The comparative essay focuses on developments across at least two regions or societies. It relates to one of the five major themes in the course, such as state building, interactions between or among cultures, or economic systems. Comparative questions always require an analysis of the reasons for the identified similarities and differences. As in the previous continuity and change over time essay, students may have the opportunity to choose different cases for comparisons from among several options.
And, also as in both of the previous essays, a variety of the historical thinking skills (such as argumentation, causation, and synthesis) are evaluated along with comparison. The generic scoring guide for the comparative essay is below; following that, on the next two pages, are a sample comparative essay question, the directions that appear in the AP Exam booklet, and a discussion of “What Good Responses Should Include. ”
Note that the sample comparative essay below is slightly modified from the comparative essay on the 2010 AP World History Exam to make the topic of the question more closely align with the AP World History Curriculum Framework. The time allotted for this essay is 40 minutes, 5 minutes of which should be spent planning and/or outlining the answer. Directions: You are to answer the following question. You should spend 5 minutes organizing or outlining your essay. Write an essay that: • Has a relevant thesis and supports that thesis with appropriate historical evidence. • Addresses all parts of the question.
• Makes direct, relevant comparisons. • Analyzes relevant reasons for similarities and differences. 3. Analyze similarities and differences in techniques of imperial administration in TWO of the following empires. • Han China (206 B. C. E. –220 C. E. ) • Mauryan/Gupta India (320 B. C. E. –550 C. E. ) • Imperial Rome (31 B. C. E. –476 C. E. ) What Good Responses Should Include A good response would analyze both similarities and differences in techniques of imperial administration in two of the stipulated empires [Han China (206 B. C. E. to 220 C. E. ); Mauryan/Gupta India (320 B. C. E. to 550 C. E. ), Imperial Rome (31 B.
C. E. to 476 C. E. )]. Because the central task in this question is comparative and asks for both similarities and differences, acceptable thesis statements also need to be comparative, stating at least one similarity and at least one difference. Acceptable thesis statements also need to be explicit, not simply restatements of the question or vague statements such as “there were more similarities than differences. ” They also need to be relevant to the time period. A good response provides valid similarities and differences, substantiated by specific pieces of evidence from within the time period.
Important similarities include centralized governments, elaborate legal systems, administrative bureaucracies, the promotion of trade and food production, road-building, larger armies, and expanded systems of taxation. Important distinctions include: For Han China: a bureaucracy selected through a civil service examination; Confucian ideology about hierarchies; the idea of the Mandate of Heaven; regular diplomacy with peoples beyond their borders. For Rome: a uniform legal code; the promotion of a ruler cult, and later of Christianity; great concern with control of ocean-borne trade that brought in food.
For India: the Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s acceptance of Buddhism, which enhanced his position; public welfare projects paid for by the emperor; the more decentralized government of the Guptas. Good essays do not include evidence that is outside the time period or any of the stipulated empires, for example, discussion of the Roman Republic, Qin dynasty, Genghis Khan, Mansa Musa, or Akbar. A good response could include information on technology, military history, religion, gender, disease, or other topics, but then needs to tie these to techniques of imperial administration, not simply discuss everything the student knows about the empires.
For example, a good essay would say, “Both the Maurya/Gupta and the Romans used their armies to maintain control within their borders and to attack neighboring states. ” The statement “Both the Maurya/Gupta and the Romans had large armies and expanded their borders,” while true, does not relate these developments to the topic of the question, techniques of imperial administration. Students should be told to make their connections clear, because readers will not infer that a particular essay demonstrates content knowledge that is not present in the plain language of the student response.
Students should be discouraged from constructing comparison questions by discussing one region as a block and then the other region as a block, loosely linked by a transitional sentence. That sentence might be the only comparison in the student’s response, and if it is incorrect, the student is unable to earn any points for comparison, analysis, or addressing the question. Students should be discouraged from writing to a pre-existing format such as political, economic, social/cultural or PERSIA (Political, Economic, Religious, Social, Intellectual, Artistic).
Students need to respond to the question asked — which, in this case, is political. A good response provides analysis and uses this analysis as an explanation of a reason for a similarity or difference between techniques of imperial administration for the two empires. It thus links the historical thinking skills of comparison and causation, and does not simply provide a discussion of causation that involves only one of the empires. For example, a discussion of why the Roman Empire fell that does not link or compare this to why the other chosen empire fell is not appropriate analysis for this question.
A strong essay would go beyond the minimum on any of the core points. It could relate the techniques of imperial administration to larger global processes or apply relevant knowledge of other world regions, such as noting the ways in which invasions by pastoral nomads from central Asia put pressure on the administration of each of the three empires. It could consistently analyze cause and effect for the noted similarities and differences, such as pointing out that the religious toleration of both the Gupta emperors and (most of) the Roman emperors promoted loyalty to the empire and with it more regular payment of taxes.
It could recognize nuance within empires, for example by pointing out that the techniques of Roman imperial administration were different in the city of Rome from those in the outlying provinces. It could discuss change over time, for example by discussing changing methods of imperial administration as the empires began to decline because of epidemic diseases, environmental damage, and external problems.