Write a CCOT Essay

The Continuity and Change-Over-Time (CCOT) essay is a type that is commonly used on the AP World History exam, but you may be asked to write one for other settings or courses. Basically, it asks you to think about how a particular subject has developed or altered over time, as well as to consider what about it has stayed the same. Writing one is a piece of cake if you practice, organize your thoughts before you start writing, and keep the basic requirements of this essay type in mind as you work.


Gathering the Information you Need

  1. Read the essay prompt. This will provide you with important basic information you will need to write your CCOT essay, such as the date range and area(s) of the world that your essay should take into consideration. The prompt will also suggest whether you will be analyzing the continuities and changes over time for a place, theme, or specific topic.[1]
    • For example, a prompt might ask you to “Evaluate the extent of continuity and change in the lives of European immigrants in the United States between 1876 and 1918."
  2. Write your thesis statement. A thesis statement is the basic summation of your essay’s argument. For a CCOT essay, it must refer to both a continuity and change. Starting by writing out your thesis (one sentence is usually fine) will make it easier to focus on your argument as you right, and not get sidetracked
    • A thesis might look something like “While the United States maintained its position as a manufacturing superpower in the first five decades after WWII, over time its focus shifted from the production of traditional goods to the creation of innovative electronics.”
    • Your thesis must specifically mention the time period.[2]
    • Be as direct as possible about the continuity and change over time.
  3. Determine the facts you need to write the essay. Unlike the DBQ (Document-Based Question) on the AP exam, you won’t be provided any sources to draw on when writing the CCOT essay. This means that you’ll have to rely on your own knowledge of world history.[2]
    • Jot down the basic facts you know about the topic, as well as any key details that stick out in your mind. Build your essay around these concrete details.
    • For example, if your topic asks you to consider the development of manufacturing in the United States after WWII, start by writing down what you know about industries during that time period. If you know particular details about developments in the auto industry, you might work with those above all.
  4. Figure out the turning point. Since the CCOT essay stresses development, it should clearly identify what changes happened when. Think of your essay as telling a story about history, and ask yourself: when was the climax during this time period?[2]
    • For instance, if you are writing about changes and continuities in manufacturing after WWII, you might argue that the Vietnam War and the fuel crisis of the 1970s decisively changed the shape of American industries.
    • Create a timeline of events to sort out your historical information in order and help identify the turning point.
  5. Identify local and global concepts. One of the quirks of the CCOT essay is that though it asks you to focus on a particular location and time, it also requires you to think about what was going on in the rest of the world at the time. You shouldn’t go into great detail about other locations and topics, but you’ll want to indicate something about how other world events contributed to your topic. Go ahead and start thinking about this as you plan your essay.[2]
    • Continuing with the manufacturing example, your might keep in mind that the fuel crisis of the 1970s led to a rise in imported, fuel-efficient cars, which impacted the auto industry in the United States.

Organizing and Writing Your Essay

  1. Put your thesis at the beginning of your essay. An introductory paragraph often isn’t necessary for the AP exam (ask your teachers about their preferences if you are writing for class). Often, you can begin the essay with your thesis statement right off the bat. If you do have an introductory paragraph, make sure that your thesis statement is the last sentence in the paragraph.[2]
  2. Structure your essay so that it emphasizes changes, then continuity. There are lots of potential ways you can organize your essay, and there’s no one right or wrong method. However, discussing the changes before the continuities can help your argument come across more clearly. This is the most common way to organize a CCOT essay, and getting the pattern down through practice will give you one less thing to worry about when you actually sit down to take the exam.[3]
    • Create an outline to serve as the framework for your essay.
    • For example, you might have a first paragraph that establishes your thesis and the conditions at the start of the time period. This could be followed by two paragraphs on changes that occurred over time. Finally, the essay could close with a paragraph on what stayed the same.
  3. Include evidence in each paragraph. Though CCOT essay prompts usually ask you to think about broad time periods, you’ll nevertheless want yours to be as specific as possible, and rich in details. As a rule of thumb, try to include 2-3 specific examples in each paragraph.[2]
    • Be selective and organize your thoughts. Don’t just dump out everything you know about a subject.
    • Stay in the place and time relevant to the prompt. If a prompt asks you to think about the development of manufacturing in the United States, your evidence shouldn’t be based on examples from manufacturing in China.
    • On the other hand, don’t forget to explain the global significance of your topic. For instance, at some point in your essay, you might note that changes in manufacturing in the United States led to an increasing rise in imported home goods manufactured in China.
  4. Analyze the process of change and explain the cause. Your essay should clearly state what changed about the topic. To go beyond the basics and write a really good CCOT essay, however, you’ll have to explain the causes of the change(s). This shows your teacher or the exam reader that you know how to analyze a historical situation, not just describe it.[4]
    • If you get stuck, go back to the notes/ideas you had about the turning point, since this can show you exactly what changed, when, and why.

Preparing for the Exam

  1. Learn how the essay is scored. There are two components to how the CCOT essay is scored on the exam, the Basic Core and the Expanded Core. You can earn up to 7 points for the Basic Core of the CCOT essay, broken down in this way:[5]
    • 1 point for having an acceptable thesis
    • Up to 2 points for addressing all parts of the question
    • Up to 2 points for effectively using appropriate historical evidence
    • 1 point for explaining the changes in terms of world history and global contexts
    • 1 point for analyzing the process of continuity and change over time
  2. Earn points for excellence. The Expanded Core offers up to 2 additional points for the CCOT essay. You can earn these points by going above and beyond in writing your essay and analyzing your topic.[5]
    • For example, including several relevant examples of changes and continuities will help you earn points in the Expanded Core.
    • You cannot earn points in the Expanded Core unless your essay already covers all aspects of the Basic Core.
  3. Practice to identify and avoid common errors. Writing lots of CCOT essays ahead of time is a sure-fire way to improve your skills. If you’re taking a class, you’ll have opportunities to do this. Reviewing your writing and getting feedback from your teacher will also help you learn about things you can easily do to write a more successful CCOT essay. For instance:[6]
    • Don’t use evidence from the wrong time period. Using the example of Captain Cook won’t help you if the essay asks you to examine continuities and changes in work exploration between 1400 and 1700.
    • Avoid vagueness of dates. Don’t write an essay that discusses “exploration before the eighteenth century.” Instead, tell your readers that your essay will discuss changes and continuities from 1492 (Columbus’ first voyage) to Hudson’s voyage of 1609-1611.
    • Don’t just dump as many facts as possible into your essay. Organize and analyze all information you include, making sure it is relevant.


  • If you are writing a CCOT essay for a class, always ask your teacher for advice. He or she may have specific expectations for the essay that may differ from these general guidelines.
  • If you can't spell a word, choose another one. Although spelling mistakes and grammar errors would not deduct points, poor spelling can cast a shadow on the rest of your essay.


  • Keep an eye on your time. You do not want to spend too much time on this one essay, running out of time on the rest.
  • Avoid cursive, especially if your handwriting is messy, as it may be harder for the AP essay readers. Don't have too many scribbles on the paper, for they may make it harder for the grader to read.

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