How Do You Write a DBQ Essay World History AP?

If you’re studying World History in AP, you’ll be well acquainted with the Document-Based Question (DBQ) essay. This type of essay is a chance for you to showcase your historical analysis skills and demonstrate your knowledge of the subject matter. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to write a DBQ essay in World History AP.

What is a DBQ Essay?

A DBQ essay is an essay that asks you to analyze and interpret primary source documents. These documents can include maps, photographs, letters, diaries, speeches, and more. You’ll be given a prompt that relates to a particular historical period or event and asked to use the provided documents to support your argument.

How to Approach a DBQ Essay

Approaching a DBQ essay can be intimidating at first, but with the right approach and preparation, you can excel in this format. Here are some steps to consider when approaching a DBQ essay:

1. Read the Prompt Carefully

Before diving into the documents themselves, make sure you read the prompt carefully. Understand what it’s asking you to do and what specific historical period or event it relates to.

2. Analyze the Documents

Once you’ve read the prompt, it’s time to analyze the provided documents. Take note of who wrote each document, when it was written, and what its purpose was. Consider how each document supports or contradicts your argument.

3. Create an Outline

Once you’ve analyzed the documents thoroughly, create an outline for your essay. Your outline should include an introduction that sets up your argument and provides context for the reader; body paragraphs that make use of specific examples from the documents; and a conclusion that wraps up your argument and provides any final thoughts or insights.

4. Write the Essay

With your outline in hand, it’s time to start writing your essay. Make sure you refer back to the documents often and use specific examples to support your argument. Your essay should have a clear thesis statement and be well-organized.

Tips for Success

Here are some tips that can help you succeed when writing a DBQ essay:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

The more you practice DBQ essays, the more comfortable you’ll become with the format. Set aside time to practice with past prompts and documents. Use Your Time Wisely

Make sure you’re using your time wisely when taking the exam. Leave enough time at the end to proofread your essay and make any necessary corrections. Don’t Skimp on Analysis

The key to a successful DBQ essay is thoughtful analysis of the provided documents. Make sure you’re taking the time to analyze each document thoroughly and using specific examples from them throughout your essay.


Writing a DBQ essay in World History AP can be challenging, but with practice and preparation, it’s a format that you can excel in. Remember to read the prompt carefully, analyze the documents thoroughly, create an outline, and use specific examples from the documents throughout your essay. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to success on your next DBQ exam!