Ap English 11 Exam Essays On The Great

The AP English Language exam contains three essays and a multiple choice section. While some would say that it is impossible to prepare completely for this exam, there are easy-to-implement strategies that can raise your score. Listed below are eleven valuable test taking strategies for both the essays and the multiple choice questions.

The AP English Language Free Response Questions

1. Understand Before Undertaking

Always read and fully understand the text before you begin your essay or you chose an answer. During the free response questions the students often rush through reading of the texts given in order to quickly formulate an answer or thesis. This results predominantly in a superficial reading, or even a misreading, of the text. For this reason, it is important to take the fifteen minutes given in order to fully read, comprehend, and process the deeper meanings within the text.

2. Quality Over Quantity

In the AP English Language exam’s free response questions (FRQs), it is vital to support your argument. A strategy to do this is to incorporate supporting details; however, this strategy is specifically to choose supporting details that you can elaborate on. Too many details that are not as supportive to your argument will actually hurt that argument.

For example, if you overquote in your essay, then the question must be asked: does this student know what they are talking about or are they just piecing together others’ opinions?

Instead, the best strategy is to pick out three supporting details that you can focus on and develop. This will show the AP English Language exam readers that you know how to appropriately utilize your information and can develop that argument. Since there are three essays that you have to argue your point for, this tip could vastly improve your score.

3. Write Outlines

Yes, the AP English Language exam is timed, but this strategy of writing outlines can save you time in the long run. An outline for the essay forces you to make a plan that organizes your thoughts and gives your essay a natural progression. By utilizing this technique, your essays will have better flow, unity, and more uniformity than a student making it up as he or she goes.

So while every minute of the AP English Language exam is precious, setting aside five to ten minutes to outline will help you formulate your ideas and churn out a great group of essays.

4. Do Not Summarize the Sources

During the synthesis essay of the AP English Language exam it is important to use the sources in front of you for material. This does not mean that you should simply summarize the texts in your essay. This strategy is all about utilizing short quotations and paraphrasing. The reader does not need the entire text summarized; the reader has already read the supporting texts.

By summarizing the texts, or giving unnecessary context, the reader will have trouble finding your argument, making your essay less clear overall. So be sure to explain why the source is important to your argument, but do not summarize.

5. A Quick Introduction

As the free response questions are timed, a great strategy to use is to have quick introductions that get right to the thesis, or argument. This will minimize unclear introductions that will confuse the reader. Get right to your point and start supporting it.

This is especially useful if you have trouble beginning an essay of any kind. By writing down your thesis and quickly getting to the point, then you do not have to spend lots of time choosing exactly how you should construct it. Here simplicity is king.

6. Write the Introduction Last

If you are still struggling with writing the introduction, then you can leave a few lines blank at the top of your essay and jump right into the body. This will allow you to write your essay without stopping to change your introduction, because sometimes your ideas may change as you write the paper. When you return to those blank lines at the top you just have to quickly introduce everything you just wrote and jot down your thesis.

By waiting until you have constructed the body of your essay, you understand your essay much better than at the beginning. There is, however, some danger in doing this. If you do not keep track of your time, then you may end up with a paper without an introduction. This may not be that big of a deal unless you have not written your thesis statement anywhere else in the paper, because your argument should be stated clearly.

7. Do Not Define Terms for the Reader

Your readers are highly trained examiners that know what rhetorical devices are. Because of this, you do not need to define the terms that you are using, no matter how abstract or complicated they are.

A strategy to follow with terms you use in the AP English Language essays is to use the term, explain how that term is used by the author, and explain why it is important. By doing this you respect your reader’s knowledge base and bring a more sophisticated, analytical look at the texts or prompt.

8. Avoid Clichés

We are all guilty of using clichés, but they do not belong in your AP English Language exam. When crafting your essay, or revising at the last minute, comb your writing for overused, tired phrases. They make your argument seem tired as well.

If you have a habit of using clichés, then a great strategy for you is to change a cliché to make it fresh and tailor it to the argument. This will give clarity to your point, and it will make your paper stand out. Be sure to avoid strange alterations of clichés that do not relate to your paper. These will lose points.

Strategies for the AP English Language Multiple Choice Section

The multiple choice section is 52-54 questions that make up 45% of your overall score. There are strategies that will greatly increase your ability to excel on multiple choice exams; however, the best strategy is to practice frequently. Taking practice tests months before the AP English Language exam will get your brain ready and help you to train yourself how to think.

9. The Art of Guessing

The AP English Language exam is not an easy exam; therefore, there will be a few questions that you will have no idea how to answer. Because the AP English exam does not take away points for a missed answer, you are advised to guess. A strategy to guess well is to eliminate any choices that seem completely wrong.

Usually there will be two choices that look possible and two that do not, so narrow it down to those two. With these two choices in mind, read the passage again. This will focus your mind on comparing the two choices and help you reach a conclusion. Although, do not debate with yourself for too long. This is a timed test after all!

10. Managing Time

In any timed test, time management is important. In the AP English Language exam, you must be careful and cognizant of where you stand in your booklet and in time. A great way to do this is to look up at the clock after every five questions that you answer.

This will keep you on track and allow yourself to keep a steady pace. You will need to continually change your pace as you work in order to overcome the longer questions that contain prose, but if you do not zone out or get stuck on a question, then you will do great.

11. Read the Questions First, Not the Answers

An age old-trick is to read the multiple choice questions and answers before you do the reading. This can be helpful in some instances, but the AP English Language exam has answers that are made to trick you. Because of this, you will want to read the questions first to focus your thinking, but do not read the answers until you have read the text.

This allows your thinking to be unpolluted by the choices, and you do not convince yourself that an incorrect answer is correct.

Key Takeaways

So on test day be sure to keep calm and follow these strategies. You have prepared well and you will do great, especially if you keep in mind that the AP English Language exam is graded depending on how your peers do as well. Therefore, by reading this article you already have a leg up on them! Just remember to read critically, quote when needed and not more, use your outline, stop yourself from summarizing the sources, write a quick introduction last, avoid clichés as well as defining terms for the reader, eliminate answer choices, manage your time well, and always read the questions first. If you do all of these, then you will do fine.

College Board Course Details and Information
AP Central Exam Tips

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As with any test, the AP English Language and Composition exam has certain quirks that you need to be prepared for before you walk in the door. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget things that really are essential, so we’ve compiled a list of things for you to keep in mind when taking the AP English test. Read carefully, and feel free to ask any questions in the comments, or tell us what you think should be added to this list.

1. Graders are Looking for Precise Diction.

We’ve never liked the phrase “$10 words” – surely we’re not the only ones? If you feel pressured to include outlandish, ‘scholarly’ words in your essay, just relax. According to the AP English Language and Composition Rubric, to get a nine, an essay should demonstrate that a student is “particularly impressive in their control of language.” The key word here is control – what the graders want from you is precise diction. If that means you pull out a fifteen syllable word, fine, but if it doesn’t fit exactly where you put it, you’ll look silly.

2. Have a Strategy in Place for Roman Numeral Questions.

Roman numeral questions are very common on the AP Language exam. These questions will list three to four elements and ask you to decide which of them an author uses a certain way. The following example can be found in the AP Language and Composition Course Description, which is a great source for free practice material:

The speaker gives explicit symbolic significance to which of the following?

I. The “Jasmin’’ (line 4)

II. The “Myrtle’’ (line 4)

III. The “star’’ (line 7)

IV. The “Sea’’ (line 11)

(a) I and II only

(b) III and IV only

(c) I, II, and III only

(d) I, II, and IV only

(e) I, II, III, and IV”

When approaching these questions, first find a numeral you know should not be in the list. If you know that the Sea is not given symbolic significance, you can immediately eliminate (b), (d), and (e). From there, it is as simple as deciding whether or not the star is given symbolic significance. You never even have to think about the Jasmin or Myrtle, saving you time and simplifying the question.

3. You Will be Graded Heavily on your Thesis.

The most important part of any of your essays is your thesis. A weak thesis is an automatically lower score. Whatever method you chose, be sure to incorporate a main idea, supports, and a tie-in to a universal idea. Once you’ve done that, make sure your writing lives up to the claims you made in your thesis, and don’t forget a conclusion!

4. Use at Least Three Sources for the Synthesis Essay.

The AP English Language essay rubric specifies that at least three sources are required to earn a score of 5 or higher. Even fulfilling the other requirements exceptionally well cannot compensate for using too few sources, so practice using outside sources to develop your thesis. You can impress the graders by incorporating more than three sources- but only if you stay focused on your main goal . Consider carefully if your essay needs additional support to be effective.

5. Two Words: Rhetorical Strategies.

You know all of those pesky rhetorical devices your teacher is drilling into your head? If you’re ever stuck for what to study, pull up a list of those and make sure you know how to spot them, as well as how to use them.

Take for example the following question, pulled from the AP English Language and Composition Course Description:

“In the sentence beginning “There were times’’ (lines 58–63), the speaker employs all of the following except

(a) concrete diction

(b) parallel syntax

(c) simile

(d) understatement

(e) onomatopoeia”

This type of question is very common, and it forces you to go back to the passage listed and look for all five of those devices. If you can do this quickly and correctly, you will improve your score. Understanding the effects of rhetorical devices also helps you to elevate your own writing by using them in your essays.

6. You Will be Expected to Have Outside Sources.

In your AP English Language and Composition review, take a moment to think about what you know well enough to apply to different situations. You will need the mental list you create when tackling the argumentative essay.

If you have a book by a canon author that you know that well, you’re in luck. If not, think about what else you’re knowledgeable about. Can you list every Supreme Court Case in the last century? Do you have every song by the Beatles memorized? Have you aced every AP Bio test this semester? Create a small list of what you know best, think about the different ways you could analyze each item, and chances are you’ll be able to some of it on the test.

7. You Will be Tested on Footnotes and Citations.

When reading through your multiple choice passages, mark any footnote and citation. Before you continue, think about what purpose it serves. The AP Language exam never fails to include questions about footnotes and citations that many students struggle with because they were not expecting them. If you notice them as you read, however, you will be more prepared to answer these questions.

8. Go Beyond the Obvious in your Analysis.

One of the things graders look for in a high-scoring analysis essay is well-developed, meaningful analysis. Take, for example, the student responses 2A and 2C released for the AP English Language and Composition 2014 analysis essay.

The prompt, which can be found here, asked students to analyze what methods Abigail Adams used in a letter to her son, John Quincy Adams, in order to advise him. The student who wrote 2A was given a score of 8, while 2C was given a 3.

For our purposes, we will be looking at how each student analyzed the guilt that Adams employed to manipulate her son. Both samples touch on this subject, but the complexity of 2A does so more fully than 2C.

One way you can incorporate the complexity of 2A into your essays is to use multiple textual examples for each point you make. This student listed off metaphors, allusions, backhanded compliments, and a motherly tone as ways Adams inspired guilt. Another way you can do this is to explain the author’s exact intended effect. The first student clearly stated that John was intended to feel guilty, “for not capitalizing on his beliefs,” while the second states that he was intended to think “he has to do something.” The vague nature of this statement weakened 2C’s argument, while the specificity of 2A strengthened its argument.

9. When in Doubt, Fill it Out!

You are going to have one hour to complete 52-55 questions. Unlike the SAT, the AP English Language and Composition exam will not dock you for missed questions. The best thing you can do if you don’t understand a question is eliminate the answers you know are wrong, and guess from there.

There will be 4 to 5 reading passages on the test that all of your questions will be based on. If you are having trouble getting through a passage, skip it and come back if you have time. For AP English, it’s important to focus most of your time on the passages that you best understand, maximizing the questions you get right.


The best way to review for the AP English Language and Composition test is to familiarize yourself with the format and study up on the details you know they will ask for. If you keep these nine points in mind as you prepare and as you take the test, you’re in a good place to pass with flying colors. Again, if you have any questions or anything to add, feel free to tell us in the comments!

Featured Image Source

Let’s put everything into practice. Try this AP English Language practice question:

Looking for more AP English Language practice?

Check out our other articles on AP English Language.

You can also find thousands of practice questions on Albert.io. Albert.io lets you customize your learning experience to target practice where you need the most help. We’ll give you challenging practice questions to help you achieve mastery of AP English Language.

Start practicing here.

Are you a teacher or administrator interested in boosting AP English Language student outcomes?

Learn more about our school licenses here.

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