AP World History DBQ

Below, you will find our practice AP World History DBQ which is part of our full-length AP World History practice exam. This DBQ reflects the type of content you may see on your exam and will help prepare you to evaluate primary sources and respond effectively to the prompts. Once you have written your own response, we also provide a sample answer to help guide you towards a perfect score!


1. 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.

Document 1: 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann, 2012.

“Then as now, smoking was made to order for the boredom and inertia of army life. Tobacco was embraced by Ming soldiers, who disseminated it as they marched around the Empire. In the southwestern province of Yunnan, one physician reported, Chinese soldiers “entered miasma-ridden (malarial) lands, and none of them were spare disease except for a single unit, whose members were in perfect health. When asked the reason, the answer was that they all smoked.”…From that point, the account continued, “smoking spread…and now in the southwest, whether old or young, they cannot stop smoking from morning until night.” As a child in the 1630’s, the writer Wang Pu had never heard of tobacco. When he grew to adulthood, he later recalled, “customs suddenly changed, and all the people, even boys not four feet tall, were smoking.””  

Document 2: Bill of Rights Institute, The Columbian Exchange

Document 3: The Body of the Conquistador, Rebecca Earle, 2012. 

“The parallels between the introduction of European foods and European religion shaped the imagination of colonial actors in the sixteenth century. Writers often spoke of ‘planting’ the faith, and missionaries hoped to reap a good harvest of new souls. Christianity was a tender shoot introduced to a fertile or hostile soil. Such language drew on long-standing Christian traditions, for evangelisation had for centuries been presented as a form of spiritual gardening, using imagery derived from the Bible itself.”

Document 4: Excerpt from Christopher Columbus’s journal (1492)

“They [the natives] brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things… They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features… They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… They would make fine servants… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Document 5: Letter from Hernán Cortés to Emperor Charles V (1520)

“The city [Tenochtitlan] is as large as Seville or Cordova; its streets, I speak of the principal ones, are very wide and straight; some of these, and all the inferior ones, are half land and half water, and are navigated by canoes. We have seen so many cities built in the water and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level highway leading to Mexico, we were astounded… The market place is twice as large as that of Salamanca and is surrounded by porticoes, where there are daily more than sixty thousand souls, buying and selling.”

Document 6: “An Account, Much Abbreviated, of the Destruction of the Indies” by Bartolomé de las Casas (1552)

“The Indies were discovered in the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-two… Forty-nine years have passed since the first settlers penetrated the land, the first being the large and most happy isle called Hispaniola which is six hundred leagues in circumference. Around it in all directions are many other islands, some very big, others very small, and all of them were, as I saw with my own eyes, densely populated with native peoples called Indians. This large island was perhaps the most densely populated place in the world.”

Document 7: “The Commentaries of the Great Afonso Dalboquerque, Second Viceroy of India” by Afonso de Albuquerque (1515)

“Upon our arrival at the Island of Ormuz, we were greeted by a diverse assembly of merchants from India, Persia, and beyond. Our ships were laden with a variety of goods, including precious metals and exotic spices. Among these, we introduced several plants from the New World, such as maize, which was unknown in these lands. The local inhabitants were intrigued by these new crops, and their interest quickly turned to eagerness as they began to cultivate them. The maize, in particular, thrived in this climate, promising to become a staple in their diet.”

In your response, you should do the following:

  • Use the above documents to construct an essay that responds to the prompt.
  • State a clear thesis that addresses the effects of the Columbian Exchange on both the Old and New Worlds.
  • Include contextual information relevant to the period of the Columbian Exchange.
  • Analyze at least two of the documents for their point of view, purpose, historical situation, and/or audience.
  • Incorporate at least one additional piece of historical evidence beyond the documents provided.
  • Demonstrate complex understanding through sophisticated argumentation and effective use of evidence.

Once you have written your response, review our sample answer to see a response that would earn a perfect score on the official exam.