The AP English Language course is designed to develop critical literacy and facilitate informed citizenship in students. To that end, students examine and discuss non-fiction works of various types and themes, summarizing who is being addressed, what is being said, how the idea is being presented and why it is being said.
According to the AP English Language Course Description the exam strives to test reading and writing skills necessary for successful college careers and intellectual and civically responsible involvement in the world, as a whole. The review includes three free-response prompts within 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Free-response section accounts to 55% of your score.
What is the format of AP English Language Exam?
The exam consists of 52 – 55 multiple-choice questions. You have one hour to complete the multiple-choice section. The free-response section includes three essay responses within 2 hours and 15 minutes. Each piece follows a particular prompt.
Students review several different texts about a common topic. They must create an argument which uses at least three of the sources to support their thesis.
Students read a non-fiction passage and interpret how the author’s language choice contributed to his or her intended meaning and purpose for writing.
Students reply to a given topic by creating an evidence-based argument.
You can find AP English Language practice questions on the Albert.io Guide to AP English Language.
Why is the AP English Language Free-Response Important?
According to CollegeBoard’s 2016 Student Score Distributions Guide only 10.7% of AP English Language students received a 5 in 2016. To achieve the optimal score, you’ll need to present yourself clearly with well-written essays.
Essays are scored 1 – 9. This grade is then multiplied by 3.0556 for the weighted score. An exam must total a minimum of 112 to receive a 5.
What Content is Covered in the Free-Response Section of AP English Language?
There is no set syllabus or recommended reading for the course. However, there are guidelines which AP teachers use to choose included texts. Reading assignments should represent a clear rhetorical situation (e.g. topical fiction), speak to one another through a variety of genres, offer various rhetorical devices, and challenge AP students to understand non-fiction writing. Albert.io has compiled the Ultimate AP English Language Reading List as a helpful tool for students.
The free-response section of the exam will require you to write three essays, as outlined in the course description on CollegeBoard. There are three types of articles, and each year the content is changed. However, the primary goals remain the same.
You will be presented a topic and must choose a position. Then you will formulate a clear and convincing essay to sway the reader. You must employ appropriate evidence and persuasive arguments, to make your point.
For an in-depth guide read How To Master AP English Language Arguing or How To Craft An Argument For AP English Language on Albert.io.
You will read a selected non-fiction text or passage. Your essay must attend to the stylistic and pragmatic choices the author made for the piece. Then surmise how these decisions affect the author’s ability to address their intended audience, or possibly multiple unintended readers.
Read Understanding the Rhetorical Triangle for AP English Language and 3 AP English Language Rhetorical Strategies for specific direction on this subject.
You are given multiple texts with a common theme. It is your assignment to formulate an opinion after analyzing multiple views on the same topic. You must write an informed, authoritative, and convincing argument which answers the prompt and includes data from multiple sources.
Turn to Understanding the AP English Language Synthesis Rubric for help on this topic, as well as How to Ace the AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay.
How to Prepare for AP English Language Free-Response Section
How you distribute your time will be a major factor as the AP exams grow closer. There are many invaluable resources online through CollegeBoard and Albert.io to aid in your test preparation. Take advantage of AP English Language Free-Response Questions from past years on CollegeBoard. Don’t discount Albert.io’s practice questions and the One Month AP English Language and Composition Study Guide. The following are some quick tips for your AP English Literature study plan.
Familiarize Yourself with AP Questions
Use the resources available to read and practice answering real AP questions. There are free-response questions from past exams, along with example responses, and scoring on CollegeBoard. Albert.io offers model AP style questions for various topics. Read different prompts, write practice essays and improve your performance.
Self-score Your Practice Essays
Check out How To Score Your Own AP English Language Practice Essay for tips. Be objective, pay particular attention to grammar, syntax, and spelling. Don’t let yourself perpetuate small mistakes. If possible, trade practice exams with a classmate and grade each other using the guide.
Choose a Review Book
Employ the use of an AP English Language review book to help you prepare. The Best AP English Language Review Books of 2016 is an excellent resource for that purpose.
Read Comparable Texts
Read all your assigned texts and as many others as you can. Use the Ultimate AP English Language Reading List for insightful suggestions.
Make thoughtful and detailed notes as you read every text that answers the important qualifying questions for any AP English Literature review. Who is the writer addressing? What are they saying? Why are they saying it? And, how is the author presenting this information?
Use all Your Resources
In addition to class work, syllabus and extra reading, online AP English Language practice questions, and CollegeBoard free-response questions, responses and scoring guides for previous years, think outside the box. Form a study group. Watch YouTube videos on the topics you’re researching. Adapt your study tactics for your personal learning preferences.
How to Answer AP English Language Free-Response Questions?
Thoroughly Review Essay Prompts
Read the given instructions and clearly identify the objective. Look at the solution from opposing viewpoints before beginning your outline.
Adopt a Position
Decide what your thesis statement will be. When choosing what position to take, consider the evidence you are provided. Pick a position that is easily dependable with the given information.
Outline Your Essay
Construct a quick outline which will include the main idea, supporting evidence (three items are recommended) and a conclusion.
Write Your Thesis
Create a cohesive and intelligible statement which addresses the given prompt and topic. Answer all questions presented in your introductory paragraph and present the main point of your argument.
Write Supporting Paragraphs
Include evidence to defend your position and cite origin. Expand on how your thesis is justified by your presented information.
Include Provided Resources
Cite passages, statements, and facts from the given texts. It is important to connect your points with supporting information directly. Failing to do so will be detrimental to your performance.
Use precise language and specific examples to support your supposition. Each example should work towards the goal of proving your thesis.
Establish a Tone
Your essay should maintain a consistent tone which is suitable for the topic and your intentions.
Use Logic to Your Advantage
The ability to make logical assumptions is imperative to your score on the AP English Literature free-response prompts. Use these inferences to substantiate your claims and clarify your opinions.
Take Time for Style
When writing your essay, utilize sophisticated vocabulary, proper grammar and syntax. Ensure that you understand any words used and that your argument makes sense. A well-written response will engage the reader and use style to entice them.
Manage Your Time
As you organize and write your response, be mindful of the time. You must complete three prompts in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Keep this in mind.
Understand the Scoring Rubric
This is a valuable method for scoring well on the free-response section. Comprehension of the way your essay will be scored can help you model better responses.
Visit Understanding the AP English Language Argument Rubric, Understanding The AP English Language Synthesis Rubric, and How To Score Your Own AP English Language Essay for tips.
What are AP English Language Free-Response Questions Like?
The following are actual free-response prompts from past exams. You can find more released essay questions with example responses and scores on CollegeBoard.
Example one is from the 2016 exam.
“Over the past several decades, the English language has become increasingly globalized, and it is now seen by many as the dominant language in international finance, science, and politics. Concurrent with the worldwide spread of English is the decline of foreign language in English-speaking countries, where monolingualism-the use of a single language-remains the norm.
Carefully read the following six sources, including the introductory information for each source. Then synthesize information from at least three of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent, well-developed essay that argues a clear position on whether monolingual English speakers are at a disadvantage today.
Your argument should be the focus of your essay. Use the sources to develop your argument and explain the reasoning for it. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Clearly indicate which sources you are drawing from, whether through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. You may cite the sources as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parenthesis”.
To view the sources, take a look at the complete 2016 prompt.
As you tackle this question, it’s important to observe the following steps for a successful synthesis essay. For more in depth direction refer to How to Ace the AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay.
Use the 15 Minute Planning Time Effectively
Read all the sources provided for you. As you examine the evidence, plan your position. Write your outline and the basis of your thesis during this time.
Evaluate Sources Critically
Take into account the background information provided for each source and what biases may be in effect.
Create a Cohesive Argument
Support your cohesive argument with specifically cited information from provided sources.
Proofread Your Essay
Cross check your essay for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.
Example two was given during the 2015 exam.
“On the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., labor union organizer and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez published an article in the magazine of a religious organization devoted to helping those in need. Read the following excerpt from the article carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the rhetorical choices Chavez makes to develop his argument about nonviolent resistance.”
When answering this prompt, it is important that you fully understand the rhetorical triangle, before you begin. As you read the excerpt, mark passages or points that will be relevant to your argument. Refer to 3 AP English Language Rhetorical Essay Strategies for help in developing this type of answer.
Carefully Discern what the Prompt is Asking for.
Collect your thoughts and outline your essay in the planning time allotted.
Organize your thoughts
as you read the text. Make annotations along the margins to direct your writing. Remember to cite relevant passages to support your position.
Begin each body paragraph
with an assertion you will prove within. This clearly outlines what you are attempting to demonstrate with the enclosed citations and explanations
LORA stands for Language, Organization, and Rhetorical Appeals.
To view the entire prompt,example responses and scoring visit the CollegeBoard.
How can I practice AP English Language Free-Response?
The most efficient AP English Language study plan will include a variety of resources and devices. Take full advantage of the practice prompts provided on Albert.io, the many free-response questions presented and reviewed on CollegeBoard and helpful articles to pinpoint strategies for exceptional performance.
To that end, check out How To Study For AP English Language and Composition and 9 Things You Need To Remember About The AP English Language and Composition Exam next!
Looking for AP English Language practice?
Kickstart your AP English Language prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.
To score an 8 on the AP English Argument FRQ question, the CollegeBoard outlines 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 9 do all of that and, additionally, demonstrate sophistication in their argument.
An essay that does all of that is an essay that is well constructed. Such an essay needs a solid framework and excellent support. To construct an essay like that, 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.
The best way to write an AP English FRQ that does all of that is to understand what you are going to see on the AP English Language test.
What You are Going to See on the AP English Argument FRQ
The AP English argument FRQ is the most straightforward of the AP English FRQs because it is the most like essays you are 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 to provide evidence for you or to help you form an argument. Whether you’re feeling excited or overwhelmed by the AP writing argument FRQ, being strategic about forming your thesis, crafting a strong, chronological argument, and utilizing good, supportive evidence will lead to a better overall essay response.
Determine the Question
The first question to ask yourself is what am I being asked to do? Look for keywords and phrases that will answer that question.
Here’s an example from the 2016 AP English Language argument FRQ.
Though there are just two short paragraphs, there is a lot of room for confusion here. In this case, “Write an essay that argues your position on the extent to which Wilde’s claims are valid” is the key sentence you are looking for. In 2016, AP English Language test takers were asked to argue either for, or against, the idea that disobedience is the virtue through which progress is possible.
If you cannot determine what the question is, go back and reread the prompt. 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 prompt.
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 argument FRQ is designed to test how well you can craft an argument. Questions like the 2016 question seem so daunting, because how one feels about disobedience has ramifications. It is a bigger question than students are used to encountering on an AP test.
But 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.
Craft a Thesis Statement
The thesis statement should be both simple and elegant. It should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence. So, for the 2016 argument FRQ:
Good thesis: As Wilde claims, disobedience is a valuable human trait without which progress could not be made because, in situations like the American Revolution, it is only deviance from the norm that can change the norm.
This thesis breaks down a) that the author is claiming to agree with Wilde, b) that the author will support that claim with examples from the American Revolution, and c) that the author will continually return to the idea that only deviance from the norm can change the norm.
Not a Good thesis: Disobedience is a good trait for humans, because historically, disobedient men and women made history.
This thesis doesn’t really answer the question. It says that disobedience is good but doesn’t mention Wilde. It alludes to the idea that disobedient men and women made history but doesn’t mention progress. Plenty of people, like Franz Ferdinand, made history without progressing the human race. This thesis isn’t specific and doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the author will be saying next.
See the difference?
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.
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 2014 AP English argument FRQ for an example.
In this case, students are being asked to both define creativity and to argue for, or against, the creation of a class in creativity.
All students are likely to have their own definitions of creativity and their own opinions about a creativity class. For the purposes of example, let’s use Steve Jobs’ definition of creativity and quickly outline an argument for the creation of a class in creativity.
Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” Jobs sees creativity not as the art of making something completely new from scratch, but instead the art of connecting dots differently.
A chronological argument builds off itself. So, in this question’s case, an outline would look something like this:
- Creativity is best thought of as making connections.
- Making connections is a type of thinking that can be taught.
- Making connections is best taught in school, as opposed to outside of it.
First, a student would have to argue why creativity is best thought of as making connections. The second point, that making connections is a type of thinking that can be taught, cannot be proven until the first point has been sufficiently supported. And the final point, that this is a skill that is best taught in school, cannot be made without the other two. The points of the argument cannot be moved around, changed, or removed. This shows the argument is chronological and has built on itself.
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.
The 2015 AP English language argument FRQ asked students to argue what the function of polite speech in a culture they are familiar with.
Supportive evidence: Polite speech is useful for conveying tone, especially in the world of the Internet. A great example of this need is email. Because emails are virtual communications, they are completely stripped of the context that non-verbal cues, like body language, eye contact, and physical touch, can provide. Polite, formal speech conveys that the sender of the email respects the receiver. Phrases like “How are you?” help convey friendliness between e-mailers. Taking the time to ensure an email sounds friendly can, for example, help ease the sting of a virtual scolding from a boss to a subordinate. As more communication becomes virtual, polite speech is more important than ever to provide context.
In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of polite speech in the culture of the Internet. The student claims that polite speech is necessary to convey tone in communication without context and uses emails as a frame. The student uses examples of situations where email and polite speech are directly involved to support her claims. Every one of the claims is followed up with an example.
Non-supportive evidence: Polite speech is useful for conveying tone, especially in the world of the Internet. In forums, people are never polite, and it is bad for discourse, which is bad for democracy. The world would be a much better place if when people online disagreed with one another, they were polite instead of angry and ready to form a new subreddit at any time. When people on the Internet aren’t polite, they don’t worry about their tone at all, and it offends people. The lack of polite speech makes the Internet a hostile place.
In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of polite speech in the culture of the Internet. However, the student does not utilize supportive evidence to do so. The paragraph is full of claims, like that the world would be better if people on the Internet were polite, but does not provide a concrete example to anchor the claim. Additionally, the paragraph does not support the idea that polite speech conveys tone on the Internet because it primarily focuses on the lack of polite speech on some parts of the Internet.
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 tell 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.
To Sum up
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. Pick a clear position that can offer no confusion, write a clear and direct thesis statement, and make an argument that has to be in the order you write it. 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 9.
Do the examples shown make sense to you? Can you picture yourself moving through the AP writing argument FRQ with ease now?
Test yourself and write a practice essay response. Here are tips on how to score your own AP English Practice Essay.
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