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Want to improve your SAQs? Practice makes perfect! Well, in this case, graded practice makes perfect. Practicing short answers is great, but in order to improve, you'll need to have a score/feedback for them. The great thing is the college board posts former exam questions with scoring guides, so you can practice with those!

(Image courtesy of Lennox's AP US History)

However, I wouldn't do a lot of SAQs where only you grade them, because you will always be biased. Practicing SAQs with a study group and grading and discussing each others' answers will give you the best feedback. If you aren't able to do that, however, practicing SAQs on your own is a great way to review content and prepare for the exam, especially if you don't have any in-class practice tests.Β 

Here's how to practice and improve your SAQs:

1) Find the College Board's Scoring guideline and prompts for short answers

  • Here are short answer prompts and their scoring guides from past APUSH exams:

2018 exam questions and scoring guide
2017 exam questions and scoring guide
2016 exam questions and scoring guide


2) Time yourself writing the Short Answer

  • Give yourself 40 minutes to do 3 short answers or 13 minutes and 20 seconds if you're doing 1.
  • Use a pen while writing these, because the exam will require you to do so.


3) Use the scoring guide

  • Scroll down to find what answers will get you the points for each of the questions. Using this you'll be able to give yourself a score, see how well you understood primary/secondary sources, and/or know what content you'll need to review.


If you want to get a better feel for scoring written answers or see how other students have scored high, here's the 2015 short answer questions with scored student examples. You can try to score one of these to check your understanding of short answer scores or read through high scoring ones to improve your own SAQs. Again, practicing and discussing short answers with others is the best way to improve, so find some friends and start writing! Studying is also more fun this way too. :)


Good luck studying and don't worry! Short answers take practice to master, but you can do it! With a little practice, you'll have this down and will pass the exam 😊πŸ’ͺπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

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