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Often in the social sciences, an issue may fall into more than one aspect of life.
The dominant issue in this process relates to how students were asked to consider the criteria used for question placement.
To validate the process of categorization, I asked another AP United States history teacher to place 53 questions into the 7 categories.
The other essays, known as free response questions, allow students to demonstrate written mastery of historical events and interpretations, to examine common themes in different historical periods, to compare individuals or group experiences in the development of the United States, and to connect literary and cultural developments with larger issues in American history (A Student Guide 1992).
Transformation of the Essay Portion of the Test The AP United States history program has not only grown dramatically over the years, it has also changed considerably.
(It will change again in 1994 with students answering two essays in addition to the DBQ.) Most of the modifications occurred with the introduction of the Document-Based Question (DBQ) and the expansion of the multiple-choice section of the exam from 25 percent of the test to 50 percent of the test.
The overall distribution of free response questions on the AP exam from 1963 to 1992 is expressed in Figure 2.The other teacher and the author agreed on 47 of 53 questions (88.7 percent).Findings The free response essay section of the AP United States history examination has had four significant transitions in the last thirty years: 1964, 1965, 1973, 1976 (Figure 1).In recent years, the essays and the multiple-choice section have had equal value.Until 1973, students answered three free response essays.No part of the test has undergone more dramatic transformation than the essay portion.From the mid-1950s through 1982, the essay section had 75 percent of the examination's value.As an examination of skills and content for a college-level United States history survey, its evolution offers a road map of changes in historiography and content over the last four decades.Moreover, since college-level instruction influences the content and textbooks in secondary schools, modifications in collegiate courses are likely to have meaning and importance for secondary instruction as well.For AP teachers, specifically, the test is an important part of their professional lives.Most AP instructors measure their teaching effectiveness by their students' performance on the test (Henry 1991).