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The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

College Board changes scoring rubric for AP History exams

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Image courtesy of Envato Elements

As of Sept. 2023, the College Board has updated the scoring rubric for the Advanced Placement (AP) History exams, including AP World History: Modern, AP United States History and AP European History. These revisions include changes to the Document-Based Question (DBQ) and the Long Essay Question (LEQ).

Worth seven points and 25% of the exam grade, the DBQ is an essay question in which students receive a prompt, along with a selection of seven historical documents that they need to cite and incorporate into their answers. Prior to the changes, students were required to utilize six of the seven documents to earn full credit on the Evidence section of the rubric. As of fall 2023, however, they will only need to cite four. Additionally, in the Analysis and Reasoning section of the rubric, the number of documents students will have to source has gone down from three to two. While the complexity point used to only be attainable through introducing complex themes or nuance throughout an essay, it can now be earned if a student has successfully used all seven documents, sourced four documents or demonstrated complex understanding in any part of their response.

Worth six points and 15% of the exam grade, the LEQ is a thesis-based essay question that provides students with various prompts, one of which they must form a stance on and provide related evidence to support their thesis. In the Evidence section of the LEQ rubric, the description has changed to clarify that two documents must be cited for full points. Similarly to the DBQ, the complexity point no longer requires complex analysis throughout the entire essay, only a part of the response. Complexity can now be earned by using four pieces of evidence to support a complex argument or by successfully exploring alternative perspectives.

“This change only affects the DBQ and LEQ scoring, with no change to the course or the exam.” College Board stated on their official website. “The exam format, course framework, and skills assessed on the exam all remain unchanged.”

While the cause of these changes is unclear, RBHS AP World History teacher David Graham said he guessed that they occurred due to a decrease in revenue.

“My suspicion is that [the College Board] saw scores falling and needed a way to bring them up so they wouldn’t lose a significant revenue stream,” Graham said. “If you follow the money [of] the people who make standardized tests, you usually find the truth in any changes.”

RBHS AP U.S. History teacher Bryon Orton said he has always thought that fitting in three document sources was “an awkward fit”. While the changes have made things easier, he does not plan on changing the way he teaches.

“We are already trying our best to help students write to the best of their ability,” Orton said. “[But] it’s nice that a few more of them might reach the college credit requirement because of the changes.”

Like Orton, Graham said he will continue to teach the exam the same way he has taught it for years. He said as long as he’s taught AP, he has always held his students to a higher standard than even the College Board does.

“This helps ensure that our students do well on the exam,” Graham said. “This is in our favor, and our scores [will] definitely show those results.”

As the changes come the year after many juniors have taken the AP World History exam, some have mixed opinions on the topic. RBHS junior Aditi Patel said she never had difficulty sourcing all of the documents in the AP World exam because her teachers, Gregory Irwin and Shawna Matteson, prepared her well.

“I don’t mind that the exam got easier,” Patel said. “I think it’s unfair to be upset about the rubric [changing], and I’m honestly just happy that the kids who are younger than me have it [better].”

As to what degree the changes have actually made the exam easier, Orton said it certainly seems less difficult, although the new advantages may come with a caveat.

“[I suspect] AP will likely try to keep scores in line with a traditional bell curve,” Orton said. “They won’t want scores to seem inflated.”

Although the changes are aimed at alleviating the stress of sourcing and complex analysis, Patel said the difficulty is not within the actual requirements of the rubric, but in the time frame within which students are expected to fulfill it. Patel said time management has always been the main issue, a difficulty that is partially relieved by the changes. 

“I think that it’s going to be easier for future test takers to allocate their time properly, which [is] always a big problem when writing DBQs,” Patel said. “I don’t think that’s a huge advantage, because it’s just a time skew. It’s always been possible to get a [full score] on your DBQ, but it’s now more accessible.”

What do you think of the AP rubric changes? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • M

    MickNov 9, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    Agreed! #gamer!

    Reply
  • M

    MickNov 9, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    this is very cool

    Reply
  • A

    anonymousNov 9, 2023 at 3:08 pm

    Wow! Very informational. I am so glad to see that kids these days do not need to struggle as much while learning even more effectively. Love College Board!

    Reply