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The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

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Changes to AP History scoring rubric

College Board recently announces rubric alterations
Jodie Wiens
Kirk Murphy starts teaching the Document-Based Question unit, with adjusted rubric, for his 9th grade AP World History class.

For the past 20 years, social studies department head Kirk Murphy has taught students how to effectively maximize all points on the Advanced Placement World History exam. Compared to the national 60 percent pass rate, Murphy’s pass rate was over 90 percent during the 2023 testing season. Recently, College Board announced drastic changes to the rubric for all AP history exams, effective immediately.

Murphy said that the changes in the rubrics for the Discussion Based Question were sudden and unheard of.

“I honestly have no clue why [College Board] did this,” Murphy said. “Typically you hear rumors of it, [but I heard] nothing. When this came out, I started getting emails from people going, ‘Have you read this?’ ‘Do you know this?,’ and at that point, I hadn’t. I had to read through and see the changes that they made”

The DBQ provides students with seven historical documents, requiring students to take a stand on the given prompt and write an essay in a 15-minute reading period and 45-minute writing time, totaling seven points and 25 percent of the student’s overall score. Previously, students needed to utilize six sources, explain the audience, purpose, context, or point of view of a document three times and demonstrate complex understanding through contextual links to maximize their DBQ score.

While the thesis, context and outside evidence points remain unchanged at one point each, the complexity point underwent sizable modifications. The complexity point can now be granted when there is an effective use of all seven documents, analysis of four documents or correlating to a historical connection. Students can earn one point by accurately using three documents to support their argument or two points for implementing four documents correctly along with thoughtful analysis.

“I feel that these changes will make the exam way easier to pass and do well on,” sophomore Hlla Waregh said. “Personally, I do not think that the DBQs are hard. It does take some practice, but the more you do it, the more familiar you get with it. I would say that the most important part is to know the actual material, historical context, and significance of the material. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same thing again and again. I’m pretty sure [Collegeboard] is doing this because they want to dumb down the exams and make them easier for people.”

Junior Hunah Quadri, a former AP U.S. History student, argues that recent modifications to simplify the exam’s rubric should not be considered unfair since students have already completed the test under the prior grading system.

“It’s not really something a person would hold on to over the fact that it might be ‘unfair’ because it’s over and we took the exam, there’s no changing [the score you got,]” Quadri said. “There’s not much of a difference in difficulty considering the material doesn’t change and the stimulus skills you need to create an argument for the DBQ still stands. I understand that analyzing six of seven documents may have been more work, but in the end, it just helped with my ability to extract evidence from similar and different pieces of writing and images.”

Despite rubric changes, Murphy will continue using the original scoring guide, saying that sticking to the established rubric will ensure more success on the exam in May.

“We might make some minor changes [to the rubric], but overall, if we keep teaching the way that we’ve done and our students are able to do that, then what AP is asking is going to be a walk in the park for them,” Murphy said. “I mean, for your everyday kid who’s taken an AP History class, it may make it easier to get the points for them. It’s a dumbing down of the rubric.”

Quadri attributes her success on the AP U.S. History exam to the instruction of her teacher, Athena Pietrzak.

“I know that statistically, APUSH is meant to be a ‘hard AP’ and that a lot of people all over the country find it difficult,” Quadri said. “But I think Mrs. Pietrzak was amazing at bracing us for the exam. Some of my friends from Viera and Edgewood didn’t do as well on the exam, so I am grateful to have Mrs. Pietrzak push me through the class considering I was struggling in the first semester.”

Like Quadri, Waregh credits her successful results on the AP World History and AP U.S. History exams to the instructors, saying that the study of history is among the most vital academic subjects.

“So far, my AP history teachers were both fantastic, and they really did put so much work into preparing us for the exam in May,” Waregh said. “I really do appreciate their hard work. It might take a lot of effort, but in the end, it truly is worth it. I feel like history is one of the most important topics you can study because it makes you more aware of the world that you live in and makes you an even more sophisticated person. You literally learn something new every day, which is exciting.”

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About the Contributors
Mariam Hassan
Mariam Hassan, Staff Writer
I'm a junior, and this is my first year on staff. During my spare time, I enjoy hanging out with friends, enjoying beautiful sunsets, and working inside a 20-foot ice cream cone. I'm looking forward to writing and sharing stories with our school community.
Jodie Wiens
Jodie Wiens, Website Editor
Hi, I’m Jodie! I’m a junior, and this is my first year on the "Roar" staff. I do Irish dance in my free time, and I’m so excited to be managing this year.