APUSH: American Foreign Policy

American Foreign Policy

Last week, we challenged you to try your hands at synthesizing the history of how wars impacted American society differently in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This week, let’s explore how information synthesis can help you conquer the multiple-choice portion of the AP US History exam by connecting the dots in the history of US foreign policy.

First, grab a piece of paper and pencil, or open a new, blank word document. Next, think back to the very first months of your US History class, and write down what you remember about American policies and attitudes towards European powers at that time before reading on.

If you wrote down “Washington’s Farewell Address,” you’re right on track. If not, pause and see if you can recall what Washington advised to the new nation as he left office.

Don’t worry if you get stuck––here’s a quote from his 1796 address to refresh your memory:

“[H]istory and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government…. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. . . . The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns.”

Throughout the next two hundred years, politicians used Washington’s Farewell Address to support policies designed to keep Europe out of American politics. Can you remember any of them? Here’s a challenge: go back to your paper or word document and write brief descriptions of the following concepts and events and whether they align with or violate Washington’s advice (only click the link if you get stuck!):

Great work: you’ve just synthesized important pieces of American Foreign Policy history. If you’re on track, your synthesis should help you easily answer the following practice AP US History multiple choice question from College Board’s online practice exam:

  1. Most historians would argue that the recommendations of Washington’s address ceased to have a significant influence on United States foreign policy as a result of
  1. Westward expansion in the nineteenth century
  2. Support for Cuban revolutionaries in the Spanish-American War
  3. Woodrow Wilson’s support for international democratic principles during the First World War
  4. Involvement in the Second World War

Information synthesis helps us recognize general trends throughout American history so that when we face multiple choice questions like this, we can readily identify the correct answer. To check your answer, click here and scroll to the very bottom. If you’re stuck, don’t worry––we’re here to help. Set up an appointment with one of our AP US History tutors to learn more!

 

Strategy – The Importance of Starting Off Strong

If you don’t want to end up looking like the student in this posting’s picture, then starting off the semester with laser-focus and drive will allow you to score the easier points coming from the introductory material before the course kicks into high gear.  As the course progresses, newer and more intricate material will be introduced that won’t be quite as easy to digest.  Midway through the course, you will be challenged to think and integrate more and more concepts into your assignments and exams.  Ultimately, you don’t want to be on the fence about your grade in the later parts of the course and wishing you had done a little better early on.  Follow these tips to lock in those early points:

 

Just Getting Your Feet Wet – Dive Right In:

Even though the course may have just begun, and the material hasn’t picked up yet, it doesn’t mean that you can rest easy until the difficulty picks up.  Make sure you dive head first into the material and engage in class discussion as much as possible from the start.  Often times the lack of difficulty will make students think, “I’ve got this.”  This is where they will most likely be caught off guard by some of the curveballs that, while not extremely difficult detect, could end up dragging their scores down initially.  Don’t let this happen to you otherwise, you’ll be sacrificing some of the easier points in the course.

Studying Habits – Structure and Discipline:

Don’t think of studying as something you have to do in large chunks.  Studying little bits throughout your day, but more consistently, is better than having huge chunks of studying that occur more infrequently.  Most people begin to lose their attention after about 30-45 minutes, which is startling considering how long the average class is.  This is probably why we need to go home and study in the first place…we just couldn’t absorb it the first time.  Instead of spending hours and hours at the end of your day after school, try spending some of your break time on campus to study bits and pieces of the material, then finish what’s left at home.  Don’t forget to keep doing this daily.  You will find that your overall stress will be reduced and you won’t feel burnt out at the end of the day.

Communication – It’s Still Key:

If you aren’t understanding a concept, or just can’t seem to find a way to put it all together in terms of the bigger picture, don’t stay silent.  You’d be surprised how many students say that they understand concepts when they actually don’t out of fear or embarrassment.  It’s okay to struggle, and part of growing up and learning is how to communicate that you need help.  Teachers generally enjoy helping students, but if you’re worried about disrupting the flow, or are too shy, then meet with them after class.  At the very least you can collaborate with your classmates, as this is another form of learning.  You’ll gain friends along the way!  Find a way to introduce yourself to your fellow classmates early on instead of waiting until you need the help.  This can come off looking like you are not genuine in your desire to get to know them.

Outside Assistance – The Power of Tutoring:

Hiring a tutor can make all the difference when it comes easing the burden of taking on new information in high volume.  It’s just not possible for teachers to truly give what tutors can achieve one-on-one.  Make sure to meet with a tutor regularly for challenging courses, not only when you are already struggling.  The same reasoning applies here as with earning those easy points early on in the semester.  Consistently meeting with your tutor helps ensure that you really are grasping the concepts by having a “second line of defense.”  The tutor basically tests you before each and every exam, allowing you to see your strengths and weaknesses to formulate proper study regimens.