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Using proof, analysis, and thesis (PAT)

Writing regular essays that score well involves applying the proof, analysis, and thesis (PAT) approach (see Chapter 4) to the political, economic, and social trends that win points with test graders (see Chapter 1). With the PAT formula, you select everything you know about the topic as proof and then analyze that proof to support your own theory about the question. The proof you use can be trends, people, or events. In the DBQ (Chapter 4), the documents themselves supply some of these proof points; with regular essays, it's just you and your history knowledge bank.

The regular essay questions are an interesting combination of political, economic, and social trends. Here are some basic strategies:

- You need to be able to combine developments in different areas, such as the political outcomes of social issues or the economic influence on policy decisions. For example, you may have a chance to discuss changes in the U.S. government brought on by urbanization or the role of cotton and money in the Civil War.

- You have to analyze common themes that run through an extended period — how women's rights changed society from 1830 to 1930, for example.

- You should show how the same events had a different effect on specific groups in the population. An example could be the impact of the Great Depression of the 1930s on women, men, and minority groups in the United States.

On the regular essay questions, the grader judges you on the thesis you develop, the quality of your analysis, and the historic proof you use to support your thesis. When you're figuring out your essay, plan what you're going to write in PAT order:

1. Proof: List in the question booklet all the political, economic, and social facts you can remember about the essay topic.

2 . Analysis: Figure out how these facts can go together to explain the essay topic.

3 . Thesis: Develop an opinion to tie the facts together with the essay topic.

When you actually write the essay, PAT turns into TAP: First, you state your thesis, and then you provide analysis supported by proof. Make an outline in the question book before your begin.


Make sure your answer has at least a vague relationship to the question. It doesn't have to be perfect; you want to show off any knowledge you have in the general area. Just don't try writing about 1800s shipping if the question is about the Mayflower.

The official AP position is that your supported argument is more important than the amount of factual information you produce. In other words, they want students who think, not just people who remember words. You can't write down only a laundry list of names, trends, and events; you have to show how they fit together. This idea fits the great humanistic tradition of scholarship. In the rest of this chapter, you can see how supporting an argument works in practice.

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