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History | Writing AP Exam Essays, Part 2 | The Long-Answer Essay

Writing AP Exam Essays, Part 2

The Long-Answer Essay

For this lesson, you will complete your response to the long-answer essay question you began earlier, which asked you to analyze continuities and changes across a period in history. You practiced writing the introduction and a body paragraph of the essay. In this document, you will compose the remaining body paragraphs and write a conclusion to your essay. Then you will evaluate your essay and a sample essay based on the College Board’s scoring guidelines.

Review: Approaching the Long-Answer Essay

Prior to writing your essay, take five minutes to organize your thoughts and create a simple road map for the essay to ensure that you answer the question completely and include all relevant information. Higher-scoring essays typically include a strong and defendable thesis statement, organized body paragraphs that include numerous examples and analysis of relevant information, and a strong summarizing conclusion. Use the following steps to compose a strong continuity and change-over-time essay:

Read the question.

Brainstorm and organize topics.

Write a thesis statement.

Determine essay structure—chronological or topical.

Write the introductory paragraph.

Write the body paragraphs.

Your essay should begin with a strong introductory paragraph that introduces the essay’s subject and answers the question posed in very general terms. The introduction should begin with a topic sentence (or sentences) that introduces the question by providing appropriate historical context and serves to demonstrate that the writer has a firm understanding of the essay topic. A good topic sentence should also act as a hook to grab the interest of the reader. The introduction should contain an organizational statement, stating the three or four topics that will be covered in detail in the body paragraphs of the essay. Finally, the introduction must contain a thesis statement. A thesis statement thoroughly addresses the entire essay question and clarifies the writer’s position or approach. Follow this simple paragraph structure for your introduction:

topic sentence

organizational statement

thesis statement

The bulk of the essay is contained in the body paragraphs, which supply the necessary details, examples, assertions, and evidence to support the thesis statement. All body paragraphs should start with a topic sentence that relates to the thesis and conclude with a summarizing sentence that provides a transition to the paragraph. Beyond these similarities, the specific structure of the body paragraphs will depend on which organizational structure you choose for the essay response. Certain essay topics and historical evidence will lend themselves better to one structure than another.

Writing the Conclusion

If you have followed a clear strategy throughout your essay, a strong conclusion can add significantly to the final score. The concluding paragraph is your last chance to positively influence the AP grader and should be carefully written with this opportunity in mind. The concluding paragraph acts as a review for what has already been written in the body of the essay. It should not, however, be a simple repetition of the introductory paragraph or restate the thesis verbatim. Instead, restate the main topics of each body paragraph in a slightly different way while maintaining the essential content and meaning of the thesis.

While the introduction and body paragraphs should focus on the question asked, the conclusion is an opportunity to venture outside the question to make additional analytical points. Remember, these questions were chosen because they represent broad themes in world history. Use this opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of connections to larger global issues, such as political or economic trends, international relations, or similar events that might have taken place in other places or time periods.

At this point in the exam you may be pressured for time, so limit your conclusion to four to six sentences. While there is no single format for writing a strong concluding paragraph, the best conclusions act as a summary and demonstrate the larger relevance of the question and the information discussed. Guard against making emotionally charged statements that might negatively influence the AP grader. Such statements are often gross generalizations or personal opinions and interpretations that are not supported by the evidence provided, for example, “It was the most exciting time in European history.” Any evidence including new information, quotations, statistics, and examples should appear in the body of the paper. The purpose of the conclusion is to summarize that knowledge, not add to it.

Student Practice

Using the skills you have learned, finish your continuity and change-over-time essay by composing the remaining body paragraphs and concluding paragraph. Recall the essay question prompt:

Analyze the continuities and changes in globalization patterns that resulted from trade on the Silk Road from 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E.

Identifying College Board Guidelines

The rubric acts as a checklist to help graders accurately generate scores for the long-answer essay responses. The rubric is used to determine your skills of argumentation and use of evidence, and your ability with one of the following targeted skills: continuity and change over time, comparison, causation, or periodization.

The maximum points possible is six.

POINTS Competency Required on the AP Exam
1 Has an acceptable thesis that directly addresses all parts of the question
2

(1)

Supports the stated thesis using specific evidence, clearly and consistently states how the evidence supports the thesis or argument, and establishes clear linkages between the evidence and the thesis or argument

(Supports the stated thesis using specific evidence)

2

(1)

For questions assessing CONTINUITY AND CHANGE OVER TIME

Describes historical continuity AND change over time, and analyzes specific examples that illustrate historical continuity AND change over time

(Describes historical Continuity AND change over time)

For questions assessing COMPARISON

Describes similarities and differences among historical developments, and analyzes the reasons for the similarities and differences

(Describes similarities and differences among historical developments)

For questions assessing CAUSATION

Describes causes AND/OR effects of a historical development and analyzes specific examples that illustrate causes AND/OR effects of a historical development.

(Describes causes AND/OR effects of a historical development)

For questions assessing PERIODIZATION

Analyzes the extent to which the historical development specified in the prompt was different from AND similar to developments that preceded and/or followed, providing specific examples to illustrate the analysis.

(Describes the ways in which the historical development specified in the prompt was different from OR similar to developments that preceded and/or followed

1 Synthesizes the argument, evidence, and context into a coherent and persuasive essay

Evaluating Your Essay

Use the scoring guide above and the checklist below to evaluate and revise your essay. Remember, this is the essay that you will turn in as a graded assignment.

Essay Prompt:

Analyze the continuities and changes in globalization patterns that resulted from trade on the Silk Road from 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E.

Complete your conclusion paragraph and review your work with the following checklist:

Did you provide a provocative and precise thesis that states your main argument and position at the bottom of the introductory paragraph?

Did you write an organizational statement in which you present the three or four topics for the body paragraphs?

Did you place the organizational statement above the thesis in the introductory paragraph?

Did you define any key terms or establish the time frame for the essay in the introductory paragraph?

Did you write a lead that introduces the reader to the topic (first sentence in the introductory paragraph)?

Did you organize your essay either chronologically or topically?

Did you write a topic sentence at the beginning of each body paragraph?

Did you provide at least two concrete and specific examples that support your thesis in each body paragraph?

Did you provide commentary that explains the “so what” of your examples?

Did you write a summarizing sentence to close each body paragraph?

Did you address both continuity and change in your essay?

Did you restate the thesis in the conclusion?

Did you remind the reader of the main topics addressed in the body paragraphs when you wrote the conclusion?

Did you leave all new information out of the concluding paragraph?

Evaluate a Sample Comparative Essay

Finally, complete the same evaluation on the sample essay below. Then compare it to your essay and make any needed changes.

Essay Prompt:

Analyze the continuities and changes in patterns of interaction along the Silk Road from 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E.

Sample Essay

The Silk Road, an extensive network of overland and sea routes, provided a geographical link across Eurasia in the Classical and post-Classical periods. For many centuries, the Silk Road was the main road of communication between China, Persia, India, and the Mediterranean. Although named for their most famous commodity, the Silk Road carried numerous trade items along with ideas about technology, philosophy, and religion. From 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E., levels of globalization along the Silk Road changed due to transforming technologies and trading techniques, shifting geopolitical boundaries, and the dissemination of religious ideas, while the importance of these routes as conduits of information and ideas remained a continuous and defining feature of the period.

Changing technological and geopolitical organization caused changes that increased globalization from 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E. Early in the first centuries C.E., overland trade routes were the primary means of exchanging goods over significant distances. Although rulers of the Classical empires spent great resources building roads and bridges across their vast domains, very few advances in transportation technology occurred during the Classical period. However, that all changed with the post-Classical societies, especially in China and the Middle East. Improvements in the camel saddle allowed for much longer-distance travel through Arab lands. The invention of the stirrup also increased the ease and effectiveness of riding. Improved sailing technology gave rise to a bustling exchange of people and ideas in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea and brought people from vastly different lands in contact with each other. Advances in transportation were not the only changes in technology that impacted how people interacted along the Silk Roads. During the post-Classical period, the Chinese invented paper and printing, which allowed ideas to spread at a new speed and to a growing audience. The Chinese also invented explosives, which changed the interactions of war forever. Although technology marked some significant points of change during this period, people always found ways to exchange important ideas about science, technology, and mathematics. By the fourteenth century, trade was diverted away from the old overland Silk Roads in favor of the more cost-effective and quick maritime routes. As shipbuilding technology progressed, maritime routes became easier and safer. A significant breakthrough came when the Portuguese developed alternate routes to the Ottoman-controlled overland routes to trade with Asian cultures. Increased access to distant lands increased global exchange.

Changing geopolitical boundaries inspired the rise of the Silk Road. The early river civilizations were relatively small, isolated communities with vast stretches of dangerous and unknown land between them. However, when the Classical empires emerged, such as the Han dynasty and the Roman Empire, citizens could move more freely and safely throughout the large empires. They traveled great distances in these empires, but compared to later periods on the Silk Road, trade remained fairly regional in scope. Certain items, such silk and spices, did travel the length of the Silk Road, but regional trade dominated, and very little interaction between cultures took place even when goods did cross geopolitical boundaries. These boundaries changed again around 500 C.E. with the collapse of Classical civilizations. The declining economies resulted in an even greater reliance on regional rather than trans-regional trade. However, as societies began to recover and reemerge, so too did trade along the Silk Roads. And this time trade developed into a trans-regional exchange of both goods and ideas. Accompanying the trade in silk came the gradual diffusion of silk-making capacities, which traveled from China through Central Asia, Persia, North Africa, Anatolia (present-day Turkey), and eastern and southern Europe. The silk-making craft eventually reached the American continents (in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries).

Together with the technological and political globalization that resulted from the Silk Road, religions were introduced into new areas. Religions of the West spread to Asia and Africa. For example, Buddhism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism came to China through exchanges of those who traded and traveled along the Silk Road or Silk Sea Lanes. Buddhism followed the Silk Road from its origin in India, east through Central Asia and to the East. Buddhism eventually secured a foothold in southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. The religion left the world with monuments and wonders in the arts and literature. In the first centuries C.E., Christianity penetrated from the Near East to Central Asia and further into China. In the thirteenth century, Christians transmitted their beliefs through Catholic missions on the Silk Roads. The widespread adoption of Islam beyond the Arab peninsula resulted from trade along the Silk Roads along with the submission of groups to conquering Muslim tribes. Those who converted to Islam were often granted positions in newly-formed religious and political elite groups. By the mid-eighth century, Muslims controlled the western half of the Silk Road. For merchants on the Silk Road, cooperation and shared contacts between Muslims served as an incentive to convert. Global transmission of religious ideals expanded along the silk trade routes.

Most people think of the desirable goods that travelled along the Silk Route, but with the silks, spices, horses, and porcelain came also unintended and devastating passengers: disease. In some ways, disease is a factor that characterized the entire period and provides an element of continuity. Whenever people, animals, or crops travel from once place to another, the pathogens and parasites that call those things home are going to travel with them. Disease undoubtedly travelled back and forth along the trade routes for the entire period. However, massive disease outbreaks also mark important turning points in the period that resulted in drastic changes and devastating population decline. The first of these turning points came at the end of the Classical period. During the fourth and fifth centuries C.E., disease outbreaks spread throughout Eurasia and were one of the contributing reasons for the fall of Classical societies. The most devastating diseases were smallpox, measles, and bubonic plague. The Roman population had likely reached 60 million people during the reign of Augustus (r. 27 B.C.E. to 14 C.E.), but it plummeted to 40 million by 400 C.E. Massive declines in population had correspondingly significant impacts on patterns of interaction. Trade decreased as populations tried to recover socially and economically, and those interactions that did take place occurred on a smaller, regional scale. Disease had a similar impact on patterns of interaction when the bubonic plague broke out in Asia and was transmitted to Europe in the fourteenth century. Unfortunately, the horrific impact of transferring disease to populations with no natural immunity is a recurring theme that can be seen around the globe, including the massive population losses incurred in the Native Americans when Europeans first reached the Americas during the Age of Exploration.

Perhaps more than any other element, technology had drastic impacts on patterns of interaction during the years of the Silk Road. People are limited in their movement based on the technology they have available. The speed and extent of these transfers differed according to the time period, but human ingenuity and imagination prove to spread wherever they exist.

Between 200 B.C.E. and 1450 C.E., the Silk Road increased globalization over time and provided continuity to Eurasia by allowing goods and ideas to travel between distant lands. However, the period was marked by significant changes due to shifting geopolitical boundaries, the unintentional spread of disease, advances in technology and the dissemination of religious belief. The Silk Road played a central role in the history of this period through the transfer of goods and ideas and provided a bridge between the Classical and post-Classical societies.

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