Question Types for the Standard Essays
In addition to the DBQ, there are two standard essays on the AP U.S. History exam. Again, these are numbered 2 through 5, and you choose one question from each part. You can’t write on both essays from either Parts B or C. The questions in Part B cover the period through the Civil War, and those in Part C cover Reconstruction to recent American history. The suggested writing time for each question is thirty-five minutes, and both of your essays are weighted the same in the scoring. This is important. Make sure you budget your time so that you can write two coherent answers in the time allowed.
While this type of question has come up on the AP exam before, on the 1992 exam for example, it is likely to become more common with the two-essay requirement in Section II, Parts B and C.
Identify THREE of the following and evaluate the relative importance of each of the THREE in the decline of the Federalists and the ascent to power of the Jeffersonian Republicans.
The Alien and Sedition Acts
The Twelfth Amendment
The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
Your first task is to read the question carefully and all four factors. Then decide which three you'll be using in your essay. To put it another way, which one are you least comfortable with and won’t use? You should indicate the three factors you’ve chosen and give a brief description of each in your introductory paragraph, which at least partially fulfills the question’s identification requirement. You'll provide more information in the body of the essay. Your subsequent paragraphs deal with the major element of the question — evaluating the relative importance of the factors you’ve selected. You need to decide, and decide quickly, which one of the three you believe was the most important in contributing to the decline of the Federalists and the rise of the Jeffersonians, which was less important, and which was the least important.
This type of question can be posed in different ways. The example given above could just as easily have read Assess the impact of THREE of the following on the decline of the Federalists and the ascent to power of the Jeffersonian Republicans.
Here you’re asked to what extent the three choices you’ve made are important and how they compare in importance to each other. Although you aren’t specifically directed to “identify” your choices, it’s obvious that you have to provide adequate facts about each to support your thesis.
There are several things to keep in mind about identification/evaluation questions:
• There is no one correct answer. It’s entirely possible that the student next to you has chosen the same factors but assigned them the opposite order of importance or selected one that you didn’t. Your score will depend on the strength of your essay and how well it persuades the AP reader that your choices, and the reasons for them, are good ones.
• Write within the limits of the question. You may believe that factors other than those provided, Hamilton’s fiscal program for instance, were significant in the decline of the Federalists. Bringing this point in will not add to your essay and can seriously detract from it if you don’t pay enough attention to the choices given.
• Even a question that asks you to identify is not an opportunity simply to restate all the facts you know. You are always expected to analyze or interpret the information as the question requires.
Two student answers to the same identification/evaluation question follow. You might want to try writing your own essay first and then compare yours to the sample answers and the reader’s comments.
1. Assess the impact of THREE of the following on Chinese immigration to the United States between 1850 and 1900.
The transcontinental railroad
The Burlingame Treaty
The Workingmen’s party of California Note: This question could also be phrased as follows:
Identify THREE of the following and evaluate the relative importance of each of the THREE on Chinese immigration to the United States between 1850 and 1900.
First Student Essay (Question 1)
Chinese immigration effectively began with the California gold rush as Chinese prospectors joined the thousands of people coming to the California gold fields. They endured considerable discrimination because racist miners were jealous of their prospecting abilities. The state of California even passed a Foreign Miners Tax which the Chinese miners had to pay in order to work in the gold fields.
In the 1860s, the Chinese found a new opportunity for labor. The transcontinental railroad was being built. The Central Pacific Railroad needed workers to do the hard work of cutting through the Sierra Nevada range. Charles Crocker, in charge of construction, found the Chinese a reliable work force and between 1863 and 1869 employed more than 10,000 of them. Chinese railroad workers even set the record for constructing ten miles of track in one day.
As the railroad neared completion, the United States government concluded a treaty with China. This treaty, the Burlingame Treaty, marked the first agreement between China and the United States. It contained provisions for trade and for the immigration of Chinese to America. The treaty in many ways represented a high point between the two nations.
The economic depression of the 1870s produced a reaction in California against the Chinese. They were seen as economic competitors to the whites in the state. Led by Denis Kearney, California white laborers formed the Workingmen’s party of California. This political party played a major role in creating the California constitution of 1879 and in agitating for Congress to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act. In 1882, Congress did pass such an act. preventing Chinese from coming to the United States for a period of ten years. The law was renewed for another ten years in 1892. and in 1902 it was renewed again, this time indefinitely. Not until World War II was this ban on Chinese immigration to the United States lifted.
Reader's Comments on the First Student Essay for Question t
This essay has a number of problems, which are unfortunate given the student’s basic understanding of the choices made. The first paragraph takes up some of the allotted time on the problems caused by the California gold rush, but the gold rush itself is not one of the factors to be discussed. As it is, the discussion of railroad construction says nothing about Chinese immigration. The assumption is that the Chinese gold miners became railroad workers when, in fact, Crocker recruited labor from China. The student has some basic facts about the Burlingame Treaty but offers little information about its effect on immigration. The information about the Workingmen’s party is clearly presented and, given the time restraints, presents reasons for pushing for Chinese exclusion. Overall, the essay could have been greatly improved by eliminating extraneous details and focusing instead on why Congress decided, despite the contribution of Chinese workers and the recognition extended by the Burlingame Treaty, to end further Chinese immigration.
Possible student score: 4
Second Student Essay (Question 1)
The first transcontinental railroad, the Burlingame Treaty, and the Workingmen’s party of California all had a significant impact on Chinese immigration to the United States between 1850 and 1900. Construction of the railroad created a demand for cheap labor that China could provide, while the 1868 treaty between China and the United States opened a wide door to Chinese immigration. The Workingmen’s party, which campaigned on the platform “The Chinese Must Go,” was a reaction to these developments. It ultimately had the greatest impact by contributing to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
One of the major problems faced by the Central Pacific Railroad, which was responsible for building the section of the transcontinental line east from Sacramento, was a shortage of labor. Company officials, Charles Crocker and Leland Stanford, hit on the idea of importing workers directly from China. The Chinese, who worked for lower wages than whites and were rarely involved in strikes or other disruptions, were quickly recognized as an asset. By the time the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, some 15,000 had been hired. The prospect of jobs in America naturally encouraged other Chinese to emigrate.
The federal government encouraged the use of Chinese labor on the transcontinental railroad through the Burlingame Treaty of 1868, which guaranteed unrestricted Chinese immigration to the United States. Secretary of State Seward saw this provision as part of a larger process that would open Chinese markets to American products. Since the treaty remained in force after the railroad was completed, it continued to act as a spur to Chinese settlement in the United States. There was a significant increase in Chinese immigration between 1871 and 1880.
The growth in Chinese immigration came at a time when the economy was worsening and unemployment was high. This was particularly true in California, where it was easy to blame the Chinese for the economic problems — they were taking jobs from American workers. The Workingmen's party, which was formed in 1877. took this position and called for the exclusion of Chinese from California and the country as a whole, The California constitution, which the party played an important role in drafting, denied Chinese jobs on public works projects and stated they could not work for companies in the state. The anti-Chinese sentiment that the Workingmen’s party represented influenced national policy as well.
In 1880, a new treaty with China gave the United States the right to regulate and limit Chinese immigration, and two years later. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. Although the law did not stop Chinese from entering the United States completely, it certainly brought to an end the era of open immigration that began with the construction of the transcontinental railroad and the Burlingame Treaty.
Reader's Comments on the Second Student Essay for Question 1
This student has written a strong essay. The first paragraph not only states the choices, but also presents the reader with a clear thesis statement. Logical conclusions are drawn from the information presented, and facts are used to support the thesis. Pointing out that the decision of the Central Pacific to recruit workers in China encouraged other Chinese to emigrate and connecting the growth in Chinese immigration in the 1870s to the Burlingame Treaty are examples of this. This is a well-organized essay that provides sound factual information and analysis given the time constraints of the exam.
Possible student score: 8