Originally Answered: AP World history exam question. Help a bro out? 10 pts.?
My AP world teacher broke the essay questions down into a few categories.
I think there is always a DBQ, or a Document Based Question, where they give you about 8-10 sources, such as charts about population, maps, written accounts. I think it's worth slightly more than the two essays. When you read the prompt, immediately write down your thoughts before looking at the documents. Then read through them, and find the ones that support your ideas. I think there is a minimum requirement of how many documents you use, and that's the first thing they count, so cite whever possible. Like if the map Document A shows the extent of the Roman empire before it splits into two, say something like, "Before the split of the Roman Empire, the empire stretched from the Iberian Penninsula to Turkey (Document A)". Pay attention to the authors and dates of each document. You can even cite some in the intro paragraph.
Then there are Compare and Contrast questions, typically where they ask you to compare two civilizations [an easy one would be the Roman and Han Empire, because they existed around the same time, collapsed due to internal pressures, etc.].
And then there are Change over Time questions, that ask you how a civilization...changed over time.
My history teacher told us, when in doubt, to remember PIRATES: Political, Intellectual, [something], Artistic, Technological, Economic, and Social, for the three body paragraphs. Some of these topics are more difficult to remember than others, but the three usually fail proof ones are Political [government structures, land gain], Economic [maybe their monetary system, especially if one is communist and another is socialist or capitalist] and Social [Fedualism, which I guess could also be a politcal system, or the caste system]
If you're writing a 5 paragraph essay, in the intro [let's say it's the Han vs Roman empire, Compare and contrast prompt, I'm going to fudge some facts because I don't remember everything] Your thesis could be something like: Politcally, the Han and Roman empires experienced dictatorships. Economically, the Han Empire was unified by a standard coin system, while the Roman Empire experienced a myriad of coinage. Socially, the Han system was static while the Roman system was dynamic.
And then in the body paragraphs elaborate on that basic thesis.
It's not beautiful, flowery language, and it's structured, but the AP readers grade on a strict rubric, of whether you Address the Prompt [uber-important] so if you do something like this, write coherently, citing 2-3 specific examples in each body paragraph, and do okay on the multiple choice, you should get a 5.
It's been two years since I've taken it but you can always look at past essay questions on collegeboard.com and under AP tests. Look around and you should find it. Actually:
Scroll down, and you can see questions, some sample essays, and perhaps discussion? Try to practice with at least one set of essays, don't panic, and you should be fine.
Best of luck.