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How to Write the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay (With Example)

November 27, 2023

Feeling intimidated by the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay? We’re here to help demystify. Whether you’re cramming for the AP Lang exam right now or planning to take the test down the road, we’ve got crucial rubric information, helpful tips, and an essay example to prepare you for the big day. This post will cover 1) What is the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay? 2) AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Rubric 3) AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis: Sample Prompt 4) AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example 5)AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example: Why It Works

What is the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

The AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay is one of three essays included in the written portion of the AP English Exam. The full AP English Exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long, with the first 60 minutes dedicated to multiple-choice questions. Once you complete the multiple-choice section, you move on to three equally weighted essays that ask you to synthesize, analyze, and interpret texts and develop well-reasoned arguments. The three essays include:

Synthesis essay: You’ll review various pieces of evidence and then write an essay that synthesizes (aka combines and interprets) the evidence and presents a clear argument. Read our write up on How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay here.

Argumentative essay: You’ll take a stance on a specific topic and argue your case.

Rhetorical essay: You’ll read a provided passage, then analyze the author’s rhetorical choices and develop an argument that explains why the author made those rhetorical choices.

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Rubric

The AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay is graded on just 3 rubric categories: Thesis, Evidence and Commentary, and Sophistication . At a glance, the rubric categories may seem vague, but AP exam graders are actually looking for very particular things in each category. We’ll break it down with dos and don’ts for each rubric category:

Thesis (0-1 point)

There’s nothing nebulous when it comes to grading AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay thesis. You either have one or you don’t. Including a thesis gets you one point closer to a high score and leaving it out means you miss out on one crucial point. So, what makes a thesis that counts?

  • Make sure your thesis argues something about the author’s rhetorical choices. Making an argument means taking a risk and offering your own interpretation of the provided text. This is an argument that someone else might disagree with.
  • A good test to see if you have a thesis that makes an argument. In your head, add the phrase “I think that…” to the beginning of your thesis. If what follows doesn’t logically flow after that phrase (aka if what follows isn’t something you and only you think), it’s likely you’re not making an argument.
  • Avoid a thesis that merely restates the prompt.
  • Avoid a thesis that summarizes the text but does not make an argument.

Evidence and Commentary (0-4 points)

This rubric category is graded on a scale of 0-4 where 4 is the highest grade. Per the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis rubric, to get a 4, you’ll want to:

  • Include lots of specific evidence from the text. There is no set golden number of quotes to include, but you’ll want to make sure you’re incorporating more than a couple pieces of evidence that support your argument about the author’s rhetorical choices.
  • Make sure you include more than one type of evidence, too. Let’s say you’re working on your essay and have gathered examples of alliteration to include as supporting evidence. That’s just one type of rhetorical choice, and it’s hard to make a credible argument if you’re only looking at one type of evidence. To fix that issue, reread the text again looking for patterns in word choice and syntax, meaningful figurative language and imagery, literary devices, and other rhetorical choices, looking for additional types of evidence to support your argument.
  • After you include evidence, offer your own interpretation and explain how this evidence proves the point you make in your thesis.
  • Don’t summarize or speak generally about the author and the text. Everything you write must be backed up with evidence.
  • Don’t let quotes speak for themselves. After every piece of evidence you include, make sure to explain your interpretation. Also, connect the evidence to your overarching argument.

Sophistication (0-1 point)

In this case, sophistication isn’t about how many fancy vocabulary words or how many semicolons you use. According to College Board , one point can be awarded to AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis essays that “demonstrate sophistication of thought and/or a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation” in any of these three ways:

  • Explaining the significance or relevance of the writer’s rhetorical choices.
  • Explaining the purpose or function of the passage’s complexities or tensions.
  • Employing a style that is consistently vivid and persuasive.

Note that you don’t have to achieve all three to earn your sophistication point. A good way to think of this rubric category is to consider it a bonus point that you can earn for going above and beyond in depth of analysis or by writing an especially persuasive, clear, and well-structured essay. In order to earn this point, you’ll need to first do a good job with your thesis, evidence, and commentary.

  • Focus on nailing an argumentative thesis and multiple types of evidence. Getting these fundamentals of your essay right will set you up for achieving depth of analysis.
  • Explain how each piece of evidence connects to your thesis.
  • Spend a minute outlining your essay before you begin to ensure your essay flows in a clear and cohesive way.
  • Steer clear of generalizations about the author or text.
  • Don’t include arguments you can’t prove with evidence from the text.
  • Avoid complex sentences and fancy vocabulary words unless you use them often. Long, clunky sentences with imprecisely used words are hard to follow.

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis: Sample Prompt

The sample prompt below is published online by College Board and is a real example from the 2021 AP Exam. The prompt provides background context, essay instructions, and the text you need to analyze. For sake of space, we’ve included the text as an image you can click to read. After the prompt, we provide a sample high scoring essay and then explain why this AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis essay example works.

Suggested time—40 minutes.

(This question counts as one-third of the total essay section score.)

On February 27, 2013, while in office, former president Barack Obama delivered the following address dedicating the Rosa Parks statue in the National Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol building. Rosa Parks was an African American civil rights activist who was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Read the passage carefully. Write an essay that analyzes the rhetorical choices Obama makes to convey his message.

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis that analyzes the writer’s rhetorical choices.
  • Select and use evidence to support your line of reasoning.
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetorical situation.
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

In his speech delivered in 2013 at the dedication of Rosa Park’s statue, President Barack Obama acknowledges everything that Parks’ activism made possible in the United States. Telling the story of Parks’ life and achievements, Obama highlights the fact that Parks was a regular person whose actions accomplished enormous change during the civil rights era. Through the use of diction that portrays Parks as quiet and demure, long lists that emphasize the extent of her impacts, and Biblical references, Obama suggests that all of us are capable of achieving greater good, just as Parks did.

Although it might be a surprising way to start to his dedication, Obama begins his speech by telling us who Parks was not: “Rosa Parks held no elected office. She possessed no fortune” he explains in lines 1-2. Later, when he tells the story of the bus driver who threatened to have Parks arrested when she refused to get off the bus, he explains that Parks “simply replied, ‘You may do that’” (lines 22-23). Right away, he establishes that Parks was a regular person who did not hold a seat of power. Her protest on the bus was not part of a larger plan, it was a simple response. By emphasizing that Parks was not powerful, wealthy, or loud spoken, he implies that Parks’ style of activism is an everyday practice that all of us can aspire to.

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example (Continued)

Even though Obama portrays Parks as a demure person whose protest came “simply” and naturally, he shows the importance of her activism through long lists of ripple effects. When Parks challenged her arrest, Obama explains, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood with her and “so did thousands of Montgomery, Alabama commuters” (lines 27-28). They began a boycott that included “teachers and laborers, clergy and domestics, through rain and cold and sweltering heat, day after day, week after week, month after month, walking miles if they had to…” (lines 28-31). In this section of the speech, Obama’s sentences grow longer and he uses lists to show that Parks’ small action impacted and inspired many others to fight for change. Further, listing out how many days, weeks, and months the boycott lasted shows how Parks’ single act of protest sparked a much longer push for change.

To further illustrate Parks’ impact, Obama incorporates Biblical references that emphasize the importance of “that single moment on the bus” (lines 57-58). In lines 33-35, Obama explains that Parks and the other protestors are “driven by a solemn determination to affirm their God-given dignity” and he also compares their victory to the fall the “ancient walls of Jericho” (line 43). By of including these Biblical references, Obama suggests that Parks’ action on the bus did more than correct personal or political wrongs; it also corrected moral and spiritual wrongs. Although Parks had no political power or fortune, she was able to restore a moral balance in our world.

Toward the end of the speech, Obama states that change happens “not mainly through the exploits of the famous and the powerful, but through the countless acts of often anonymous courage and kindness” (lines 78-81). Through carefully chosen diction that portrays her as a quiet, regular person and through lists and Biblical references that highlight the huge impacts of her action, Obama illustrates exactly this point. He wants us to see that, just like Parks, the small and meek can change the world for the better.

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example: Why It Works

We would give the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis essay above a score of 6 out of 6 because it fully satisfies the essay’s 3 rubric categories: Thesis, Evidence and Commentary, and Sophistication . Let’s break down what this student did:

The thesis of this essay appears in the last line of the first paragraph:

“ Through the use of diction that portrays Parks as quiet and demure, long lists that emphasize the extent of her impacts, and Biblical references, Obama suggests that all of us are capable of achieving greater good, just as Parks did .”

This student’s thesis works because they make a clear argument about Obama’s rhetorical choices. They 1) list the rhetorical choices that will be analyzed in the rest of the essay (the italicized text above) and 2) include an argument someone else might disagree with (the bolded text above).

Evidence and Commentary:

This student includes substantial evidence and commentary. Things they do right, per the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis rubric:

  • They include lots of specific evidence from the text in the form of quotes.
  • They incorporate 3 different types of evidence (diction, long lists, Biblical references).
  • After including evidence, they offer an interpretation of what the evidence means and explain how the evidence contributes to their overarching argument (aka their thesis).


This essay achieves sophistication according to the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis essay rubric in a few key ways:

  • This student provides an introduction that flows naturally into the topic their essay will discuss. Before they get to their thesis, they tell us that Obama portrays Parks as a “regular person” setting up their main argument: Obama wants all regular people to aspire to do good in the world just as Rosa Parks did.
  • They organize evidence and commentary in a clear and cohesive way. Each body paragraph focuses on just one type of evidence.
  • They explain how their evidence is significant. In the final sentence of each body paragraph, they draw a connection back to the overarching argument presented in the thesis.
  • All their evidence supports the argument presented in their thesis. There is no extraneous evidence or misleading detail.
  • They consider nuances in the text. Rather than taking the text at face value, they consider what Obama’s rhetorical choices imply and offer their own unique interpretation of those implications.
  • In their final paragraph, they come full circle, reiterate their thesis, and explain what Obama’s rhetorical choices communicate to readers.
  • Their sentences are clear and easy to read. There are no grammar errors or misused words.

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay—More Resources

Looking for more tips to help your master your AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay? Brush up on 20 Rhetorical Devices High School Students Should Know and read our Tips for Improving Reading Comprehension . If you’re ready to start studying for another part of the AP English Exam, find more expert tips in our How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis blog post.

Considering what other AP classes to take? Read up on the Hardest AP Classes .

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Christina Wood

Christina Wood holds a BA in Literature & Writing from UC San Diego, an MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in English at the University of Georgia, where she teaches creative writing and first-year composition courses. Christina has published fiction and nonfiction in numerous publications, including The Paris Review , McSweeney’s , Granta , Virginia Quarterly Review , The Sewanee Review , Mississippi Review , and Puerto del Sol , among others. Her story “The Astronaut” won the 2018 Shirley Jackson Award for short fiction and received a “Distinguished Stories” mention in the 2019 Best American Short Stories anthology.

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., guide to the ap english language and composition exam.

AP English Language Exam

Can you apply the rhetorical triangle to a piece of writing? Are you able to argue a position? The AP ® English Language and Composition exam tests topics and skills discussed in your Advanced Placement English Language course. If you score high enough, your AP English Language score could earn you college credit!

Check out our AP English Language Guide for what you need to know about the exam:

  • Exam Overview
  • Sections and Question Types
  • How to Prepare

What’s on the AP English Language & Composition Exam?

The College Board is very detailed in what they require your AP teacher to cover in his or her AP English Language & Composition course. The exam tests your abilities to understand how authors use rhetoric and language to convey their purpose. Students are also expected to apply these techniques to their own writing and research projects. Some of the major skills tested include the ability to:

  • Identify an author’s purpose and intended audience
  • Recognize rhetorical devices and strategies in an author’s work
  • Demonstrate understanding of citations in research papers
  • Apply these skills and techniques to their own writing
  • Create and organize an argument defended with evidence and reasoning
  • Plan, write, and revise cogent, well-written essays

Check out our line of AP guides  for a comprehensive content review.

AP English Language Sections & Question Types

The AP English Language & Composition exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long and consists of two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free response section.

Read More: Review for the exam with our  AP English Language Crash Course 


For AP English Language multiple-choice questions, you are presented with two Reading Passages and three Writing passages. The two Reading passages are nonfiction passages taken from all sorts of works. The idea is to get you to focus on rhetorical devices, figures of speech and intended purposes, under rigid time constraints and with material you haven’t seen before. The three Writing passages are student-produced essays. The idea is to get you to revise the essay that help the writer accomplish his or her goal.

Free Response

The AP English Language section contains three essay prompts: a synthesis essay, a rhetorical analysis essay, and an argument essay.

  • Synthesis essay: You’ll be given a scenario and tasked with writing a response using at least three of six or seven short accompanying sources for support.
  • Rhetorical analysis essay: Asks you to analyze the techniques an author uses, and discuss how they contribute to the author’s purpose.
  • Argument essay: Presents a claim or assertion in the prompt and then asks you to argue a position based on your own knowledge, experience, or reading.

How to Interpret AP English Language Scores

AP scores are reported from 1 to 5. Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5 on the AP English Language exam, but some may grant AP credit for a 3. Each test is curved so scores vary from year to year. Here’s how AP English Lang students scored on the May 2022 test:

Source: College Board

How can I prepare?

AP classes are great, but for many students they’re not enough! For a thorough review of AP English Language content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style.

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Tackling the AP English Language and Composition Essays: Part 3

Statistical Mediation & Moderation in Psychological Research (1)-3

As you may recall from Part 1 , the Synthesis and Argument essays require that you take an argumentative position on a topic. In the Synthesis Essay, you are given a topic or question (e.g., is the death penalty just?) and six sources addressing that topic or question. You will then be asked to take an argumentative position, citing at least three of the sources. In the Argument Essay, you are given a topic or idea typically in the form of an author’s quote: for example, a quote from a famous writer saying that, in modern society, it’s necessary to be a little bit unethical to succeed. You are then asked to take an argumentative position on this topic or idea. This time, though, there will be no sources for you to cite. All of your thinking about the topic must come from your own head.

We’ve already discussed the Rhetoric Essay, and how to go through the process of writing a good one. Much of the same advice still applies to these two essays! Here are the things that, when it comes the Synthesis and Argument Essay, remain the same:

  • The grading rubric for the Synthesis and Argument Essays is the same as that for the Rhetoric Essay, awarding one point for thesis, four for evidence and analysis, and one for “sophistication.”
  • For all three essays, you must make a clear argument, supply sufficient evidence, and explain that evidence well. 
  • The six step process will also be the same for all three essays. Remember that the six steps are: (1) Organizing Your Time, (2) Reading and Annotating, (3) Outlining the thesis (4) Outlining the structure (5) Writing [paragraphs, evidence, analysis] (6) Writing [sentences].

But, lots of things are different, too. So, you need to go through the six steps of the process in a slightly different way for each essay...

The Synthesis Essay: Six Steps

1. organizing your time.

As discussed in Part 1 , the first 45 minutes of the essay section (including both the “reading” and “writing” periods) should be devoted to the Synthesis Essay. During the first 15 minutes, which are the designated “reading period,” you should read the question and six sources, and begin to brainstorm and outline your essay. As the “writing period” opens—the first thirty minutes of which you will now devote to the Synthesis Essay—you should be finishing your outline, and beginning to write. You should then write for about 25, reserving 5 minutes to proofread.

2. Reading and Annotating

As you read the six sources, keep a running list of the pro or con arguments that you encounter, and the corresponding evidence. I suggest you take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns, pro and con. As you read through the sources, you can use the columns to keep track of arguments and evidence. At the same time, you should underline particularly compelling pieces of evidence supplied for the arguments you’re recording, like statistics or particularly persuasive turns of phrase. 

As you proceed, you may start to feel like you know which side you want to defend. Great! At that point, I would start paying closer attention to the evidence supplied for arguments for that side, carefully noting which quotes or details you might cite. That being said, I would not stop recording the arguments for the other side. These are going to be the types of counter-positions you will need to answer in your essay.

By the time you’re done taking notes, you should have a good list of the arguments available for defending each side, as well as some evidence for those arguments. Now, you can use that material to make an outline.

3. Outlining Part 1: Thesis

Go look at the AP Lang test grading rubric (printed at the very end of this guide ), and look at the sample excellent theses that graders are given as models for earning the 1 thesis point. They all clearly take a stance on one side or another of the issue. This isn’t the time to be wishy-washy or even-handed. It’s a time to be decisive, and clearly take a side. Your thesis may address both sides of the issue, but only in the process of clearly deciding on one of those sides. It may for example, read something like: “Though use of public libraries will, in the digital age, no doubt dwindle, they remain essential to the future of our nation, and should be maintained.” It should not read like this: “Use of public libraries will start to dwindle in the digital age, but they do still seem in many ways essential.” In the first case, you acknowledge both sides, but it’s clear which side you stand on: this is the best strategy to use for this essay.

4. Outlining Part 2: Structure

Many different types of structures have earned perfect scores for the Synthesis Essay. That being said, there are a few guidelines to follow. 

First, you need to have multiple body paragraphs (aim for three, though two can be ok if they are robust). Each of those paragraphs needs to make one clear point, and each of those paragraphs’ points needs to be stated clearly and completely in an initial topic sentence. 

There are also some new rules to follow here. You must give at least two strong reasons for why your side is correct. And you must, in some way, address counterarguments: likely rebuttals of your points, or strong arguments for the other side.

There are many different structures you might use to do both of these things, and which structure you choose will depend on the arguments you want to make, as well as the strongest arguments the other side might marshal. Here are some possible structures that have all worked in perfectly scored essays:

  • Provide three different reasons why your side is right, each with its own paragraph. Address any potential counterarguments or concerns about these reasons, where necessary, within the paragraphs. 
  • Provide two reasons why your side is right, in two paragraphs. In a third paragraph, address and answer the strongest argument or case for the other side.

5. Writing Part 1: Paragraphs, Evidence, Analysis

When you go to write, make sure:

  • Each paragraph has a topic sentence.
  • Each paragraph supplies evidence to support that topic sentence’s argument.
  • The evidence is analyzed. For more information on any of these points, see Part 2 of this series.

There is one extra thing, though: you have to cite your sources. There are two ways to cite. First, you can simply make a point that one of the readings made, without quoting. Or, you can quote! I suggest that you quote directly at least once. It ensures that you are citing in detail, and you want to be citing and engaging with the arguments in detail. Be sure to put “Source #” or the author name in parentheses after your paraphrase or quote in order to cite the source.

6. Writing Part 2: Sentence by Sentence

Proofread your sentences, in the last few minutes. All the same principles apply ( see Part 2 for details ).

The Argument Essay: Six Steps

1-2. managing your time + brainstorming.

You have 45 minutes. But this essay should take you a bit less time than the other two, since it gives you no passages to read. Spend 5-7 minutes reading the question and then brainstorming/outlining. Then, spend the rest of the time writing, with some time at the end for proofreading. If you finish this essay before your 45 minutes are up, use your extra time to proofread everything you’ve written (all three essays). 

3-4. Outlining: Thesis and Structure

The same rules for thesis and structure from the Synthesis Essay apply to the Argument Essay. You need to take a clear position on the topic, even if you acknowledge the other side. And you need to provide multiple reasons for that position, while also addressing counterarguments. 

The difference, here, comes in the types of reasons you are going to give for your argument. In the Synthesis Essay, you were giving reasons largely supplied from the sources you read. Here, you have to come up with your own reasons and examples for them. In general, your reasons and examples are going to come from a few sources: 

  • Your personal life and experience: you might tell a story from your own life to show why the principle you’re defending is true.
  • Your knowledge of history, literature, or other nonfiction or school subjects: you might use an example of an event from a novel to support the point, or an anecdote from Renaissance history that you learned in school, or a tidbit from the biography of some inspiring person, like MLK or Marie Curie. 
  • Your knowledge of current events: you might be able to supply a reason for your point that refers to some major, hot button issue of current events, like climate change, or Black Lives Matter, or the benefits and downsides of social media. 
  • Your knowledge of other things: Know a lot about music? Or gardening? Or religion? Use examples from those domains.

What you might be gathering is that, in order to answer this essay question well, supplying arguments for general principles like “Money can’t buy happiness” or “quitters never win,” you need to know about…things. And as a teenager, you’ve only had so much time to get to know things. So, here’s what I advise: in preparation of the exam, make a list of 20 things that you are going to know about. Yes, you can choose common school topics like “The American Revolution” or The Scarlet Letter. But supplement those topics with the academic or political topics that you are actually interested in or passionate about, like the 1980s AIDS epidemic and struggle for LGBQT rights, or ancient Greek military history, or novels by Jane Austen or Toni Morrison, or the biography of an Olympic athlete. Passion speaks! Also, include some important or pivotal anecdotes from your life, especially times when you learned lessons. Once you have your list, make sure you actually know about these things. Know some details: dates, names, precise events, anecdotes, etc. Though you can’t predict what your Argument Essay question will be, having detailed knowledge of various topics will certainly help you out. 

5. Writing: Paragraphs (Evidence, Analysis)

As with the other essays, you still need topic sentences summarizing each paragraph’s argument (a reason for why your position is correct, drawing on some major example from history, culture, or personal life). You still need evidence for your argument (coming from your store of knowledge about…things). And you still need to analyze that evidence and explain why it proves your points, addressing counterarguments where possible. 

Only one more tip: when you supply your support, be detailed. Don’t refer to some event in your life in vague terms (“at first I found math hard, but then I practiced and got better”). Supply the details (“At first I found math hard, and in the first weeks of the term, I failed a test. Soon, however, I started to practice, drilling problems at my kitchen table every night, and asking my older brother to check over my work. By the end of the semester, I had greatly improved, and earned a B+ on the final exam.”). The same goes for historical or literary anecdotes: cite specific dates, names, events. In reading and writing, we call this “the reality effect”: an argument or story feels more real and more persuasive, when it includes little, hyper-specific details. “I ate some food,” doesn’t feel as real as, “Sitting on a bench in a park in West Palm Beach, I ate a banana and seven almonds.”

6. Writing: Sentence by Sentence

Proofread, at the end! The same tips from Part 2 apply.

Well, that just about covers the three AP Lang Essays! I have just two parting tips. First, practice, practice, practice. It will not feel easy writing three good essays at this pace the first time you do it (or the second, or the third). It will start to feel ok after many iterations, and that’s where you want to be. You don’t want your first, or even second time trying this out to be on test day. Second, try to have fun with it. Don’t go crazy, but psych yourself into getting into your essays. The readers can feel your enthusiasm. And they like it. Best of luck!

The   AP Exams are an opportunity for you to deepen your academic engagement, demonstrate your readiness for college learning, and earn college credit .  Our team of PhD candidates, composed of expert tutors like Tess, loves teaching AP material and helping students hone test taking strategies. Looking for customized AP support?

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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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Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

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Rhetorical Devices List w/ Examples

37 min read • may 10, 2022

Sumi Vora

List of Rhetorical Devices & Terms

Taking AP English Language? This is a list of main rhetorical device terms that you should know for the exam as well as definitions & examples for each. These terms will mostly show up on the multiple-choice section, so it’s important to be able to identify them in a work of writing, but you won’t actually have to use the device in your own writing. Each term includes a definition, an example of the rhetorical device being used in a text, and an example of analysis that might be used in an essay.

In your essays, you will need to identify which devices are used and their effect on the work as a whole. Sometimes, a writer will use a device (for example: alliteration), but it doesn’t have a huge effect on the work or the writer’s argument. In that case, don't spend an entire paragraph talking about alliteration. You need to focus on what matters most, and you need to specifically show how  these choices make the work effective, and why they are so important. Yes, the rhetorical analysis essay is an argument essay just like the other two.

You aren't required to use rhetorical vocabulary in your essays at all — in fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. If you force the vocabulary into your essay, you risk sounding clunky, and the vocabulary almost always leads you to switch to passive voice. Instead, just describe what is happening! (ex: The author uses imagery → The author’s vivid images). This method also ensures that you are showing how the device is contributing to the work, rather than simply identifying it.

And, without further ado… Here are some rhetorical devices you should know for the AP Lang exam:

1. aesthetic

Definition: This rhetorical device references to artistic elements or expressions within a textual work

Example of aesthetic: 

“The Flapper” by Dorothy Parker (1922)

The Playful flapper here we see,

The fairest of the fair.

She's not what Grandma used to be, —

You might say, au contraire.Her girlish ways may make a stir,

Her manners cause a scene,

But there is no more harm in her

Than in a submarine.

She nightly knocks for many a goal

The usual dancing men.

Her speed is great, but her control

Is something else again.

All spotlights focus on her pranks.

All tongues her prowess herald.

For which she well may render thanks

To God and Scott Fitzgerald.

Her golden rule is plain enough —

Just get them young and treat them

Analysis:  Parker describes the aesthetic  of flapper culture in her poem in order to support women who defied social norms and who adopted more liberal attitudes towards makeup, drinking, smoking, and sex.

Note: aesthetic is not necessarily a specific device; it is the bigger picture. An author would use a rhetorical device (e.g. imagery, allusions, etc.) to achieve a certain aesthetic.

2. allegory

Definition: This rhetorical device references the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence

Allegory Example:  

Animal Farm  by George Orwell (1945)

All that year the animals worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work; they grudged no effort or sacrifice, well aware that everything they did was for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after them, and not for a pack of idle, thieving human beings.

Analysis:  In George Orwell’s allegorical  novel Animal Farm , overworked farm animals rise up against their owner and subscribe to the concepts of Animalism, which proclaims that “all men are enemies” and “all animals are comrades.” The animals, who now work “like slaves” for the “benefit of themselves and those of that their kind,” run a society that mirrors that of the Russian Revolution. Orwell’s use of animals to describe contemporary political events creates distance between his novel and his potentially incendiary critique of the rise of Communism, which makes the topic more approachable.

3. alliteration  

Definition: This rhetorical device references the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of successive words

Alliteration Example:  

Ronald Reagan’s Address at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (1988)

Our liberties, our values — all for which America stands — is safe today because brave men and women have been ready to face the fire at freedom's front. And we thank God for them.

Analysis:  Reagan acknowledges that the veterans of the Vietnam War were prepared to “face the fire at freedom’s front.” Through his use of alliteration , Reagan emphasizes the soldiers’ willingness to sacrifice themselves for freedom, focusing the audience’s attention on the value of the veterans’ deeds.

4. allusion

Definition: This rhetorical device is a reference, explicit or implicit, to something in previous literature or history

Allusion Example:  

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

Analysis:  King begins his speech with both an indirect and direct allusion  to Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation.” The first phrase of King’s speech, “Five score years ago,” directly mirrors Lincoln’s historic speech, which opens with “four score and seven years ago.” By associating himself with a prominent figure in the fight against injustice, King implies that he shares Lincoln’s values and establishes a sympathetic relationship with his audience.

5. ambiguity

Definition: This rhetorical device references a word, phrase, or sentence whose meaning can be interpreted in more than one way

Ambiguity Example:  

The Awakening  by Kate Chopin (1899)

Exhaustion was pressing upon and overpowering her.

"Good-by— because I love you." He did not know; he did not understand. He would never understand. Perhaps Doctor Mandelet would have understood if she had seen him — but it was too late; the shore was far behind her. And her strength was gone.

Analysis:  At the end of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening , Edna lends herself to the tide with the vague last words, “good-by— because I love you,” leaving Victor to question whether her death was intentional. Chopin’s use of ambiguity  to depict Enda’s death illustrates Victor’s lack of closure and his feeling of utter helplessness and confusion as he watches his loved one, both physically and metaphorically, swept away by the current.

Definition: This rhetorical device references an extended comparison between two things/instances/people etc. that share some similarity to make a point

Analogy Example:  

“What True Education Should Do” by Sydney J. Harris (1994)

Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and then seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence.

Analysis:  Harris compares students to oysters whom we should help “open and reveal the riches within.” Through her analogy , Harris establishes a basis on which readers can shift their perspective. Rather than simply listing specific traits of students, Harris helps her readers change their perception of how students should be treated, and gives readers a concrete and memorable lense through which readers should view the classroom.

7. anaphora

Definition: This rhetorical device references repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines

Anaphora Example:  

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

Analysis:  King repeats the phrase, “I have a dream” to emphasize his vision for racial equality in the United States. By employing anaphora  to underscore his beliefs, King connects his ideas with a common motif, helping his audience follow his speech and make it more memorable. King thus invites his audience to share in his “dream,” as he reminds them that it is their dreams for a more equal future that unite their movement.

8. anecdote

Definition: This rhetorical device references a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident

Anecdote Example:  

“Gender Equality is Your Issue Too” by Emma Watson (2014)

I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called “bossy,” because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not. When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press. When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly.” When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings. I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me.

Analysis:  By sharing a short anecdote  about being “sexualized” and called “bossy,” while acknowledging her male friends being “unable to express their feelings,” Watson establishes her authority to speak on gender-related issues, and she appeals to her audience’s sense of emotion and empathy as she aims to establish a common experience between both men and women in the United Nations.

9. antithesis

Definition: This rhetorical device references the rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences

Antithesis Example:  

Neil Armstrong’s moon landing (1969)

“That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind”

Analysis:  Armstrong’s antithesis  serves to highlight the monumental impact that the moon landing will have on the human race. By contrasting his “small step” with the “giant” effect that this step will have, he emphasizes its significance.

10. assonance

Definition: the repetition of vowel sounds but not consonant sounds

Assonance Example:  

The Color Purple  by Alice Walker (1982)

She got sicker an sicker.

Finally, she ast Where it is?

I say God took it.

He took it. He took it while I was sleeping. Kilt it out there in the woods. Kill this one too, if he can.

Analysis:  In her second letter to God, Celie describes her mother getting “sicker an sicker” and the way God “kilt” her first child in the woods. The repetition of the “i” sound creates a staccato and rhythmic quality to the letter while still creating a thin, ill-sounding intonation.

Note: assonance is often associated with euphony : soothing and pleasant sounds.

11. asyndeton

Definition: conjunctions are omitted, producing a fast-paced and rapid prose

Asyndeton Example:  

“Duty, Honor, Country” by General Douglas MacArthur (1962)

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

Analysis:  In his speech, MacArthur rallies the United States army with three simple words: “duty, honor, country.” MacArthur’s asyndeton  creates a powerful and concise phrase that galvanizes his men through its simplicity. Because the conjunctions have been omitted, MacArthur’s phrase reads like a chant in which each word is emphasized equally. This rhythmic phrase is thus very easy to remember and to repeat, which allows MacArthur to invigorate and prepare his army.

12. chiasmus

Definition: repetition of ideas in inverted order

Example:  John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (1971)

The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

Analysis:  In his 1971 Inaugural Address, Kennedy encourages his audience to have faith in their generation and in their country in the midst of a trying Cold War. Kennedy attempts to unite the audience under a national identity and purpose, inviting them to consider not what their “country can do for” them, but what they “can do for” their country. By employing chiasmus , Kennedy highlights the difference between an archaic mentality and the attitude that he wants the country to adopt moving forward. Because Kennedy repeats the same simple ideas, he also creates a memorable phrase that allows his message to spread easily among the American people.

13. colloquial

Definition: characteristic of spoken or written communication that seeks to imitate informal speech

Example:  Barack Obama’s message about political ‘wokeness’ (2019)

This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff; you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities.

Analysis:  In his commentary regarding the call-out culture on the current socio-political stage, Obama uses the term “woke” to describe those who believe they are more aware of social injustices. By adopting a colloquial  expression, Obama molds his message to resonate with young Americans. Obama is thus able to connect with his audience by mimicking their language.

14. connotation

Definition: the set of associations implied by a word in addition to its literal meaning

Example:  “Black Men in Public Space” by Brent Staples (1986)

My first victim was a white woman, well dressed, probably in her early twenties. I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park, a relatively affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean, impoverished section of Chicago. As I swung onto the avenue behind her, there seemed to be a discreet, noninflammatory distance between us. Not so. She cast back a worried glance. To her, the youngish black man – a broad six feet two inches with a beard and billowing hair, both hands shoved into the pockets of a bulky military jacket – seemed menacingly close.

Analysis:  In his essay “Black Men in Public Space,” Brent Staples refers to the woman who runs away from him as his “victim” to whom he is “menacingly close,” which connotes violence and criminal activity. However, the actions that ensue do not match such connotations ; rather than attacking the woman, Staples simply walks down the avenue. By breaking the audience’s expectations, Staples highlights the misleading dialogue surrounding African-American men and forces his readers to confront their own racial biases.

Note: connotation and tone are very closely related. Often, an author will use words that carry certain connotations to establish a tone. You can use this idea in your essays to demonstrate tone by citing the connotative words the author uses to establish such a tone.

15. consonance

Definition: the repetition of consonant sounds, but not vowels, as in assonance

Example: “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Caroll (1871)

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Analysis:  In Lewis Carol’s poem “Jabberwocky,” he warns against the Jabberwock’s “jaws” and the “Jubjub bird,” repeating the “j” sound. Carol uses consonance  to create dissonant and almost disorienting sounds through harsh, hard tones, which emphasize the obnoxious nature of the Jabberwocky. Because of the abundance of consonants, the poem reads similar to a tongue-twister, which further serves to disorient the reader and make them feel as if they are in a completely different world.

Note: consonance can be associated with cacophony, or harsh, discordant sounds, if it uses “explosive consonants” such as B, C, CH, D, G, J, K, P, Q, T, X.

16. deductive reasoning

Definition: reasoning that works from the more general to the more specific, beginning with a theory that becomes a hypothesis, and using observations to confirm the original theory (top-down approach)

Example:  Mahatma Gandhi’s letter to British Viceroy Lord Irwin (1930)

If I have equal love for your people with mine, it will not long remain hidden. It will be acknowledged by them, even as the members of my family acknowledged after they had tried me for several years. If the people join me, as I expect they will, the sufferings they will undergo, unless the British nation sooner retraces its steps, will be enough to melt the stoniest hearts. The plan through civil disobedience will be to combat such evils as I have sampled out. If we want to sever the British connection it is because of such evils. When they are removed, the path becomes easy. Then the way to friendly negotiation will be open. If the British commerce with India is purified of greed, you will have no difficulty in recognizing our independence.

Analysis:  In his letter to Lord Irwin, Gandhi uses a series of if-then statements to defend India’s call for independence through civil disobedience. Gandhi begins by establishing his “equal love” for the British people and mentioning that if they join him in his protests, it will “melt the stoniest of hearts” in the British government, forcing the British to “retrace their steps” and remove the “evils” in the current British regime. If the evils are removed, Gandhi promises, the “way to friendly negotiation will be open.” By articulating his position with deductive reasoning , Gandhi appeals to Lord Irwin’s logic and maintains that the Indian people are not acting irrationally. Gandhi provides Lord Irwin with only one logical option: purify the British commerce system of greed and open the table to negotiate with India.

17. denotation

Definition: the literal meaning of a word, the dictionary definition

Example:  “Gender Equality is Your Issue Too” by Emma Watson (2014)

I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.

For the record, feminism by definition is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.

Analysis:  By explicitly defining feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities,” Watson juxtaposes the denotation  of feminism with the connotations with which it is associated. Watson directly confronts the misconceptions regarding feminism to quell any opposition regarding such misconceptions, and she appeals to a credible source — the dictionary — to support her claims and establish her own authority over the matter.

Note: denotation is almost always used in contrast with connotation. Authors will often define a word to clarify its meaning, which suggests that the connotations of the term do not match how the author wants the audience to view that term.

18. diction

Definition: a writer's choice of words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative language, which combine to help create meaning

Example:  “On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner (1992)

Canned goods are among the safest foods to be found in Dumpsters but are not utterly foolproof. Although very rare with modern canning methods, botulism is a possibility. Most other forms of food poisoning seldom do lasting harm to a healthy person, but botulism is almost certainly fatal and often the first symptom is death. Except for carbonated beverages, all canned goods should contain a slight vacuum and suck air when first punctured. Bulging, rusty, and dented cans and cans that spew when punctured should be avoided, especially when the contents are not very

acidic or syrupy.

Analysis:  Eighner employs empirical diction  to describe the process of dumpster diving, which is generally considered a dishonorable and crude practice. Eighner details the “fatal” effects of “botulism,” and provides a practical assessment of “modern canning methods,” instructing readers to avoid “bulging, rusty, and dented cans” and to look for a “slight vacuum” in canned goods. By analyzing the process of dumpster diving through a scientific lens, Eighner emphasizes that those who dumpster dive are not inferior to their store going counterparts, and he suggests that dumpster diving can be a practical hobby for anyone, even if it is not done out of necessity.

19. didactic

Definition: tone; instructional, designed to teach an ethical, moral, or religious lesson

Example:  “Advice to Youth” by Mark Twain (1882)

First, then. I will say to you my young friends — and I say it beseechingly, urgently — Always obey your parents, when they are present. This is the best policy in the long run because if you don’t, they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.

Analysis:  In his satire “Advice to Youth,” Twain adopts a didactic  tone that mimics that of many parents chastising their children. He instructs youth to “always obey [their] parents” because “most parents think they know better than” their children. By using a familiar instructional tone while mocking parental attitude, Twain appeals to his credibility by establishing that he too has faced criticism from his parents. By recognizing a common experience, Twain builds a rapport with his young audience, making them more receptive to his message.

Note: Generally, essays with a very didactic tone are ineffective, so they don’t have much rhetorical merit. Twain’s speech is instead a satire of the didactic tone many parents adopt, which allows him to connect with his audience in their mutual scorn for some parents’ sanctimonious attitude.

20. elegiac

Definition: a tone involving mourning or expressing sorrow for that which is irrecoverably past

Example:  Ronald Reagan’s address following the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle (1986)

Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss. For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much.

Analysis:  At the beginning of his address, Reagan adopts an elegiac  tone, declaring that “today is a day for mourning and remembering.” He describes the deaths of the astronauts as a “national loss” that pains “all of the people” in the United States. By taking the time to recognize the tragic loss of the astronauts and by empathizing with the American people’s shock at the explosion, Reagan appeals to his audience’s grief and establishes an emotional connection with them before he begins speaking about the future of the United States space exploration program.

21. epistrophe

Definition: ending a series of lines, phrases, clauses, or sentences with the same word or words

Example:  Madelynn Albright’s commencement speech for Mount Holyoke College (1997)

As you go along your own road in life, you will, if you aim high enough, also meet resistance, for as Robert Kennedy once said, “if there’s nobody in your way, it’s because you’re not going anywhere.” But no matter how tough the opposition may seem, have courage still—and persevere.

There is no doubt, if you aim high enough, that you will be confronted by those who say that your efforts to change the world or improve the lot of those around you do not mean much in the grand scheme of things. But no matter how impotent you may sometimes feel, have courage still — and persevere.

It is certain, if you aim high enough, that you will find your strongest beliefs ridiculed and challenged; principles that you cherish may be derisively dismissed by those claiming to be more practical or realistic than you. But no matter how weary you may become in persuading others to see the value in what you value, have courage still—and persevere.

Inevitably, if you aim high enough, you will be buffeted by demands of family, friends, and employment that will conspire to distract you from your course. But no matter how difficult it may be to meet the commitments you have made, have courage still—and persevere.

Analysis:  In her commencement speech, Albright encourages women to stand firm and to “aim high,” despite the prevalence of gender inequality. Albright recognizes that women face opposition and glass ceilings, but she urges them to “have courage still— and persevere,” repeating the phrase after each challenge she discusses. Like her attitude towards success, Albright’s speech always returns to the idea that women must “have courage still — and persevere,” regardless of the obstacles presented to her. Albright’s motto to “have courage still—and persevere” is the most prominent part of her speech, and remains consistent even when the rest of her speech shifts, which mirrors the outlook that Albright endorses.

Definition: appealing to credibility

Example:  “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

Analysis:  King mentions that he is the “president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference” that operates in “every southern state” and has “eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South.” He also emphasizes that he is in Birmingham because he was “invited” due to “organizational ties.” King spends a significant amount of time describing his credentials and his affiliation with the Church, which not only creates a common experience among the clergymen and himself but also establishes King as a respectable man with significant accomplishments. Because many white southerners believed that African Americans were inferior to themselves, King takes the time to appeal to his own credibility and authority in hopes that the clergymen will view him as their equal and will respect his message.

Note: please don’t write “appeals to ethos/pathos/logos.” Instead, try “appeals to credibility/emotion/logic,” or go further to describe specifically which emotion or credentials the author appeals to.

23. extended metaphor

Definition: differs from a regular metaphor in that several comparisons similar in theme are being made

Example:  “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr (2008)

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose.

Analysis:  Carr employs an extended metaphor  to liken his brain to a machine, suggesting that something “has been tinkering” with his brain, “remapping” and “reprogramming” his “neural circuitry.” By comparing his brain to a machine, Carr conveys his feeling that he is a slave to his computer and his sense of disconnectedness from his brain. Rather than being in harmony with his mind, he describes his brain as a separate entity. Carr’s metaphor also highlights the increasing influence of technology in modern life — so much so that our brains themselves have become computers.

24. imagery

Definition: descriptive language that provides vivid images that evoke the senses

Example:   Last Child in the Woods  by Richard Louv (2008)

In our useful boredom, we used our fingers to draw pictures on fogged glass as we watched telephone poles tick by. We saw birds on the wires and combines in the fields. We were fascinated with roadkill, and we counted cows and horses and coyotes and shaving-cream signs. We stared with a kind of reverence at the horizon, as thunderheads and dancing rain moved with us. We held our little plastic cars against the glass and pretended that they, too, were racing toward some unknown destination. We considered the past and dreamed of the future, and watched it all go by in the blink of an eye.

Analysis:  Louv recounts his experience staring out of the car window as a child with vivid imagery , describing watching “telephone poles tick by,” “birds on the wires,” “cows and horses and coyotes,” and “shaving-cream signs.” Louv jots seemingly disconnected images in short snippets, mimicking a car whizzing past an ever-changing landscape. The sharp images appeal to the reader’s sense of nostalgia as Louv allows them to witness their own youth “go by in the blink of an eye.”

25. inductive reasoning

Definition: reasoning that moves from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories; uses observations to detect patterns and regularities, and develops a hypothesis and later broader theories based on these observations (bottom-up approach)

Example:  “On Being a Cripple” by Nancy Mairs (1986)

"Cripple" seems to me a clean word, straightforward and precise. As a lover of words, I like the accuracy with which it describes my condition: I have lost the full use of my limbs. "Disabled," by contrast, suggests any incapacity, physical or mental. And I certainly don't like "handicapped," which implies that I have deliberately been put at a disadvantage, by whom I can't imagine (my God is not a Handicapper General), in order to equalize chances in the great race of life. These words seem to me to be moving away from my condition, to be widening the gap between word and reality. Most remote is the recently coined euphemism "differently-abled," which partakes of the same semantic hopefulness that transformed countries from "undeveloped" to "underdeveloped," then to "less developed," and finally to "developing" nations. People have continued to starve in those countries during the shift. Some realities do not obey the dictates of language.

Analysis:  Mairs begins by outlining her views on the word “cripple,” which “describes [her] condition” in a “straightforward and precise manner,” unlike vague terms such as “handicapped” and “differently-abled,” which widen “the gap between word and reality.” Much like “people have continued to starve” in underdeveloped nations despite the shift in nomenclature, Mairs scorns the “semantic hopefulness” that has led people to use less precise words to describe her condition, even though the disability itself cannot change. Mairs uses inductive reasoning  to conclude that “some realities do not obey the dictates of language” as she appeals to readers’ logic to deduce that using euphemisms to describe unfavorable circumstances is irrational and only serves to dilute the rectitude of precise language.

Definition: stating the opposite of what is said or meant

I hope you will treasure up the instructions which I have given you, and make them a guide to your feet and a light to your understanding. Build your character thoughtfully and painstakingly upon these precepts, and by and by, when you have got it built, you will be surprised and gratified to see how nicely and sharply it resembles everybody else’s.

Analysis:  Twain instructs youth to “treasure” his instructions and to construct their “character thoughtfully and painstakingly upon” the precepts they have read. However, Twain mentions that if they do so, they will be “surprised and gratified to see how nicely and sharply it resembles everybody else’s.” Twain’s irony  warns youth that if they simply obey their parents, they will not become a unique individual, and the unexpected ending to his satire reinforces his position that one should not mold themselves to meet societal norms.

27. juxtaposition

Definition: placing two or more things side by side for comparison or contrast

Example:   Silent Spring  by Rachel Carson (1962)

Along the roads, laurel, viburnum, and alder, great ferns and wildflowers delighted the traveler’s eye through much of the year. Even in winter, the roadsides were places of beauty, where countless birds came to feed on the berries and on the seed heads of the dried weeds rising above the snow. The countryside was, in fact, famous for the abundance and variety of its birdlife, and when the flood of migrants was pouring through in spring and fall people traveled from great distances to observe them. Others came to fish the streams, which flowed clear and cold out of the hills and contained shady pools where trout lay. So it had been from the days many years ago when the first settlers raised their houses, sank their wells, and built their barns.

Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community: mysterious maladies swept the flocks of chickens; the cattle and sheep sickened and died. Everywhere was a shadow of death. The farmers spoke of much illness among their families. In the town the doctors had become more and more puzzled by new kinds of sickness appearing among their patients. There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among adults but even among children, who would be stricken suddenly while at play and die within a few hours.

Analysis:  In her novel Silent Spring , Rachel Carson describes the beautiful American town with the cold, vapid town that it is destined to become due to climate change. She juxtaposes  the town’s “great ferns and wildflowers,” “birdlife,” and “clear and cold” streams with the “strange blight” that cast an “evil spell” on the community and the animals who have “sickened and died” from “mysterious maladies.” By creating such a sharp contrast between the present and the future, Carson coveys the magnitude of the climate crisis and emphasizes the urgency with which we must address it. Carson’s starkly contrasting images aim to evoke a strong emotional response in the reader that appeals to their sense of responsibility and citizenship.

Definition: appealing to logic

Example:  Greta Thunberg’s speech at the National Assembly in Paris (2019)

A lot of people, a lot of politicians, business leaders, journalists say they don't agree with what we are saying. They say we children are exaggerating, that we are alarmists. To answer this I would like to refer to page 108, chapter 2 in the latest IPCC report. There you will find all our "opinions" summarized because there you find a remaining carbon dioxide budget. Right there it says that if we are to have a sixty-seven percent chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees, we had on January 1st, 2018, 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget. And of course, that number is much lower today. We emit about 42 gigatons of CO2 every year.

Analysis:  In her address to the National Assembly in Paris, Thunberg cites the 2018 “IPCC report” that outlines a total “remaining carbon dioxide budget” of “420 gigatons” in order to “have a sixty-seven percent chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees,” while “we emit about 42 gigatons of CO2 each year.” By citing specific data from a reputable scientific journal, Thunberg appeals to her audience’s logic; the data proves that the only viable option is to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

29. metonymy

Definition: a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated

Example:  Margaret Thatcher’s eulogy for Ronald Reagan (2004)

Yet his ideas, so clear, were never simplistic. He saw the many sides of truth. Yes, he warned that the Soviet Union had an insatiable drive for military power and territorial expansion, yet he also sensed that it was being eaten away by systematic failures impossible to reform. Yes, he did not shrink from denouncing Moscow’s evil empire, but he realized that a man of goodwill might nonetheless emerge from its dark corridors.

Analysis:  In her eulogy for United States President Ronald Reagan, Thatcher refers to the Soviet Union as “Moscow’s evil empire.” Her metonymy  explicitly communicates a disdain for the Soviet Union, which establishes common ground between the United States and the United Kingdom, which helps Thatcher strengthen relations with the United States while eulogizing a friend.

Definition: the speed at which a piece of writing flows — use when discussing organization; point out where action/syntax begins to speed up, slow down, is interrupted, etc.

Example:   Notes on ‘Camp’  by Susan Sontag (1964)

1. To start very generally: Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization.

2. To emphasize style is to slight content, or to introduce an attitude which is neutral with respect to content. It goes without saying that the Camp sensibility is disengaged, depoliticized — or at least apolitical.

Analysis:  Sontag writes Notes on ‘Camp’  as a “series of jottings” rather than in paragraph format in order to mimic the spontaneous and ever-changing nature of Camp. By presenting her notes as a numbered list, Sontag develops a quick, irregular pace  that is more fitting to describe the eccentricities of Camp. Because the notes are presented as a list, the ideas move by quickly, which further mirrors the whimsicality that is so characteristic of Camp.

31. paradox

Definition: apparently self-contradictory statement, the underlying meaning of which is revealed only by careful scrutiny; its purpose is to arrest attention and provoke fresh thought

Example:  “On the Writing of Essays” by Alexander Smith (1881)

He is the frankest, most outspoken of writers; and that very frankness and outspokenness puts the reader off his guard. If you wish to preserve your secret, wrap it up in frankness. The Essays are full of this trick. The frankness is as well simulated as the grape-branches of the Grecian artist which the birds flew towards and pecked. When Montaigne retreats, he does so like a skillful general, leaving his fires burning.

Analysis:  Smith describes Montaigne’s writing style as very frank and outspoken, asserting that “if you wish to preserve your secret, wrap it up in frankness.” Smith’s paradox , although outwardly nonsensical, forces the reader to pause and ruminate on the conflicting ideas, which naturally places emphasis on these ideas. Through his paradox, Smith suggests that an author’s works often contain intimate personal revelations that seem obvious, yet are often overlooked by most readers.

32. parallelism (parallel structure)

Definition: a repetition of sentences using the same grammatical structure emphasizing all aspects of the sentence equally

Example:  “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” by Lou Gherig (1939)

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remembers you with trophies — that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body — it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that's the finest I know.

Analysis:  Gherig presents a series of parallel  sentences to emphasize his gratitude for the life he has lived. Because each sentence follows the same structure, Gherig’s list builds to a climax, which Gherig uses to enumerate his priorities and to emphasize his love for his family. Gherig further emphasizes his appreciation for his family even above his career by shifting from the phrase “that’s something” to describe his wife’s courage as “the finest” he knows. By breaking the pattern in his parallel sentences, Gherig focuses the attention on his family and loved ones, humbly placing his own successes on the back burner.

Definition: appealing to emotion

Example:  Viola Davis’s Women’s March Speech (2018)

I am speaking today not just for the 'Me Toos,' because I was a 'Me Too,' but when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence. The women who are faceless. The women who don't have the money and don't have the constitution and who don't have the confidence and who don't have the images in our media that gives them a sense of self-worth enough to break their silence that is rooted in the shame of assault and rooted in the stigma of assault.

Analysis:  In her speech at the 2018 Women’s March, Viola Davis recognizes the millions of women who have been silently affected by sexual violence. She describes the women “don’t have the money,” “constitution,” or “confidence,” and those who still struggle with the “shame” and “stigma of assault.” Davis employs anaphora, repeating the phrase “don’t have” to evoke a sense of empathy for these women among the audience. By emphasizing that these victims “don’t have” the resources that many take for granted, Davis sheds light on the cruel reality that many victims still face due to the stigma surrounding sexual assault and women’s rights.

34. polysyndeton

Definition: the use of many conjunctions has the effect of slowing the pace or emphasizing the numerous words or clauses

Example:  “After the Storm” by Ernest Hemingway (1932)

I said, “Who killed him?” and he said, “I don’t know who killed him but he’s dead all right,” and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Key and she was all right only she was full of water.

Analysis:  After learning of the murder, the narrator describes as “dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town,” repeating the conjunction “and.” Hemingway employs

polysyndeton  to illustrate the narrator’s shock and panic following the murder. By inserting “and” between each phrase, Hemingway slows down the pace of the sentence, conveying the sense of the narrator’s surroundings moving in slow motion after hearing the news.

35. rhetorical question

Definition: a question presented by the author that is not meant to be answered

Example:  Clare de Booth Luce’s Speech at the Women’s National Press Club (1960)

For what is good journalism all about? On a working, finite level it is the effort to achieve illuminating candor in print and to strip away cant. It is the effort to do this not only in matters of state, diplomacy, and politics but also in every smaller aspect of life that touches the public interest or engages proper public curiosity.

Analysis:  In her speech at the Women’s National Press Club, de Booth asks the rhetorical question : “For what is good journalism all about?” in order to signal a shift in tone as she moves to describe the purpose of “good journalism.” By asking the audience a question, she invites them to consider their own motivations as journalists as she explains her own belief that “good journalism” is “the effort to achieve illuminating candor in print.” Rather than simply speaking about her views on journalism, de Booth expertly inserts a rhetorical question in order to evoke a moment of wonder and self-reflection in her audience before she answers her own question.

36. stream of consciousness

Definition: a technique that records the thoughts and feelings of a character without regard to logical argument or narrative sequence; reflects all the forces, internal and external, affecting the character's psyche at the moment

Example:  “Ain’t I a Woman” by Sojourner Truth (1851)

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it — and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Analysis:  In 1851, Sojourner Truth gave a moving speech at the Women’s Rights Convention without preparation. Truth’s stream of consciousness  approach to the speech allows her to directly address her audience, beginning by mentioning “that man over there” and refuting his beliefs that women are fragile. Truth then moves to note that she has “ploughed and planted” more successfully than men, and she moves to the fact that she can “work as much and eat as much as a man.” She shifts yet again to recount that she has “borne thirteen children” and that “none but Jesus” heard her cry with her “mother’s grief” when they were sold to slavery. Albeit slightly messy, Truth’s lack of structure is effective because it reflects the never-ending struggles that African American women faced. When the injustices seemed to cease, another injustice would arise in a never-ending cycle of oppression. Truth’s speech thus resonated with many other women who had experienced the same struggles, and Truth became a powerful voice in the fight racial and gender equality.

37. synecdoche

Definition: the rhetorical substitution of a part for the whole

Example:  “Falling Down is Part of Growing Up” by Henry Petroski (1985)

We are transported across impromptu bridges of arms thrown up without plans or blueprints between mother and aunt, between neighbor and father, between brother and sister — none of whom is a registered structural engineer. We come to Mama and to Papa eventually to forget our scare reflex and we learn to trust the beams and girders and columns of their arms and our cribs.

Analysis:  Petroski refers to a child’s parents and crib as “beams and girders and columns” that the child must trust, emphasizing the structural aspect of a young child’s support system. Instead of referring to the parents and crib as a whole, Petroski uses synecdoche  to strip away the sentimental connotations associated with a mother’s arms and a baby’s crib, highlighting only the “beams and girders and columns” that prevent the child from falling and returning to his novel’s central topic of engineering.

Definition: the structure of sentences and/or phrases

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

Analysis:  In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King addresses those who instruct him to “wait” for racial equality by describing the “stinging pain of segregation” as seeing “vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers,” seeing “hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your brothers and sisters,” and seeing the “tears welling up” in your six-year-old daughter’s eyes when “she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children,” among a host of other horrific images. Rather than using several shorter sentences to describe segregation, King uses a single sentence, separated by numerous semicolons. King’s choice of syntax  mirrors the never-ending reach of segregation and racial inequality. While the sentence consists of a string of short images, it pauses on a longer phrase in which King describes finding his “tongue-twisted” as he explains to his “six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television,” and seeing “tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children” while he watches the “ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky” and her “distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people.” By making this phrase significantly longer than his other images, King allows the reader to pause and ruminate on the idea of a young girl losing her innocence to an unjust world. King appeals to the reader’s emotions as he conveys such a heartbreaking image.

Definition: a statement of purpose, intent, or main idea in a literary work

Example:   Notes on ‘Camp’  by Susan Sontag

58. The ultimate Camp statement: it's good because  it's awful . . . Of course, one can't always say that. Only under certain conditions, those which I've tried to sketch in these notes.

Analysis:  Sontag places her thesis  at the end of her Notes on ‘Camp’ , which allows her to summarize her list and to assert that Camp is “good because  it’s awful.” Sontag concludes the notes by referencing her sporadic list of musings regarding Camp as a whole and declaring them the “conditions” under which Camp can be both good and awful.

the use of stylistic devices that reveal an author’s attitude towards a subject

Example:  “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin (1979)

I say that the present skirmish is rooted in American history, and it is. Black English is the creation of the black diaspora. Blacks came to the United States chained to each other, but from different tribes: Neither could speak the other's language. If two black people, at that bitter hour of the world's history, had been able to speak to each other, the institution of chattel slavery could never have lasted as long as it did. Subsequently, the slave was given, under the eye, and the gun, of his master, Congo Square, and the Bible–or in other words, and under these conditions, the slave began the formation of the black church, and it is within this unprecedented tabernacle that black English began to be formed. This was not, merely, as in the European example, the adoption of a foreign tongue, but an alchemy that transformed ancient elements into a new language: A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey.

Analysis:  Baldwin adopts a formal, academic tone , assessing the development of “Black English” through a historical lens. Baldwin concludes that “Black English is the creation of the black diaspora” as “an alchemy that transformed ancient elements into a new language.” By using academic diction, Baldwin approaches the development of Black English not as a cultural or social issue, but simply as a historical phenomenon that should be studied objectively, which allows him to persuade his readers that Black English should be considered a distinct language.

👉 Play Kahoot with AP Lang teacher Kathryn Howard as she recaps rhetorical strategies and devices!  

One last disclaimer: Fiveable is an educational company without political or religious affiliations and it neither endorses nor opposes any views expressed in the above passages. There you go! When looking at each device and its corresponding example, think of ways and reasons authors integrate these rhetorical devices, styles, and terms into their writing! Thinking that much ahead will pay off when you write the Rhetorical Analysis essay in May! 😄


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AP® English Language

How to get a 6 on the argument frq in ap® english language.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: March 1, 2022

How to Get a 6 on the Argument FRQ in AP® English Language

What We Review

Introduction: How to Get a 6 on the Argument FRQ in AP® English Language

Wondering how to get a 6 on the argumentative essay in AP® English Language? 

To score an 5 on the AP® English Argument FRQ question, the CollegeBoard scoring guidelines outline that students need to write an essay that effectively argues a position, uses appropriate and convincing evidence, and showcases a wide range of the elements of writing. Essays that score a 6 do all of that and, additionally, demonstrate sophistication in their argument.

An essay that does all of that is an incredibly well-constructed essay. Such an essay needs a solid framework and excellent support. To do this, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are being asked, to not waffle, to spend time and care with your thesis and outline, and to support every claim you make.

We know the best way to write an AP® English FRQ that does everything right is to understand what you are going to see on the AP® English Language test. Read on to prepare yourself for exam day and earn that 6!

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions

The AP® English argument FRQ is the most straightforward of the AP® English FRQs because it is the most similar to the essays you’re already used to writing. It’s exciting to have free reign and make your own argument, unrestrained from rhetorical analysis devices or documents. But, like most AP® writing, it also can be a little overwhelming.

There’s nothing to read and analyze to provide evidence or help you form an argument. Whether you’re feeling excited or overwhelmed by the AP® writing argument FRQ, consider the rhetorical situation. Be strategic about forming your thesis, craft a strong, chronological argument, and utilize good, supportive evidence to earn a better overall essay response.

Determine the question.

The first question to ask yourself is what am I being asked to do ? This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how tricky it can be to figure out. Look for keywords and phrases that will answer that question.

Here’s an example from the 2019 AP® English Language argumentative essay.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Determine the Question

Though there are just two short paragraphs, there is a lot of room for confusion here. In this case, “Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment.” is the key sentence you are looking for. In 2019, AP® English Language test takers were asked to select a concept, place, role, etc. that they believed was “overrated,” and explain why.

If you cannot determine what the question is, go back and reread the prompt. Focus on the last few sentences, as that’s where you’ll usually find it.

Knowing the question you are answering is the most important part of AP® writing. You will not be able to answer the question effectively if you aren’t certain what the question is. Pick out a specific sentence or two to determine the question, and thereby ensure that you aren’t just writing an essay that responds to the general sense of the argument essay prompts

Pick an opinion and stick to it.

The next step is both simple and difficult. Identify your own opinion on the subject.

But remember — the AP® argumentative essay exam format is designed to test how well you can craft an argument. Questions like the 2019 question seem so daunting, because claiming anything to be “overrated” is such a broad topic. It is a bigger question than students are used to encountering on an AP® test.

But, always remember, there is no right or wrong answer for this AP® English FRQ. And whatever argument you choose will not come back later in the exam or in your final grade in the class. This is not to say that you shouldn’t believe in what you are writing. Only that you should remember that both sides are arguable, pick one, and stick to it. Don’t waffle.

Below we break down two sample student answers from this same 2019 prompt. 

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - PIck an opinion negative example

In this AP® Lang argument essay example, the student jumps from describing places, to people, to outfits. The prompts asked for only one example and the student gives three.  By doing this, it shows they were not only unable to grasp what the prompt was asking, but that they couldn’t stick to their opinion.  Instead of deeply strengthening one choice, the student gives vague, half-reasons for too many choices. When writing your FRQs, choose just one concept and stick to it.

The following example demonstrates a strong student response:

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Pick an opinion strong example

This student picks one clear concept, capitalism, and clearly outlines their support for it.  They write with clear language that opens the door for the deeper analysis coming later in the essay.

Like this student, choose just one clear argument to delve into when writing your FRQ.

Craft a thesis statement.

The thesis statement should be both simple and elegant. Students often find it one of the more difficult writing skills to master, but we’re here to help. Just remember that it should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence.  So, for the 2019 argument FRQ :

Good thesis: While capitalism undeniably has its upsides, it has many downsides that are rarely recognized. When considering the downsides, capitalism is clearly overrated as it commodifies humanity and uplifts a minority at the expense of the majority.

This thesis breaks down a) that the author clearly states his claim that capitalism is overrated, b) that the author will support that claim with examples on how it commodifies humanity and how it hurts the majority in favor of the minority.

Good thesis: While the Electoral College was created in the name of equality for smaller states, it is ultimately overrated because it undercuts the popular vote, it is an archaic practice that is unsuitable for the modern era.

This thesis claims the Electoral College is overrated by claiming it doesn’t do what it was created to do in the first place- support equality.  It also introduces two supporting examples for the rest of the essay- it undercuts the popular vote and it doesn’t work in the modern era.

Not a good thesis: Kicking a ball in a net and scoring, is not as important as saving lives. Soccer to me would be considered overrated.

This thesis doesn’t give clear direction for the rest of the essay.  The author claims soccer is overrated, but doesn’t tell us why. The example that “it’s not as important as saving lives” is unrelated and also not touched on again later in the essay. This thesis isn’t specific and doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the author will be saying next.

Not a good thesis: The term “overrated” has been used in conversation to diminish the value of roles. In unusual circumstances the term “overrated” should be applied to the idea of freedom in regards to social change, but overall it should not be applied in regards to global devastation and cruel treatment.

This thesis does not directly answer the question.  Is the author arguing that freedom is overrated? They also claim that the term overrated doesn’t apply to global devastation and cruel treatment. This second claim is both unrelated to the first and doesn’t work to answer the initial prompt.

Looking at these four examples, can you see the difference between a strong and weak thesis?

After you’ve determined your thesis, use it as a jumping point to sketch a quick outline. Then, follow your outline, bringing in your own concrete examples and evidence. Doing so will improve your AP® writing.

Return to the Table of Contents

Craft a chronological argument.

A good argument builds as you move through the essay. It does not simply repeat the same points. Instead, the different points of the argument build off one another and work together to advance the author’s point.

Let’s look at the 2018 AP® English argument FRQ for an example.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Craft a chronological argument

In this case, students are being asked to argue a position on the value of choosing the unknown. 

All students are likely to have their own definitions of what “choosing the unknown” might mean. You first want to consider what this phrase means to you, and how it applies to the real world.  Could it mean breaking out of your comfort zone in daily routines, or could it mean going to theater school to follow your dreams?  There’s no wrong answers, but try to pin down one. Consider Lindbergh’s quote the prompt gives you, and how shock, disappointment, and enrichment play into choosing the unknown.

Once you’ve nailed down your definition, you can begin to form your arguments. A chronological argument builds off itself. So, in this question’s case, an outline would look something like this:

  • Choosing the unknown is necessary for the development of the human race.
  • Scientific advancements cannot be made without testing the boundaries of the unknown.
  • Cultural and artistic growth can only occur through exploring the unknown.

First, a student must define what choosing the unknown means, and what makes it difficult. Next the student argues for the value of choosing the unknown, in that the human race could never develop without it.  Finally, the student will argue for the invaluable scientific and cultural/artistic advances made throughout history by breaking known boundaries.

When you sketch your outline, quickly ask yourself if the outline would make just as much sense if you rearranged it. If the answer is no, start writing your essay. If the answer is yes, try to structure your argument so that your points build off one another.

Support your claims.

All arguments need evidence. This is the proof you need to support your thesis. And in the case of the AP® English argument FRQ, the evidence all comes from you. What exactly that evidence is will vary from question to question and from student to student. But make sure that every point you make is supported by evidence.

Here’s some good news — you already know quite a bit about effective evidence from what you have learned in AP® English about rhetorical devices. Your main purpose in this essay is to persuade. What have you learned in class about effective ways to persuade? What rhetorical devices can you utilize? Try to pick the best devices to support your argument that you can.

Here are some examples of supportive and non-supportive evidence that students could use to support their claims.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Support your claims

The 2017 AP® English language argument FRQ asked students to argue a position if the most essential skill is artifice. The example student answers given below are from here .

Supportive evidence:   “Throughout history, rulers have utilized countless different methods of achieving power, however none have been so successful as mastering the art of lying.

In his advice to future rulers, Niccolo Machiavelli encouraged them to lie and maintain the illusion of sympathy to the common struggles in order to retain power. He asserts that it is imperative for a ruler to appear caring and sympathetic even if he has no objective but power.

Machiavelli argues that to be sincere and honest is akin to being vulnerable. A ruler must be skilled in the art of deception if he is not to fall prey to usurpers. Thus, it is essential that he appear humble and morally upright to his constituents as he is to appear idealistic, despite his nature being identical to his citizens.”

In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in politics. The student claims that mastering lying is essential to achieving political power. The student uses Machiavelli’s leadership and beliefs as specific examples to support this, by analyzing and connecting each point back to his/her claim.

Non-supportive evidence: “Another example would be actors on red carpets or at interviews they sound generous and relatable, but in reality they could be selfish people who don’t care about anyone. To the public they act charming, honest, and sincere. They do this so they can get famous and rich. They do this so they will never get ignored.”

In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in the culture of entertainment and celebrities. However, the student does not utilize supportive evidence to do so. The paragraph is full of claims about how actors lie, but does not provide a concrete example to anchor the claims. The student provides a lot of very vague generalizations, but no clear evidence or examples of specific celebrities and how they used artifice to succeed.

There is so much variance in prompts and students’ prior knowledge; it’s impossible to provide a checklist of what makes evidence supportive. But a good trick to decide if you’ve supported your claims well enough is to talk to yourself. No really, it’s a good idea.

Picture yourself discussing your essay with someone. Imagine that this person disagrees with everything that you say. Every time you make a claim, like that it’s important to be polite in an email, your imaginary person shakes their head and tells you no. How would you try to convince them? What examples would you use? Make sure that for each opinion you put forward; you have provided an answer to someone who would disagree with you.

The evidence is an important part of your essay. If your outline and your argument are a framework, your evidence is the brick and mortar. A house without brick and mortar won’t fall, but it won’t be a very nice house to inhabit. Tie every claim you make to a piece of evidence to ensure the best essay possible.

Wrapping Things Up: Scoring a 6 on the Argument FRQ for AP® English Language

The AP® English argument FRQ varies quite a bit. But it is ultimately about how well you can put forth an argument. So, don’t be afraid to spend some time crafting that argument. We’ve covered a lot in this article- here are the main points to remember:

  • Determine the question. Figure out what the prompt is asking you to do.
  • Pick an opinion and stick to it. Choose one side of the argument and one clear claim to support all the way through.
  • Craft a thesis statement. Your thesis should be clear, concise, and introduce the content of your essay.
  • Craft a chronological argument. Make an argument that builds on its prior points.
  • Support your claims. Support yourself with concrete, specific evidence and examples. 

But most of all, have fun. This essay is the one you should be looking forward to, where you have the freest rein. Enjoy it and earn yourself a 6.

Do the examples shown make sense to you? Can you picture yourself moving through the AP® writing argument FRQ with ease now?

Interested in a school license?​

8 thoughts on “how to get a 6 on the argument frq in ap® english language”.

Thank you for explaining this so eloquently. Excellent post, I will keep this handy and refer to it often from now on. It’s so educative. Great post!

Sure, glad it helped.

I’m an AP® Language teacher and the title of your article caught my eye because the essays aren’t scored on a 0-9 scale anymore. The max score for an essay now is a 6. Essays are now scored in 3 categories: Thesis: 0 or 1 point Evidence and commentary: 0-4 points Sophistication: 0 or 1 point I just wanted to let you know! I saw this was last updated in 2020 and just thought it should reflect the current AP® exam.

Thank you for the heads up! This is an older blog post that must have had something else updated to it this year. We’ve gone ahead and revised the post.

Hi, my AP® Language teacher emphasized on a counterargument at the end of the supporting paragraphs. Could you elaborate on it? Also, how exactly do we get the sophistication point?

Hi Stephanie, thanks for reaching out! Making a solid counter-argument is definitely one way to make sure that you earn the Sophistication point. We recommend having a look at our AP® English Language Review Guide for 2021 for more tips! The College Board’s Free-Response Question and Scoring Information Archive also provides authentic examples of student writing — many of which successfully make counterarguments and rebuttals to earn the Sophistication point.

Hi can I get a 6?

Hi Roy, we certainly believe that earning a 6 on your FRQs is possible with practice and dedication! I’d recommend having a look at our AP® English Language Review Guide for tips and tricks, and you can also browse our AP® English Language and Composition Resource Page and Free Response practice questions for targeted practice.

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How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay + Example

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What is the ap lang synthesis essay, how will ap scores affect my college chances.

AP English Language and Composition, commonly known as AP Lang, is one of the most engaging and popular AP classes offered at most high schools, with over 535,000 students taking the class . AP Lang tests your ability to analyze written pieces, synthesize information, write rhetorical essays, and create cohesive and concrete arguments. However, the class is rather challenging as only 62% of students were able to score a three or higher on the exam. 

The AP Lang exam has two sections. The first consists of 45 multiple choice questions which need to be completed in an hour. This portion counts for around 45% of your total score. These questions ask students to analyze written pieces and answer questions related to each respective passage.  All possible answer choices can be found within the text, and no prior knowledge of literature is needed to understand the passages.

The second section contains three free-response questions to be finished in under two hours and 15 minutes. This section counts for 55% of your score and includes the synthesis essay, the rhetorical essay, and the argumentative essay.

  • The synthesis essay requires you to read 6-7 sources and create an argument using at least three sources.
  • The rhetorical analysis essay requires you to describe how a piece of writing evokes specific meanings and symbolism.
  • The argumentative essay requires you to pick a perspective of a debate and create an argument based on the evidence provided.

In this post, we will take a look at the AP Lang synthesis essay and discuss tips and tricks to master this part of the exam. We will also provide an example of a well-written essay for review.  

The AP Lang synthesis essay is the first of three essays included in the Free Response section of the AP Lang exam. The exam presents 6-7 sources that are organized around a specific topic, with two of those sources purely visual, including a single quantitative source (like a graph or pie chart). The remaining 4-5 sources are text-based, containing around 500 words each. It’s recommended that students spend an hour on this essay—15 minute reading period, 40 minutes writing, and 5 minutes of spare time to check over work.

Each synthesis essay has a topic that all the sources will relate to. A prompt will explaining the topic and provide some background, although the topics are usually broad so you will probably know something related to the issue. It will also present a claim that students will respond to in an essay format using information from at least three of the provided sources. You will need to take a stance, either agreeing or disagreeing with the position provided in the claim. 

According to the CollegeBoard, they are looking for essays that “combine different perspectives from sources to form a support of a coherent position.” This means that you must state your claim on the topic and highlight relationships between several sources that support your specific position on the topic. Additionally, you’ll need to cite clear evidence from your sources to prove your point.

The synthesis essay counts for six points on the AP Lang exam. Students can receive 0-1 points for writing a thesis statement, 0-4 based on the incorporation of evidence and commentary, and 0-1 points based on the sophistication of thought and demonstration of complex understanding.

While this essay seems extremely overwhelming, considering there are a total of three free-response essays to complete, with proper time management and practiced skills, this essay is manageable and straightforward. In order to enhance the time management aspect of the test to the best of your ability, it is essential to divide the essay up into five key steps.

Step 1: Analyze the Prompt

As soon as the clock starts, carefully read and analyze what the prompt asks from you. It might be helpful to markup the text to identify the most critical details. You should only spend around 2 minutes reading the prompt so you have enough time to read all the sources and figure out your argument. Don’t feel like you need to immediately pick your stance on the claim right after reading the prompt. You should read the sources before you commit to your argument.

Step 2: Read the Sources Carefully

Although you are only required to use 3 of the 6-7 sources provides, make sure you read ALL of the sources. This will allow you to better understand the topic and make the most educated decision of which sources to use in your essay. Since there are a lot of sources to get through, you will need to read quickly and carefully.

Annotating will be your best friend during the reading period. Highlight and mark important concepts or lines from each passage that would be helpful in your essay. Your argument will probably begin forming in your head as you go through the passages, so you will save yourself a lot of time later on if you take a few seconds to write down notes in the margins. After you’ve finished reading a source, reflect on whether the source defends, challenges, or qualifies your argument.

You will have around 13 minutes to read through all the sources, but it’s very possible you will finish earlier if you are a fast reader. Take the leftover time to start developing your thesis and organizing your thoughts into an outline so you have more time to write. 

Step 3: Write a Strong Thesis Statement 

In order to write a good thesis statement, all you have to do is decide your stance on the claim provided in the prompt and give an overview of your evidence. You essentially have three choices on how to frame your thesis statement: You can defend, challenge or qualify a claim that’s been provided by the prompt. 

  • If you are defending the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is correct .
  • If you are challenging the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is incorrect .
  • If you choose to qualify the claim, your job will be to agree to a part of the claim and disagree with another part of the claim. 

A strong thesis statement will clearly state your stance without summarizing the issue or regurgitating the claim. The CollegeBoard is looking for a thesis statement that “states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning on the issue provided in the prompt.”

Step 4: Create a Minimal Essay Outline

Developing an outline might seem like a waste of time when you are up against the clock, but believe us, taking 5-10 minutes to outline your essay will be much more useful in the long run than jumping right into the essay.

Your outline should include your thesis statement and three main pieces of evidence that will constitute each body paragraph. Under each piece of evidence should be 2-3 details from the sources that you will use to back up your claim and some commentary on how that evidence proves your thesis.

Step 5: Write your Essay

Use the remaining 30-35 minutes to write your essay. This should be relatively easy if you took the time to mark up the sources and have a detailed outline.  Remember to add special consideration and emphasis to the commentary sections of the supporting arguments outlined in your thesis. These sentences are critical to the overall flow of the essay and where you will be explaining how the evidence supports or undermines the claim in the prompt.

Also, when referencing your sources, write the in-text citations as follows: “Source 1,” “Source 2,” “Source 3,” etc. Make sure to pay attention to which source is which in order to not incorrectly cite your sources. In-text citations will impact your score on the essay and are an integral part of the process.

After you finish writing, read through your essay for any grammatical errors or mistakes before you move onto the next essay.

Here are six must-have tips and tricks to get a good score on the synthesis essay:

  • Cite at least four sources , even though the minimum requirement is three. Remember not to plagiarize and cite everything you use in your arguments.
  • Make sure to develop a solid and clear thesis . Develop a stable stance for the claim and stick with it throughout the entire paper.
  • Don’t summarize the sources. The summary of the sources does not count as an argument. 
  • You don’t necessarily have to agree with the sources in order to cite them. Using a source to support a counterargument is still a good use of a source.
  • Cite the sources that you understand entirely . If you don’t, it could come back to bite you in the end. 
  • Use small quotes , do not quote entire paragraphs. Make sure the quote does not disrupt the flow or grammar of the sentence you write. 

ap lang analysis essay structure

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Here is an example prompt and essay from 2019 that received 5 of the 6 total points available:

In response to our society’s increasing demand for energy, large-scale wind power has drawn attention from governments and consumers as a potential alternative to traditional materials that fuel our power grids, such as coal, oil, natural gas, water, or even newer sources such as nuclear or solar power. Yet the establishment of large-scale, commercial-grade wind farms is often the subject of controversy for a variety of reasons.

Carefully read the six sources, found on the AP English Language and Composition 2019 Exam (Question 1), including the introductory information for each source. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the most important factors that an individual or agency should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

Source A (photo)

Source B (Layton)

Source C (Seltenrich)

Source D (Brown)

Source E (Rule)

Source F (Molla)

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis presents a defensible position.
  • Select and use evidence from at least 3 of the provided sources to support your line of reasoning. 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 reasoning.
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

[1] The situation has been known for years, and still very little is being done: alternative power is the only way to reliably power the changing world. The draw of power coming from industry and private life is overwhelming current sources of non-renewable power, and with dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, it is merely a matter of time before coal and gas fuel plants are no longer in operation. So one viable alternative is wind power. But as with all things, there are pros and cons. The main factors for power companies to consider when building wind farms are environmental boon, aesthetic, and economic factors.

[2] The environmental benefits of using wind power are well-known and proven. Wind power is, as qualified by Source B, undeniably clean and renewable. From their production requiring very little in the way of dangerous materials to their lack of fuel, besides that which occurs naturally, wind power is by far one of the least environmentally impactful sources of power available. In addition, wind power by way of gearbox and advanced blade materials, has the highest percentage of energy retention. According to Source F, wind power retains 1,164% of the energy put into the system – meaning that it increases the energy converted from fuel (wind) to electricity 10 times! No other method of electricity production is even half that efficient. The efficiency and clean nature of wind power are important to consider, especially because they contribute back to power companies economically.

[3] Economically, wind power is both a boon and a bone to electric companies and other users. For consumers, wind power is very cheap, leading to lower bills than from any other source. Consumers also get an indirect reimbursement by way of taxes (Source D). In one Texan town, McCamey, tax revenue increased 30% from a wind farm being erected in the town. This helps to finance improvements to the town. But, there is no doubt that wind power is also hurting the power companies. Although, as renewable power goes, wind is incredibly cheap, it is still significantly more expensive than fossil fuels. So, while it is helping to cut down on emissions, it costs electric companies more than traditional fossil fuel plants. While the general economic trend is positive, there are some setbacks which must be overcome before wind power can take over as truly more effective than fossil fuels.

[4] Aesthetics may be the greatest setback for power companies. Although there may be significant economic and environmental benefit to wind power, people will always fight to preserve pure, unspoiled land. Unfortunately, not much can be done to improve the visual aesthetics of the turbines. White paint is the most common choice because it “[is] associated with cleanliness.” (Source E). But, this can make it stand out like a sore thumb, and make the gargantuan machines seem more out of place. The site can also not be altered because it affects generating capacity. Sound is almost worse of a concern because it interrupts personal productivity by interrupting people’s sleep patterns. One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support.

[5] As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and the consequences. But, by balancing economics, efficiency, and aesthetics, power companies can create a solution which balances human impact with environmental preservation.

More examples can be found here at College Board.

While AP Scores help to boost your weighted GPA, or give you the option to get college credit, AP Scores don’t have a strong effect on your admissions chances . However, colleges can still see your self-reported scores, so you might not want to automatically send scores to colleges if they are lower than a 3. That being said, admissions officers care far more about your grade in an AP class than your score on the exam.

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ap lang analysis essay structure

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Expert Guide to the AP Language and Composition Exam

ap lang analysis essay structure

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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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, ap lang essay structure help.

Hi! I'm a high school junior taking AP Lang and I could use some guidance on essay structure. What's the best way to organize my thoughts and present my arguments effectively for the AP exam? Any advice would be great!

Of course! When tackling the AP Lang essays, organization and structure are crucial for presenting your ideas effectively. The type of essay you are writing will determine the structure, but I'll provide general guidelines for each section here.

1. Introduction:

- Start with a hook or attention-grabber that relates to the topic. This can be an interesting quote, anecdote, or a provocative statement.

- Introduce the topic or issue you'll be addressing. For example, summarize the prompt or question in your own words.

- State your thesis, which should directly answer the prompt and indicate the main points you'll discuss in your essay. A thesis should be clear, concise, and arguable.

2. Body paragraphs:

- Each body paragraph should focus on one main idea or piece of evidence supporting your thesis. You'll want to have at least 2-3 body paragraphs, but the number depends on the specific essay prompt and how many points you have to make.

- Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that clearly indicates the main idea or argument for that paragraph. This acts as a mini-thesis statement and helps guide the reader.

- Provide evidence or examples to support your topic sentence. This can include quotes from texts, facts, statistics, or personal experiences, depending on the essay type.

- Analyze the evidence, explaining its connection to the topic sentence and overall thesis. Don't just provide evidence or examples; explain how they support your arguments.

- Use transitions between paragraphs to maintain flow and coherence in your essay. This can be through the use of transition words, phrases, or repeated ideas that tie everything together.

3. Conclusion:

- Begin by restating your thesis statement, but be sure to rephrase it instead of copying it word for word.

- Sum up your main points and discuss their significance, showing the reader how your arguments support your thesis.

- End on a strong note, either by restating the importance of your topic, proposing a course of action, or leaving the reader with a thought-provoking question or idea.

Here are some additional tips to help you do well on AP Lang essays:

- Familiarize yourself with the different essay types (rhetorical analysis, argument, and synthesis) and their expectations.

- Practice outlining your essays before writing, as it will help you keep your thoughts organized and ensure you address all required aspects of the prompt.

- Work on writing clear, concise sentences, and avoid wordy or vague language.

- Make sure to proofread your work for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, as these can detract from the quality of your essay.

Best of luck with your AP Lang essays! With practice and attention to structure, you'll be well-prepared for the exam.

About CollegeVine’s Expert FAQ

CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.


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    The AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay is one of three essays included in the written portion of the AP English Exam. The full AP English Exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long, with the first 60 minutes dedicated to multiple-choice questions. Once you complete the multiple-choice section, you move on to three equally weighted essays that ask you ...

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    2. Pick one side of the argument, but acknowledge the other side. When you write the essay, it's best if you pick one side of the debate and stick with it for the entire essay. All your evidence should be in support of that one side. However, in your introductory paragraph, as you introduce the debate, be sure to mention any merit the ...

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  8. How to Write a Perfect Synthesis Essay for the AP Language Exam

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    The essay becomes clear, assertive, and easy to follow for the examiners. Follow this rhetorical essay strategy and you are even closer to getting that 5 on the exam. Rhetorical Essay Strategy #3: LORA. As you are looking at your AP® English Language rhetorical essay prompt and passage it is important to remember the mnemonic device, LORA.

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    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.

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    Yes, the rhetorical analysis essay is an argument essay just like the other two. You aren't required to use rhetorical vocabulary in your essays at all — in fact, it's probably better if you don't. If you force the vocabulary into your essay, you risk sounding clunky, and the vocabulary almost always leads you to switch to passive voice.

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    Pick an opinion and stick to it. Choose one side of the argument and one clear claim to support all the way through. Craft a thesis statement. Your thesis should be clear, concise, and introduce the content of your essay. Craft a chronological argument. Make an argument that builds on its prior points.

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  23. AP Lang Essay Structure Help?

    Of course! When tackling the AP Lang essays, organization and structure are crucial for presenting your ideas effectively. The type of essay you are writing will determine the structure, but I'll provide general guidelines for each section here. 1. Introduction: - Start with a hook or attention-grabber that relates to the topic. This can be an interesting quote, anecdote, or a provocative ...