What is AP English?
AP English is a rigorous college-level course that is divided into two different classes: AP English Language and Composition; AP English Literature and Composition. The Language course deals with rhetoric while the Literature course focuses on literature analysis. Both exams require knowledge on how to write a synthesis essay, AP English format integrated.
2017 Language and Composition Exam
During the exam, you are required to answer write three essays: two of them analyze a piece of literature (an excerpt from a short story, a poem, or a narrative essay) and one answers a free response prompt on a piece of merit-based literature that you’ve read prior to the exam. Your exam is divided into portions. There will most likely be:
- 10-20 questions on Modern (20th century) poetry/prose.
- 10-20 questions on Victorian or Romantic poetry/prose.
- 5-10 questions on 17th-century Elizabethan poetry/prose.
You are not likely to see much Contemporary (beyond 20th century) or Middle English (450-1600), so do not waste your time practicing those poems.
AP English Literature Essay
To some, the AP English analysis essay is harder than the free response essay. To approach this type of writing, there are several steps you could take to prepare.
- Learn to read and comprehend poetry/prose quickly. Practice by reading a lot of different poems from different time periods.
- Read the prompt before reading the poem/prose and right before writing. Annotate the prompt. Look for keywords and themes. Make sure you understand the question completely.
- Annotate the passage/poem as you go. Pay close attention to the keywords and main themes given to you in the prompt.
Remember: practice makes perfect. Here are a couple of AP English Literature essay prompts for you to practice.
This question states that you need to analyze how the speaker uses symbolism through such devices as form, diction, and imagery. In your English class, you probably learned that symbolism is when a writer takes a symbol and attaches a secondary meaning to it. Symbols can be metaphors or metaphysical conceits. In this case, the Flea resembles something that isn’t exactly a Flea. Your interpretation should be accurate and supported by evidence. You don’t want to list rhetorical devices. Instead, you want to analyze the essay and make sure your claim is supported.
This question asks you to analyze the way structure contributes to the meaning of the poem. The structure of the poem is a villanelle. From here on, you have to develop a unique interpretation of how the structure contributes to the meaning. Here, you can focus on repetition and elaborate on how it contributes to meaning. While writing essays like this, instead of quoting the whole line in your essay, just write the line number when referring to a specific point in the poem.
Most people say that the hardest part of an AP English exam is the free response section. This specific prompt asks you to explain why a character’s moral ambiguity contributes to the novel’s theme. After picking a novel and a character (a benefit of the free response essay is that you have the freedom to choose whatever novel and character you want), you have to demonstrate how their moral ambiguity contributes largely to the plot of the story. The little note at the end of the prompt about avoiding plot summary is very important. Do not summarize events of the novel. This will hinder your score and take points off your paper.
AP English Language and Composition Essay
What Does That Mean?
This course has an exam that is divided into four parts: multiple choice portion and three essays (argumentative, persuasive, and synthesis). Essentially, an AP English argument essay is exactly like a basic argument paper that you’ve written in high school but with a twist: you have to equip it with perfect grammar and have a well-structured claim. In gist, AP Language and Composition is an extremely rigorous course that requires you to write essays that demonstrate primal ability to analyze works of literature. Perfect grammar and structure on an exam like this will not award you maximum points or a 5 on the exam.
How to deal with the Prompt
Prompts in AP English Language aren’t the same as in AP English Literature. Prompt consists of an article that you have to synthesize. On occasion, an AP English Literature exam will have a designated prompt, but the objective of the course is to allow you to build analytical pieces. The most important thing you can do to prepare for your AP English synthesis essay is to learn the format of and analyze/dissect many AP English essay prompts (pieces of writing, that is) as you can before taking the exam.
Rubric and Tips
An AP English essay rubric can be divided into three parts: a high scoring essay, a mid-range essay, and a low-scoring essay.
- High Range Essay
- High range Essay (8-9 points)
- Effectively develops a position on the assigned topic.
- Demonstrates full understanding of the sources or text.
- Correctly synthesizes sources and develops a position. The writer drives the argument, not the sources.
- The writer’s argument is convincing.
- The writer does not make general assertions and cites specific evidence for each one of his points.
- The writer’s evidence effectively answers the “so what?” question.
- The essay is clear, well-organized, and coherent. It is a stand alone piece rather than an exam response.
- Contains very few grammatical and spelling errors or flaws, if any.
Note: 8-9 essays are an extremely rare. A strong ‘7’ paper can jump to an 8-9 if the writing style is outstanding.
Middle-Range Essay (5-7)
- Adequately develops a position on the assigned topic.
- Demonstrates sufficient understanding of the ideas developed in sources
- Sufficiently summarizes the sources and assumes some control of the argument. ‘5’ essays are less focused than ‘6’ and ‘7’.
- The writer's argument is sufficient but less developed.
- Writer successfully synthesizes the sources and cites them.
- The writer answers the “So what?” question but may use generalizations or assertions of universal truth. The writer cites own experience and specific evidence.
- The essay is clear and well organized. ‘5’ essays less so.
- Contains few minor errors of grammar or syntax.
Note: A ‘7’ is awarded to papers of very sophisticated writing. A ‘5’ designates a 3 on the AP exam; these essays use generalizations and have limited control of the claim and argument. ‘5’ essays often lose focus and digress.
Low-Range Essays (1-4)
- Inadequately develops a position on the assigned topic.
- The author misunderstands and simplifies the ideas developed in the sources.
- Over-summarizes the sources, lets the sources drive the argument.
- The writer has weak control of organization and syntax. The essay contains numerous grammatical/spelling errors.
- A writer does not cite the sources correctly, skips a citation, or cites fewer than the required minimum of the sources.
- Notes: ‘4’ or ‘3’ essays do assert an argument but do not sufficiently develop it.
- A ‘2’ essay does not develop an argument.
- A 1-2 essay has severe writing errors and does not assert a claim.
- As long as you don’t draw a picture on your exam paper, write a bullet point list, or compose a narrative about your dog, you will get above a 3 on this essay.
How to Approach the Format
The AP English essay format is similar to the format of any other essay. Your introductory paragraph should have a thesis and demonstrate your argument clearly. Your body should illustrate points that back your argument up and your conclusion should summarize your essay. A significant difference is the three components of an AP English Language and Composition synthesis essay that absolutely must be present.
- Argument: a central claim with specific supporting evidence.
- AP English Language synthesis essay focuses on the analysis of multiple perspectives.
- Rhetorical Analysis: definition of the author and his intentions. Purpose audience and claim are all parts of the assignment.
Read more: How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay
The #1 tip I can give you to being a star student in your AP English class and ace the exam is to read read read! If your teacher assigned you summer reading to do before taking the course, then you absolutely must do it. I know, summer feels like the time to party and spend time with friends, but if you want to embark on a course like AP English, then you absolutely must do all the prior reading. If your teacher hasn’t assigned you any summer reading, then find a suggested list of AP English books that will help you on the exam. There are some great classics in there and that way you can be choosy and pick 3-5 novels that you will enjoy. If you’re taking summer classes or do not have a time to work, then I suggest you read at least 5 pages every night before going to sleep. Keep a reading diary to remind you of your initial reflections on the reading. Nearing the exam, reread your notes for the novels and skim through book summaries. If you do all of this prior to the exam, you will have nothing to worry about.
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