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Expert Guide to the AP Language and Composition Exam

With the 2022 AP English Language and Composition exam happening on Tuesday, May 10, 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 composition 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.

Example:

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.

Example:

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.

Example:

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.”

Example:

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.

Example:

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.”

Example:

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.

Example:

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.

Example:

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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-eight 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 2015 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 2015 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 9% of test takers received a 5 in 2021, although 57% 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 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

THESIS

  • There is no defensible thesis.
  • The intended thesis only restates the prompt.
  • The intended thesis provides a summary of the issue with no apparent or coherent claim.
  • There is a thesis, but it does not respond to the prompt.
  • Only restate the prompt.
  • Do not take a position, or the position is vague or must be inferred.
  • Equivocate or summarize other’s arguments but not the student’s (e.g., some people say it’s good, some people say it’s bad).
  • State an obvious fact rather than making a claim that requires a defense.
  • Responds to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position.
  • Respond to the prompt rather than restate or rephrase the prompt, and the thesis clearly takes a position rather than just stating that there are pros/cons.

EVIDENCE AND COMMENTARY

  • Simply restates thesis (if present), repeats provided information, or references fewer than two of the provided sources.
  • Are incoherent or do not address the prompt.
  • May be just opinion with no textual references or references that are irrelevant.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides evidence from or references at least two of the provided sources.
  • COMMENTARY: Summarizes the evidence but does not explain how the evidence supports the student’s argument
  • Tend to focus on summary or description of sources rather than specific details.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides evidence from or references at least three of the provided sources.
  • COMMENTARY: Explains how some of the evidence relates to the student’s argument, but no line of reasoning is established, or the line of reasoning is faulty.
  • Consist of a mix of specific evidence and broad generalities.
  • May contain some simplistic, inaccurate, or repetitive explanations that don’t strengthen the argument.
  • May make one point well, but either do not make multiple supporting claims or do not adequately support more than one claim.
  • Do not explain the connections or progression between the student’s claims, so a line of reasoning is not clearly established.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides specific evidence from at least three of the provided sources to support all claims in a line of reasoning.
  • COMMENTARY: Explains how some of the evidence supports a line of reasoning.
  • Uniformly offer evidence to support claims.
  • Focus on the importance of specific words and details from the sources to build an argument.
  • Organize an argument as a line of reasoning composed of multiple supporting claims.
  • Commentary may fail to integrate some evidence or fail to support a key claim.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides specific evidence from at least three of the provided sources to support all claims in a line of reasoning.
  • COMMENTARY: Consistently explains how the evidence supports a line of reasoning.
  • Uniformly offer evidence to support claims.
  • Focus on the importance of specific words and details from the sources to build an argument.
  • Organize and support an argument as a line of reasoning composed of multiple supporting claims, each with adequate evidence that is clearly explained.

SOPHISTICATION

  • Does not meet the criteria for one point
  • Attempt to contextualize their argument, but such attempts consist predominantly of sweeping generalizations.
  • Only hint at or suggest other arguments.
  • Use complicated or complex sentences or language that are ineffective because they do not enhance the argument.
  • Demonstrates sophistication of thought and/or a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation.
  1. Crafting a nuanced argument by consistently identifying and exploring complexities or tensions across the sources.
  2. Articulating the implications or limitations of an argument (either the student’s argument or arguments conveyed in the sources) by situating it within a broader context.
  3. Making effective rhetorical choices that consistently strengthen the force and impact of the student’s argument throughout the response.
  4. Employing a style that is consistently vivid and persuasive.

Time to synthesize this dough into some cookies.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Rubrics

THESIS

  • There is no defensible thesis.
  • The intended thesis only restates the prompt.
  • The intended thesis provides a summary of the issue with no apparent or coherent claim.
  • There is a thesis, but it does not respond to the prompt.
  • Only restate the prompt.
  • Fail to address the rhetorical choices the writer of the passage makes.
  • Describe or repeat the passage rather than making a claim that requires a defense.
  • Responds to the prompt with a defensible thesis that analyzes the writer’s rhetorical choices.
  • Respond to the prompt rather than restate or rephrase the prompt and clearly articulate a defensible thesis about the rhetorical choices the writer makes.

EVIDENCE AND COMMENTARY

  • Simply restates thesis (if present), repeats provided information, or offers information irrelevant to the prompt.
  • Are incoherent or do not address the prompt.
  • May be just opinion with no textual references or references that are irrelevant.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides evidence that is mostly general.
  • COMMENTARY: Summarizes the evidence but does not explain how the
    evidence supports the student’s argument.
  • Tend to focus on summary or description of a passage rather than specific details or techniques.
  • Mention rhetorical choices with little or no explanation.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides some specific relevant evidence.
  • COMMENTARY: Explains how some of the evidence relates to the student’s argument, but no line of reasoning is established, or the line of reasoning is faulty.
  • Consist of a mix of specific evidence and broad generalities.
  • May contain some simplistic, inaccurate, or repetitive explanations that don’t strengthen the argument.
  • May make one point well, but either do not make multiple supporting claims or do not adequately support more than one claim.
  • Do not explain the connections or progression between the student’s claims, so a line of reasoning is not clearly established.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides specific evidence to support all claims in a line of reasoning.
  • COMMENTARY: Explains how some of the evidence supports a line of reasoning.
  • Explains how at least one rhetorical choice in the passage contributes to the writer’s argument, purpose, or message.
  • Uniformly offer evidence to support claims.
  • Focus on the importance of specific words and details from the sources to build an argument.
  • Organize an argument as a line of reasoning composed of multiple
    supporting claims.
  • Commentary may fail to integrate some evidence or fail to support a key claim.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides specific evidence to support all claims in a line of reasoning.
  • COMMENTARY: Consistently explains how the evidence supports a line of reasoning.
  • Explains how multiple rhetorical choices in the passage contribute to the writer’s argument, purpose, or message.
  • Uniformly offer evidence to support claims.
  • Focus on the importance of specific words and details from the sources to build an argument.
  • Organize and support an argument as a line of reasoning composed of multiple supporting >claims, each with adequate evidence that is clearly explained.
  • Explain how the writer’s use of rhetorical choices contributes to the student’s interpretation of the passage.

SOPHISTICATION

  • Does not meet the criteria for one point
  • Attempt to contextualize their argument, but such attempts consist predominantly of sweeping generalizations.
  • Only hint at or suggest other arguments.
  • Examine individual rhetorical choices but do not examine the relationships among different choices throughout the passage.
  • Oversimplify complexities in the passage.
  • Use complicated or complex sentences or language that are ineffective because they do not enhance the argument.
  • Demonstrates sophistication of thought and/or a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation.
  1. Explaining the significance or relevance of the writer’s rhetorical choices (given the rhetorical situation).
  2. Explaining a purpose or function of the passage’s complexities or tensions.
  3. Employing a style that is consistently vivid and persuasive throughout the student’s response.

Examine your texts closely!

Argumentative Essay Rubrics

THESIS

  • There is no defensible thesis.
  • The intended thesis only restates the prompt.
  • The intended thesis provides a summary of the issue with no apparent or coherent claim.
  • There is a thesis, but it does not respond to the prompt.
  • Only restate the prompt.
  • Do not take a position, or the position is vague or must be inferred.
  • State an obvious fact rather than making a claim that requires a defense.
  • Responds to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position.
  • Respond to the prompt rather than restate or rephrase the prompt, and the thesis clearly takes a position rather than just stating that there are pros/cons.

EVIDENCE AND COMMENTARY

  • Simply restates thesis (if present), repeats provided information, or offers information irrelevant to the prompt.
  • Are incoherent or do not address the prompt.
  • May be just opinion with no textual references or references that are irrelevant.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides evidence that is mostly general.
  • COMMENTARY: Summarizes the evidence but does not explain how the evidence supports the argument.
  • Tend to focus on summary of evidence rather than specific details.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides some specific relevant evidence.
  • COMMENTARY: Explains how some of the evidence relates to the student’s argument, but no line of reasoning is established, or the line of reasoning is faulty.
  • Consist of a mix of specific evidence and broad generalities.
  • May contain some simplistic, inaccurate, or repetitive explanations that don’t strengthen the argument.
  • May make one point well, but either do not make multiple supporting claims or do not adequately support more than one claim.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides specific evidence to support all claims in a line of reasoning.
  • COMMENTARY: Explains how some of the evidence supports a line of reasoning.
  • Uniformly offer evidence to support claims.
  • Focus on the importance of specific words and details from the sources to build an argument.
  • Organize an argument as a line of reasoning composed of multiple supporting claims.
  • Commentary may fail to integrate some evidence or fail to support a key claim.
  • EVIDENCE: Provides specific
    evidence to support >all claims in a line of reasoning.
  • COMMENTARY: Consistently explains how the evidence supports a line of reasoning.
  • Uniformly offer evidence to support claims.
  • Focus on the importance of specific words and details from the sources to build an argument.
  • Organize and support an argument as a line of reasoning composed of multiple supporting claims, each with adequate evidence that is clearly explained.

SOPHISTICATION

  • Does not meet the criteria for one point
  • Attempt to contextualize their argument, but such attempts consist predominantly of sweeping generalizations.
  • Only hint at or suggest other arguments.
  • Use complicated or complex sentences or language that are ineffective because they do not enhance the argument.
  • Demonstrates sophistication of thought and/or a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation.
  1. Crafting a nuanced argument by consistently identifying and exploring complexities or tensions.
  2. Articulating the implications or limitations of an argument (either the student’s argument or an argument related to the prompt) by situating it within a broader context.
  3. Making effective rhetorical choices that consistently strengthen the force and impact of the student’s argument.
  4. Employing a style that is consistently vivid and persuasive throughout the student’s response.

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.

If you want to review, there are many resources you could consult:

  • 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.

Write

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?

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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?

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

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How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Ace AP Lang Writing Effortlessly

By now, you should already have a good idea that you need to learn how to write an argumentative essay for AP Lang if you want to get your free college credits from the course. It’s a major component for the course, so you certainly have to master writing this kind of essay if you want good scores. Don’t worry too much about your efforts, though, because becoming proficient in this kind of writing will also help you out in college.

To help you have a better understanding of the writing process of argumentative essays, we’ve created a guide that should help teach you all the vital things you need to know. Check it out below and you might just find yourself breezing through AP Lang argument essay assignments after.

Table of Contents

What is an Argumentative Essay and What Should It Contain?

An argumentative essay is a type of essay that requires writers to investigate the topic that they’re going to write about. Writers are required to gather or generate information and evidence that can back up the position that they’ll be making. Using strong logic, evidence, and other elements of argument, you can get your point across. What you write doesn’t have to persuade readers into taking the same stand but your points can still be persuasive on its own.

The key point, when writing an argumentative essay for AP Lang is that you need to firmly declare a position in the matter you’re discussing. Concession and refutation are your main options on where to stand but it’s how you elaborate on your opinion that really makes or breaks your essay. Your points will help you ‘argue’ your point and convince your readers that your position has its merits.

Argumentative essays are usually confused with other kinds of technical essays. but it’s clearly different from all the others. Argumentative essays will let you either support, qualify, or challenge the points provided in the source material. You can use additional materials to prove and support your point.

AP Lang’s rhetorical analysis, on the other hand, requires you to delve deeper into the text. When asked to write this kind of essay, you’re supposed to dissect the source material to take a closer look at its message. It’s practically about explaining the obscured information within the text in these kinds of essays using AP Lang rhetorical devices.

In these essays, the exigence in the literary definition is the key point to locate and point out. In argumentative essays, you have to focus on a claim made in the source material.

Synthesis essays are often confused with argument essays as well. Do read our article how to write a synthesis essay AP lang. This one is more research writing than the latter because you can use other sources to prove your point. You just need to rely on your logic, prior research, and other established facts for argument essays, on the other hand.

Among all of the other types of essays, argumentative essays are possibly confused with expository essays the most. While expository essays present ideas to readers and let them have their own opinions, there are also thesis-based expository essays. They won’t assert their point, however, which is the main characteristic of argumentative essays. They’ll just discuss a point with more specificity instead.

If you’re still a bit unsure about what argument essays are exactly, you can read argument essay examples online or in one of the studypreplounge.com reviewed and recommended AP Lang review books. They’ll help you become more familiar with the format and structure of such pieces.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay: 6 Points to Remember

To help you better understand what is and how to craft an argumentative essay for your AP Language and Composition exam, here are a few crucial points that might help you out:

1. A firm stance is an absolute must.

As mentioned above, establishing a specific stand on the subject at hand is the key element of an argumentative essay. It’s absolutely necessary to have one even before you start writing your essay or it won’t exactly be considered as an argumentative essay.

Being firm on your stance is also crucial. You can’t feel wishy-washy on the point you’ve decided to push for because it won’t be as effective as you can imagine it to be. It would be best to make it so that you believe in the validity of your claim and that others should see it the same way as well.

Again, you don’t have to persuade your readers into taking the same stand. It’s just that argumentative essays prove to be more effective in establishing opinions if they’re made with a strong stand.

Where you stand will also help you come up with strong grounds to support your claim. By having an effective claim in an argumentative essay, you’ll be able to be more specific in adding evidence and asserting your point.

This will allow you to be more concise and help you establish your opinion in a more effective manner.

Choosing where to stand, however, can be a challenge. A lot of students get stumped in this area and that can cause a serious delay in your writing process. To help you choose which side to argue about, you should first take a step back and look at all sides in the discussion. Take down notes for both and consider which one you want to go for.

Some experts recommend taking the refute route in argumentative essays. They’re believed to be more interesting to read. However, take the refuting angle just for this reason. Sometimes it’s unreasonable to do so and you might not have enough knowledge to do so. It’s best to go with your strengths instead so you can more effectively establish your claim.

It’s also important to establish your stand right on the first paragraph of your essay. Crafting a thesis statement makes it clear that you’re writing an argumentative essay. This will also help you make your essay more concise which is one of the most popular AP Lang tips dished out by experts and former students of the class.

2. Your evidence should be correct, compelling, and sufficient.

Aside from a firm stand, having convincing and logical grounds to support your claim is also essential if you want to write a good argumentative essay. This can make or break the composition portion of your AP Lang exam because you have to make the right backup evidence to your argument. You can’t just state your opinion even if it’s easier to do so.

If you’re going to write an argumentative essay, your supporting evidence to your claim should be factual and well-thought out. They should help establish the validity of your claim and not make it feel like a subjective or conditional notion.

You should also make sure to use the right kinds of evidence in making your point in your argumentative essay.

The right supporting information will help you better get your point across and present it as a fact and not as a mere opinion.

With the wrong set of evidence, your claim will also be less appealing than it should be to your target audience. This can further affect its effectiveness and prevent readers from considering your claim.

How do you find the most effective supporting information? You’ll need to do a good amount of research for this. If the essay is a composition homework, you can turn to the internet and the library for good sources that can help support your claim.

Aside from the actual quality and validity of the points that support your claim, you should also make sure that there’s a clear connection between your claim and the reasons you’ve cited to argue your point. Having a warrant makes it easier for readers to understand the value of your points and it can contribute to the better establishment of your claim.

Finally, you also have to make sure that you’ll provide sufficient supporting points to your claim. You can’t just state your idea with a single evidence and call it a day. It won’t be convincing enough for most readers. To establish the validity of your point, it’s best to add at least three supporting points. These will help add more weight to your argument.

3. Layout your points first.

Instead of writing everything down right away in one sitting, it would be ideal to layout your points first before you craft your argumentative essay. It will make the task less overwhelming and will allow you to process your ideas with efficiency.

By creating an outline, you can plan your essay and craft it more effectively. You can also better state your arguments which can help you get your point across with its help.

A good outline will also let you lay out your supporting evidence so you can evaluate its merit. By doing so, you can be able to organize your thoughts.

This can help you come up with a good warrant and connect your points seamlessly. It will also let you move through the essay without a hitch and prevent you from repeating points. With its help, you can be sure to create a concise and effective argumentative essay.

Creating a chronological argument is another way to layout and plan your essay. It’s especially helpful to many writers as it allows the grounds to build off on itself. It will help you make connections between the points with ease which can then allow you to elaborate and support the point you’ve been trying to make.

How do you know if your outline is ready? Try rearranging the points. If they don’t make sense, use

the first outline you made to write an essay. If it still makes as much sense, it means you haven’t built off arguments from one point to another. You can still improve on this by going back on your set of evidence.

4. Use the right kind of language.

A strong argumentative essay is confident in its content. This is why the kind of language you’ll use also plays a vital role in the overall effect of the piece. Experts recommend using passionate language to better establish the fact that you’re not trying to present an opinion in your essay but you’re stating a valid argument.

Be straightforward and state the evidence you’ve gathered as the facts that they are. Avoid using qualifiers that will suggest subjectivity on your part. You shouldn’t note that your point is based on what you feel, think, or believe because they shouldn’t be based on those things. To make a stronger argument, you should be confident in what you’re saying.

However, you should also be very careful in appearing like an expert on the topic when you’re not one. This can affect the overall composition and feel of your essay.

Instead of making it more compelling, it might make your points sound untrustworthy and have an opposite effect to what you’re aiming for.

It’s also important to note that you should write in the present tense when crafting an argumentative essay. The ideas you have to present in these kinds of writing are applicable to the current times so it’s vital to present them as such. You can still write in the past tense, however, if you’re mentioning historical facts.

5. Craft a good counter-argument paragraph to further assert your point.

Aside from presenting your claim and its supporting points, it’s also recommended that you include a counter-argument paragraph in your essay. This will let you address the other points of contention in the topic you’re discussing to better establish and assert your stand.

By presenting the opposing side’s argument, you’ll be able to paint a bigger picture for your readers. It will let them know that you have a well-rounded knowledge about the topic and that you’re being objective in the points you’re raising.

However, by mentioning a counter argument example in your essay, you’ll also be able to block and shoot down opposing ideas to your claim. This will help you better establish your argument as the superior one. This act is a solid offense that also works as a good defense.

The placement of this section in your essay is a crucial one. Some like to put it right at the beginning of establishing their claim while others put it after enumerating their evidence. Some teachers might prefer the latter but it really depends on your writing style. It’s best to learn a few counter argument transition words no matter what the case for you is, though.

If you’re one of the many who finds crafting these portions tricky, you can always look up counter argument essay examples to help you out. They will better demonstrate how you should organize and compose your essay.

6. Wrap up your essay nicely.

Finally, you should also know how to properly close off your argumentative essay. While a good introduction will hook readers in, a good conclusion will help further establish your claim as a valid idea. It can further solidify the achievements you’ve made throughout your piece, adding a nice flourish to it.

What makes a good conclusion? It should be concise and not elaborate. It shouldn’t repeat everything you’ve mentioned in the body of your essay. It should, however, re-state your claim to better establish your point.

Some experts don’t think that a conclusion is necessary for a high AP Lang exam score, though. This might be true, especially if you know how to pace your essay nicely. You also shouldn’t compromise the body of your essay just to have a conclusion. If you feel like you’re going to do that, skip the conclusion entirely.

Handling Argumentative Essay Prompts

It’s crucial to be able to tell the different types of AP Lang essays if you want to get the best score during the exam. Exam prompts won’t tell you outright what kind of essay they want in the answers so you have to use your text analyzing skills to learn which type you should whip up.

To do this, you can start by reading the prompt very carefully at least twice. Reading and understanding the prompt is vital in doing well in the AP Lang exam.

You have to be absolutely certain in what they’re saying and asking you to do so you can answer the free response questions correctly.

There are established AP Lang terms used in the prompts that should clue you in, however. Test-takers will spot the words ‘claim’ or ‘argue’ on the prompt that they’re supposed to write an argumentative essay for. They can then opt to support, refute, or qualify the arguments in the prompt in their answers.

To help you more easily determine which type of essay you should use, make sure to read and complete sample tests. You can also look up the test questions from the previous year’s exam. They will always include a good example of an argument essay question that should help you tell where you should answer in an argument format.

Conclusion

At first glance, crafting a good argumentative essay may seem like a hard task. However, with the help of this guide, we hope we were able to make it seem more doable for you. Since confidence is key in writing such pieces, we hope we were able to make you feel like you’re now able to whip up such essays without a hitch.