Comparative essays are one of three different types of essays you will need to be able to write on the AP exam, and in class. One of the most important historical thinking skills is the ability to recognize– and analyze– the similarities and differences which exist between regions, systems, processes, and events.
In general, comparative essays will ask you to answer a prompt which will give you some degree of choice in selecting the specific regions, systems, or events you will compare and contrast. You will then need to 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.
All AP World History essays are timed, as you will have approximately 40 minutes to write your essay on the day of the exam– and that’s after having taken the multiple choice portion of the test and probably after writing two additional essays.
There are lots of resources out there to help you learn to write effective comparative essays, and I’ve collected some of them on this page below. Hopefully they’ll prove useful to you– some I use in class, and some I don’t.
- Generic Comparative Essay Rubric
- Explanation of Direct Comparison and Direct Comparison Analysis
- Essay Writer’s Handbook: Comparative Essay
- Comparative Essay WalkThrough (this is the PowerPoint we use in class)
Honestly, one of the most important things you can do in preparation of any of the AP World History essays is to know (and understand!) the rubric. If you understand how and why points are awarded, you’re more than halfway there.