APUSH Document-Based Question

Following is an APUSH DBQ practice question, which is part of our full-length AP US History practice test. This document-based question is designed to be similar to those found on the actual exam. After the question, we have also included a list of tips and tricks which will help you craft a high-scoring essay.

1. Analyze the positive and negative effects of the Industrial Revolution on American society between 1870 and 1920.

Document 1: Excerpt from a speech by a factory owner, 1885
“The Industrial Revolution has brought prosperity to our great nation. Our factories are producing goods at rates unimaginable just a few decades ago. This has led to the creation of countless jobs, putting food on the tables of many American families. Cities are growing, and with them, opportunities for all. The railroad has connected the East to the West, making us truly united. Critics may point to the smoke and grime, but these are merely signs of progress. We are at the forefront of a new age, and the future is bright.”
Document 2: Letter from a factory worker to his family, 1890
“Dear Family, life in the city is not what I imagined. The factory is a harsh place, with long hours and little pay. The air is thick with smoke, and many of my fellow workers cough constantly. Children, no older than our little Sarah, work beside me. The noise is deafening, and accidents are common. I’ve seen men lose fingers to the machines. I hope to save enough to return home soon.”
Document 3: Newspaper article on urban growth, 1900
“Cities across America are experiencing unprecedented growth. The influx of workers seeking employment in factories has led to the rapid expansion of urban areas. New buildings are erected daily, and businesses are thriving. However, this growth has also brought challenges. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and a lack of adequate housing plague many city dwellers. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and tensions are rising.”
Document 4: Excerpt from a women’s rights activist’s diary, 1910
“The Industrial Revolution has brought about change not just in factories but in homes as well. Many women have found employment in textile mills, giving them a sense of independence. This newfound financial freedom has sparked discussions about women’s rights and roles in society. We are organizing, protesting, and demanding our right to vote. The times are changing, and women are at the forefront of this change.”
Document 5: Statement from a union leader, 1915
“Workers of America, unite! The Industrial Revolution has brought wealth to the few and misery to the many. We toil for hours, face dangerous conditions, and receive meager wages. It’s time for us to demand better working conditions, fair pay, and the right to organize. The factory owners have grown rich off our labor, and it’s time they recognize our worth.”
Document 6: Excerpt from a government report on child labor, 1920
“Across the nation, children as young as six are employed in factories, mines, and mills. They work long hours, often in hazardous conditions, and are denied the chance to attend school. The rise of the Industrial Revolution has exacerbated this issue, with many families relying on the income of their children to survive. Immediate action is required to address this grave injustice.”
Document 7: Opinion piece in a national newspaper, 1920
“The Industrial Revolution has transformed America in ways we could never have imagined. Our economy is booming, and our global influence is growing. However, this progress has come at a cost. The environment suffers, workers are exploited, and societal inequalities persist. As we move forward, we must find a balance between progress and preservation, ensuring that the benefits of industrialization are shared by all.”


In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a historically defensible thesis or claim that establishes a line of reasoning.

  • Describe a broader historical context relevant to the prompt.

  • Support an argument in response to the prompt using at least six documents.

  • Use at least one additional piece of specific historical evidence (beyond that found in the documents) relevant to an argument about the prompt.

  • For at least three documents, explain how or why the document’s point of view, purpose, historical situation, and/or audience is relevant to an argument.

  • Use evidence to corroborate, qualify, or modify an argument that addresses the prompt.

After you type your response to this document-based question, be sure to review our sample answer. This DBQ example presents a response that would receive a perfect score along with an explanation of the scoring process.

APUSH DBQ Tips and Tricks

  1. Understand the prompt: Before diving into the documents, make sure you fully understand what the prompt is asking. Identify the key terms and time periods mentioned in the prompt.

  2. Read and annotate the documents: Skim through all the documents first to get a general idea. Then, read each document carefully and annotate it. Look for the main idea, the author’s perspective, and any potential biases. Note any relevant outside information or context you know about the document or its author.

  3. Group the documents: Group the documents based on themes, perspectives, or any other criteria relevant to the prompt. Think about how each document fits into your argument.

  4. Craft a strong thesis statement: Your thesis should directly address the prompt and provide a clear argument. It should be specific and ideally set up a line of reasoning that you’ll follow in your essay.

  5. Use evidence wisely: Support your argument with evidence from the documents. Don’t simply summarize the documents; analyze them. Quote sparingly. Instead of quoting large sections, paraphrase and cite the document number. Remember to discuss the context, audience, purpose, or point of view (often abbreviated as “CAP”) for at least a few documents.

  6. Include outside knowledge: While the documents are your primary sources of evidence, you should also demonstrate your knowledge of the broader historical context. Bring in relevant facts, events, or concepts that aren’t mentioned in the documents but help support your argument.

  7. Address counterarguments: Think about potential counterarguments to your thesis. Use the documents to address these counterarguments, either by refuting them or by conceding a point while explaining why your overall argument still stands.

  8. Write a clear and organized essay: Start with an introduction that sets up the historical context and ends with your thesis statement. Each body paragraph should start with a topic sentence, use evidence from the documents, and provide analysis. Conclude by summarizing your argument and, if possible, connecting the issue to broader historical themes or later periods.

  9. Manage your time: Practice writing DBQs within the time limit so you get a sense of how to pace yourself. Spend around 15 minutes reading and annotating the documents and planning your essay. Spend the remaining time writing and revising.

  10. Proofread: If time allows, quickly read through your essay to catch any glaring errors or unclear sentences.

By following these tips, you will be on track to write a high-scoring essay. The more you familiarize yourself with the DBQ format and practice writing essays, the more comfortable and skilled you’ll become.

Once you have written your DBQ, remember to review our high-scoring example: