US History Regents Essay Topics

Instructor: Andrea Losa
Regents test takers encounter two types of essay questions in the U.S. History section: the Thematic Essay and Document-Based Question essay. Read on to learn about potential topics and prep resources for each of the essays.

Thematic Essay Topics

The Thematic Essay question centers on a particular theme in U.S. history and contains very specific instructions on creating an essay on the topic. The instructions also include some examples that test takers may use in their essays. Past Thematic Essay topics and possible examples include:

  • Supreme Court rulings -- Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; Plessy v. Ferguson; Korematsu v. United States
  • The Constitution -- Bill of Rights and other amendments; presidential powers; groups fighting to ensure constitutional rights
  • U.S. Presidents and their major decisions -- Harry Truman and World War II; John F. Kennedy's Cuba policies; Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal
  • International policy -- Monroe Doctrine; Marshall Plan; Persian Gulf War
  • Reform movements and leaders -- Frederick Douglass; Upton Sinclair; Cesar Chavez
  • Major advances in U.S. history -- The introduction of the assembly line; end of Reconstruction; New Deal programs

Document-Based Question Essay Topics

The Document-Based Question section includes an essay that is related to a series of documents and several short-response questions. The short-response questions, which contain details that are relevant to the essay task, ask test takers to examine or evaluate a statement, short passage or graphic and provide specific information about it. Past topics for the essay concerned:

  • Major eras and movements in U.S. history -- Great Depression; Progressive Era; Cold War Era
  • The impact of the mass media on history -- Print media; radio; television; internet
  • Significant government reforms -- Civil Rights; Women's Suffrage; Child Labor
  • U.S. geography and expansion -- U.S. westward expansion; protection of U.S. interests; impact of geography on expansion
  • American minority groups and the quest for equality of opportunity -- Women; African Americans; U.S. immigrants
  • U.S. wars and conflicts -- Korean War; World War I and Isolationism; Vietnam War

Scoring Information

The Thematic and Document-Based Question essay scores are based on how well a test taker addresses each component of the essay task. The highest scoring essays are those that closely adhere to all directions, fully address each part of the prompt, provide a logical analysis that is supported by relevant historical information, and contain multiple, well-ordered paragraphs and a strong introduction and conclusion. Document-Based Question essays should also include related details from the test documents.

Preparing for the U.S. History Regents Exam

The official New York State Education Regents website maintains an archive of previous exams and scoring guides for Thematic and Document-Based Question essays.'s engaging and fun video lessons can help test takers prepare for all sections of the Regents Exam and aid in your preparation for the U.S. History test and its essay components. Use the chapter exams as a pre-assessment to determine your weak spots, then save time by working through just the lessons you need. Alternatively, use the quizzes and exams to check your understanding at the end of lessons and chapters. Your course options include:

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