AP World History DBQ Example

Once you have answered our AP World History Document-Based Question, scroll down to read a sample high-scoring response. Our AP World History DBQ example will guide you through the step to a perfect answer.

Evaluate the effects of the Columbian Exchange on the peoples and cultures of the Old World (Europe, Asia, Africa) and the New World (Americas) from the late 15th century to the 17th century.

Guided Response:


Thesis/Claim (A): The Columbian Exchange, initiated by Christopher Columbus’s voyages in the late 15th century, fundamentally altered the lives and cultures of people in both the Old World and the New World. In the Americas, it led to significant cultural and demographic shifts due to the introduction of new crops and livestock, as well as devastating impacts from Old World diseases. Conversely, the Old World experienced a transformation in diet, agriculture, and economic structures, largely due to the influx of New World crops like maize, potatoes, and tobacco. (1 point for a clear thesis that responds to the prompt)

Contextualization (B): Prior to the Columbian Exchange, the Old and New Worlds had evolved separately, leading to distinct agricultural practices, societal structures, and disease immunities. The exchange bridged these worlds, introducing a period of profound biological and cultural exchanges. (1 point for providing broader historical context relevant to the prompt)

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Evidence from Documents (C): The introduction of tobacco in the Ming Dynasty, as described in Document 1 by Charles C. Mann, showcases the rapid adoption and integration of New World crops into Old World societies. Similarly, the spread of maize in Ormuz, as noted in Document 5 by Afonso de Albuquerque, indicates the eagerness of different cultures to incorporate New World crops. (1 point for using content from at least three documents)

Analysis and Reasoning (D): The point of view in Document 1 reflects the perspective of a Chinese physician, highlighting the medicinal value attributed to tobacco, a New World plant, in the Old World. This demonstrates the integration of American crops into Asian medicinal practices. (1 point for explaining the document’s point of view)

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Evidence from Documents (C): The observations of Hernán Cortés in Document 4 about the marketplaces and infrastructure of Tenochtitlan reveal the sophistication of the Aztec civilization before European contact. This contrasts with the devastation described by Bartolomé de las Casas in Document 6, which underscores the catastrophic impact of the Columbian Exchange on indigenous populations. (1 additional point for using content from at least four documents to support an argument)

Analysis and Reasoning (D): Document 4 provides insight into Cortés’s perspective as a conqueror, marveling at the complexity of the Aztec civilization, which underscores the depth of cultural loss following the Columbian Exchange. (1 additional point for explaining the document’s point of view)

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Evidence Beyond the Documents (C): Beyond the documents, the introduction of Old World diseases like smallpox had a devastating effect on Native American populations, who lacked immunity to these diseases. This led to a drastic decline in their population and a weakening of their societies. (1 point for using additional historical evidence)


Complex Understanding (D): The Columbian Exchange was not merely a transfer of goods but a profound reshaping of cultures and societies. It brought about not only the exchange of crops and diseases but also a reconfiguration of global power dynamics, with long-lasting effects on both the Old and New Worlds. (1 point for demonstrating a complex understanding of the historical development)

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