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The following list of grading criteria may look daunting, but remember, the average score on AP essay questions only reaches the second to lowest rung. Do better and you are on your way to a high score.

Because the AP values connections even more than reciting historic facts, you want to make your essays on any topic show how trends interact. Your essays should stay positive. Slavery and the Trail of Tears, for example, are blots on the U.S. record of freedom (see Chapter 11), but they're also part of trends that need to be viewed within the context of their times. Save political speeches for political meetings; when you're taking a test with your grade hanging in the balance, emphasize unity and progress.

By starting and concluding with a clear thesis, you help your overworked, weary grader find what he's looking for: a sense of meaning. Make sure the hurried test grader sees the proof you're using by underlining two or three key phrases in your essay. Highlighting facts about trends and dealing with them in paragraphs separated into political, economic, and social themes that all connect to your thesis makes for an essay that clearly deserves a good score. Regular essays follow the same grading scale as the DBQ, with a high score of 9 and a low score of 0. The average grade for essays is in the 2 to 4 range.

The 8-to-9 essay:

- Contains a clear, well-developed thesis that deals with the question at hand

- Supports the thesis with a large amount of relevant information

- Analyzes the main categories completely (somewhat uneven treatment of the categories is okay)

- May contain minor errors

The 5-to-7 essay:

- Contains a thesis that deals only partially with the question

- Supports the thesis with a modest amount of relevant information

- Analyzes all categories at least somewhat; treatment of categories may be very uneven

- May contain errors that don't detract completely from the essay

The 2-to-4 essay:

- Restates the question without providing a clear thesis

- Provides either minimal facts or minimal application of the facts

- Doesn't analyze all the categories, but may get one or two in a general way

- Contains lots of errors

The 0-to-1 essay:

- Omits a thesis

- Doesn't make sense

- Displays little or no understanding of the question

- Contains major false statements

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