AP US History: Practicing Information Synthesis

If you’re in an AP US History class, you’re probably discussing the Vietnam War right now. Understanding the differences between the Vietnam War and previous conflicts will help you to synthesize the history of war and its impacts on American society. At Air Tutors, we’re sharing a series of interactive articles designed to help you prepare for the AP US History exam, and today, the topic is war.

Historical events are always multidimensional. Synthesis of historical information begins by thinking about the different dimensions involved in an event. Here’s a challenge: pull out a piece of paper or open a new document and write this question at the top: “What sorts of things should I know if I want to understand the causes and impacts of a war?”  Now, try to think of at least three things, write them in a bulleted list, and come back and keep reading once you’re done.

Okay, what did you write? I wrote these four questions:

  1. Who was it fought against, why, and how did it start?
  2. How did it impact Americans at home? (economically, politically, socially, etc.)
  3. How was it fought? (What were the main technologies used? What sorts of tactics were used?)
  4. Was there a clear winner? (Hint: most wars end with a treaty. When you study a war, make sure to learn about the treaty that ended it.)

These questions can now help us to synthesize the role war has played in American history. Here’s your study challenge for the day: answer my question #2 for the American Revolution, the Civil War, the First World War, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War. After you’re done, write a few short paragraphs that answer this question: How did the influences of 20th-century wars on American society differ from the influences of previous wars? Once you’ve identified a pattern, individual facts become easier to remember.

As you prepare for AP US History exam, use these questions as a “suitcase” for the war-related facts you want to bring with you on the exam. If you have any questions, set up an appointment with one of our AP US History tutors to learn more!

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