exams and tests can be challenging. In these types of questions, test-takers don't have a list of options to choose from. This can make it difficult. While students can go on and on elaborating in a long essay question, in a short answer question, students are expected to be direct and to the point. Basically, in a short answer question, either you know it or you don't.
Short Answer Questions on the AP World History Exam
There is a short answer section in the AP World History exam, which you will need to be prepared for. Remember, the first section of the exam, Section 1, Part A consists of 55 multiple choice questions. You will have 55 minutes to complete this section and it is worth 40% of your exam score.
The next section is what we want to focus on. Section 1, Part B is the short answer section. You will be required to answer 4 questions and you will be given 50 minutes to complete this section. It is worth 20% of your exam score. Graphs, maps, and other visuals may or may not included in some of the short answer questions.
The short answer questions allow you to demonstrate a thorough comprehension of historical subject matter. You will typically be asked to identify examples of historical trends and analyze them. Knowledge of historical causation, or the cause and effect patterns evident throughout history, is typically a major skill that is tested in these questions. For example, you might be asked to show how the French and Indian War and British colonial policies in North America led to the American Revolution. Contextualization, or knowledge of historical context, is another. For example, you might be asked to analyze the historical context surrounding the Spanish-American War. In short answer questions, you are not typically required to formulate an original thesis; however, you will need to be prepared to conduct high-level analysis and evaluation.
Let's look at some sample short answer questions. For example, you may be asked the following:
''Identify and explain THREE ways in which rulers legitimized or consolidated their power during the period 1450 c.e. to 1750 c.e. Use specific examples from one or more states or empires.''
Some questions are broken down into parts. Some can be fairly complex. For example, look at the question below:
''Many historians argue that the end of the Cold War (1989-1991) was a turning point in world history.
a) Provide TWO pieces of evidence that support this argument and explain how each piece supports the argument.
b) Provide ONE piece of evidence that undermines this argument and explain how it undermines the argument.''
Tips and Strategies for the Short Answer Section
Now that we know what the short answer section consists of, let's go over some tips and strategies for success. Remember, these are suggestions only! Because we all process information differently and take tests differently, ultimately you have to develop the kinds of strategies that work best for you.
The first thing you want to be aware of is time. Remember, you will have 50 minutes to complete this section, so be sure to pace yourself. Ideally you will want to plan on spending 10-15 minutes on each question. Before you begin, you may also want to skim over all four questions just to see what the content relates to. That way, if you see a question you are an expert on, you will know that you will not need to spend an exorbitant amount of time on it. On the other hand, if you see a question that appears challenging, you will know you may need to spend more time on it than the others. Again, you'll have to think carefully about pacing.
Don't feel as though you have to answer the short answer questions in order. You may find it helpful to answer the question you are most comfortable with first. If you get stuck on one question, you may also find it helpful to ''take a break'' and move to another question. Just be sure to answer all the questions before the allotted 50 minutes!
You'll need to be specific when you cite examples, but also be mindful of the big picture (if necessary). This can be a tricky balance. The short answer questions are not long essays, so be succinct and to the point. Provide the details being asked for, but don't feel as though you'll necessarily get more points for being extra long in length. Choose your words carefully and write well. Aside from this, the best strategies are those developed by you! You know the way your mind works better than just about anyone. Good luck!
- Section 1, Part B of the AP World History exam is the short answer section. You will be required to answer 4 questions and you will be given 50 minutes to complete this section. It is worth 20% of your exam score.
- Historical causation is the cause and effect patterns evident throughout history.
- Contextualization is the ability to place historical events in historical context.
- Be sure to pace yourself throughout the exam. Plan on spending 10-15 minutes on each question.
- You may also want to skim over all four questions at the very beginning.
- Don't feel like you have to answer the questions in order.
- Include details and be specific, but also be direct and to the point.
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