Preparing to take AP History exams is always daunting — your score will play a major role in determining your future, after all. Many students find the LEQ portion of US, European, and World History exams to be the most challenging, as it requires quick thinking and relies on confident writing skills. Do you need a little extra help in preparing for your long essay question? We’re here to help.
Understanding an LEQ
APUSH, AP World History, and AP European History exams feature the same question types every year. Each of the sections in your exam has an established format, and will be scored to make up a predetermined percentage of your overall exam result. Together, the types of questions you will find on your AP History exam serve to test your knowledge and analytical skills.
The APUSH exam, for instance, consists of:
- A total of 55 multiple-choice questions, which students are given 55 minutes to complete and which amount to 40 percent of the total score.
- Three SAQs, or short answer questions, in which students are called on to demonstrate their analytical skills. The SAQs represent 20 percent of the total score.
- DBQs, or document based questions, which make up 25 percent of the exam score.
- LEQs, long essay questions, which make up 15 percent of the total score.
Students will be offered two different prompts to choose from in this section of an AP History exam, and are given 40 minutes to complete a short essay with the purpose of demonstrating rhetorical and reasoning skills, as well as proving they have the required background knowledge to pass the exam.
While the LEQ portion of an AP History exam is bound to be daunting to many students, who find multiple-choice questions easier to tackle than a free response task, acing your long essay questions will be easier once you understand what the purpose of this portion of the exam is. The LEQ:
- Primarily serves to demonstrate that the student has a complex and nuanced understanding of historical events.
- Tests whether students are able to draw parallels and see contrasts in different historical events, as well as to compare and contrast distinct events or time periods.
- Puts the student’s analytical and reasoning skills to the test.
Is the LEQ Hard?
Students who prepare for their AP History exams — and who have had plenty of practice in writing essays — should not find the long essay question too challenging. Students will be offered two prompts, and are given the opportunity to choose from among them.
Because the long essay question they select will prompt students to engage in a free response, and there is no clearly defined “right” or “wrong” answer, many students experience the long essay question as the most difficult part of the AP history exam. There’s no need to be scared of this portion of the exam, though!
You will not primarily be judged on the beauty of the words you choose, and a formulaic response that “ticks all the right boxes”, by answering the prompt in the expected format, will help you maximize your score. This ultimately means that the LEQ portion of your APUSH, World History, or European History exam does not have to be difficult, as long as you practice in advance and are familiar with the expectations being placed on you.
How Is the LEQ Scored?
The prompts students are able to choose from change every year — but the scoring guidelines for the LEQ remain consistent. Grading personnel will be on the lookout for evidence that students:
- Address the prompt directly. You will be given a clear task, and you will need to show that you have understood the prompt.
- Offer clear reasoning for the position they choose to take in the essay, citing evidence from the material encountered in the AP History coursework that precedes the exam.
- Draw on the wider historical context relevant to the chosen prompt, by addressing developments that occurred before the events in the prompt, by pointing to the effects of the event referenced in the prompt, or by comparing it to another event.
- Offer specific examples relevant to the prompt.
- Can compare and contrast the referenced event, or point to cause and effect. Alternatively, students may demonstrate complex understanding by discussing multiple consequences, causes, or variables related to the prompt.
You may notice that the beauty of your writing is not addressed in any of these points — especially artful wording or syntax cannot lead to additional points, because the examiners are looking for evidence that you have meaningfully interacted with your AP History classes, instead. It is therefore sensible to focus all your efforts on answering the LEQ prompt, without agonizing over your stylistic choices.
How to Format the APUSH LEQ?
While students are free to format their long essay questions in any way they would like, a five-paragraph essay format is extremely effective. This format offers students the chance to write an introduction in which they state their thesis — the historically-defensible claim they are making in the essay. They can then write three supporting paragraphs in which they elaborate on the thesis and explain why it is valid. Finally, such an essay should have a concluding paragraph in which the thesis is restated and defended in brief.
Students who believe they need additional paragraphs to defend their thesis can certainly write more, but each supporting paragraph in the body of the essay must speak to the prompt, by providing evidence to back the thesis up, in order for the student to gain as many points as possible.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing an LEQ Essay
Are you preparing for your AP History exams? Practice makes perfect — and practicing for your LEQ will help you knock an effective essay, one that ticks all the right boxes, out in no time. Practice using these techniques by looking up LEQ prompts from previous years!
1. Read the LEQ Prompts Carefully
Before you write a response to the long essay question of your choice, take the time to read both prompts carefully. You have 40 minutes to complete the entire LEQ portion of your AP History exam, and you would be advised to take at least 30 seconds to a minute to decide which prompt you are most likely to be able to answer well. Consider which topic you know more about, and what specific evidence you could offer to support your claim.
2. Formulate Your Response In Your Mind
Keeping in mind that students are expected to address the prompt directly, to formulate a thesis, to back it up with specific evidence, and to place their answers into a broader historical context, think about the points you would like to include in the response to your long essay question.
Take the time to formulate a specific and defensible thesis, and think about the evidence and context you can offer to support your claim. If you can, include a hook that will interest the person grading your LEQ, such as a quote, statistic, or interesting fact. Consider strong ways to end your LEQ essay, paying special attention to your concluding sentence.
Overall, this preparatory work should take you up to five minutes.
3. Write Your LEQ Response
Now that you have outlined the formula of your response in your mind, you can go ahead and write down your answer. Your LEQ should begin with an introductory paragraph, which will include your thesis statement. The next paragraphs in your LEQ essay should be devoted to showing why your thesis is defensible, using material you mastered during your AP History classes. Finish off with a concluding paragraph that clearly lays out why the points made in your essay are valid. You can take around 30 minutes crafting your LEQ essay.
4. Edit and Proofread Your LEQ Response
Finally, you will want to look over your LEQ essay and to check for grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Correct those, as needed.
How to Pass the APUSH LEQ Exam
Do you suffer from essay-related “stage fright”? Are you a history buff, but was writing never your strongest point? Don’t worry — it is entirely possible to earn a good score on the LEQ portion of any AP History exam without being a great writer. You can increase your chances of earning a great score on the LEQ portion of an AP US, European, or World History exam by:
- Using prompts used during previous years to practice for this portion of your exam — the more you practice, the easier it will be to simply write.
- Analyzing the prompt carefully, being sure to pay attention to the core message.
- Offering specific examples to show why the claim you are making is valid.
- Offering a broader context to show that you understand how the topic addressed in the LEQ relates to other historical events.
The long essay question requires writing, but the quality of your writing is not being examined — to pass your APUSH LEQ exam, you simply need to understand what expectations are being placed on you. If you arrive fully prepared, you will not have any trouble!