How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay with Example

September 5, 2023

AP Lang synthesis essay, AP Language

If you’re highly interested in learning more about writing analysis, then chances are you enrolled in AP Lang. Essentially, AP Lang is an advanced course for high schoolers that combines interest and knowledge in English with critical thinking. In the class, students learn how to analyze and synthesize a variety of texts to construct well-reasoned arguments. If you take AP Lang, then you can opt to take the AP test at the conclusion of the school year. On the exam, students write the AP Lang synthesis essay to demonstrate their learned abilities. In this article, we’ll look at what the AP Lang synthesis essay requires and show an example to provide better understanding of what to expect on the exam.

AP Lang Exam Basics

The AP Lang exam is separated into two sections. In the first section, students have one hour to answer a series of 45 multiple-choice questions. Here, about half of the questions are based on passages students read. The other half are focused on the best revision techniques. Essentially, the answers for the latter 20-22 questions are geared toward revising mock essays.

In this article, however, we’ll focus mainly on the second part of the exam: the AP Lang synthesis essay.

In this second section, students have two hours and 15 minutes to write three essays of their own design. The three open-ended questions in this section are intended to be free-response and allow for a variety of approaches. Each question is intended to allow up to 40 minutes to complete.

For the AP Lang synthesis essay, students are presented with a scenario of the College Board’s design. The scenario will provide its own thesis statement. Usually, scenarios relate to real-world problems like environmental concerns, media, or government policies.

For each scenario, students are provided with 6-7 outside sources. These sources could be in the form of an image, visual graph, or written paragraph. For written paragraphs, the sources are usually no more than 500 words.

Students are then expected to incorporate at least 3-4 of these outside sources into their essay response. The outside sources are intended to be used as supporting evidence for the student’s chosen stance or argument. Students are able to either agree with or disagree with the thesis presented in the original scenario.

AP Lang Exam – Scoring

In the second part of the AP Lang exam, students can earn a possible 6 points on each essay. 1 point is earned for the development of a thesis. Up to 4 points can be earned for evidence and commentary. The final 1 point is earned for sophistication of thought.

AP Lang Exam – Takeaways

Ultimately, the goal of the AP Lang synthesis essay is not whether the student is “right” or “wrong” in their argument. The key is that students are able to reasonably and clearly support their argument using the provided sources as evidence .

The College Board looks for your ability to identify relationships between texts , form a coherent argument , and interpret external sources .

Synthesis Essay AP Lang Examples

If you’re not sure how the questions will look on the AP Lang synthesis essay section, we’ll provide an example. After the example, we’ll break down the strengths and weaknesses of the response. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what the College Board is looking for.

Additionally, the College Board has released previous AP Lang synthesis essay examples you can review. They even have essay questions as recent as 2022 . For further support, a scoring commentary and comments from the Chief Reader are also available to view. Additionally, there are other examples you can view from earlier years .

Note: A good strategy to study for the synthesis essay AP Lang exam is to review your rhetorical devices and literary devices . Understanding how these devices function can be essential in constructing a cohesive essay.

Synthesis Essay AP Lang Examples – Sample Question

Below is a sample question from the AP Lang synthesis essay and a response to the prompt. This question was taken directly from a 2022 exam . However, the response to the question will be originally crafted for the purpose of this newsletter. As well, all supporting evidence will be originally created and does not correspond to any previous test.

The Question

Since the early 2000s, the United States government and a number of corporations have sponsored initiatives to improve education in the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The emphasis on STEM subjects in elementary, secondary, and higher education reflects concerns that United States students are less proficient in these areas than are students in other countries. Additionally, there is a belief that mastery in STEM fields is now essential in order to join a highly technical and specialized workforce. However, not everyone is convinced that a STEM-focused curriculum is necessary and/or effective.

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible
  • Select and use evidence from at least three of the provided sources to support your line of Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the description in parentheses.
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your

How to Approach the Question

Maybe your first thought upon seeing this block of text is to feel overwhelmed. But don’t panic. There are effective ways to approach the question so you will be more prepared in your response.

It’s a good strategy to first isolate the thesis . What is the main idea of the text, and what is its argument?

Try it out. Reread the prompt and see if you can identify what the statement is asking you to develop an opinion on.

Think you’ve got it? In this example, we will be focusing on whether or not a STEM-focused curriculum in K-12 education is necessary and/or effective. In short, we will be arguing either for (highlighting the benefits) or against (highlighting the pitfalls) a STEM-focused curriculum.

How do we know what this statement is asking us?

Well, the statement provides a lot of background information. For example, we receive a definition of what STEM stands for. As well, we know that since 2000, there has been a greater initiative for STEM-focused classes.

When you read the prompt for the first time, it’s a great strategy to learn how to differentiate between background and contextual information from the heart of the argument .

A good way to learn how to isolate the argument is to look for transition words. Usually, these appear near the end of the question. Words like “however” and “yet” are signals that the statement is offering a differing opinion. Typically, the statement will tell you which two positions it’s offering for argument. These opinions are usually signaled by contrasting transition words.

So, now that we know what the question is asking us, what is the best way to respond?

Synthesis Essay AP Lang Examples – Sample Answer

The following is an essay response I crafted to the above question. After reading the sample, I will break down what it does well and what areas can be improved.

A STEM-focused curriculum is not as essential to providing a meaningful K-12 education. Because the majority of high school students are not proficient in STEM-focused classes, prioritizing these classes causes harm to student’s mental health and academic performance.

As seen in Source A, 60% of high school seniors in the Midwest only scored a C average in math and science-based classes (Langston). This statistic suggests that the majority of students do not resonate with STEM classes and therefore perform poorly. Earning a low score in any class does not bode well for students’ mental health.

When looking at the primary argument in Source C, it’s clear that most high schoolers prefer creative outlets to fact-based research (Kohler). Allowing students the opportunity to be more creative and initiate conversations about coursework lets students be more active in their learning. When students can discuss the nuance in their opinions, more personal growth happens. These conversations are not always easy to have in STEM-focused classes.

As well, when looking back to Source A, it’s clear that high school students in the Midwest earned higher grades, on average, in their English and art classes (Langston). This figure suggests that students perform better in these classes because they relate more to the source material. When relating to what they learn, they perform better in class.

In conclusion, STEM-focused curriculum is not as essential in K-12 education because most high school students do not relate to their STEM classes. When students do not earn satisfactory grades in these classes, it negatively affects their future college applications and job prospects.

Synthesis Essay AP Lang Examples – Answer Breakdown

So, what does this essay response get right, and where can it be improved? Let’s start with what the response does well.

First, the response establishes its thesis right away. Usually, it’s a good idea to clearly state your argument within the first paragraph. Not only is this a good practice because a reader can easily identify your stance, but also you can refer to your thesis as you write to make you stay on track.

With your thesis, it’s also a good idea to include one to two supporting sentences with the reasons why the thesis is concluded . Like in this example, I wrote that STEM-focused classes should not be prioritized because they can negatively affect both mental health and academic performance.

Another positive aspect of this response is that it is sure to not only reference but also cites its sources . It’s important that the reader understand where your information is coming from. That way, the readers can ensure you are interpreting the sources correctly.

AP Lang Synthesis Essay (Continued)

However, when rereading the instructions, it’s clear that this response fails the basic requirement of referring to at least three sources. Always make sure to reread the instructions to ensure you meet the standard requirements for incorporating source material.

Further, this AP Lang synthesis essay does not fully support its arguments . Ideas are simply stated and are not expanded upon.

For example, I mentioned a few times that earning low grades in STEM classes leads to negative mental health for high school students. However, there is no source referenced that either confirms or denies this claim. Therefore, there is no sufficient evidence to support my argument. It relies purely on inference.

Additionally, this AP Lang synthesis essay does not arrive at a sufficient level of sophistication of thought . Basically, sophistication of thought means avoiding broad generalizations and vague claims. The more specific you can be, the better your argument will sound.

Synthesis Essay AP Lang – In Conclusion

In the end, it’s always helpful to read the prompt thoroughly before writing. As well, making notes while you read could be a good strategy to pinpoint main ideas both in the prompt and the sources. That way, you can reread the material quickly. Similarly, sketching an outline may also be helpful. In addition, you should always carefully read the instructions to ensure all guidelines are followed.

As long as you avoid broad generalizations and use enough supporting evidence for your claim, you will be on the right path!

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Meghan Dairaghi

With a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing, Meghan has served as a writing tutor at the University of Missouri St. Louis and Maryville University. Additionally, Meghan has held editorial roles at River Styx and Boulevard, and was a prose reader at Farside Review . Most recently, her work has been featured in Belle Ombre , Flypaper Lit , and Mag 20/20 , among others, and she was nominated for the Mary Troy Prize in Fiction. 

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, expert guide to the ap language and composition exam.

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Advanced Placement (AP)


With the 2023 AP English Language and Composition exam happening on Tuesday, May 9, it's time to make sure that you're familiar with all aspects of the exam. In this article, I'll give a brief overview of the test, do a deeper dive on each of the sections, discuss how the exam is scored, offer some strategies for studying, and finally wrap up with some essential exam day tips.

Exam Overview

The AP Language and Composition exam tests your rhetorical and composition skills. Essentially, how do authors construct effective arguments in their writing? What tools do they use? How can you use those tools to craft effective writing yourself? That is the essence of rhetorical analysis.

The exam has two parts: the first section is an hour-long, 45 question multiple-choice section. It includes five sets of questions, each based on a passage or passages. In this section, there will be 23-25 rhetorical analysis questions which test your rhetorical skills. There will also be 20-22 writing questions which require you to consider revisions to the texts you're shown.

The second section is free response. It starts with a 15-minute reading period, and then you'll have 120 minutes to write three analytical essays:

  • One essay where you synthesize several provided texts to create an argument
  • One essay where you analyze a nonfiction passage for its rhetorical construction
  • One essay where you create an original argument in response to a prompt.

You will have about 40 minutes to write each essay, but no one will prompt you to move from essay to essay—you can structure the 120 minutes as you wish.

In the next sections I'll go over each section of the exam more closely—first multiple choice, and then free response.

The AP English Language and Composition Multiple-Choice

The multiple-choice section tests you on two main areas. The first is how well you can read and understand nonfiction passages for their use of rhetorical devices and tools. The second is how well you can "think like a writer" and make revisions to texts in composition questions.

You will be presented with five passages, about which you will receive a small amount of orienting information, e.g. "This passage is excerpted from a collection of essays on boating" or "This passage is excerpted from an essay written in 19th-century Haiti." Each passage will be followed by a set of questions.

There are, in general, eight question types you can expect to encounter on the multiple-choice section of the exam. I've taken my examples from the sample questions in the " Course and Exam Description ."


Magic eight-ball says there are eight types of multiple-choice questions!

Type 1: Reading Comprehension

These questions are focused on verifying that you understood what a certain part of the passage was saying on a concrete, literal level. You can identify these questions from phrases like "according to" "refers," etc. The best way to succeed on these questions is to go back and re-read the part of the passage referred to very carefully.


Type 2: Implication

These questions take reading comprehension one step further—they are primarily focused on what the author is implying without directly coming out and saying it. These questions will have a correct answer, though, based on evidence from the passage. Which interpretation offered in the answers does the passage most support? You can identify questions like these from words like "best supported," ‘"implies," "suggests," "inferred," and so on.


Type 3: Overall Passage and Author Questions

These questions ask about overall elements of the passage or the author, such as the author's attitude on the issue discussed, the purpose of the passage, the passage's overarching style, the audience for the passage, and so on.

You can identify these questions because they won't refer back to a specific moment in the text. For these questions, you'll need to think of the passage from a "bird's-eye view" and consider what all of the small details together are combining to say.


Type 4: Relationships Between Parts of the Text

Some questions will ask you to describe the relationship between two parts of the text, whether they are paragraphs or specific lines. You can identify these because they will usually explicitly ask about the relationship between two identified parts of the text, although sometimes they will instead ask about a relationship implicitly, by saying something like "compared to the rest of the passage."


Type 5: Interpretation of Imagery/Figurative Language

These questions will ask you about the deeper meaning or implication of figurative language or imagery that is used in the text. Essentially, why did the author choose to use this simile or this metaphor? What is s/he trying to accomplish?

You can generally identify questions like this because the question will specifically reference a moment of figurative language in the text. However, it might not be immediately apparent that the phrase being referenced is figurative, so you may need to go back and look at it in the passage to be sure of what kind of question you are facing.


Type 6: Purpose of Part of the Text

Still other questions will ask you to identify what purpose a particular part of the text serves in the author's larger argument. What is the author trying to accomplish with the particular moment in the text identified in the question?

You can identify these questions because they will generally explicitly ask what purpose a certain part of the text serves. You may also see words or phrases like "serves to" or "function."


Type 7: Rhetorical Strategy

These questions will ask you to identify a rhetorical strategy used by the author. They will often specifically use the phrase "rhetorical strategy," although sometimes you will be able to identify them instead through the answer choices, which offer different rhetorical strategies as possibilities.


Type 8: Composition

This is the newest question type, first seen in the 2019/2020 school year. For these questions, the student will need to act as though they are the writer and think through different choices writers need to make when writing or revising text.

These questions can involve changing the order of sentences or paragraphs, adding or omitting information to strengthen an argument or improve clarity, making changes to draw reader attention, and other composition-based choices.


Some very important stylish effects going on here.

The AP English Language and Composition Free Response

The free response section has a 15-minute reading period. After that time, you will have 120 minutes to write three essays that address three distinct tasks.

Because the first essay involves reading sources, it is suggested that you use the entire 15-minute reading period to read the sources and plan the first essay. However, you may want to glance at the other questions during the reading period so that ideas can percolate in the back of your mind as you work on the first essay.

Essay One: Synthesis

For this essay, you will be briefly oriented on an issue and then given anywhere from six to seven sources that provide various perspectives and information on the issue. You will then need to write an argumentative essay with support from the documents.

If this sounds a lot like a DBQ , as on the history AP exams, that's because it is! However, this essay is much more argumentative in nature—your goal is to persuade, not merely interpret the documents.

Example (documents not included, see 2022 free response questions ):


Essay Two: Rhetorical Analysis

In the second essay, you'll be presented with an excerpt from a nonfiction piece that advances an argument and asked to write an essay analyzing the rhetorical strategies used to construct the passage's argument. You will also be given some orienting information—where the passage was excerpted from, who wrote it, its approximate date, where it was published (if at all), and to whom it was directed.

Example (excerpt not included, see 2022 free response questions ):


Essay Three: Argument

In the third essay, you will be presented with an issue and asked to write a persuasive essay taking a position on the issue. You will need to support your position with evidence from your "reading, experience, and observations."


This doesn't look like a very well-constructed argument.

How The AP Language and Composition Exam Is Scored

The multiple-choice section of the exam is worth 45% of your score, and the free-response section is worth the other 55%. So each of the three free-response essays is worth about 18% of your score.

As on other APs, your raw score will be converted to a scaled score of 1-5. This exam has a relatively low 5 rate. Only 10% of test takers received a 5 in 2022 , although 56% of students received a score of 3 or higher.

In terms of how the raw score is obtained, the multiple-choice section is similar to other AP multiple-choice sections: you receive a point for every question you answer correctly, and there is no penalty for guessing.

The grading rubrics for the free-response questions were revamped in 2019. They are scored using analytic rubrics instead of holistic rubrics. For each free-response question, you will be given a score from 0-6. The rubrics assess three major areas:

#1: Thesis (0 to 1 points): Is there a thesis, and does it properly respond to the prompt?

#2: Evidence and Commentary (0 to 4 points): Does the essay include supporting evidence and analysis that is relevant, specific, well organized, and supports the thesis?

#3: Sophistication (0 to 1 points): Is the essay well-crafted and does it show a sufficiently nuanced understanding of the prompt?

Each scoring rubric broadly assesses these three factors. However, each task is also different in nature, so the rubrics do have some differences. I'll go over each rubric—and what it really means—for you here.

Synthesis Essay Rubrics




Time to synthesize this dough into some cookies.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Rubrics


Examine your texts closely!

Argumentative Essay Rubrics


The best kind of frenzy is a puppy frenzy!

AP English Language Prep Tips

Unlike its cousin, the AP English Literature and Composition exam, the AP Language and Composition exam (and course) have very little to do with fiction or poetry. So some students used to more traditional English classes may be somewhat at a loss as to what to do to prepare.

Luckily for you, I have a whole slate of preparation tips for you!

Read Nonfiction—In a Smart Way

A major thing you can do to prepare for the AP Lang and Comp exam is to read nonfiction— particularly nonfiction that argues a position , whether explicitly (like an op-ed) or implicitly (like many memoirs and personal essays). Read a variety of non-fiction genres and topics, and pay attention to the following:

  • What is the author's argument?
  • What evidence do they use to support their position?
  • What rhetorical techniques and strategies do they use to build their argument?
  • Are they persuasive? What counterarguments can you identify? Do they address them?

Thinking about these questions with all the reading you do will help you hone your rhetorical analysis skills.

Learn Rhetorical Terms and Strategies

Of course, if you're going to be analyzing the nonfiction works you read for their rhetorical techniques and strategies, you need to know what those are! You should learn a robust stable of rhetorical terms from your teacher, but here's my guide to the most important AP Language and Composition terms .

  • We've compiled a list of 20 rhetorical devices you should know.
  • A heroic individual from Riverside schools in Ohio uploaded this aggressively comprehensive list of rhetorical terms with examples. It's 27 pages long, and you definitely shouldn't expect to know all of these for the exam, but it's a useful resource for learning some new terms.
  • Another great resource for learning about rhetorical analysis and how rhetorical devices are actually used is the YouTube Channel Teach Argument , which has videos rhetorically analyzing everything from Taylor Swift music videos to Super Bowl commercials. It's a fun way to think about rhetorical devices and get familiar with argumentative structures.
  • Finally, a great book—which you might already use in your class—is " They Say, I Say. " This book provides an overview of rhetoric specifically for academic purposes, which will serve you well for AP preparation and beyond.

You also need to practice argumentative and persuasive writing. In particular, you should practice the writing styles that will be tested on the exam: synthesizing your own argument based on multiple outside sources, rhetorically analyzing another piece of writing in-depth, and creating a completely original argument based on your own evidence and experience.

You should be doing lots of writing assignments in your AP class to prepare, but thoughtful, additional writing will help. You don't necessarily need to turn all of the practice writing you do into polished pieces, either—just writing for yourself, while trying to address some of these tasks, will give you a low-pressure way to try out different rhetorical structures and argumentative moves, as well as practicing things like organization and developing your own writing style.


Not the most auspicious start to an argumentative essay.

Practice for the Exam

Finally, you'll need to practice specifically for the exam format. There are sample multiple-choice questions in the " AP Course and Exam Description ," and old free-response questions on the College Board website.

Unfortunately, the College Board hasn't officially released any complete exams from previous years for the AP English Language and Composition exam, but you might be able to find some that teachers have uploaded to school websites and so on by Googling "AP Language complete released exams." I also have a guide to AP Language and Composition practice tests .

Once you're prepped and ready to go, how can you do your best on the test?

Looking for help studying for your AP exam? Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!

AP Language and Composition Test Day Tips

Here are four key tips for test-day success.


You are one hundred percent success!

Interact With the Text

When you are reading passages, both on the multiple-choice section and for the first two free-response questions, interact with the text! Mark it up for things that seem important, devices you notice, the author's argument, and anything else that seems important to the rhetorical construction of the text. This will help you engage with the text and make it easier to answer questions or write an essay about the passage.

Think About Every Text's Overarching Purpose and Argument

Similarly, with every passage you read, consider the author's overarching purpose and argument. If you can confidently figure out what the author's primary assertion is, it will be easier to trace how all of the other aspects of the text play into the author's main point.

Plan Your Essays

The single most important thing you can do for yourself on the free-response section of the AP English Language exam is to spend a few minutes planning and outlining your essays before you start to write them.

Unlike on some other exams, where the content is the most important aspect of the essay, on the AP Language Exam, organization, a well-developed argument, and strong evidence are all critical to strong essay scores. An outline will help you with all of these things. You'll be able to make sure each part of your argument is logical, has sufficient evidence, and that your paragraphs are arranged in a way that is clear and flows well.

Anticipate and Address Counterarguments

Another thing you can do to give your free responses an extra boost is to identify counterarguments to your position and address them within your essay. This not only helps shore up your own position, but it's also a fairly sophisticated move in a timed essay that will win you kudos with AP graders.


Address counterarguments properly or they might get returned to sender!

Key Takeaways

The AP Language and Composition exam tests your rhetorical skills. The exam has two sections.

The first section is an hour-long, 45 question multiple-choice test based on the rhetorical techniques and composition choices.

The second section is a two-hour free-response section (with a 15-minute initial reading period) with three essay questions: one where you must synthesize given sources to make an original argument, one where you must rhetorically analyze a given passage, and one where you must create a wholly original argument about an issue with no outside sources given.

You'll receive one point for every correct answer on the multiple-choice section of the exam, which is worth 45% of your score. The free-response section is worth 55% of your score. For each free-response question, you'll get a score based on a rubric from 0-6. Your total raw score will be converted to a scaled score from 1-5.

Here are some test prep strategies for AP Lang:

#1 : Read nonfiction with an eye for rhetoric #2 : Learn rhetorical strategies and techniques #3 : Practice writing to deploy rhetorical skills #4 : Practice for the exam!

Here are some test-day success tips:

#1 : Interact with each passage you encounter! #2 : Consider every text's overarching purpose and argument. #3 : Keep track of time #4 : Plan your essays #5 : Identify and address counterarguments in your essays.

With all of this knowledge, you're ready to slay the AP English Language and Composition beast!


Noble knight, prepare to slay the AP dragon!

What's Next?

Want more AP Lang review? We have a complete collection of released AP Language practice tests , as well as a list of the AP Lang terms you need to know and a guide to the multiple choice section .

Taking the AP Literature exam? Check out our ultimate guide to the AP English Literature test and our list of AP Literature practice tests .

Taking other AP exams? See our Ultimate Guides to AP World History , AP US History , AP Chemistry , AP Biology , AP World History , and AP Human Geography .

Need more AP prep guidance? Check out how to study for AP exams and how to find AP practice tests .

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Expert Guide to the AP Language and Composition Exam

average word count for ap lang essay

The AP Language and Composition Exam is a comprehensive assessment of students' reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Here is an expert guide to help you navigate and excel in this exam:

1. Exam Format: The AP Language and Composition Exam consists of multiple-choice questions and free-response tasks. The multiple-choice section tests your reading comprehension and analysis skills, while the free-response section assesses your ability to write coherent and persuasive essays.

2. Analyzing Rhetorical Strategies: A key focus of the exam is analyzing and understanding rhetorical strategies used in various texts. This includes identifying and evaluating techniques such as ethos, pathos, logos, and rhetorical devices like imagery, figurative language, and tone. Practice analyzing different types of texts, including speeches, articles, essays, and advertisements.

3. Essay Writing Skills: The free-response section requires you to write three essays: a synthesis essay, a rhetorical analysis essay, and an argument essay. Develop strong essay writing skills, including thesis development, evidence selection, and paragraph organization. Practice constructing well-structured, coherent, and persuasive arguments within the given time constraints.

4. Close Reading and Annotation: Effective close reading and annotation skills are crucial for success in the exam. Learn to identify the main ideas, key details, and rhetorical elements in the provided passages. Annotate the text to mark important points, make connections, and track your understanding of the author's purpose and argument.

5. Vocabulary and Grammar: Enhance your vocabulary and grammar skills to express your ideas clearly and precisely. Use varied and appropriate language to convey your analysis and arguments effectively. Pay attention to sentence structure, punctuation, and word choice to ensure coherence and precision in your writing.

6. Practice and Timed Mock Exams: Regular practice is essential to build your skills and confidence. Take timed mock exams to simulate the exam conditions and develop your time management skills. Review your performance, identify areas for improvement, and seek feedback from teachers or peers.

7. Read Widely: Expand your reading repertoire by engaging with diverse texts from different genres and time periods. Reading extensively will improve your comprehension, vocabulary, and ability to recognize different writing styles and rhetorical strategies.

8. Critical Thinking and Analysis: Develop your critical thinking skills by analyzing the effectiveness of arguments, evaluating evidence, and recognizing biases and logical fallacies. Practice constructing well-reasoned arguments and counterarguments to strengthen your analysis.

9. Stay Updated with Current Events: Stay informed about current events and societal issues as they often form the basis of essay prompts and analysis passages. Familiarize yourself with contemporary debates, social, and political issues, and be prepared to apply your knowledge to the exam questions.

10. Seek Resources and Guidance: Utilize available resources, such as study guides, practice exams, and online resources, to enhance your preparation. Seek guidance from teachers, tutors, or peers to clarify any doubts and improve your understanding of the exam requirements.

The AP English Language and Composition Multiple-Choice

The multiple-choice section of the AP English Language and Composition exam assesses your reading comprehension and analysis skills. Here are some key points to understand and excel in this section:

1. Format and Structure: The multiple-choice section consists of a series of passages followed by a set of questions. The passages can include a variety of genres such as essays, speeches, articles, and excerpts from books or plays. Each passage is accompanied by multiple-choice questions that require you to analyze the author's purpose, rhetoric, and style.

2. Close Reading: Effective close reading is crucial for success in the multiple-choice section. Read the passages carefully, paying attention to details, tone, and the author's use of rhetorical devices. Underline or annotate important sections to help you remember key points and refer back to them when answering the questions.

3. Understanding Rhetorical Devices: Familiarize yourself with common rhetorical devices such as ethos, pathos, logos, irony, figurative language, and tone. These devices are frequently used by authors to convey their message and persuade the reader. Be prepared to identify and analyze how these devices contribute to the author's overall argument or purpose.

4. Analyzing Text Structure: Pay attention to the structure of the passages, including the organization of ideas, transitions, and the use of evidence. Identify the main idea, supporting details, and the logical flow of the author's argument. Understanding the structure of the passage will help you answer questions related to the author's intent and the development of their ideas.

5. Answering Strategies: Develop effective strategies for approaching multiple-choice questions. Read each question carefully, making sure to consider all the answer choices before selecting the best option. Pay attention to qualifiers such as "most likely," "least likely," "best supports," etc. Eliminate clearly incorrect choices and make an educated guess if you are unsure.

6. Time Management: The multiple-choice section is timed, so it is important to manage your time effectively. Pace yourself and allocate a specific amount of time for each passage and its corresponding questions. If you encounter a challenging question, mark it and move on, returning to it later if time permits.

7. Practice with Sample Questions: Familiarize yourself with the types of questions commonly asked in the AP English Language and Composition exam by practicing with sample questions. This will help you become more comfortable with the format and style of the questions and improve your ability to identify key elements in the passages.

8. Review Test-Taking Strategies: In addition to content knowledge, review general test-taking strategies that can improve your performance. This includes strategies for eliminating answer choices, using process of elimination, and managing your time effectively.

The AP English Language and Composition Free Response

The free response section of the AP English Language and Composition exam is designed to assess your ability to analyze and respond to rhetorical prompts effectively. Here are some key points to understand and excel in this section:

1. Format and Structure:

The free response section consists of three essay prompts: a synthesis essay, a rhetorical analysis essay, and an argument essay. Each prompt presents you with a specific task and requires you to analyze and respond to a given passage or passages.

2. Synthesis Essay:

In this essay, you are asked to combine information from multiple sources to create a coherent and well-supported argument. You must demonstrate your ability to understand and synthesize different perspectives on a given topic. It is important to analyze the sources critically, identify their main arguments, and use evidence from the sources to support your own argument.

3. Rhetorical Analysis Essay:

In this essay, you are required to analyze the rhetorical strategies employed by the author of a given passage. You need to identify and explain the author's use of rhetorical devices, such as ethos, pathos, logos, figurative language, and tone. Your analysis should focus on how these devices contribute to the author's overall argument and purpose.

4. Argument Essay:

In this essay, you are expected to construct and support your own argument on a given topic. You must develop a clear and coherent thesis statement, provide relevant evidence, and effectively address counterarguments. It is important to use persuasive techniques and rhetorical devices to strengthen your argument.

5. Organization and Structure:

Structure your essays in a clear and logical manner. Each essay should have an introduction that presents your thesis statement, body paragraphs that support your thesis with evidence and analysis, and a conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces your argument. Use topic sentences and transitions to ensure a smooth flow of ideas.

6. Evidence and Analysis:

Support your claims and arguments with evidence from the given passages or external sources. Use specific examples, quotes, and references to demonstrate your understanding and provide strong evidence for your analysis. Avoid making unsupported generalizations or relying solely on personal opinions.

7. Time Management:

The free response section is time-limited, so it is crucial to manage your time effectively. Allocate a specific amount of time for each essay and stick to it. Leave some time at the end to review and revise your essays for clarity, coherence, and grammatical correctness.

8. Practice and Preparation:

Familiarize yourself with the expectations and requirements of each essay type by practicing with past exam prompts and sample essays. Pay attention to the scoring guidelines provided by the College Board to understand how your essays will be evaluated. Seek feedback from teachers or peers to improve your writing skills and address any weaknesses.

AP English Language Prep Tips

Preparing for the AP English Language exam requires a strategic approach to enhance your reading, writing, and analytical skills. Here are some detailed tips to help you excel in your preparation:

1. Read Widely:

Develop a habit of reading a variety of texts, including fiction, non-fiction, essays, newspaper articles, and editorials. This will expose you to different writing styles, perspectives, and rhetorical devices. Pay attention to the author's tone, purpose, and argumentative strategies.

2. Analyze Rhetorical Devices:

Familiarize yourself with common rhetorical devices such as ethos, pathos, logos, figurative language, and rhetorical appeals. Practice identifying these devices in various texts and analyze how they contribute to the author's message and overall effectiveness.

3. Expand Vocabulary:

Enhance your vocabulary by reading challenging texts and keeping a vocabulary notebook. Learn new words, their definitions, and how they are used in context. Utilize these words in your writing to demonstrate a strong command of language.

4. Practice Timed Writing:

Time yourself while writing essays to simulate the exam conditions. Aim to complete essays within the time limit while maintaining clarity and coherence. Practice different essay types, such as synthesis, rhetorical analysis, and argument essays, to strengthen your skills in each area.

5. Read Sample Essays:

Study well-written sample essays from previous AP exams to understand the expectations and scoring criteria. Analyze their structure, use of evidence, and clarity of argument. Take note of effective introductions, strong thesis statements, and well-supported analysis.

6. Develop Writing Strategies:

Learn to effectively structure your essays with clear introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions. Use topic sentences, transitions, and evidence to support your claims. Craft strong thesis statements that clearly state your position and guide your essay.

7. Analyze Visual Texts:

Practice analyzing visual texts such as graphs, charts, and images. Understand how visual elements convey information, make arguments, and support claims. Pay attention to the intended audience and the overall impact of visual texts.

8. Practice Multiple-Choice Questions:

Regularly practice multiple-choice questions to improve your reading comprehension and analysis skills. Read passages carefully, annotate as you go, and answer questions based on the given information. Pay attention to details, context, and authorial intent.

9. Seek Feedback:

Share your essays with teachers or peers and seek constructive feedback. Learn from their suggestions to improve your writing skills and address any weaknesses. Consider joining or forming study groups to discuss and analyze different texts and essay prompts.

10. Review Grammar and Mechanics:

Brush up on grammar rules and punctuation to ensure your writing is clear and error-free. Pay attention to sentence structure, verb tense, subject-verb agreement, and pronoun usage. A strong command of grammar enhances the clarity and effectiveness of your writing.

Remember that consistent practice, focused study, and critical reading are key to success in the AP English Language exam. Develop a study schedule, allocate time for reading and writing practice, and stay disciplined in your preparation. With dedication and effort, you can improve your skills and perform well on the exam.

AP Language and Composition Test Day Tips

On the day of the AP Language and Composition exam, it's important to be well-prepared and approach the test with confidence. Here are some detailed tips to help you make the most of your test day:

1. Get a Good Night's Sleep:

Ensure you have a restful night's sleep before the exam day. Being well-rested will help you stay focused and maintain mental clarity throughout the test.

2. Eat a Nutritious Breakfast:

Start your day with a healthy and balanced breakfast. Fueling your body with nutritious food will provide you with the energy you need for the duration of the exam.

3. Arrive Early:

Plan to arrive at the exam location early to avoid any unnecessary stress. Familiarize yourself with the exam venue and locate your assigned room beforehand.

4. Bring Necessary Materials:

Double-check that you have all the required materials for the exam, such as your admission ticket, identification, pens, pencils, erasers, and a watch to keep track of time. Be aware of any specific items allowed or prohibited by the testing guidelines.

5. Read Instructions Carefully:

Take the time to carefully read the instructions provided on the exam booklet and answer sheet. Understand the format, timing, and specific requirements for each section of the test.

6. Pace Yourself:

Time management is crucial in the AP Language and Composition exam. Allocate your time wisely, making sure to complete each section within the specified time limits. Pace yourself and avoid spending too much time on any single question or passage

7. Skim the Questions First:

Before diving into the reading passages, quickly skim the multiple-choice questions to get a sense of what to look for as you read. This can help you focus your attention and save time while reading and analyzing the passages.

8. Read Actively and Annotate:

As you read the passages, actively engage with the text. Underline key points, annotate important details, and mark passages that you may want to refer back to later. This will help you remember crucial information and facilitate your analysis.

9. Plan Your Essays:

For the essay sections, take a few minutes to plan your response before writing. Outline your main points, supporting evidence, and a clear thesis statement. This will provide structure to your essay and ensure a more coherent and organized response.

10. Review Your Work:

If time permits, take a moment to review your answers before submitting your exam. Check for any errors or incomplete responses, and make any necessary corrections or additions. Ensure that you have followed the instructions and provided clear and concise answers.

11. Stay Calm and Focused:

Throughout the exam, maintain a calm and focused mindset. Manage test anxiety by taking deep breaths, maintaining a positive attitude, and focusing on the task at hand. Remember that you have prepared for this exam and trust in your abilities.

12. Follow Exam Regulations:

Adhere to the exam regulations and guidelines provided by the College Board. Maintain academic integrity by refraining from any prohibited behavior, such as cheating or using unauthorized materials.

By following these tips, you can approach the AP Language and Composition exam with confidence and maximize your chances of success. Remember to stay calm, trust your preparation, and showcase your skills in analyzing and responding to complex texts. Good luck!

In conclusion, the AP Language and Composition exam can seem challenging, but with the right preparation and approach, you can excel. Understanding the exam format, practicing multiple-choice questions, mastering the free response section, and developing strong analytical and writing skills are essential for success. Additionally, following test day tips and maintaining a calm and focused mindset will help you perform at your best. By leveraging these insights and strategies, you can navigate the AP Language and Composition exam with confidence and achieve a high score. Good luck on your exam!

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AP English Language and Composition Essay Scoring

April 9, 2024.

AP English Language and Composition Essay Scoring

How AP English Language and Composition Essays are Graded and Scored

When it comes time to make judgments about writing , the word "effectively" comes up repeatedly. It’s a popular word because it’s easy to use. But it’s also hard to define. It means so much, and yet so little. You probably know effective writing when you see it, but what the AP English Language and Composition folks have in mind is the thoughtful organization of ideas, appropriate word choice, proper syntax, varied sentence structure, a mature style of writing, sensible paragraphing, coherent development, and correct mechanics (grammar, spelling, and punctuation).

AP readers don’t sit there with a checklist to see whether your essay meets all these criteria, however. Rather, they read it holistically, meaning that they read it quickly for an overall impression of your writing and then assign your essay a grade from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Readers are trained to look for clearly organized, well-developed, and forceful responses that reveal a depth of understanding and insight. 

Frankly, the 40 minutes suggested for each essay is not a great deal of time to read the question, plan what you will say, write a few hundred words, edit and proofread your draft, and submit a finished piece of work. In effect, you must condense into a short time what would normally take far longer. A saving grace, however, is that the AP test readers don’t expect three polished pieces of immortal prose, just three competently written essays. 

Each year in early June, thousands of college and high school teachers get together to read and evaluate the essays written by students like you from across the country and overseas. Readers are chosen for their ability to make sound judgments about student writing and are trained to use a common set of scoring standards.

Each essay is read by a different reader—an experienced English teacher who doesn’t know your name, your school, your gender, or anything else about you. Nor do readers know the score you earned on other essays or on the multiple-choice questions. They rate essays according to standards that customarily apply to those written in college-level English courses. A score of 1–5 is assigned to each essay, the same scale used to report AP test results. 

As part of their training, AP essay readers are given guidelines to ensure that all essays are evaluated as fairly and uniformly as possible. Readers are instructed: 

  • To read an essay only once 
  • To read it quickly 
  • To read primarily for what the writer has done well in terms of organization, word choice, clarity, purpose, mechanics of writing, and so on 
  • To assign a grade promptly 
  • To ignore poor handwriting as much as possible 
  • Not to penalize a well-developed but unfinished essay 
  • Not to penalize the writer for supporting or rejecting a particular point of view on an issue 
  • Not to consider length as a criterion of evaluation 
  • To keep in mind that even a marginal response to the question should be judged according to the logic of the argument developed by the writer 
  • To remember that each essay is a first draft written under pressure in about 40 minutes by a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old.

Interpreting AP English Language and Composition Essay Scores

What do AP essay scores tell you about your writing? You’ll find some answers below, and you’ll also see what AP essay readers think about while on the job.

  • 5: A score of 5 represents student writing at its best. It attests to a high level of control of several crucial elements of effective writing: insightful thinking, an ability to convey ideas clearly and succinctly, and competence in organizing ideas to fulfill a specific purpose. Minor flaws in analysis, prose style, or mechanics may creep into the text of an essay rated 5, but they do no damage. 
  • 4: An essay earning a 4 is well-written and organized. In most ways it demonstrates the student’s ability to manage several elements of effective writing, such as clearly articulating the intent of the essay and supporting it with appropriate evidence arranged in a purposeful sequence. Errors, if any, are relatively inconsequential. 
  • 3: A score of 3 indicates a respectable level of writing competence. The main idea may remain in focus throughout the essay, but the text may contain occasional soft spots, perhaps in its development of important ideas or in its organization or use of language. Despite such short- comings, the essay is an acceptable piece of writing. 
  • 2: An essay scored 2 demonstrates a weak grasp of essay-writing basics. It may contain a main idea, but it is neither well-articulated nor sufficiently developed. Paragraphs lack unity and are randomly organized. Awkward expression, sentence errors (e.g., fragments and run-ons), and mistakes in standard usage undermine the essay’s quality. 
  • 1: A score of 1 indicates that the piece submitted bears slight resemblance to an acceptable AP essay. It suggests that the writer has had limited instruction or experience in responding to AP prompts. Numerous weaknesses—from rambling, disjointed paragraphs to irrelevant ideas— signify weak control of written language and may leave readers unsure of what the writer is trying to say.

Scoring Your Own AP English Lang and Comp Essays

Evaluating your own essays takes objectivity that can’t be acquired overnight. In effect, you’ve got to disown your own work—that is, view it through the eyes of a stranger—and then judge it as though you have no stake in the outcome. A word of caution: Don’t expect to breeze through the evaluations. Set aside plenty of time. Many English teachers vividly recall their snail-like progress as novice essay readers—sometimes spending hours on grading a single essay and rereading it again and again. In short, scoring essays can be challenging, and it takes practice. 

If you accept the challenge, begin by reading the following essay-writing instructions (printed in boldface). On the exam, these instructions are included as part of the prompt for each essay. In effect, they are your essays’ ingredients. Because AP readers will look for evidence that you have followed these instructions as they score your essays, it’s important for you to understand what each one tells you to do.

Essay Grading Tip #1: Respond to the prompt with a thesis that may establish a line of reasoning.

Each of your essays must have a thesis, or main idea. It may be placed anywhere in your essay, and can be built in as a separate sentence, a part of a sentence, or even as pieces of two or more sentences. Sometimes the thesis need not be stated at all if the contents of the essay make the main idea so obvious that it would be redundant to spell it out. 

However you construct the thesis, it must in some way reflect the purpose of the assignment—a different one for each of the essays: 1) to use published sources to support your position on an issue; 2) to analyze the rhetoric in a given passage; and 3) to write a convincing argument backed up by evidence drawn from your reservoir of knowledge and experience. Ideally, the thesis of your essay should be visible to the reader from the start, or at least soon thereafter. 

The thesis may also “establish a line of reasoning.” That is, it may explain how you intend to support your essay’s main idea. For instance, in the synthesis essay, you may plan to discuss the issue by citing ideas drawn from two of the textual sources and by statistics found in a chart or graph. Or, the thesis of your argument essay may state or imply your intention to build a case using evidence based on your reading or perhaps on your observations or personal experience.

(The following instruction applies only to Essay 1, the Synthesis Essay. See 2B for the instruction that applies only to Essays 2 and 3.)

Essay Grading Tip #2a: Provide evidence from at least three of the provided sources to support the thesis.

Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parentheses.

Although your thesis may be based on your personal opinion on the issue, build your argument with references to the sources. You needn’t depend solely on the sources with which you agree. By refuting those opposed to your views, you might strengthen your own argument.

(The following instruction applies only to Essays 2 and 3, the Rhetorical Analysis and the Argument. See 2A [above] for the instruction that applies to Essay 1.)

Essay Grading Tip #2b: Select and use evidence to develop and support your line of reasoning.

This instruction reminds you to formulate a claim and support it with convincing and relevant evidence drawn from your studies, reading, observation, and personal experience. You have abundant choices: facts, anecdotes, statistics, analogies, theories, examples, testimonies, expert opinions, your own values and recollections, and more—whatever will bolster your main idea. Each piece of evidence need not be presented as a separate statement. That is, consider blending the evidence gradually into the development of your entire essay.

Essay Grading Tip #3: Explain the relationship between the evidence and the thesis.

Whatever evidence you choose, be sure to explain its pertinence to your thesis. Although the connection may be obvious to you, there is no guarantee that a reader will see it as you do. Connections might be pointed out with stand-alone statements or pronouncements, or less blatantly, by artfully weaving them into the development of the entire essay.

Essay Grading Tip #4: Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetorical situation.

Each of the three essays has a distinct “rhetorical situation,” or purpose. Rather than stating it outright, you might demonstrate your grasp of the rhetorical purpose by implication—that is, simply by fulfilling the assignment. By writing an essay that takes a stand on a particular issue and citing material from three of the given sources, you will have shown comprehension of the Synthesis Essay’s rhetorical situation. Likewise, following the stated instructions for each of the other essays is evidence enough that you’ve understood the rhetorical situation.

Essay Grading Tip #5: Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

Use the conventions of standard written English. Unless you need them for effect, avoid street talk, emojis, acronyms, and the abbreviations so common in e-communications.

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AP® English Language

How long is the ap® english language exam tips to manage your time for a 5.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: April 22, 2022

how_long_is_the_ap_english language exam

The AP® English Language exam tests your knowledge of English language and focuses on rhetorical analysis of nonfiction texts, along with the development and revision  of well-reasoned, evidence-centered analytic and argumentative writing.

To help you prepare, let’s break down the AP® English Language exam into sections and look at some tips on how to tackle each section effectively under the given time constraints — AP® test time management is crucial to success on the exam.

How Long is the AP® English Language Exam?

The AP® English Language exam has two sections. The total exam is three hours and 15 minutes long. The details of each section and part are outlined in the table below:

First, let’s look at Section I in greater detail to help you prepare for this first part of the exam.

How Long is the AP® English Language Exam Section I?

The first part of Section I of the AP® English Language Exam is Multiple Choice. You will have one hour to answer 52-55 questions, which works out to slightly over one minute per question. This part accounts for 45% of your total exam score.

Here, you are given excerpts from various non-fiction texts, each of which are accompanied by several multiple-choice questions. In the past, students have received four or five passages, each with approximate 10 questions to answer.

The questions can be broken down into eight buckets:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Implication
  • Overall Passage Analysis
  • Relationship Between Parts of Text
  • Interpretation of Figurative Language
  • Purpose of Part of Text
  • Rhetorical Strategy
  • Style and Effect

It is in your best interest to practice all of theses to determine which areas your are weaker in.

How to Manage Your Time in Section I of the AP® English Language Exam

While the exam structure may appear daunting, there are some things you should keep in mind to maximize your score on Section I:

  • It is important to recognize that the multiple-choice questions associated with each reading are independent. If you are having trouble answering some questions associated with one reading, don’t waste your valuable time struggling. Remember, you don’t have much more than one minute per question! Instead, move on to the next passage, where you may have more success in answering questions correctly. Cut your losses when you have to, and keep in mind that you can always double back to work on skipped questions if you have enough time. And in case you can’t figure out the correct answer, just take an educated guess, as there is no penalty for incorrect answers.
  • Read the questions briefly before diving into the passages. Often, the passages can be dense and contain information that is not necessary to answer the subsequent multiple-choice questions. By reading the questions and the associated answer choices, you will have a sense of what themes to search for when you are reading. If there are questions asking for analysis of a certain line in the passage, you will know in advance to read that line closely. As a result, you will hopefully be able to more easily isolate the answers to certain questions without having to backtrack and comb through the passage again. This should help you avoid spending too much time on one question.

Hopefully, these tips will help you with your AP® English Language test time management. Now, let’s break down Section II of the AP® English Language Exam.

How Long is the AP® English Language Exam Section II?

Section II of the AP® English Language Exam is the Free Response Section. As you would expect, you are not given any choices to select. You have 15 minutes to peruse the sources provided, and two hours to answer three questions using the evidence. You are allowed to begin writing during the reading period if you would like. This section accounts for 55% of your total exam score.

These questions will test your ability to quickly formulate arguments, form inferences, and craft analysis drawn from the sources provided to you. If you don’t understand early on how to go about following the instructions on the exam, you might find this portion more difficult than the multiple-choice section.

According to CollegeBoard, this section has three prompts:

  • Synthesis : Students read several texts about a topic and create an argument that synthesizes at least three of the sources to support their thesis.
  • Rhetorical analysis : Students read a nonfiction text and analyze how the writer’s language choices contribute to his or her purpose and intended meaning for the text.
  • Argument : Students create an evidence-based argument that responds to a given topic.

How to Manage Your Time in Section II of the AP® English Language Exam

time management

Free Response questions can be a little scary because you can’t guess if you’re not sure of yourself. However, we believe these AP® test time management tips will help you ace Section II:

  • Read the question multiple times to understand what is truly being asked. Getting to the core of the prompt will help you craft a concise thesis that serves as the centerpiece to your entire response.
  • Following the thesis, construct a road map that serves as a guide to your reader. It will serve as an outline for your subsequent paragraphs and conveys how they relate to your thesis. Organize the rest of your essay with topic sentences that directly follow from your thesis and provide a summary of the rest of the paragraph. Then, provide context, cite your evidence, and lastly, dive into the analysis that relates your evidence to your thesis. Following this strategy will develop a clear structure that will add clarity to your essay.
  • Rely on your sources to bolster your argument. They are provided to you so you use them — don’t neglect to reference all your sources because you may initially understand how they can be used. Take some time to isolate the main theme of each source and select a few quotes that complement your argument. Make sure that you avoid repeating yourself — instead of summarizing the evidence you provide, try to dig one level deeper to explain why you incorporated it into your essay and how it relates to your thesis.
  • Become familiar with the grading rubrics for the essay questions. With the 2020 redesign came new rubrics for the AP® Lang essay section. Previously, essays were scored using holistic rubrics, on a scale of 0-9. Starting with the 2019 exam, students’ essays will be graded with new analytic rubrics. Each essay is worth up to 6 points. Think of the new rubrics as a How To Guide to getting a 6 on each essay.

How to Practice Time Management for AP® English Language?

In addition to the AP® test time management tips provided above, you may find it helpful to consult this post, which outlines the ultimate list of tips for the AP® English Language exam. The post discusses the specific topics which will be covered on the exam, common types of questions and general strategies to help you solve them, along with a list of tips from AP® English Language teachers. And if you want to get some practice, check out these practice questions. The more you practice, the more familiarity you will build with different types of questions. Eventually, you will be able to identify which areas you are weaker in and can direct the bulk of your studying efforts to improving your understanding of those concepts.

Don’t forget to time yourself while you work on practice questions so you can test yourself on managing your time as well as reviewing concepts. Some multiple-choice questions are notorious for being significant time drains, which can cost you when answering the rest of Section I questions. If you find yourself stuck on a multiple-choice question for more than a couple of minutes, it may be in your best interest to cut your losses and utilize the process of elimination to guess the most likely answer. Don’t let one question you can’t solve prevent you from answering multiple questions you can.

Hopefully, these tips help with your AP® test time management. Best of luck with your exam!

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How to Write the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay

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  • AP Lang Rhetorical Essay Example

How Will AP Scores Affect College Chances?

The AP English Language Exam is one of the most common AP exams you can take. However, the average score on the exam in 2020 was a 2.96 out of 5. While this may seem a bit low, it is important to note that over 550,000 students take the exam annually. With some preparation and knowing how to study, it is totally possible to do well on this AP exam.

The AP Lang Rhetorical Essay is one section of the AP English Language Exam. The exam itself is 3 hours and 15 minutes long, and is broken into two sections. The first part of the exam is a 60 minute, 45-question multiple-choice section. The questions on this part of the exam will test your ability to read a passage and then interpret its meaning, style, and overall themes. After the multiple-choice section, there is a section lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes with three “free response” essays. This includes the synthesis essay, the rhetorical analysis essay, and the argument essay. 

  • In the synthesis essay , you will have to develop an argument using pieces of evidence provided to you. 
  • The argumentative essay will have you pick a side in a debate and argue for or against it.
  • The rhetorical essay requires that you discuss how an author’s written passage contributes to a greater meaning or theme. 

The rhetorical essay is perhaps the most unique of all AP Lang exam essays because it requires the test taker to analyze and interpret the deeper meanings of the passage and connect them to the author’s writing style and writing syntax in only 40 minutes. This essay can be the trickiest because it requires you to have knowledge of rhetorical strategies and then apply them to a passage you’ve never seen before.

1. Outline Your Essay Before Writing

One of the most important parts of the AP Lang essays is structuring your essay so that it makes sense to the reader. This is just as important as having good content. For this essay in particular, you’ll want to read the passage first and write a brief outline of your points before you begin the essay. This is because you will want to write the essay using the passage chronologically, which will be discussed in detail below.

2. Understand Rhetorical Strategies 

If you feel like you don’t know where to start as you prepare to study for the rhetorical essay portion of the exam, you aren’t alone. It is imperative that you have a grasp on what rhetorical strategies are and how you can use them in your essay. One definition of rhetoric is “language carefully chosen and arranged for maximum effect.” This can include types of figurative language (metaphor, simile, personification, pun, irony, etc.) elements of syntax (parallelism, juxtaposition, anthesis, anaphora, etc), logical fallacies, or persuasive appeals. Overall, there are many elements that you can analyze in an essay and having a good grasp on them through practice and memorization is important.

3. Keep the Essay Well Structured 

Even if you understand the various rhetorical strategies you can use, where do you begin? First of all, you’ll want to write a strong introduction that outlines the purpose of the piece. At the end of this introduction, you will write a thesis statement that encapsulates all the rhetorical strategies you discuss. Perhaps these are style elements, tone, or syntax. Be sure to be specific as you list these.

Next, you will create your body paragraphs. As you discuss the rhetorical elements in the piece and tie them back to the work’s meanings, be sure to discuss the points in chronological order. You don’t have to discuss every single strategy, but just pick the ones that are most important. Be sure to cite the line where you found the example. At the end of the essay, write a short conclusion that summarizes the major points above.

4. Be Sure to Explain Your Examples

As you write the essay, don’t just list out your examples and say something like “this is an example of ethos, logos, pathos.” Instead, analyze how the example shows that rhetoric device and how it helps the author further their argument. As you write the rhetorical essay, you’ll want to be as specific and detail-focused as possible. 

average word count for ap lang essay

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AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

Below is a prompt and example for a rhetorical essay, along with its score and what the writer did well and could have improved:

The passage below is an excerpt from “On the Want of Money,” an essay written by nineteenth-century author William Hazlitt. Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze the rhetorical strategies Hazlitt uses to develop his position about money.

average word count for ap lang essay

Student essay example:

In his essay, Hazlitt develops his position on money through careful use of adjectives and verbs, hypothetical situations, and images. His examples serve to impress upon the reader the highly negative consequences of being in “want of money.”

Hazlitt’s word choice in his opening phrase provides an example of his technique in the rest of the essay. It is not necessary to follow “literally” with “truly” yet his repetition of the same ideas emphasizes his point. In his next sentence, one that lasts forty-six lines, Hazlitt condignly repeats similar ideas, beating into his audience the necessity of having money in this world. The parallelism throughout that one long sentence, “it is not to be sent for to court, or asked out to dinner…it is not to have your own opinion consulted or sees rejected with contempt..” ties the many different situations Haziltt gives together. What could have become a tedious spiel instead becomes a melodious recitation, each example reminding you of one before it, either because of the similarities in structure or content. Hazlitt addresses many different negative effects of not having money but manages to tie them together with his rhetorical strategies. 

The diction of the passage fully relays Hazlitt’s position about money. In every example he gives a negative situation but in most emphasizes the terrible circumstance with strong negative adjectives or verbs. “Rejected,” “contempt,” “disparaged,” “scrutinized,” “irksome,” “deprived,” “assailed” “chagrin;” the endless repetition of such discouragement shows how empathetically Hazlitt believes money is a requisite for a happy life. Even the irony of the last sentences is negative, conveying the utter hopelessness of one without money. Through one may have none in life, pitiless men will proceed to mock one’s circumstances, “at a considerable expense” after death! 

In having as the body of his essay one long sentence, Hazlitt creates a flow that speeds the passage along, hardly giving the reader time to absorb one idea before another is thrown at him. The unceasing flow is synonymous with Hazlitt’s view of the life of a person without money: he will be “jostled” through life, unable to stop and appreciate the beauty around him or to take time for his own leisure. 

The score on this essay was a 6 out of 6. This essay started out very strong as the student had a concrete thesis statement explaining the strategies that Hazlitt used to develop his position on money as well as Hazlitt’s belief on the topic. In the thesis statement, the student points out that adjectives, verbs, hypothetical situations, and images help prove Hazlitt’s point that wanting money can be problematic. 

Next, the student broke down their points into three main subsections related to their thesis. More specifically, the student first discusses word choice of repetition and parallelism. When the student discusses these strategies, they list evidence in the paragraph that can be found chronologically in Hazlitt’s essay. The next paragraph is about diction, and the student used specific adjectives and verbs that support this idea. In the last paragraph, the student emphasized how the speed and flow of the essay helped describe Hazlitt’s viewpoint on life. This last concluding sentence is particularly thoughtful, as it goes beyond the explicit points made in the essay and discusses the style and tone of the writing. 

It is important to remember that in some ways, the rhetorical essay is also an argumentative essay, as the student must prove how certain rhetorical strategies are used and their significance in the essay. The student even discussed the irony of the paragraph, which is not explicit in the passage.

Overall, this student did an excellent job organizing and structuring the essay and did a nice job using evidence to prove their points. 

Now that you’ve learned about the AP Lang rhetorical essay, you may be wondering how your AP scores impact your chances of admission. In fact, your AP scores have relatively little impact on your admissions decision , and your course rigor has much more weight in the application process.

If you’d like to know your chances of admission, be sure to check out our chancing calculator! This tool takes into account your classes, extracurriculars, demographic information, and test scores to understand your chances at admission at over 600 schools. Best of all, it is completely free!

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CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition

Spend about 10 minutes reading the topic and the passage carefully and planning your essay. This organizational time is crucial to producing a high-scoring essay. Consider following these steps:

Read the topic's question carefully so that you know exactly what you're being asked to do.

Read the passage carefully, noting what ideas, evidence, and rhetorical devices are relevant to the specific essay prompt.

Conceive your thesis statement, which will go in your introductory paragraph.

Organize your body paragraphs, deciding what evidence from the passage you'll include (using multiple passages in the synthesis essay) or what appropriate examples you'll use from your knowledge of the world.

Take about 25 minutes to write the essay. If you've planned well, your writing should be fluent and continuous; avoid stopping to reread what you've written. In general, most high-scoring essays are at least two full pages of writing.

Save about 5 minutes to proofread your essay. This allows you time to catch the "honest mistakes" that can be corrected easily, such as a misspelled word or punctuation error. In addition, this time lets you set the essay to rest, knowing what you've written, so that you can go on to the next topic and give it your full attention.

Writing the Essay

A traditional essay includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. The body should be made up of several paragraphs, but the introduction and conclusion require only one paragraph each.

In your introduction, make sure that you include a strong, analytical thesis statement, a sentence that explains your paper's idea and defines the scope of your essay. Also, be sure that the introduction lets the reader know that you're on topic; use key phrases from the question if necessary. The introductory paragraph should be brief-only a few sentences are necessary to state your thesis. Definitely try to avoid merely repeating the topic in your thesis; instead, let the thesis present what it is that you will specifically analyze.

The body paragraphs are the heart of the essay. Each should be guided by a topic sentence that is a relevant part of the introductory thesis statement. For rhetorical analysis essays, always supply a great deal of relevant evidence from the passage to support your ideas; feel free to quote the passage liberally. In your argument essays, provide appropriate and sufficient evidence from the passage(s) and your knowledge of the world. Prove that you are capable of intelligent "civil discourse," a discussion of important ideas. However, always be sure to connect your ideas to the thesis. Explain exactly how the evidence presented leads to your thesis. Avoid obvious commentary. A medium- to low-scoring paper merely reports what's in the passage. A high-scoring paper makes relevant, insightful, analytical points about the passage. Remember to stay on topic.

Your conclusion, like your introduction, shouldn't be longwinded or elaborate. Do attempt, however, to provide more than mere summary; try to make a point beyond the obvious, which will indicate your essay's superiority. In other words, try to address the essay's greater importance in your conclusion. Of course, you should also keep in mind that a conclusion is not absolutely necessary in order to receive a high score. Never forget that your body paragraphs are more important than the conclusion, so don't slight them merely to add a conclusion.

Remember to save a few minutes to proofread and to correct misspelled words, revise punctuation errors, and replace an occasional word or phrase with a more dynamic one. Do not make major editing changes at this time. Trust your original planning of organization and ideas, and only correct any obvious errors that you spot.

Considering Different Essay Types

In your argumentation essays, which include the synthesis essay based on multiple passages and argument essay based on one passage, you want to show that you understand the author's point(s) and can respond intelligently. Comprehending the author's point involves a three-step process: (1) clarifying the claim the author makes, (2) examining the data and evidence the author uses, and (3) understanding the underlying assumptions behind the argument. The first two steps are usually directly stated or clearly implied; understanding what the author must believe, or what the author thinks the audience believes, is a bit harder. To intelligently respond to the author's ideas, keep in mind that the AP readers and college professors are impressed by the student who can conduct "civil discourse," a discussion that fully understands all sides before taking a stand. Avoid oversimplification and remember that judgment stops discussion. Let the reader watch your ideas develop instead of jumping to a conclusion and then spending the whole essay trying to justify it. Also be aware that you don't have to take only one side in an issue. Frequently, a very good essay demonstrates understanding of multiple sides of an issue and presents a "qualifying argument" that appreciates these many sides. Show awareness of culture, history, philosophy, and politics. Prove that you are in touch with your society and the world around you. The topics give you the opportunity to intelligently discuss issues; seize that opportunity and take advantage of it.

In your rhetorical analysis essays, be sure to accurately identify rhetorical and literary devices the author employs, and then examine how they create effects and help build the author's point. Intelligent analysis explores the depth of the author's ideas and how the author's presentation enhances those ideas. Be sure you understand the author's rhetorical purpose: Is it to persuade? To satirize some fault in society? To express ideas? Then dive into the depth of the author's thoughts and enjoy how good writing enhances interesting ideas. Like the argument essays, you'll want to liberally use the text, both implicitly and explicitly. A sophisticated writer embeds phrases from the text into his or her own sentences during discussion. Avoid copying complete sentences from the text; choose just the exact word or phrase that suits your purpose and analyze it within your own sentences.

Which one of the following was simplified correctly?


Modeling essay grading with pre-trained BERT features

  • Published: 11 April 2024

Cite this article

  • Annapurna Sharma   ORCID: 1 &
  • Dinesh Babu Jayagopi 2  

Writing essays is an important skill which enables one to clearly write the ideas and understanding of certain topic with the help of language articulation and examples. Writing essay is a skill so is the grading of those essays. It requires a lot of efforts to grade these essays and the task becomes tedious and repetitive when the student to teacher ratio is high. As with any other repetitive task, the intervention of technology for automated essay grading has been thought of long back. However, the main challenge in automated essay grading lies in the understanding of language construction, word usage and presentation of idea/ argument/ narration. Language complexity makes natural language understanding a challenging task. In this work, we show our experiments with pre-trained static word embeddings like GloVe, fastText and pre-trained contextual model Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) for the task of automated essay grading. For the regression task, we have used Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) and Support Vector Regression (SVR) models under various feature settings framed from the learnt embeddings. The results are shown with the ASAP-AES dataset on all 8 prompts. Our work shows average Quadratic Weighted Kappa (QWK) of 0.81 and 0.71 with SVR and LSTM on in-domain test set essays, respectively. The SVR model shows a better QWK than the human-human agreement of 0.75. To the best of our knowledge, our SVR model with pre-trained BERT embeddings achieve the highest average QWK reported on ASAP-AES data set. We further show the performance of our approach with adversary samples generated using permuted essays and off-topic essays. We experimentally show that our LSTM model though does not show high QWK score with human assigned grade but is robust against the adversarial settings considered.

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Author Annapurna Sharma is supported by Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India under the grant number– MEITY-PHD-2541.

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  17. How to Write the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay

    The AP English Language Exam is one of the most common AP exams you can take. However, the average score on the exam in 2020 was a 2.96 out of 5. ... The rhetorical essay is perhaps the most unique of all AP Lang exam essays because it requires the test taker to analyze and interpret the deeper meanings of the passage and connect them to the ...

  18. AP English Language and Composition: Essays

    The essay section of the AP English Language and Composition exam, also called the free-response section, requires you to write three essays. As of May 2007, you're given 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete the essays. (This includes an extra 15 minutes exclusively for reading the passages for the synthesis essay.)

  19. AP English Language and Composition: Pace Your Essay Writing

    With an average time of only 40 minutes per essay for your AP English Language and Composition exam, you should divide your time as follows. Spend about 10 minutes reading the topic and the passage carefully and planning your essay. This organizational time is crucial to producing a high-scoring essay. Consider following these steps:

  20. PDF AP English Language and Composition

    In your response you should do the following: Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position. Provide evidence to support your line of reasoning. Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning. Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument. 2023 College Board.

  21. Around how many words would be good for an AP English essay?

    AP Lang, Lit, and everything on earth graded by a rubric values quality over quantity (assuming no explicit guidelines for essay length). By writing an essay you are checking off boxes. A 1000 word essay can check off none of those boxes and a well-worded, concise 600-word essay could definitely check off all.

  22. Modeling essay grading with pre-trained BERT features

    Number of words in the essay. 2. Number of characters in the essay. 3. Number of sentences in the essay. 4. Average word length in the essay. 5. Average number of spelling errors. 6. Average number of POS Tags for Noun, Adjective, Verb and Adverb. This set of features is kept simple which gives an idea of the length of the essay and the ...