Read an Excerpt
Everybody comes to an AP test from a different place. For some, it's the one AP test of their high school career, while for others, it's just one of many. Some students have been focused on it all year, supplementing their classwork with extra practice at home. Other students haven't been able to devote the time they would like-perhaps other classes, extracurricular activities, after-school jobs, or other obligations have gotten in the way. Wherever you're coming from, this book can help. It's divided into three sections: a last-minute study guide to use the week before, a comprehensive review for those with more than a week to prepare, and a long-term study plan for students preparing well in advance.
Think of these sections as a suggestion rather than a rigid prescription. Feel free to pick and choose the pieces from each section that you find most helpful. If you have time, you should review everything-and, of course, take as many practice tests as you can.
Whether you have a day or a year to study, there are a few things you should know before diving in. For starters, what is the AP English Language and Composition Exam?
About the Exam
The AP English Language and Composition Exam lasts for three hours and fifteen minutes and consists of two sections, a multiple-choice section, and an essay section. The exam tests your ability both to read and write critically and accurately.
Section I contains four or five passages with fifty to fifty-five multiple-choice questions. This part of the exam tests your ability to read critically and answer questions accurately. More specifically, it requires you to recognize how authors use language and for what purpose. You have one hour to answer the multiple-choice questions. Section II asks you to write three essays in three different modes: synthesis, analysis, and persuasion. You have two hours and fifteen minutes to plan and compose the essays. Although there are many similarities among the three essays, what the prompts demand and how you support your positions will differ.
The synthesis essay requires that you take a position on a subject and support it using evidence from the six to seven sources that the exam provides. In the rhetorical essay you are asked to identify and analyze the rhetorical strategies used by the author in a given passage. Finally, the persuasive essay requires you to take a position on a controversial issue or idea. Unlike the other two essays, however, no sources are provided, so you must use your own knowledge and experience to support your argument.
The multiple-choice section is worth 45 percent of your score. Until recently, you were penalized one quarter of a point for each incorrect answer. This is no longer the case. Because no penalty points are incurred for incorrect answers, it is in your best interest to answer every question.
The essay section is worth 55 percent of your score. Each essay is scored on a scale of 19. (Refer to the scoring guide on page 77 to understand more specifically which type of essay earns which score.) The essays are always read by at least two readers, who are typically educators from around the country. The readers do not expect the essays to be polished masterpieces. They assess the essays by standards that are appropriate for rough drafts. Readers grade the essays holistically, meaning that the essays are judged as a whole, not by their individual parts, so there is no strict formula to grading the essays.
The scores from the three essays are added and combined with the multiple-choice score to generate a composite score, which is converted into a score of 1 to 5. The scale translates in the following way:
5 Extremely well qualified
4 Well qualified
2 Possibly qualified
1 Not recommended for AP credit
Each college and university has its own guidelines for recognizing AP exams. Typically, if you earn a score of 5, and often a 4, the college or university of your choice will award you college credit, which may save you money or allow you to take another interesting class.
The Bad News
The class that prepares students for the AP Language and Composition Exam is a full-year class. It is a skills-based class, which means that practice is necessary to do well on the exam. It is very difficult to cram because, as with playing a musical instrument, practice makes perfect. You can't become a virtuoso by cramming. You can't do as well on the exam studying this book the night before the exam as you could do if you allowed yourself time to practice.
The Good News
The good news is that if you read and write regularly (a safe bet), you've been practicing all along. The more confident a writer you are, the higher you are likely to score on the exam. Of course, the AP Language and Composition Exam does test a specific type of reading and writing, and that's where this book comes in handy. By following the steps in this book, you can hone your writing to maximum effect in the exam. Learn the ins and outs of the test, review the rhetorical strategies, and, most importantly, take a practice test or two, and you should be prepared to do well on the exam.