Exam preparation materials

Other Examples of Identification/Evaluation Questions

The following are sample identification/evaluation questions for you to try. You also might try to answer the questions using factors different from those that are listed.

• Identify THREE of the following and evaluate the relative importance of each of the THREE in contributing to the economic growth of the United States in the period 1815-1860.

• The American System

• The transportation revolution

• The Second Bank of the United States

• The Tariff of 1828

• Assess the impact of THREE of the following on the status of Native Americans before the Civil War.

• Black Hawk’s War

• The Battle of Prophetstown

• The Trail of Tears

• Cherokee Nation v. Georgia

• Analyze the ways in which THREE of the following indicated the tension between conservative and liberal views in American society during the 1920s.

• The Red Scare

• Prohibition

• The Scopes trial

• Flappers

• Analyze the ways in which THREE of the following supported the United States policy of containment in the post-World War II era.

• The Truman Doctrine

• The Marshall Plan

• The Berlin airlift

• The North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Discuss/Describe Questions

Essays that ask you to “discuss” or “describe” an event, period, or movement in U.S. history are deceptively straightforward. They seem to look for a recitation of factual information with little if any analysis on your part. AP essay questions are rarely so direct. It’s unlikely, for example, that you’ll be asked simply to discuss the causes of the entry of the United States into World War I. Although the words “discuss” and “describe” mean to tell about something, these questions aren’t opportunities merely to write down everything you know on a subject. This is the same pitfall you are urged to avoid in identification/evaluation questions. Remember that Parts B and C of Section II challenge your skill in writing to the point. You won’t be able to write two effective essays in the allotted time if you ramble on or bring in information that isn’t pertinent to the question.

In the past, discuss/describe questions often had two parts. While this format may not be as common with the standard essays, it is still helpful to review. First, it’s important, as always, to read both parts carefully. For example, you might be asked to discuss the political, economic, and social changes in the South from 1864 to 1877 in the first part of the question, and then to analyze the extent to which these changes survived the end of Reconstruction in the second part.

Keeping in mind that your answer shouldn't include everything you know about the South during and after the Civil War, your essay could focus on the political, economic, and social reforms, primarily instituted through Reconstruction, affecting former slaves; the second part of the question then addresses the status of African-Americans after Reconstruction.

The essay itself may be prefaced by a statement that provides framework for the answer, very similar to the assess the validity question discussed for the DBQ. Here's an example. Winston Churchill said in 1945 that the United States was at the “summit of the world.” Examining the period from 1945 to 1975, what evidence is there that this was not the case?

Again, this question is not an opportunity to spit out everything you know about the United States or even American foreign policy from the end of World War II to 1975. It requires you to think about the country’s position in the world in 1945 and how that changed over the next three decades. Here are some points you might make in your answer:

• Churchill’s perception of the United States was correct in 1945; the United States was the strongest economic power and, with the monopoly on nuclear weapons, the strongest military power in the world.

• The position of the United States changed with the beginnings of the Cold War; the emergence of the Soviet Union as a nuclear power meant that the United States was one of two “superpowers”; containment of the Soviet Union became the goal of American foreign policy.

• Although the United States was able to contain the direct expansion of the Soviet Union, it was unable to prevent Soviet supported Communist governments from coming to power or to maintain the status quo against national liberation movements — for example, in Cuba and Vietnam.

• The United States had the resources to rebuild the economies of Western Europe (Marshall Plan) and Japan after World War II. By the 1970s, however, it was beginning to lose economic preeminence to Germany and Japan, and its economy proved vulnerable to challenges from the developing world — for example, the Arab oil embargo.

Here is an example of a discuss/describe question in the two-part format.

Question 2

2. Describe the major decisions made at the wartime conferences between the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. To what extent were these decisions responsible for the Cold War?

First Student Essay (Question 2)

The key military and political decisions that were made at the wartime conferences between the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union — Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam — were critical in shaping the postwar world. It was primarily the agreements reached on strategic planning that created the conditions for the onset of the Cold War.

Stalin’s main demand from the time Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 was an allied invasion of Western Europe. The cross-Channel invasion, the “second front,” was postponed several years even after the United States entered the war. The delays made Stalin suspicious of the motives of the West early in the war.

In terms of military planning, the Teheran Conference (November 1943) was crucial. Roosevelt. Churchill, and Stalin agreed that the invasion of Normandy, set for the late spring of 1944, would coincide with a Russian offensive in the east. This meant that Soviet troops would liberate Eastern Europe while the United States and Britain would liberate Western Europe. Churchill’s proposal for an invasion of the “soft underbelly,” i.e., Greece and the Balkans, which was intended to limit Soviet control of Central Europe, was rejected as unsound militarily by the United States.

By the time Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met again at the Yalta Conference (January 1945), Russian troops were already in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had set up a provisional government in Poland. At Yalta, the prime concern was the planning for the peace. The allies agreed to divide a defeated Germany into four zones of occupation with the Soviet Union controlling the largest territory in the East; Berlin, which was completely within the Soviet zone, was to be administered jointly by the U.S., Britain, France, and the USSR. While the Soviet Union agreed to free elections in Poland and the establishment of democratic governments in the liberated countries, there was a basic failure to communicate on these points. Stalin’s statements that the Soviet Union must have “friendly states” on its western frontier meant Communist-dominated governments. Poland was a key test. At Yalta, Britain and the U.S. agreed that the Soviet-controlled Lublin Committee would be the basis for the postwar government. The Western allies also agreed to Russian control over Outer Mongolia as well as a Russian zone of occupation in Korea as the price for a commitment from the Soviet Union that it would enter the war against Japan three months after Germany’s defeat.

During the height of the Cold War, Roosevelt was accused of “selling out,” giving Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union at Yalta. This is not valid. It is important to keep in mind that in January 1945 the atomic bomb had not even been tested. The planned invasion of Japan would take one million men and meant high casualties; this made the opening of a “second front” in Asia essential. The concessions made at Yalta reflected military necessity and the reality of the military situation on the ground in Eastern Europe.

The tension that was evident between the United States and the Soviet Union at Potsdam signaled the start of the Cold War. The fact was that the USSR controlled Eastern Europe. It refused to give up the territory it had acquired between 1939 and 1941; it was understood at Yalta that Poland would be compensated with German territory in the west for the Polish territory the Soviet Union took in the east. The “Iron Curtain” had indeed descended on Europe by 1945.

Reader's Comments on the First Student Essay for Question 2

Although this essay is full of factual information, it’s still important to note that the student hasn't attempted to write a complete history of everything that’s happened during and since World War II. The wartime conferences are discussed as well as the major policy decisions of the Allies. They lay the ground for the student's conclusion that the Cold War began as early as the Potsdam Conference.

Possible student score: 7

Here’s another essay that takes a somewhat different approach to the same question.

Second Student Essay (Question 2)

Between 1943 and 1945, the leaders of the Big Three — Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States — met to discuss military planning and the nature of the peace after the war was over. Although the decisions Roosevelt, Churchill. Stalin, Truman, and Clement Attlee made were crucial to maintaining the wartime alliance, the roots of the Cold War must be found in the immediate post-war years.

Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met for the first time at Teheran in November 1943. Here the coordination of military operations for the invasion of Europe were set. Although some historians believe that Teheran was important to the origins of the Cold War because the strategy called for Russian troops to move into Poland, the Balkans, and attack Germany itself from the east, this is historical hindsight. The fact that Soviet troops occupied Eastern Europe did not necessarily mean they had to stay there.

At Yalta, the discussions of the Big Three focused on the post-war settlement, particularly the division of Germany into zones of occupation, the status of Poland and Eastern Europe, and Soviet participation in the war against Japan. As in any diplomatic negotiations, there was give and take by all parties. Britain and the United States agreed that the Provisional Government created by the Soviet Union in Poland would be the basis for the post-war government. This meant a broad-based coalition that included both representatives of the Polish government-in- exile (London Poles) and Polish Communists. Stalin agreed to free elections in all of Eastern Europe. He also committed to enter the war against Japan three months after Germany was defeated in return for spheres of influence in Outer Mongolia and Korea. The agreements relating to the Far East were not made public at the time of the conference, and would cause a considerable stir in the United States some months later.

The Allies met for the last time at the Potsdam conference (July-August 1945), after Germany had been defeated. It is certainly true that the atmosphere of the conference was less accommodating than had been the case earlier, and all sides were less willing to compromise. The decisions made at Yalta with respect to the occupation of Germany were implemented; four zones of occupation were established (British, French, American, and Soviet), with Berlin (entirely within the Russian Zone), jointly administered by the four powers; the same pattern of occupation was applied to Austria. In addition, the prewar boundary of Poland was shifted to the west (Oder-Neisse line) and the Soviet Union retained its control of the territory acquired under the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact that was in effect between 1939 and 1941.

The fact that World War II was so quickly followed by the onset of the Cold War might make it seem that the roots of the rivalry between East and West must lie during the war. While there were certainly areas of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, there was no decision at the wartime conferences that made the Cold War confrontation inevitable. Despite the Soviet troops in Eastern Europe, there was a window of opportunity in late 1945 and into 1946 for negotiation and even forceful diplomacy. The Soviet Union, given its tremendous losses during the war, was not a superpower in 1945 and no direct threat to the United States.

Reader's Comments on the Second Student Essay for Question 2

This essay presents a concise summary of the decisions of wartime conferences. Although it doesn’t mention the planning for the United Nations, the factual presentation is otherwise strong. It is well organized and well written. The main failure is the lack of support for the thesis that the roots of the Cold War are not found at Teheran. Yalta, or Potsdam. The student may have a valid point about the “window of opportunity” immediately after the war but doesn’t provide any evidence to back it up. This may be a case where the student either ran out of time or steam.

Possible student score: 5

Other Examples of Discuss/Describe Questions

Here are additional discuss/describe questions for you to try:

• The change in British imperial policy after the French and Indian War was the critical factor in bringing about the American Revolution. Discuss this change with respect to specific policies or acts of Parliament from 1763 to 1775.

• The immigrant arriving in the United States in the late nineteenth century expecting to find the “Golden Land” was often disillusioned by what he or she actually found.

Describe the living and working conditions of a typical immigrant family in the 1890s that contributed to this disillusionment.

• American foreign policy is usually described as isolationist from the end of World War I to the outbreak of World War II. Discuss the evidence that supports this position.

Compare and Contrast Questions

A comparison calls for pointing out similarities; a contrast calls for noting differences. An essay might use the terms “compare,” “contrast,” or “compare and contrast.” A question posed as “compare and contrast” obviously requires you to discuss both similarities and differences. While one side may be more significant than the other, both must be presented. Even in direct comparison questions, it’s always useful to point out differences, even if just to recognize another interpretation.

The scope of your essay is sometimes limited by the question itself. An essay question that asks you to compare and contrast the economies of New England and the southern colonies shouldn’t be cluttered up with information on politics, religion, or social life. The requirements to compare and contrast are often the first part of a two-part question:

Compare and contrast the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.

Which administration handled the problems it faced more effectively?

Here, the second part is really “an assess the validity” question. You have to make a judgment about the effectiveness of the two presidents and justify your position from the evidence developed in your explanation of the similarities and differences. You won’t be given any extra time to answer a two-part question, and you need to condense your essay. A response to the Lincoln/Roosevelt example can be organized as follows:

• Paragraph 1: Make a general statement on the similarities of and differences between the two administrations, and take a position on which was more effective.

• Paragraph 2: Focus on similarities — for example, both Presidents came to power in times of crisis.

• Paragraph 3: Focus on differences — in a sense, Lincoln’s election precipitated the crisis he faced, while Roosevelt’s was seen as a solution.

• Paragraph 4: Defend your position on which handled its problems more effectively.

• Paragraph 5: Conclude with a statement that summarizes evidence in support of your thesis.

The best way to approach a compare and contrast question is to make a list. The similarities and differences are usually broad categories that are supported by specific evidence. After reading question 3 and the sample essay, see if you can re-create the list that the student relied on to develop the answer.

Another form of comparison is a question that asks you to examine the relative importance of two factors on an issue in U.S. history. The phrase “relative importance” should indicate to you that the question is similar to an identification/evaluation question but without its range of choices. This type of question is more limited in scope and fits nicely into the thirty-minute suggested writing time for a standard essay. For example:

Analyze the relative importance of the Proclamation of 1763 and the passage of the Stamp Act in provoking discontent among the American colonists.

Here your first paragraph briefly explains what the Proclamation of 1763 and the Stamp Act were and presents a thesis statement on which had the greater effect on unrest in the colonies. The next two paragraphs go into each factor in more depth — for example, how effective was the Proclamation, what was the reaction to it, and what was the response to the Stamp Act? Your concluding paragraph again summarizes the evidence you’ve presented to defend the thesis.

A direct compare and contrast question and the relative importance form are used for the following student essays.

Question 3

3. Compare and contrast immigration to the United States in the period from 1800 to 1860 and from 1880 to 1924.

Student Essay (Question 3)

Immigration to the United States from 1800 to 1860 and from 1880 to 1924 were very different. First, many more people came to the United States from overseas in the later period than in the earlier period. Second, the immigrants who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century came from other parts of Europe than the groups that came before them.

The period from 1880 to 1924 is known as the era of the New Immigration. A majority of these immigrants came from Southern and Eastern Europe — Italy, the Russian Empire, Greece, Yugoslavia, Poland, and included a large number of Eastern European Jews; the earlier immigration was made up primarily of Irish and Germans. While tens of thousands of immigrants arrived before the Civil War, the annual immigration in the later period was well over 100,000.

Because the “new” immigrants were so different from Americans in terms of religion (Judaism, Catholicism, Greek Orthodox), language (Italian, Greek, Russian, Polish), and culture, many Americans wanted an end to open immigration. Because of pressure from groups such as the Immigration Restriction League and the American Federation of Labor, which believed that immigrants were taking jobs away from American workers, Congress finally passed the National Origins Act in 1924. This law established a quota system for the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year based on their country of origin; low quotas were given for the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe.

If we look over American history, we see that people decided to come to the United States for various reasons. The Pilgrims and the Puritans came so that they could practice their religion the way they wanted; the Irish immigrated because they faced famine in their homeland; Jews left Europe because

they were persecuted and wanted a better way of life. To all these immigrants, the United States was the land of freedom and opportunity. Each immigrant group faced some type of discrimination when they settled here. The Irish were harassed because of their religion and there was anti-Semitism against the Jews.

The immigrants who came to the United States after 1880 were very different from those who came earlier in American history; they came from different countries and did not assimilate as well as the earlier immigrants.

Reader's Comments on the Student Essay for Question 3

This student really doesn't answer the question in two respects. Very little attention is paid to the similarities between the two periods of immigration, and the information that is presented seems to be tacked on in the next to the last paragraph. Almost all the attention is focused on the “new” immigration with very little of substance on the earlier immigrant experience. The student makes a good point that immigrants in both periods faced discrimination, but this needed to be developed further. Both the thesis statement and the conclusion are extremely weak and again don’t address the question posed. Except for the discussion of the National Origins Act, the student doesn’t present very strong evidence.

Possible student score: 3

Question 4

4. Analyze the relative importance of antitrust laws and government regulation in controlling big business during the Progressive Era.

Student Essay (Question 4)

The Progressives supported both antitrust legislation and the regulation of business as a means of limiting the power of large corporations. Presidents Roosevelt and Taft brought major prosecutions under the Sherman Anti- Trust Act, and a new law. the Clayton Anti- Trust Act, was passed under Wilson. These actions did not restore competition in any meaningful way. On the other hand, government regulation had much more success in eliminating specific abuses of big business.

Despite the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, business combination continued to grow after 1890. Indeed, court injunctions to prevent “combinations in restraint of trade” were most often used against organized labor. President Roosevelt’s Square Deal did call for stricter enforcement of the antitrust laws, but he really believed that regulation was a better approach than "trust busting.” He turned to the Sherman Act, in the Northern Securities Case for example, because Congress was reluctant to pass new regulatory legislation. That victory, however, had little impact on business consolidation. The Clayton Act was enacted because the Sherman Act was not working. Perhaps its most important provision — exempting farm groups and labor unions from antitrust laws — had nothing to do with the power of big business.

The Progressive record was much stronger in the area of regulation. The Interstate Commerce Commission was made stronger through the Hepburn Act, which gave it the power to set maximum railroad rates and extended its authority to pipelines. Regulation of particular industries in the interests of consumers began with the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. The issue of competition was also addressed outside of the antitrust laws. Wilson saw a new agency, the Federal Trade Commission, as a significant element in restoring competition in business. It defined “unfair trade practices” and could require companies to stop such practices.

The success of either antitrust legislation or regulation in controlling big business depended on the will of government. Although regulation could be meaningless if the regulations were not enforced or if representatives of the industry being regulated controlled the agency, the evidence supports the position that this was the most effective approach during the Progressive Era.

Reader's Comments on the Student Essay for Question 4

This student shows a good command of the facts even though additional information could have been brought in — Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Corporations, Elkins Act. The thesis is presented clearly, and the essay keeps on track. The evidence on the antitrust legislation is somewhat weak. The fact is that major trusts were broken up at this time — for example, the Northern Securities Company and Standard Oil. The student may believe that these were simply symbolic but needs to say so if this is the case. The student makes a good point, albeit in a rather awkward sentence, that regulation is as effective as the determination of the agency.

Possible student score: 6

Other Examples of Compare and Contrast Questions

Question 3 is quite straightforward. Indeed, a comparison between the old and new immigration is covered in most textbooks. Although the AP exam doesn’t shy away from direct questions, you should be ready to examine comparisons that you didn’t think of before. Here are a few examples:

• African-Americans and women have both traveled a long road toward civil equality. Examine the similarities and differences in the way in which each group received the right to vote.

• In January 1917, President Wilson called for "peace without victory”; in April 1917. he stated, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Explain the differences between these two positions. Which was reflected in the Fourteen Points?

• Analyze the relative importance of the doctrine of states’ rights and slavery as factors that led to the Civil War.

• Analyze the relative importance of Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald in defining American culture during the 1920s.

Assess the Validity Questions

We have already discussed the “assess the validity” question form in connection with the DBQ. In the past, this type of question has also come up often as one of the standard essay choices. Because it is usually broadly framed, it may not be used as frequently in the two-essay format the AP exam now uses. In any event, you should be familiar with how an “assess the validity” question might be answered as a standard essay.

Question 5

5. To what extent was the form of government established under the Articles of Confederation successful?

Note: Questions that ask “to what extent” are usually assess the validity questions. The question could easily have been posed as follows:

The form of government established under the Articles of Confederation was successful.

Assess the validity of this statement.

Student Essay (Question 5)

The success or failure of a particular form of government is determined by how it responds to the critical problems. The Articles of Confederation simply did not give enough authority to the central government to deal with the many challenges, primarily economic, the U.S. faced after independence. While there were notable accomplishments, the fact that the Constitutional Convention decided in 1787 not simply to revise but to abandon the Articles, shows its weakness.

A case can be made that the government under the Articles was successful in important areas. The Continental Congress under the Articles did fight a war against Great Britain, and negotiate a peace settlement. The Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided the basic legal framework for the territorial expansion of the country in the 19th century. Such achievements, however, did not match the weaknesses in the Articles.

The Articles gave the Congress only limited power. It was authorized to conduct foreign policy and declare war, mediate boundary disputes between the states, and deal with the Indian tribes in the territories. In all other matters, the states were in control. Congress did not have the power to tax or impose tariffs except with the unanimous agreement of the states.

At the end of the Revolution, the United States faced serious economic problems. Without the power to impose taxes, Congress had no option but to ask the states for money to pay off the national debt. Throughout the “critical period” from 1781-1787 the states either refused or were slow in making payments. Robert Morris, who was appointed Superintendent of Finance, had to use his own money to pay for the demobilization of the Continental Army. The Continental Congress also had no power to regulate foreign commerce. With each state setting its own policies, overseas trade declined and industries dependent on it, shipbuilding for example, suffered.

Even in those areas where the Confederation Congress had authority, it was not effective. British troops remained on American soil and in control of forts in the Northwest territory despite the terms of the Treaty of Paris. The government under the Articles was not able to enforce the treaties entered into with Native American tribes west of the Appalachians. Congress was also unable to resolve the dispute with Spain over the closing of New Orleans to American shipping in 1784.

Whether we examine economic or foreign policy, the government under the Articles of Confederation could not cope with many of the critical issues facing the country. This was certainly due to the weaknesses of the Articles themselves. Again, the failure of the government established is clearly demonstrated by the widespread, though certainly not unanimous, support for the major restructuring provided for in the Constitution.

Reader's Comments on the Student Essay for Question 5

This essay carefully measures the statement asking whether the Articles of Confederation acted as a basis for a successful government. The student’s thesis is clearly stated in the first paragraph. The second paragraph acknowledges that some successes can be credited to the Confederation government, but it still argues that the weaknesses outweighed the strengths.

The third through fifth paragraphs provide the evidence and support for the student's thesis. Finally, the student not only restates the thesis but provides a strong concluding statement. The pacing and structure of the essay are excellent; there are no digressions from the topic. The student, however, might have provided additional examples, such as Shays’ Rebellion or the currency inflation caused by printing of state money.

Possible student score: 8

Other Examples of Assess the Validity Questions

Here are other examples of assess the validity questions that you should try on your own or perhaps work on in your study group:

1. "Once the United States committed itself to economic expansion, it could not avoid engaging in imperialism.”

Assess the validity of this statement.

2. Presidential elections are referendums on the political party in power and not on the programs put forward by the challenger.

Examine this statement in light of the results of the elections in 1828, 1832, and 1840.

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