AP English Language and Composition: Sample Rhetorical Analysis and Synthesis Questions
August 21, 2021.
The Rhetorical Analysis and Synthesis Essays are two of the three essays you’ll need to write as part of the AP English Language and Composition Exam . Read on for a sample of each, as well as tips for how to answer them.
AP English Language and Composition: Sample Rhetorical Analysis Question
Read the following passage published back in 1967 by The New York Times. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the structure of the passage and the use of language help convey the writer’s views.
Sample Question Instructions:
- Respond to the prompt with a thesis that may establish a line of reasoning.
- Select and use evidence to develop and support the line of reasoning.
- Explain the relationship between the evidence and the thesis.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetorical situation.
- Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating the argument.
Americans and Western Europeans, in their sensitivity to lingering problems around them, tend to make science and progress their scapegoats. There is a belief that progress has precipitated widespread unhappiness, anxieties, and other social and emotional problems. Science is viewed as a cold mechanical discipline having nothing to do with human warmth and the human spirit.
But to many of us from the nonscientific East, science does not have such repugnant associations. We are not afraid of it, nor are we disappointed by it. We know all too painfully that our social and emotional problems festered long before the age of technology. To us, science is warm and reassuring. It promises hope. It is helping us at long last gain some control over our persecutory environments, alleviating age-old problems—not only physical but also, and especially, problems of the spirit.
Shiraz, for example, a city in southern Iran, has long been renowned for its rose gardens and nightingales; its poets, Sadi and Hafiz; and its mystical, ascetic philosophy, Sufism. Much poetry has been written in glorification of the spiritual attributes of this oasis city. And to be sure, Shiraz is a green, picturesque town, with a quaint bazaar and refreshing gardens. But in this “romantic” city thousands of emotionally disturbed and mentally retarded men, women, and children were, until recently, kept in chains in stifling prison cells and lunatic asylums.
Every now and again, some were dragged, screaming and pleading, to a courtyard and flogged for not behaving “normally.” But for the most part, they were made to sit against damp walls, their hands and feet locked in chains, and thus immobilized, without even a modicum of affection from their helpless families and friends, they sat for weeks and months and years—often all their lives. Pictures of these wretched men, women, and children can still be seen in this “city of poetry,” this “city with a spiritual way of life.”
It was only recently that a wealthy young Shirazi who, against the admonitions of his family, had studied psychology at the University of Tehran and foreign universities, returned to Shiraz and after considerable struggle with city officials succeeded in opening a psychiatric clinic, the first in those regions. After still more struggle, he arranged to have the emotionally disturbed and the mentally retarded transferred from prison to their homes, to hospitals, and to his clinic, where he and his staff now attend them.
They are fortunate. All over Asia and other backward areas, emotionally disturbed men and women are still incarcerated in these medieval dungeons called lunatic asylums. The cruel rejection and punishment are intended to teach them a lesson or help exorcise evil spirits.
The West, still bogged down in its ridiculous romanticism, would like to believe that emotional disturbances, dope addiction, delinquency are all modern problems brought on by technological progress, and that backward societies are too spiritual and beautiful to need the ministrations of science. But while the West can perhaps afford to think this way, the people of backward lands cannot. . . .
. . .The obstacles are awesome, the inertia too entrenched, the people’s suffering too anguished, their impatience too eruptive. Moreover, the total cultural reorganizations such as Asia and Africa are undergoing inevitably engender their own temporary dislocations and confusions. But their goals, the direction, remain constant. We are on the move, however awkwardly at first, to a saner, better world.
How to Answer the AP English Language and Composition Rhetorical Analysis Question
Go back to the original question, which asks you to analyze two features of the passage: (1) its structure, or organization, and (2) its language. The first aspect is fairly specific. As you read the passage, you need to observe what the author discusses first, second, third, and so on. Your essay should explain not only the order of ideas but the reasons the author may have chosen that order.
The second part of the question is more general. It invites you to analyze the use of language, which may include the author’s choice of words (diction), syntax (word order), figures of speech, use of evidence (such as statistics or logical reasoning), sentence structure, rhythm, sound, tone, or just about any other characteristics of style and rhetoric you choose.
Although the question directs you to write about two different aspects of the passage, the essay itself should be unified. That is, a good essay should not consist of, say, two disparate paragraphs, one exclusively devoted to structure and another to language. Rather, the essay should include material that shows the interrelationship of structure and language in the passage and how those elements contribute to the meaning and effect of the passage. This might be covered in a separate paragraph, or it could be woven into the overall fabric of the essay.
Before you begin to write, read the passage at least twice: once for an overview and once as you write your analysis. You may notice early on that the opening paragraph contains generalizations about Westerners’ concepts of science and progress. Then the author contrasts the Western view of science and progress with the Eastern view. Immediately, you see that the author, by using the first-person pronoun (as in “many of us”) is speaking from the perspective of an Easterner. Consequently, his discussion of Eastern views is apt to come across as more well-informed, more authoritative, perhaps more personal.
To support his position, the author gives an extended example—the city of Shiraz—to illustrate just how different the East is from the West. The description and vivid images of Shiraz memorably convey the idea that the “spiritual way of life” has a side to it that many Westerners don’t know about. This is the heart of the passage. The use of quotation marks around “romantic” and “city of poetry” is meant to point out the discrepancy between the idealized and real versions of Shiraz.
Nearing the end, the author reiterates his initial contrast between West and East, with emphasis on the East. The last paragraph offers a generalized statement about conditions in Asia and Africa, reminding the reader of the contrast made at the very beginning of the passage. Tying the end to the beginning of the passage creates a sense of unity—a desirable feature in any piece of writing.
AP English Language and Composition: Sample Argument Question
The following paragraph is adapted from Mirror for Man, a book written by anthropologist Clyde Kluckhorn in the middle of the twentieth century. Read the passage carefully. Then, write an essay that examines the extent to which the author’s characterization of the United States holds true today. Use appropriate evidence to support your argument.
Sample Question Instructions:
- Respond to the prompt with a thesis that may establish a line of reasoning.
- Select and use evidence to develop and support the line of reasoning.
- Explain the relationship between the evidence and the thesis.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetorical situation.
Technology is valued as the very basis of the capitalistic system. Possession of gadgets is esteemed as a mark of success to the extent that persons are judged not by the integrity of their characters or by the originality of their minds but by what they seem to be—so far as can be measured by their wealth or by the variety and material goods which they display. “Success” is measured by their investments, homes, and lifestyles— not by their number of mistresses as in some cultures.
How to Answer the AP English Language and Composition Argument Question
Whether you agree, disagree, or have mixed views on the content of the passage, your job is to write a convincing argument that expresses your opinion. Initially, the word argument may suggest conflict or confrontation. But rest assured that your essay need not be combative. Rather, make it a calmly-reasoned explanation of your opinion on a debatable subject. Your goal is to persuade the reader that your opinion, supported by examples, facts, and other appropriate evidence, is correct.
If you have strong feelings about the topic, of course you should state them in your essay. But express them in calm, rational language. Be mindful that the essay should not be an emotional rant for or against the issue.
Consider first whether you agree with Kluckhorn’s definition of “success.” Is it, as Kluckhorn asserts, measured by income and material possessions? Or do you think that a more accurate standard of success in today’s America should be determined by less tangible criteria—things such as happiness or self-respect? Or do you stand somewhere in between those two extremes?
The actual position you take on the issue is less crucial than your ability to support it fully by drawing from your knowledge, background, experience, or observation. Regardless of your position, be sure to include more than one example. An argument that relies on a single example, however compelling, will fall flat.
In the prompt, Kluckhorn’s notion of success seems to refer broadly to American society. Resist responding in kind. That is, a short essay shouldn’t focus on the whole of society but only on an identifiable segment—perhaps college-educated professionals or urban, blue- collar Americans. The point is that a narrowly focused essay on a limited topic will always turn out better than one that tries to cover too much ground in just a few paragraphs.
AP Biology Resources
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AP Psychology Resources
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AP English Language and Composition Resources
- What’s Tested on the AP English Language and Composition Exam?
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- How to Answer the AP English Language and Composition Essay Questions
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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.
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Thesis Statement Formula for AP English Rhetorical Analysis Essays
A good thesis statement presents your topic to the reader and indicates how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter discussed in your essay. Think of it as a kind of road map, designed to help the reader know what to expect in the essay.
But an AP rhetorical analysis thesis statement is like nothing you’ve ever had to write in school before. Unlike other kinds of thesis statements, a rhetorical analysis thesis statement demands that you do three things:
Identify the rhetorical devices you will analyze in your essay
Identify the impact of those devices of the effectiveness of the text
Identify the author, genre, and name of the text
Sound daunting? Not to worry!
The below, fill-in-the-blank thesis statement formula, designed for use when writing rhetorical analysis essays, will make your life simpler, easier, and more successful!
AP ® Lang teachers: looking to help your students improve their rhetorical analysis essays?
Coach Hall Writes
clear, concise rhetorical analysis instruction.
5 Rhetorical Analysis Activities for AP® Lang
October 2, 2022 by Beth Hall
Let’s face it. Sometimes teaching rhetorical analysis can become monotonous. That’s why I’ve put together a list of 5 rhetorical analysis activities that will help reinforce important AP ® Lang skills without adding a ton of grading to your plate.
Rhetorical Analysis Activity 1: Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences
In one of our recent teacher chats, Timm Freitas from the Garden of English and I were discussing our progression of writing assignments. We both focus on thesis statements and topic sentences before moving on to full body paragraphs and essays.
(Teachers, if you are interested in being notified about upcoming teacher chats, please sign up for my email list here. When you do, you’ll receive my 5 Tips for Teaching Rhetorical Analysis.)
Focusing on thesis statements and topic sentences helps students create a line of reasoning.
How it Works
One way I like to incorporate this skill is to give students sentence frames and have them write the thesis and topic sentences, essentially the skeleton of their essay.
When scoring the assignment, if I see a thesis or topic sentence I think is particularly strong, I will paper clip an index card to the paper and ask the student to rewrite the sentence on the index card. Then, I’ll display the sentences on my bulletin board. (Teacher tip: the Better than Paper bulletin board rolls are incredibly durable for those of us who like to/have to display student work and switch it out regularly.)
When attaching index cards to student work, I use a different color for the thesis, 1st body paragraph, and 2nd body paragraph. The color coordination helps me quickly assess which skills the class is excelling in and which skills we need to revisit. It also helps me look at the responses that don’t merit an index card so that I can determine common mistakes I want to address in the next class.
I’ve also done this activity where each student writes the sentences on one or multiple index cards. Sometimes this is to display or to do a gallery walk so students can learn from each other. Other times, it serves as a “cheat sheet” for their timed essay. (Anyone else have a teacher who let them have an index cards to use during tests? I’d rewrite my card 5 times trying to get all the info organized, and then I wouldn’t end up needed the card. Pretty sure that was my teacher’s goal.)
Having students write a defensible thesis and topic sentences is a great way to quickly assess their understanding of the text and introduce the concept of line of reasoning.
Thesis Statement and Topic Sentence Frames
When having students write a thesis statement and topic sentences, I’ve found it is helpful to provide them with sentence frames.
I generally start by giving students a few options. Doing so helps students find their voice and articulate their ideas.
Thesis statement sentence frame: In his/her TONE speech to AUDIENCE, SPEAKER, credentials, CHOICE 1 and CHOICE 2 in order to PURPOSE.
Students can modify the same sentence above in multiple ways. For example, they can move the credentials to go before the speaker’s name. They can also omit the tone and the speaker’s credentials if desired.
If the prompt asks about the message or argument, students can include that instead of purpose.
The key is to try to include rhetorically accurate verbs, even though students are allowed to include rhetorical devices on the AP Lang exam.
Here are two sentence frame options for the first topic sentence: SPEAKER begins his/her speech by -ing verb in order to… OR In order to…, SPEAKER begins his/her speech by…
For the second body paragraph, have students try to connect their main idea or acknowledge a shift.
Here are two sentence frames for the second topic sentence: Having already (refer to main idea 1,) SPEAKER (main idea 2) in order to… OR SPEAKER shifts from (main idea 1) to (main idea 2) in order to…
Looking for more rhetorical analysis sentence frames? Then check out this resource.
Rhetorical Analysis Activity 2: Line of Reasoning Chains
This rhetorical analysis activity is relatively easy, but it requires a bit more prep than the index card activity. However, it is a great way to reinforce the concept of a line of reasoning and is more interactive than a regular outline. (There’s nothing wrong with a normal outline. I assign those too.)
For this rhetorical analysis activity, you’ll need colored paper. Construction paper works fine. I happen to have an abundance of the astro brights paper , so that’s what I use.
You can adjust the instructions for the line of reasoning paper chains to make it easier or more complex. If you’re limited in paper color options, or if you want to keep the activity relatively simple, you’ll need 4 colors: thesis, topic sentences, evidence, and commentary.
I tend to encourage my students to have “layers of evidence and commentary” and more commentary than evidence, so their chain might be something like this: thesis, topic sentence 1, evidence, commentary (2), evidence, commentary (2), topic sentence 2, evidence, commentary (2), evidence, commentary (2.)
Alternate Line of Reasoning Activities
If you don’t have access to construction paper, or perhaps if you’ve already had students write an essay, another similar option would be to have students use highlighter to track their line of reasoning. Have then highlight the choices in their thesis using a different color for each choice. For example, choice 1 could be yellow, and choice 2 could be blue. Then have them use the same colors to highlight evidence and commentary that effectively proves the thesis. Encourage students to highlight phrases, not whole sentences, and have them look for synonyms or similar words, as they should not repeat their exactly phrasing from their thesis too many times throughout the essay.
You can also have students use three different colors to highlight claims, evidence, and commentary to prove their line of reasoning. This activity is better for students who are just learning the components of an essay, whereas the activity above is more for refining a line of reasoning.
For more line of reasoning activities, check out this post.
Rhetorical analysis activity 3: is it defensible.
I love using this activity for bell-work when I’m introducing (or wanting to reinforce thesis statements.)
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about this activity, as I’ve mentioned it in a couple videos and have included it in many of my rhetorical analysis lessons plans and my 9-week rhetorical analysis unit .
Here’s what I love about the Is it Defensible Thesis Statement Activity:
- I can customize it to the prompt we’re talking about it class, but it can also be done even if students haven’t read the passage.
- It can be done for all 3 FRQs; it’s not just a rhetorical analysis activity.
- It reinforces that there is a range of what makes a thesis defensible.
- It reinforces what a defensible thesis is.
- It demonstrates different styles of writing a thesis, which some students may use as a model.
Want to add this activity to your instruction? Then check out these thesis statement activities.
Rhetorical analysis activity 4: one-pagers.
There is more than one way to express learning, and one-pagers are a great way to have students focus on various elements of the text. Plus, teachers can adapt the instructions in so many ways.
When I’ve had students make one-pagers, I’ve given them colored pencils, but crayons or markers can work too.
This rhetorical analysis activity is great if your students need a “brain break.” It’s a way for them to be creative and decompress while still engaging with the text.
Have students who dislike drawing? Consider allowing them to make a digital one-pager on Canva.
Rhetorical Analysis Activity 5: Rhetorically Accurate Verb Sort
When writing a rhetorical analysis essay, students should try to incorporate rhetorically accurate verbs.
There are many good rhetorically accurate verb lists out there. Admittedly, though, they can be a bit overwhelming. There are too many words to choose from, and students are not readily familiar with some of the meanings, making it more difficult to use the words correctly.
The premise of the rhetorically accurate verb sort is simple: students work in pairs or small groups to sort the verbs into groups.
Within the groups, students should then organize the words based on their connotation.
For example, “states” is less ‘severe’ than “claims,” which is less severe than “asserts” or “contests.”
Grouping and arranging the rhetorically accurate verbs helps reinforce the meaning of these terms, so students are more inclined to vary their word choice–and use the verbs correctly–when writing an essay.
After grouping and arranging the verbs, students can them make their own rhetorically accurate verb list. You can have students indicate 5 verbs they’d like to start incorporating into essays.
For added engagement, have groups share how they arranged the verbs and why. Justifying their arrangement will continue to reinforce the verbs’ meanings.
Click here for a free rhetorically accurate verbs sorting activity resource.
Bonus tip: hexagonal thinking.
While hexagonal thinking is more commonly used for argument and synthesis, it can be used as a rhetorical analysis activity too. My students loved getting to write on these dry erase hexagons.
Check out this blog post for more info!
These 5 quick-and-easy rhetorical analysis activities are a great addition to your existing curriculum.
If you try any of these activities, let me know how it goes!
And, for more rhetorical analysis activities sent straight to your inbox, be sure to sign up for my email list! When you do, you’ll get my 5 Tips for Teaching Rhetorical Analysis.
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How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay
AP Lang test is the logical conclusion to the introductory college English composition course. And its most important (and often difficult) part is the AP Lang synthesis essay. Despite it being the very basic layer of your future composition skills, it’s a very complicated challenge to approach unprepared. Besides, it's details may change year to year. So let’s have a look with our coursework writing team at what your AP Lang exam 2022 might look like.
What is AP Lang?
AP Lang is a relatively lengthy test. There are several AP rubrics that a student must be well-versed in to hope to pass it. The first section includes reading and writing, while the second is slightly more freeform and includes three different types of essays.
Among those three, the most interesting and, coincidentally, oftentimes the hardest to deal with is the AP Lang synthesis essay rubric. Today will focus on it specifically to make sure you know exactly what you’re going to be facing during your test.
What Is a Synthesis Essay AP Lang?
At its core, the AP Lang synthesis essay is a pretty straightforward part of the AP Lang test. It might look pretty similar to the reading section of the exam. However, simply finding the right information isn’t enough. When writing a synthesis essay, you should not only gather the data but also distill it into your personal opinion.
This fine line may seem difficult to spot, but it is there. And it’s that small difference that can make or break your exam run. So try to follow the steps one by one and not lose focus. Writing a good synthesis essay is as easy as following the rules. If you feel this task is too difficult for you, you can leave us your ' write an essay for me ' request and we will do it for you.
AP Lang Synthesis Essay Outline
Looking through AP Lang essay examples, you might notice that the overall structure doesn’t really differ too much from your standard essay outline. You have your introduction, your body, and your conclusion. But the important thing to note is where your arguments are supposed to come from.
You’re not supposed to just go off on a rant. The task requires you to base your supporting evidence on at least three sources. And you will have to ensure your essay has solid roots. Here’s what a basic AP Lang exam synthesis essay outline should look like:
Provide sufficient context for the topic you are about to cover. You can do a quick overview of prevailing opinions you have grasped while browsing through your source materials.
Write a short and compelling thesis statement. This will be your ground zero for the rest of the essay. So make sure it reflects your opinion. What is a thesis statement you can read in our special article.
- Body Paragraphs
Dedicate at least one paragraph to every source you’re using. Start with presenting the evidence you have gathered from that source and go on to explain how it formed your opinion on the topic and why it should be considered.
Quickly go through your line of reasoning and reinforce what you have already covered. Finish up with restating your thesis as you’re supposed to logically arrive at it after all the evidence you have presented. That’s how you write a conclusion properly.
Different Forms and Types of Synthesis Essay: Explanatory vs. Argumentative Synthesis Essays
When it comes to writing a synthesis essay AP Lang, there are several types of essays you should consider. The most common ones are the AP Lang argument essay and explanatory essay. The clues as to how each of them should look are hidden within their names but let’s go over them to clear any confusion.
An explanatory essay’s goal is to go over a certain topic, discuss it in detail, and ultimately show a high level of understanding of the said topic. You don’t necessarily have to get into a heated argument with the reader trying to convince them of something. All you need to do is create an impartial overview.
On the other hand, an argumentative essay has to do with personal opinions. And while there is a time and a place for bias, it still has to be as impartial and factual as possible. When proving your point, try not to devolve into emotional arguments but stick to logic and cold truths. This will make your argument way more solid.
Synthesis Essay Structure
In the general case, you don’t really need to look for a synthesis essay AP Lang example to get a solid grasp on how its structure should look like. You can safely fall back on your high school essay writing knowledge, and you’ll be mostly safe.
What you should pay attention to is your writing style and content. A synthesis essay is identified less by its structure and more by the way you form and present your arguments to the reader. It’s when you get a specific essay type (like an argumentative essay) that you should pay attention to slight changes in format.
Argument Essay Structure
The best way to understand argumentative essay structure is to study any well-written AP Lang argument essay example. Standard AP Lang essays have very distinctive features that are very easy to spot and emulate. They follow a very rigid form and employ specific rhetorical devices that you’ll be able to pick up after you analyze them once or twice quickly.
How Many Paragraphs Should an AP Lang Synthesis Essay Be?
The number of paragraphs in an AP Lang synthesis essay can indeed make a difference. Your arguments should be concise and pointed. Spreading them out throughout many paragraphs may seem like a good idea to fill in the space. But it’s actually detrimental to your final score. You can get a basic understanding of what your score is going to be using an AP Lang score calculator.
The same goes for too few paragraphs. Don’t even try to squeeze your entire line of thought into a single body paragraph. Generally, the minimum number of sources you should address is three. Any less, and you are getting a lower score. So try to keep it somewhere in the middle. Three to five body paragraphs is an optimal number. Don’t forget to add an intro and a conclusion to it and you’re all set. A well-written essay has a clear and easily identifiable structure.
How to Write AP Lang Synthesis Essay: Guide
In order to write a decent essay, all you have to do is follow these simple steps. Performing a rhetorical analysis essay example, AP Lang won’t give you insight into how it was built from the ground up. But looking at this list might.
Step 1. Read the Prompt
It may sound like a no-brainer. But it’s actually more important than you can imagine. Don’t skip right past this step. It’s very easy to misunderstand the task under stress. And if you do slip up in the beginning - the entirety of your work after that is wasted.
Step 2. Analyze the Sources Carefully
The same goes for your sources. Take your time reading them. Try to spot every smallest detail, as even a single one can help you better incorporate your evidence into the body of your essay. You can begin outlining the general points of your essay in your head at this point.
Step 3. Come Up with a Strong Thesis Statement
Your thesis statement is the baseline of your writing. Make it short and clear. Try not to overthink it too much.
Step 4. Fill in Your Essay Outline
Start filling out your outline step by step. You don’t have to go from top to bottom. If you feel like you’re struggling - skip to the next part and return to the problem paragraph later. The use of rhetorical devices AP Lang is also pretty important. So once you flesh out your essay a bit, spend some time trying to come up with the perfect wording.
Step 5. Finalize
The first finished version of your essay is a draft. Don’t be hasty to turn it in. Read over it a couple of times. Make sure everything is in order. You can switch some of the parts around or rewrite some sections if you have the time. Ideally, at this stage you should have enough time to eliminate all grammatical errors that may still be present in your essay. Polish it to perfection.
Here are some useful tips that might make the writing process a bit easier for you:
- Use either APA or Chicago style to cite your sources
- Have a schedule to understand how much time you have for each section
- Leave as much time as you can for editing and proofreading
- You can never over study the source material. Spend as much time as you can reading into it
- Don’t linger on the surface of your essay subject. Dive in and show your complex understanding of the material
- Avoid using private life anecdotes to support your case unless the essay type specifically allows it. These don’t make for a convincing argument.
- Use as many supporting arguments as you can but make sure they are actually solid and relevant to your thesis
- Check with your thesis from time to time. The entirety of your text should align with it
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AP Lang Essay Prompts
Here are some interesting prompts. Some of them could be found in the previous iterations of the test; you may have spotted them in some of the AP Lang essay examples. Others are there to help you practice for the AP Lang exam 2022.
- The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, dedicated in 1979, was founded in memory of the president and contained archives pertaining to his administration. On June 24, 1985, then President Ronald Reagan joined members of the Kennedy family at a fundraising event to help the Kennedy Library Foundation create an endowment to fund and support the presidential library. The following is an excerpt from the speech Reagan gave at that event. Read the passage carefully. Write an essay that analyzes the rhetorical choices Reagan makes to achieve his purpose of paying tribute to John F. Kennedy.
- On August 29, 2009, then-President Barack Obama delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy in Boston, Massachusetts. Kennedy served in the United States Senate from 1962 until his death. Obama served with him in the Senate from 2005 until Obama was elected president in 2008. The following is an excerpt from Obama’s speech. Read the passage carefully. Write an essay that analyzes the rhetorical choices Obama makes to achieve his purpose of praising and memorializing Kennedy.
- On April 9, 1964, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, who was at the time the First Lady of the United States, gave the following speech at the first-anniversary luncheon of the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit division of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library dedicated to the works of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who passed away in 1962. Read the passage carefully. Write an essay that analyzes the rhetorical choices Johnson makes to achieve her purpose of paying tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt.
In your response, you should do the following:
• Respond to the prompt with a thesis that analyzes the writer’s rhetorical choices.
• Select and use evidence to support your line of reasoning.
• Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
• Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetorical situation.
• Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.
AP Lang Essay Example
Here is a decent if a bit shortened, AP Lang rhetorical analysis essay example you can use for reference.
Literature to Prepare for AP Lang
And here is a list of some great AP Lang books that will help you prepare for the exam. Not all of them are immediately useful, but most will help you enhance your writing and analytical abilities to get a better score in the end.
- The Odyssey
- Don Quixote
- A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Pride and Prejudice
- Wuthering Heights
- Oliver Twist
- Crime and Punishment
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
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