Read an Excerpt
About This Book and TestWare®
This test-preparation guide, along with the accompanying CD, will help you do
well on the AP English Language & Composition Exam. You will become familiar
with the requirements of the examination and be given a chance to prove your mastery
of the AP exam on a series of specially developed practice exams. The introductory
sections of the book are devoted to explaining the test, reviewing and expanding
your critical reading skills, and helping you learn how to approach writing essays and
answering multiple-choice questions in the very ways the AP examination will expect
you to be able to do successfully.
This book provides three full-length practice exams with thorough explanations of
every answer to help pinpoint your problem areas. By taking these practice exams and
devoting time to going through our targeted subject review, you’ll be well prepared to
succeed on the AP English Language & Composition Exam. In addition, this book
includes a glossary of key literary terms, all fully defined.
Two of the practice exams are also included on the enclosed TestWare® CD. The
software provides timed conditions and instantaneous, accurate scoring, which makes
it all the easier to establish your strengths and weaknesses.
How to Contact the AP Program
To obtain a registration bulletin or to learn more about the Advanced Placement
The College Board Advanced Placement Program
P.O. Box 6671
Princeton, NJ 08541-6671
Phone: (609) 771-7300
About the AP English Language Exam
The AP English Language and Composition Examination is divided into two
parts: Section 1, multiple-choice, or critical-reading, questions (45 percent of your
score) and Section 2, the free-response, or essay, questions (55 percent of your score).
The multiple-choice section has approximately 54 to 60 questions divided among
four to six reading passages (the exact number varies from year to year), and there
will be from nine to fifteen questions per reading passage. You are allowed 60 minutes
for the objective portion. Although the test is geared so that most good students can
finish within the time limits, the time constraints are also challenging. It is essential
that you do some timed practice. Note two recent changes to the multiple-choice
section of the exam:
Change in Content: From 2007 onward, some items in the multiple-choice
section refer to documentation and citation of sources. While examinees
need not memorize any particular style (e.g., MLA, Chicago, APA, etc.),
they will need to use information from citations that may indeed follow a
given style. Some passages“at least one,” says the College Boardwill be
from a published work (book, journal, periodical, etc.) that incorporates
footnotes or a bibliography; the documentation questions will be based on
Change in Scoring: The method of scoring the multiple-choice section has
changed. Beginning in 2011, the score on the multiple-choice section will be
based only on the number of questions the student answers correctly. Points
will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers, and, as always, no points
will be awarded for unanswered questions. It is in your best interest to answer
all multiple-choice questions.
The free-response section of the AP English Language and Composition exam
is composed of three prompts, for which you are given 135 minutes in total to complete.
Currently there are three types of free-response questions on the AP exam with
some subset variations within these categories. These include the Synthesis Essay, the
Rhetorical Analysis or Language Analysis Essay, and the Argument Essay.
New Directions for the Synthesis Essay: Beginning with the May 2011
exams there will be new directions for the synthesis essay. The synthesis essay
itself has not changed, but the new directions provide students with clearer
and more concise guidelines for approaching the essay; the new directions
clarify expectations about how students should synthesize, incorporate and
cite the sources provided in the task.
AP Scoring and Grade Distribution
The distribution of scores on the Advanced Placement tests ranges from 1 to 5.
A test score of 3 is considered “passing”; however, keep in mind that colleges treat the
scores differently. Some may accept a score of 2, while others will only accept a 4 or 5.
You should contact the colleges directly or visit their websites to receive information
about their AP score acceptance and credit policies.
You will complete the multiple-choice section of the test on a scan form, which
is graded by a computer. You will write the essays on paper. College professors and
teachers of Advanced Placement English grade the essays, using standardized procedures.
The scores are usually released around mid-July.
Materials Needed for Test Day
The only materials you need to bring on test day are writing utensils: blue or black
ink pens and two sharpened No. 2 pencils. You will not be able to use a dictionary,
thesaurus, highlighters or colored pencils on the test. The College Board will provide
you with all other materials, including paper for the essay portion of the test. However,
it is highly recommend that you wear a watch. Timing is very important if you want
to do well on this test. Although the test center will provide a clock, students find it
easier and less distracting to use a watch than to look at a clock on the wallespecially
if it is not directly in front of them.
Overview of Test Format and Content, Timing, and Annotation
It is possible to improve your score simply by being familiar with the test format
and content, knowing how to use the time allotted effectively, and using annotation
to stay focused and organized.
TEST FORMAT AND CONTENT
Multiple-choice questions are designed to test your skills in analyzing the
rhetoric of prose passages. The passages included on the AP English Language
test are usually not found in your typical high school textbooks. The
College Board has designed the test so everyone will have an equal advantage.
It is a test, not based on memorization, but based on application. In
other words, the questions test how well you can apply your knowledge to
new material. For both the multiple-choice passages and the essays, you
should become acquainted with a wide variety of prose styles from many
disciplines and historical periods: pre-20th Century and 20th Century
to the present. These prose styles include essays, letters, diaries, histories,
biographies, sermons, speeches, literary works, satire, social criticism and
all forms of journalism.
Not only will this knowledge help you analyze the passages, but you will
become a better writer as well. The three essays that you will write for the
free-response section of the test are briefly defined below:
- Rhetorical Analysis or Language Analysis Essay (suggested time
40 minutes): For this essay you will be asked to analyze the style
of a passage; analyze the effect of the passage on the reader; define
the author’s attitude toward his or her topic; describe the rhetorical
purpose of the passage; and/or identify the author’s purpose or views
and how he or she achieves that purpose or conveys those views.
The skills needed for this particular essay are similar to the skills
needed to answer the questions on the multiple-choice portion of the
AP English Language test. Frequently, this question takes the form
of two passages on the same topic but written in different styles and
with different attitudes.
- Argument Essay (suggested time40 minutes): For this essay you
are asked to write about a controversial topic. The topics tend to be
broader, taking into account the variety of backgrounds students bring
to the exam. Students who demonstrate knowledge and understanding
of the world, have a diverse knowledge base, and can make connections
across disciplinesi.e. history, literature, current events, science,
economics generally do better because they have more supports to
- Synthesis Essay (reading time15 minutes, suggested writing time
40 minutes): For this essay you will be asked to read five to eight brief
sources on a topic of some controversy in which differing sides will be
presented. One of the resources you will have to analyze, and possibly
use, in the synthesis essay is a visual imagea photograph, chart, editorial
cartoon, graph, advertisement, etc.found in texts published in
print and electronic media. You will have to analyze the image as text.
A 15-minute reading period is provided to accommodate the additional
required reading for this prompt. The directions for the synthesis essay
will ask you to explain a key idea or to argue a point. In other words,
you will be writing another analytical/expository essay or another
Regardless of the section, multiple-choice or essay, you should begin annotating
everything you read: the directions, the passages, the questions and
answer choices in the multiple-choice section, the essay prompts, and the
reading selections following the essay prompts. While reading the directions,
underline key words, especially if the directions include background
information about the passage. Marking the most important aspects of the
passages and prompts will help you maintain focus on what you’re answering
or writing about. Just like the directions and the passages, you should mark
the questions and answer choices in the multiple-choice section while you
read. This technique will help you stay focused on the key words within the
question, guide you to the correct answer, help you eliminate the obvious
incorrect answers, and identify the questions you want to come back to later.
When you begin the essay section, reading and marking the key words
in the prompt is essential. You could write a fabulous essay, but unless your
essay addresses the prompt, your essay will not be scored. Unlike the first
two essays, the synthesis essay will ask you to read several selections. Because
you will have only 15 minutes to read, digest, and synthesize a lot of information,
marking these selections is very important. Remember, you are not
restating the sources; your task is to identify the information in the sources
you plan to use in your response. Underlining and even labeling, key points
that supports or refutes your thesis will save you time when you begin writing
your essay. While writing your essay, you will want to incorporate direct
quotations from the resources or reference specific material. You will be able
to quickly identify these supports if they have been marked.
While taking the multiple-choice section of the AP test, you should know to
how to pace yourself in the 60 minutes allotted and know the best method
that will allow you to answer these questions efficiently. When it is time to
begin the multiple-choice section, quickly look through the test and count
how many passages are included. Divide this number into 60 minutes; for
example, if there are 5 passages, then you will divide 60 by 5. So, you should
spend about 12 minutes on each passage. Use the practice tests in this book
to help you practice your timing. You may find that you are more comfortable
reading the questions and answers before reading the passage. This
technique will help you know what to look for while reading the passage.
Regardless of the approach you take, remember to annotate.
Do the easiest questions first. In other words, if you are sure you know
the answer, mark it immediately on the scan form. If you find yourself
spending too much time on a particular question, circle it in your test
booklet, skip it, and come back to it later if you have the time. Most importantly,
if you run out of time, fill in all answers; there will be no penalty for
It is important that you feel comfortable to write three lengthy essays
within a very short period of time. Learning to write analytical and argumentative
essays without planning and revision takes practice. Months
before taking the test, practice writing similar essays within a timed framework.
Quantity does not mean quality; however, if the essay is too short
then it will be difficult to explore the topic thoroughly. Most essays that
have received high scores (7-9) usually range from five to seven paragraphs.
You may write the essays in any order. Read all the choices and write the
essays you feel the most confident about fi rst. Save the most difficult essay
for last, but don’t skip it because you must answer all the essay questions in
order to receive a 2 or higher on the test. You will have an extra 15 minutes
for the synthesis essay. The extra 15 minutes gives you time to read the
resources, seven passages and at least one image, and annotate key ideas from
each resource. Instead of the 40 minutes you get to write the other essays,
you will have 55 minutes to write the synthesis essay.