Recently viewed courses
Find Your Dream School
COVID-19 Update: To help students through this crisis, The Princeton Review will continue our "Enroll with Confidence" refund policies. For full details, please click here.
Enter your email to unlock an extra $25 off an SAT or ACT program!
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.
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.
- AP Exams
Explore Colleges For You
Connect with our featured colleges to find schools that both match your interests and are looking for students like you.
Take our short quiz to learn which is the right career for you.
Get Started on Athletic Scholarships & Recruiting!
Join athletes who were discovered, recruited & often received scholarships after connecting with NCSA's 42,000 strong network of coaches.
Best 389 Colleges
165,000 students rate everything from their professors to their campus social scene.
SAT Prep Courses
1400+ course, act prep courses, free sat practice test & events, 1-800-2review, free sat prep try our self-paced plus program - for free, get a 14 day trial, what would you score on the mcat today.
Thank you! Look for the MCAT Review Guide in your inbox.
I already know my score.
1-800-2REVIEW (800-273-8439) ext. 1
1-800-2REVIEW (800-273-8439) ext. 2
- Teach or Tutor for Us
- Enrollment Terms & Conditions
- Cigna Medical Transparency in Coverage
Mon-Fri 9AM-10PM ET
Sat-Sun 9AM-8PM ET
Local Offices: Mon-Fri 9AM-6PM
Mon-Fri 9AM-9PM ET
Sat-Sun 8:30AM-5PM ET
- SAT Subject Tests
- Social Studies
Find the Right College
- College Rankings
- College Advice
- Applying to College
- Financial Aid
School & District Partnerships
- Professional Development
- Advice Articles
- Private Tutoring
- Mobile Apps
- Local Offices
- International Offices
- Work for Us
- Affiliate Program
- Partner with Us
- Advertise with Us
- International Partnerships
- Our Guarantees
- Accessibility – Canada
©2023 TPR Education IP Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved. The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University
TPR Education, LLC (doing business as “The Princeton Review”) is controlled by Primavera Holdings Limited, a firm owned by Chinese nationals with a principal place of business in Hong Kong, China.
- My Preferences
- My Reading List
- AP English Language and Composition: How Your Essays Are Scored
- High School
- AP Biology: Evolution
- AP Biology: Coevolution of Predator and Prey
- AP Biology: Excretory Systems
- AP Biology: Insight into Free-Response Questions
- AP Economics: Micro & Macro Basics
- AP Economics: What Are the Functions of Money?
- AP English Language and Composition: Essays
- AP English Language and Composition: Exam Format
- AP English Language and Composition: Kinds of Questions
- AP English Language and Composition: Multiple-Choice Section
- AP English Language and Composition: Pace Your Essay Writing
- AP English Language and Composition: Reading Passages
- AP English: Pacing Your Exam Essays
- AP Essay Writing: Satire as a Subject
- AP European History: World War I (1914-1918)
- AP Spanish Language: Cloze Passages
- AP Test Prep: The Bill of Rights
- AP Test Prep: English Composition Essay Scoring
- AP Test Prep: Evolution of the Mass Media
- AP Test Prep: The Expansion of Suffrage
- AP Test Prep: Humanism in the Renaissance
- How to Read a History Textbook
Buy This CliffsNotes Book Here !
Each of the three AP English Language and Composition essays equals one-third of the total essay score, and the entire essay (free-response) section equals 55% of the total exam score.
Each essay is read by experienced, well-trained high school AP teachers or college professors. The essay is given a holistic score from 1 to 9. (A score of 0 is recorded for a student who writes completely off the topic-for example, "Why I think this test is a waste of money." A student who doesn't even attempt an essay, who leaves a blank page, will receive the equivalent of a 0 score, but it is noted as a dash [-] on the reader's scoring sheet.) The reader assigns a score based on the essay's merits as a whole, on what the essay does well; the readers don't simply count errors. Although each essay topic has its own scoring rubric (or guide) based on that topic's specific information, a general scoring guide for rhetorical analysis and argumentation essays follows. Notice that, on the whole, essay-scoring guides encompass four essential points; AP readers want your essay to be (1) on topic, (2) well organized, (3) thoroughly developed, and (4) correct in mechanics and sophisticated in style.
High Score (8-9)
High-scoring essays thoroughly address all the tasks of the essay prompt in well-organized responses. The writing demonstrates stylistic sophistication and control over the elements of effective writing, although it is not necessarily faultless. Overall, high-scoring essays present thoroughly developed, intelligent ideas; sound and logical organization; strong evidence; and articulate diction.
Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate significant understanding of the passage, its intent, and the rhetorical strategies the author employs.
Argument essays demonstrate the ability to construct a compelling argument, observing the author's underlying assumptions, (addressing multiple authors in the synthesis essay) and discussing many sides of the issues with appropriate evidence.
Medium-High Score (6-7)
Medium-scoring essays complete the tasks of the essay topic well - they show some insight but usually with less precision and clarity than high-scoring essays. There may be lapses in correct diction or sophisticated language, but the essay is generally well written.
Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate sufficient examination of the author's point and the rhetorical strategies he uses to enhance the central idea.
Argument essays demonstrate the ability to construct an adequate argument, understand the author's point, and discuss its implications with suitable evidence. The synthesis argument will address at least three of the sources.
Medium Score (5)
Essays that earn a medium score complete the essay task, but with no special insights; the analysis lacks depth and merely states the obvious. Frequently, the ideas are predictable and the paragraph development weak. Although the writing conveys the writer's ideas, they are presented simplistically and often contain lapses in diction or syntax.
Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate uneven or insufficient understanding of how rhetorical strategies create an author's point. Often, the writer merely lists what he or she observes in the passage instead of analyzing effect.
Argument essays demonstrate the ability to present an argument, but they frequently provide limited and inadequate discussion, explanation, or evidence for the writer's ideas. The writer may not address enough of the sources in the synthesis essay. Oversimplification of the issue(s) minimizes the essay's effectiveness.
Medium-Low Score (3-4)
These essays are weaker than the 5 score because the writer overlooks or perhaps misreads important ideas in the passage. The student may summarize the passage's ideas instead of analyzing them. Although the writer's ideas are generally understandable, the control of language is often immature.
Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate little discussion of rhetorical strategies or incorrect identification and/or analysis of those strategies.
Argument essays demonstrate little ability to construct an argument. They may not clearly identify the author's point, may not present multiple authors' points of view in the synthesis essay, and may offer little evidence for the student's position.
Low Score (1-2)
These essays demonstrate minimal understanding of the topic or the passage. Perhaps unfinished, these essays offer no analysis of the passage and little or no evidence for the student's ideas. Incorrect assertions may be made about the passage. Stylistically, these essays may show consistent grammatical problems, and sentence structure is usually simple and unimaginative.
Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate little ability to identify or analyze rhetorical strategies. Sometimes these essays misread the prompt and replace it with easier tasks, such as paraphrasing the passage or listing some strategies the author uses.
Argument essays demonstrate little ability to understand the author's point (or multiple authors in the synthesis essay) and then construct an argument that analyzes it. Minimal or nonexistent evidence hurts the essay's effectiveness. Some students may substitute an easier task by presenting tangential or irrelevant ideas, evidence, or explanation.
What is the solution for x in the following system of equations?
2 x + 3 y = 42
2 y – 3 x = –19
has been added to your
Removing #book# from your Reading List will also remove any bookmarked pages associated with this title.
Are you sure you want to remove #bookConfirmation# and any corresponding bookmarks?
Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, expert guide to the ap language and composition exam.
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.
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
EVIDENCE AND COMMENTARY
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!
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!
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 .
Want to build the best possible college application?
We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies . We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.
We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools .
Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.
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.
Student and Parent Forum
Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.
Ask a Question Below
Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!
Improve With Our Famous Guides
- For All Students
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points
How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:
Score 800 on SAT Math
Score 800 on SAT Reading
Score 800 on SAT Writing
Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:
Score 600 on SAT Math
Score 600 on SAT Reading
Score 600 on SAT Writing
Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests
What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?
15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay
The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points
How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer
Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:
36 on ACT English
36 on ACT Math
36 on ACT Reading
36 on ACT Science
Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:
24 on ACT English
24 on ACT Math
24 on ACT Reading
24 on ACT Science
What ACT target score should you be aiming for?
ACT Vocabulary You Must Know
ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score
How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League
How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA
How to Write an Amazing College Essay
What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?
Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide
Should you retake your SAT or ACT?
When should you take the SAT or ACT?
Get the latest articles and test prep tips!
Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?
Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:
GRE Online Prep Blog
GMAT Online Prep Blog
TOEFL Online Prep Blog
Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”
AP® English Language
How to ace the ap® english language and composition synthesis essay.
- The Albert Team
- Last Updated On: March 1, 2022
The newest section of the AP® English Language and Composition Exam, the synthesis essay, is one of three essays you will be completing during the examination’s 2-hour free-response period. However, you’ll also have a 15-minute reading and planning period just for this essay, and if you use this time to plan effectively, you can’t go wrong.
Before we get into specific advice on how to handle the AP® English Language and Composition synthesis essay, you need to know what this part of the test really is. It is very similar to the argumentative essay you will also write as part of this exam, except that you are provided with a wealth of source material from which to draw some support for your ideas.
While this in some ways makes the AP® English Language and Composition synthesis essay easier than the argument essay (because you can use quotations, point to authoritative sources for support, etc.), there is an extra element of complexity, and the AP® readers want to see how well you can sort through your source material and put it to good use – which makes planning all that much more important. This brings us to our first tip…
1. Use Your 15-Minute Planning Period Wisely.
The main purpose of this 15-minute period is to give you time to read the source materials. This essay will present you with several sources providing different information about or opinions on a certain topic. Make sure you don’t just skim them, but read them closely – make notes, underline key sections you may want to quote later, etc.
You should also begin outlining your essay and considering your opinion on the subject; have this opinion in mind before you start writing the essay, as you will use it to construct your thesis.
You’ve already learned how to structure persuasive essays in this class and in other classes you have taken; put that knowledge to good use now, and have your main points set out before you start writing. Try to have a thesis statement written by the time you start the essay – your thesis should establish your opinion and the general reasons you feel this way; the rest of your essay will go on to justify and exemplify these reasons. Also write down some of the main points upon which you will base subsequent paragraphs and mark quotes or sections of the sources you can use in each of these paragraphs.
2. Evaluate Your Sources.
Every source you can use for the AP® Language and Composition synthesis essay will have a small box above it explaining where it comes from and who said it – to see exactly what this looks like, check out the free synthesis essay sample questions at AP® Central. There are also public sample questions available there for the rest of the AP® English and Composition Exam .
Keep all information about your sources in mind when you’re quoting them or using them to support your arguments. What journal an article appeared in can say a great deal about its potential biases. For example, consider a question on the environmental impacts of corporate practices – an environmental journal is obviously going to be biased in favor of more environmental regulation, while a report from a company spokesperson will probably gloss over some of the negative impacts of his company. Think critically.
3. Keep Your Tone Consistent.
There is no hard-and-fast advice about what tone you should take – some students try to inject a little humor into their essays while others prefer to be as serious as possible, some are extremely critical and others more accepting. However, the one thing you really have to do while writing the AP® Language and Composition synthesis essay (or any other essay) is keep your tone consistent. Jot some tone-related ideas down as you outline during the 15-minute reading period, and keep in mind everything you’ve learned about tone and other aspects of rhetoric so far this year.
4. Use Rhetorical Technique to Your Advantage!
The various rhetorical practices you’ve been learning about all year can be put to good use here. This class and this test aren’t just about recognizing and analyzing these techniques when others use them, but about preparing you for college and your career by teaching you how to use them effectively yourself. However, this isn’t just about writing a beautiful essay, so read on to Tip # 5!
5. Your Argument Must be Well-Crafted.
The AP® English Language and Composition Exam synthesis essay does not have right or wrong answers; rather, it asks you for your opinion. The AP® Examiner cannot take points off because she disagrees with you. However, you must show logical basis for your opinion, drawing on both the sources AND your own knowledge and experience.
To do this, make sure you have a clear and complete thesis. Make sure the ideas expressed in the beginning of each paragraph or section support the thesis, and that you in turn show how those ideas are supported by a source or through your own knowledge and experience. Don’t generalize or write anything down that you can’t support.
Looking for AP® English Language practice?
Kickstart your AP® English Language prep with Albert. Start your AP® exam prep today .
Interested in a school license?
AP® Score Calculators
Simulate how different MCQ and FRQ scores translate into AP® scores
AP® Review Guides
The ultimate review guides for AP® subjects to help you plan and structure your prep.
Core Subject Review Guides
Review the most important topics in Physics and Algebra 1 .
SAT® Score Calculator
See how scores on each section impacts your overall SAT® score
ACT® Score Calculator
See how scores on each section impacts your overall ACT® score
Grammar Review Hub
Comprehensive review of grammar skills
Download updated posters summarizing the main topics and structure for each AP® exam.
Interested in a school license?
Bring Albert to your school and empower all teachers with the world's best question bank for: ➜ SAT® & ACT® ➜ AP® ➜ ELA, Math, Science, & Social Studies aligned to state standards ➜ State assessments Options for teachers, schools, and districts.
AP English Language and Composition Practice Tests
The new AP English Language and Composition Exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long and broken up into two sections.
Section I: One hour (45 percent of total score)
50–60 multiple-choice questions about several nonfiction prose passages
Section II: Two hours and 15 minutes
Three essays (55 percent of total score)
Essay 1: an argument for or against an idea presented in a short passage incorporating provided published sources
Essay 2: an analysis of a prose passage
Essay 3: an essay commenting on the validity of an opinion expressed in a statement or short passage
AP English Language and Composition Glossary
If you are a mobile user, click here: Do AP English Language and Composition Practice Questions .
AP English Language and Composition Multiple-Choice Practice Tests
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 1
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 2
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 3
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 4
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 5
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 6
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 7
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 8
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 9
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 10
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 11
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 12
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 13
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 14
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 15
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 16
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 17
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 18
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 19
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 20
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 21
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 22
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 23
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 24
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 25
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 26
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 27
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 28
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 29
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 30
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 31
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 32
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 33
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 34
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 35
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 36
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 37
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 38
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 39
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 40
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 41
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 42
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 43
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 44
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 45
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 46
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 47
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 48
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 49
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 50
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 51
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 52
- AP English Language and Composition Practice Test 53
AP English Language and Composition Free-Response Practice Tests
- AP English Language and Composition Free-Response Practice Test 1
- AP English Language and Composition Free-Response Practice Test 2
AP English Language and Composition Downloads
- AP English Language Practice Test 1 pdf download
- AP English Language Practice Test 2 pdf download
- AP English Language Practice Test 3 pdf download
- AP English Language Practice Test 4 pdf download
- AP English Language and Composition Introduction to the Analysis Essay
- AP English Language and Composition Introduction to the Argumentative Essay
- AP English Language and Composition Introduction to the Synthesis Essay
- AP English Language and Composition Knowledge Review: Analysis
- AP English Language and Composition Knowledge Review: Argument
- AP English Language and Composition Knowledge Review: Synthesis
- More AP English Language and Composition Downloads
What are your chances of acceptance?
Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance.
Your chancing factors
How to Write the AP Lang Argument Essay + Examples
What’s covered:, what is the ap language argument essay, tips for writing the ap language argument essay, ap english language argument essay examples, how will ap scores impact my college chances.
In 2023, over 550,148 students across the U.S. took the AP English Language and Composition Exam, and 65.2% scored higher than a 3. The AP English Language Exam tests your ability to analyze a piece of writing, synthesize information, write a rhetorical essay, and create a cohesive argument. In this post, we’ll be discussing the best way to approach the argumentative essay section of the test, and we’ll give you tips and tricks so you can write a great essay.
The AP English Language Exam as of 2023 is structured as follows:
Section 1: 45 multiple choice questions to be completed in an hour. This portion counts for 45% of your score. This section requires students to analyze a piece of literature. The questions ask about its content and/or what could be edited within the passage.
Section 2: Three free response questions to be completed in the remaining two hours and 15 minutes. This section counts for 55% of your score. These essay questions include the synthesis essay, the rhetorical essay, and the argumentative essay.
- Synthesis essay: Read 6-7 sources and create an argument using at least three of the sources.
- Rhetorical analysis essay: Describe how a piece of writing evokes meaning and symbolism.
- Argumentative essay: Pick a side of a debate and create an argument based on evidence. In this essay, you should develop a logical argument in support of or against the given statement and provide ample evidence that supports your conclusion. Typically, a five paragraph format is great for this type of writing. This essay is scored holistically from 1 to 9 points.
Do you want more information on the structure of the full exam? Take a look at our in-depth overview of the AP Language and Composition Exam .
Although the AP Language Argument may seem daunting at first, once you understand how the essay should be structured, it will be a lot easier to create cohesive arguments.
Below are some tips to help you as you write the essay.
1. Organize your essay before writing
Instead of jumping right into your essay, plan out what you will say beforehand. It’s easiest to make a list of your arguments and write out what facts or evidence you will use to support each argument. In your outline, you can determine the best order for your arguments, especially if they build on each other or are chronological. Having a well-organized essay is crucial for success.
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 arguments of the other side has. This can make the essay a bit more nuanced and show that you did consider both sides before determining which one was better. Often, acknowledging another viewpoint then refuting it can make your essay stronger.
3. Provide evidence to support your claims
The AP readers will be looking for examples and evidence to support your argument. This doesn’t mean that you need to memorize a bunch of random facts before the exam. This just means that you should be able to provide concrete examples in support of your argument.
For example, if the essay topic is about whether the role of the media in society has been detrimental or not, and you argue that it has been, you may talk about the phenomenon of “fake news” during the 2016 presidential election.
AP readers are not looking for perfect examples, but they are looking to see if you can provide enough evidence to back your claim and make it easily understood.
4. Create a strong thesis statement
The thesis statement will set up your entire essay, so it’s important that it is focused and specific, and that it allows for the reader to understand your body paragraphs. Make sure your thesis statement is the very last sentence of your introductory paragraph. In this sentence, list out the key points you will be making in the essay in the same order that you will be writing them. Each new point you mention in your thesis should start a paragraph in your essay.
Below is a prompt and sample student essay from the May 2019 exam . We’ll look at what the student did well in their writing and where they could improve.
Prompt: “The term “overrated” is often used to diminish concepts, places, roles, etc. that the speaker believes do not deserve the prestige they commonly enjoy; for example, many writers have argued that success is overrated, a character in a novel by Anthony Burgess famously describes Rome as a “vastly overrated city,” and Queen Rania of Jordan herself has asserted that “[b]eing queen is overrated.”
Select a concept, place, role, etc. to which you believe that the term “overrated” should be applied. Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment. Use appropriate evidence from your reading, experience, or observations to support your argument.
Sample Student Essay #1:
 Competition is “overrated.” The notion of motivation between peers has evolved into a source of unnecessary stress and even lack of morals. Whether it be in an academic environment or in the industry, this new idea of competition is harmful to those competing and those around them.
 Back in elementary school, competition was rather friendly. It could have been who could do the most pushups or who could get the most imaginary points in a classroom for a prize. If you couldn’t do the most pushups or win that smelly sticker, you would go home and improve yourself – there would be no strong feelings towards anyone, you would just focus on making yourself a better version of yourself. Then as high school rolled around, suddenly applying for college doesn’t seem so far away –GPA seems to be that one stat that defines you – extracurriculars seem to shape you – test scores seem to categorize you. Sleepless nights, studying for the next day’s exam, seem to become more and more frequent. Floating duck syndrome seems to surround you (FDS is where a competitive student pretends to not work hard but is furiously studying beneath the surface just like how a duck furiously kicks to stay afloat). All of your competitors appear to hope you fail – but in the end what do you and your competitor’s gain? Getting one extra point on the test? Does that self-satisfaction compensate for the tremendous amounts of acquired stress? This new type of “competition” is overrated – it serves nothing except a never-ending source of anxiety and seeks to weaken friendships and solidarity as a whole in the school setting.
 A similar idea of “competition” can be applied to business. On the most fundamental level, competition serves to be a beneficial regulator of prices and business models for both the business themselves and consumers. However, as businesses grew increasingly greedy and desperate, companies resorted to immoral tactics that only hurt their reputations and consumers as a whole. Whether it be McDonald’s coupons that force you to buy more food or tech companies like Apple intentionally slowing down your iPhone after 3 years to force you to upgrade to the newest device, consumers suffer and in turn speak down upon these companies. Similar to the evolved form of competition in school, this overrated form causes pain for all parties and has since diverged from the encouraging nature that the principle of competition was “founded” on.
The AP score for this essay was a 4/6, meaning that it captured the main purpose of the essay but there were still substantial parts missing. In this essay, the writer did a good job organizing the sections and making sure that their writing was in order according to the thesis statement. The essay first discusses how competition is harmful in elementary school and then discusses this topic in the context of business. This follows the chronological order of somebody’s life and flows nicely.
The arguments in this essay are problematic, as they do not provide enough examples of how exactly competition is overrated. The essay discusses the context in which competition is overrated but does not go far enough in explaining how this connects to the prompt.
In the first example, school stress is used to explain how competition manifests. This is a good starting point, but it does not talk about why competition is overrated; it simply mentions that competition can be unhealthy. The last sentence of that paragraph is the main point of the argument and should be expanded to discuss how the anxiety of school is overrated later on in life.
In the second example, the writer discusses how competition can lead to harmful business practices, but again, this doesn’t reflect the reason this would be overrated. Is competition really overrated because Apple and McDonald’s force you to buy new products? This example could’ve been taken one step farther. Instead of explaining why business structures—such as monopolies—harm competition, the author should discuss how those particular structures are overrated.
Additionally, the examples the writer used lack detail. A stronger essay would’ve provided more in-depth examples. This essay seemed to mention examples only in passing without using them to defend the argument.
It should also be noted that the structure of the essay is incomplete. The introduction only has a thesis statement and no additional context. Also, there is no conclusion paragraph that sums up the essay. These missing components result in a 4/6.
Now let’s go through the prompt for a sample essay from the May 2022 exam . The prompt is as follows:
Colin Powell, a four-star general and former United States Secretary of State, wrote in his 1995 autobiography: “[W]e do not have the luxury of collecting information indefinitely. At some point, before we can have every possible fact in hand, we have to decide. The key is not to make quick decisions, but to make timely decisions.”
Write an essay that argues your position on the extent to which Powell’s claim about making decisions is valid.
In your response you should do the following:
- Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position.
- Provide evidence to support your line of reasoning.
- Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
- Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.
Sample Student Essay #2:
Colin Powell, who was a four star general and a former United States Secretary of State. He wrote an autobiography and had made a claim about making decisions. In my personal opinion, Powell’s claim is true to full extent and shows an extremely valuable piece of advice that we do not consider when we make decisions.
Powell stated, “before we can have every possible fact in hand we have to decide…. but to make it a timely decision” (1995). With this statement Powell is telling the audience of his autobiography that it does not necessarily matter how many facts you have, and how many things you know. Being able to have access to everything possible takes a great amount of time and we don’t always have all of the time in the world. A decision has to be made with what you know, waiting for something else to come in while trying to make a decision whether that other fact is good or bad you already have a good amount of things that you know. Everyone’s time is valuable, including yours. At the end of the day the decision will have to be made and that is why it should be made in a “timely” manner.
This response was graded for a score of 2/6. Let’s break down the score to smaller points that signify where the student fell short.
The thesis in this essay is clearly outlined at the end of the first paragraph. The student states their agreement with Powell’s claim and frames the rest of their essay around this stance. The success in scoring here lies in the clear communication of the thesis and the direction the argument will take. It’s important to make the thesis statement concise, specific, and arguable, which the student has successfully done.
While the student did attempt to provide evidence to support their thesis, it’s clear that their explanation lacks specific detail and substance. They referenced Powell’s statement, but did not delve into how this statement has proven true in specific instances, and did not provide examples that could bring the argument to life.
Commentary is an essential part of this section’s score. It means explaining the significance of the evidence and connecting it back to the thesis. Unfortunately, the student’s commentary here is too vague and does not effectively elaborate on how the evidence supports their argument.
To improve, the student could use more concrete examples to demonstrate their point and discuss how each piece of evidence supports their thesis. For instance, they could discuss specific moments in Powell’s career where making a timely decision was more valuable than waiting for all possible facts. This would help illustrate the argument in a more engaging, understandable way.
A high score in the “sophistication” category of the grading rubric is given for demonstrating a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation (purpose, audience, context, etc.), making effective rhetorical choices, or establishing a line of reasoning. Here, the student’s response lacks complexity and sophistication. They’ve simply agreed with Powell’s claim and made a few general statements without providing a deeper analysis or effectively considering the rhetorical situation.
To increase sophistication, the student could explore possible counterarguments or complexities within Powell’s claim. They could discuss potential drawbacks of making decisions without all possible facts, or examine situations where timely decisions might not yield the best results. By acknowledging and refuting these potential counterarguments, they could add more depth to their analysis and showcase their understanding of the complexities involved in decision-making.
The student could also analyze why Powell, given his background and experiences, might have come to such a conclusion, thus providing more context and showing an understanding of the rhetorical situation.
Remember, sophistication in argumentation isn’t about using fancy words or complicated sentences. It’s about showing that you understand the complexity of the issue at hand and that you’re able to make thoughtful, nuanced arguments. Sophistication shows that you can think critically about the topic and make connections that aren’t immediately obvious.
Now that you’ve looked at an example essay and some tips for the argumentative essay, you know how to better prepare for the AP English Language and Composition Exam.
While your AP scores don’t usually impact your admissions chances , colleges do care a lot about your course rigor. So, taking as many APs as you can will certainly boost your chances! AP scores can be a way for high-performing students to set themselves apart, particularly when applying to prestigious universities. Through the process of self-reporting scores , you can show your hard work and intelligence to admissions counselors.
That said, the main benefit of scoring high on AP exams comes once you land at your dream school, as high scores can allow you to “test out” of entry-level requirements, often called GE requirements or distribution requirements. This will save you time and money.
To understand how your course rigor stacks up, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine . This resource takes your course rigor, test scores, extracurriculars, and more, to determine your chances of getting into over 1600 colleges across the country!