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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.

Exam Overview

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




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!

Key Takeaways

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!

What's Next?

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 .

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Expert Guide to the AP Language and Composition Exam

ap lang essay scoring guide

The AP Language and Composition Exam is a comprehensive assessment of students' reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Here is an expert guide to help you navigate and excel in this exam:

1. Exam Format: The AP Language and Composition Exam consists of multiple-choice questions and free-response tasks. The multiple-choice section tests your reading comprehension and analysis skills, while the free-response section assesses your ability to write coherent and persuasive essays.

2. Analyzing Rhetorical Strategies: A key focus of the exam is analyzing and understanding rhetorical strategies used in various texts. This includes identifying and evaluating techniques such as ethos, pathos, logos, and rhetorical devices like imagery, figurative language, and tone. Practice analyzing different types of texts, including speeches, articles, essays, and advertisements.

3. Essay Writing Skills: The free-response section requires you to write three essays: a synthesis essay, a rhetorical analysis essay, and an argument essay. Develop strong essay writing skills, including thesis development, evidence selection, and paragraph organization. Practice constructing well-structured, coherent, and persuasive arguments within the given time constraints.

4. Close Reading and Annotation: Effective close reading and annotation skills are crucial for success in the exam. Learn to identify the main ideas, key details, and rhetorical elements in the provided passages. Annotate the text to mark important points, make connections, and track your understanding of the author's purpose and argument.

5. Vocabulary and Grammar: Enhance your vocabulary and grammar skills to express your ideas clearly and precisely. Use varied and appropriate language to convey your analysis and arguments effectively. Pay attention to sentence structure, punctuation, and word choice to ensure coherence and precision in your writing.

6. Practice and Timed Mock Exams: Regular practice is essential to build your skills and confidence. Take timed mock exams to simulate the exam conditions and develop your time management skills. Review your performance, identify areas for improvement, and seek feedback from teachers or peers.

7. Read Widely: Expand your reading repertoire by engaging with diverse texts from different genres and time periods. Reading extensively will improve your comprehension, vocabulary, and ability to recognize different writing styles and rhetorical strategies.

8. Critical Thinking and Analysis: Develop your critical thinking skills by analyzing the effectiveness of arguments, evaluating evidence, and recognizing biases and logical fallacies. Practice constructing well-reasoned arguments and counterarguments to strengthen your analysis.

9. Stay Updated with Current Events: Stay informed about current events and societal issues as they often form the basis of essay prompts and analysis passages. Familiarize yourself with contemporary debates, social, and political issues, and be prepared to apply your knowledge to the exam questions.

10. Seek Resources and Guidance: Utilize available resources, such as study guides, practice exams, and online resources, to enhance your preparation. Seek guidance from teachers, tutors, or peers to clarify any doubts and improve your understanding of the exam requirements.

The AP English Language and Composition Multiple-Choice

The multiple-choice section of the AP English Language and Composition exam assesses your reading comprehension and analysis skills. Here are some key points to understand and excel in this section:

1. Format and Structure: The multiple-choice section consists of a series of passages followed by a set of questions. The passages can include a variety of genres such as essays, speeches, articles, and excerpts from books or plays. Each passage is accompanied by multiple-choice questions that require you to analyze the author's purpose, rhetoric, and style.

2. Close Reading: Effective close reading is crucial for success in the multiple-choice section. Read the passages carefully, paying attention to details, tone, and the author's use of rhetorical devices. Underline or annotate important sections to help you remember key points and refer back to them when answering the questions.

3. Understanding Rhetorical Devices: Familiarize yourself with common rhetorical devices such as ethos, pathos, logos, irony, figurative language, and tone. These devices are frequently used by authors to convey their message and persuade the reader. Be prepared to identify and analyze how these devices contribute to the author's overall argument or purpose.

4. Analyzing Text Structure: Pay attention to the structure of the passages, including the organization of ideas, transitions, and the use of evidence. Identify the main idea, supporting details, and the logical flow of the author's argument. Understanding the structure of the passage will help you answer questions related to the author's intent and the development of their ideas.

5. Answering Strategies: Develop effective strategies for approaching multiple-choice questions. Read each question carefully, making sure to consider all the answer choices before selecting the best option. Pay attention to qualifiers such as "most likely," "least likely," "best supports," etc. Eliminate clearly incorrect choices and make an educated guess if you are unsure.

6. Time Management: The multiple-choice section is timed, so it is important to manage your time effectively. Pace yourself and allocate a specific amount of time for each passage and its corresponding questions. If you encounter a challenging question, mark it and move on, returning to it later if time permits.

7. Practice with Sample Questions: Familiarize yourself with the types of questions commonly asked in the AP English Language and Composition exam by practicing with sample questions. This will help you become more comfortable with the format and style of the questions and improve your ability to identify key elements in the passages.

8. Review Test-Taking Strategies: In addition to content knowledge, review general test-taking strategies that can improve your performance. This includes strategies for eliminating answer choices, using process of elimination, and managing your time effectively.

The AP English Language and Composition Free Response

The free response section of the AP English Language and Composition exam is designed to assess your ability to analyze and respond to rhetorical prompts effectively. Here are some key points to understand and excel in this section:

1. Format and Structure:

The free response section consists of three essay prompts: a synthesis essay, a rhetorical analysis essay, and an argument essay. Each prompt presents you with a specific task and requires you to analyze and respond to a given passage or passages.

2. Synthesis Essay:

In this essay, you are asked to combine information from multiple sources to create a coherent and well-supported argument. You must demonstrate your ability to understand and synthesize different perspectives on a given topic. It is important to analyze the sources critically, identify their main arguments, and use evidence from the sources to support your own argument.

3. Rhetorical Analysis Essay:

In this essay, you are required to analyze the rhetorical strategies employed by the author of a given passage. You need to identify and explain the author's use of rhetorical devices, such as ethos, pathos, logos, figurative language, and tone. Your analysis should focus on how these devices contribute to the author's overall argument and purpose.

4. Argument Essay:

In this essay, you are expected to construct and support your own argument on a given topic. You must develop a clear and coherent thesis statement, provide relevant evidence, and effectively address counterarguments. It is important to use persuasive techniques and rhetorical devices to strengthen your argument.

5. Organization and Structure:

Structure your essays in a clear and logical manner. Each essay should have an introduction that presents your thesis statement, body paragraphs that support your thesis with evidence and analysis, and a conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces your argument. Use topic sentences and transitions to ensure a smooth flow of ideas.

6. Evidence and Analysis:

Support your claims and arguments with evidence from the given passages or external sources. Use specific examples, quotes, and references to demonstrate your understanding and provide strong evidence for your analysis. Avoid making unsupported generalizations or relying solely on personal opinions.

7. Time Management:

The free response section is time-limited, so it is crucial to manage your time effectively. Allocate a specific amount of time for each essay and stick to it. Leave some time at the end to review and revise your essays for clarity, coherence, and grammatical correctness.

8. Practice and Preparation:

Familiarize yourself with the expectations and requirements of each essay type by practicing with past exam prompts and sample essays. Pay attention to the scoring guidelines provided by the College Board to understand how your essays will be evaluated. Seek feedback from teachers or peers to improve your writing skills and address any weaknesses.

AP English Language Prep Tips

Preparing for the AP English Language exam requires a strategic approach to enhance your reading, writing, and analytical skills. Here are some detailed tips to help you excel in your preparation:

1. Read Widely:

Develop a habit of reading a variety of texts, including fiction, non-fiction, essays, newspaper articles, and editorials. This will expose you to different writing styles, perspectives, and rhetorical devices. Pay attention to the author's tone, purpose, and argumentative strategies.

2. Analyze Rhetorical Devices:

Familiarize yourself with common rhetorical devices such as ethos, pathos, logos, figurative language, and rhetorical appeals. Practice identifying these devices in various texts and analyze how they contribute to the author's message and overall effectiveness.

3. Expand Vocabulary:

Enhance your vocabulary by reading challenging texts and keeping a vocabulary notebook. Learn new words, their definitions, and how they are used in context. Utilize these words in your writing to demonstrate a strong command of language.

4. Practice Timed Writing:

Time yourself while writing essays to simulate the exam conditions. Aim to complete essays within the time limit while maintaining clarity and coherence. Practice different essay types, such as synthesis, rhetorical analysis, and argument essays, to strengthen your skills in each area.

5. Read Sample Essays:

Study well-written sample essays from previous AP exams to understand the expectations and scoring criteria. Analyze their structure, use of evidence, and clarity of argument. Take note of effective introductions, strong thesis statements, and well-supported analysis.

6. Develop Writing Strategies:

Learn to effectively structure your essays with clear introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions. Use topic sentences, transitions, and evidence to support your claims. Craft strong thesis statements that clearly state your position and guide your essay.

7. Analyze Visual Texts:

Practice analyzing visual texts such as graphs, charts, and images. Understand how visual elements convey information, make arguments, and support claims. Pay attention to the intended audience and the overall impact of visual texts.

8. Practice Multiple-Choice Questions:

Regularly practice multiple-choice questions to improve your reading comprehension and analysis skills. Read passages carefully, annotate as you go, and answer questions based on the given information. Pay attention to details, context, and authorial intent.

9. Seek Feedback:

Share your essays with teachers or peers and seek constructive feedback. Learn from their suggestions to improve your writing skills and address any weaknesses. Consider joining or forming study groups to discuss and analyze different texts and essay prompts.

10. Review Grammar and Mechanics:

Brush up on grammar rules and punctuation to ensure your writing is clear and error-free. Pay attention to sentence structure, verb tense, subject-verb agreement, and pronoun usage. A strong command of grammar enhances the clarity and effectiveness of your writing.

Remember that consistent practice, focused study, and critical reading are key to success in the AP English Language exam. Develop a study schedule, allocate time for reading and writing practice, and stay disciplined in your preparation. With dedication and effort, you can improve your skills and perform well on the exam.

AP Language and Composition Test Day Tips

On the day of the AP Language and Composition exam, it's important to be well-prepared and approach the test with confidence. Here are some detailed tips to help you make the most of your test day:

1. Get a Good Night's Sleep:

Ensure you have a restful night's sleep before the exam day. Being well-rested will help you stay focused and maintain mental clarity throughout the test.

2. Eat a Nutritious Breakfast:

Start your day with a healthy and balanced breakfast. Fueling your body with nutritious food will provide you with the energy you need for the duration of the exam.

3. Arrive Early:

Plan to arrive at the exam location early to avoid any unnecessary stress. Familiarize yourself with the exam venue and locate your assigned room beforehand.

4. Bring Necessary Materials:

Double-check that you have all the required materials for the exam, such as your admission ticket, identification, pens, pencils, erasers, and a watch to keep track of time. Be aware of any specific items allowed or prohibited by the testing guidelines.

5. Read Instructions Carefully:

Take the time to carefully read the instructions provided on the exam booklet and answer sheet. Understand the format, timing, and specific requirements for each section of the test.

6. Pace Yourself:

Time management is crucial in the AP Language and Composition exam. Allocate your time wisely, making sure to complete each section within the specified time limits. Pace yourself and avoid spending too much time on any single question or passage

7. Skim the Questions First:

Before diving into the reading passages, quickly skim the multiple-choice questions to get a sense of what to look for as you read. This can help you focus your attention and save time while reading and analyzing the passages.

8. Read Actively and Annotate:

As you read the passages, actively engage with the text. Underline key points, annotate important details, and mark passages that you may want to refer back to later. This will help you remember crucial information and facilitate your analysis.

9. Plan Your Essays:

For the essay sections, take a few minutes to plan your response before writing. Outline your main points, supporting evidence, and a clear thesis statement. This will provide structure to your essay and ensure a more coherent and organized response.

10. Review Your Work:

If time permits, take a moment to review your answers before submitting your exam. Check for any errors or incomplete responses, and make any necessary corrections or additions. Ensure that you have followed the instructions and provided clear and concise answers.

11. Stay Calm and Focused:

Throughout the exam, maintain a calm and focused mindset. Manage test anxiety by taking deep breaths, maintaining a positive attitude, and focusing on the task at hand. Remember that you have prepared for this exam and trust in your abilities.

12. Follow Exam Regulations:

Adhere to the exam regulations and guidelines provided by the College Board. Maintain academic integrity by refraining from any prohibited behavior, such as cheating or using unauthorized materials.

By following these tips, you can approach the AP Language and Composition exam with confidence and maximize your chances of success. Remember to stay calm, trust your preparation, and showcase your skills in analyzing and responding to complex texts. Good luck!

In conclusion, the AP Language and Composition exam can seem challenging, but with the right preparation and approach, you can excel. Understanding the exam format, practicing multiple-choice questions, mastering the free response section, and developing strong analytical and writing skills are essential for success. Additionally, following test day tips and maintaining a calm and focused mindset will help you perform at your best. By leveraging these insights and strategies, you can navigate the AP Language and Composition exam with confidence and achieve a high score. Good luck on your exam!

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How To Use The New AP® English Scoring Rubric

Last summer, the major changes for the 2019-2020 school year across AP ® courses included a) new unit structures aligned to key course skills, b) teachers gained access to more resources through the launch of AP ® Classroom, and c) many exams underwent major changes. All of these changes were meant to better support AP ® students and teachers in their preparation for – and success on – the May AP ® exams.

Teachers of AP ® English Language and Composition and AP ® English Literature and Composition experienced one of the most significant changes: the introduction of a new analytic rubric for each exam’s Free Response Questions. This new rubric takes the place of the nine-point holistic rubric that has been in use for 20 years.

P.S. Based on feedback from teachers, the College Board made a few final tweaks to the rubrics, which they released on September 30, 2019 . Those changes helped clarify some parts of the rubric. They also released 10 scored student samples for each question of 2018 and 2019 with scoring commentaries!

Using the New AP ® English Rubric With Confidence

Such a significant change can be daunting. If you’ve felt less than prepared to use the new rubrics in your class, the good news is there are major benefits with the new approach.

We’ve been trying it out ourselves – scoring hundreds of previously released student samples alongside a team of expert College Board readers – and we believe the new rubric makes it easier to communicate and teach. That’s exciting news for teachers and students.

The analytic style of this rubric offers clearer direct measures of success. In each scoring category, there are technical requirements to meet, which makes expectations clearer for students and evaluation easier for teachers.

Plus, while development and analysis have always been critical to success on AP ® English work, this rubric offers a more visible focus on evidence and commentary – as well as clarification of exactly what this means.

“There are two aspects of the new rubric I liked most. The first is the analytical nature of the rubric. Since the categories are broken down into three distinct sections, it is easier to consider each portion of this score separately.

Second, i found the new rubric particularly thorough in its explanation. each reporting category clarified what types of responses would or would not earn a specific score for that category. the explanations were more focused and clearer for their descriptions.”, — michael stracco, ap ® english literature reader.

Being big fans of rubrics of all types, but especially analytic rubrics, Marco Learning is here to help. In this post, we break down the big changes and dig into the new rubrics that will be used to evaluate Free Response Questions starting with the May 2020 exams.

Here’s what we will cover in this post:

  • Anatomy of the new rubric
  • How to use the “decision rules” for scoring
  • Implications for teaching
  • How to share the new rubric with your students

Anatomy of the New Rubric

While essays were previously graded on a holistic scale of 0 to 9, reflecting overall quality, the College Board has switched to an analytic rubric, which evaluates student success out of 6 possible points across three scoring categories. The three scoring categories are:

  • Thesis (1 point possible)
  • Evidence and Commentary (4 points possible)
  • Sophistication (1 point possible)

ap lang essay scoring guide

Linguistic change! If you’re familiar with the old rubric, you’ll notice a new word choice right away. The new rubric refers to commentary instead of analysis. We perceive this change to be more student friendly, in that it encompasses a broader range of student engagement with the text — rather than simply analyzing the technical aspects of the text/argument, students are encouraged to integrate commentary on important background elements of the text/argument!

Each of these “reporting categories” contains specific requirements that students must meet in order to earn points. The student’s identification and use of evidence continues to be weighted most heavily, with four of the six available points falling within the Evidence and Commentary reporting category.

Here are the core elements of the Synthesis Essay in AP ® English Language:

ap lang essay scoring guide

How do the rubrics vary by course and/or essay type?

  • The scoring criteria for Thesis are nearly identical for all six essay types, with a slight modification for AP ® Literature to add that a student’s thesis must “present an interpretation” of the text in question.
  • The Evidence and Commentary scoring criteria have slight variations to address the source of evidence that corresponds to each essay type.
  • The Sophistication scoring criteria are identical across courses and all essay types.

Decision Rules for Scoring

In addition to the basic rubric scoring criteria, the College Board provides helpful “decision rules” for how to apply the criteria more specifically. Notably, these rules vary by essay type.

Access the complete College Board (and revised ) rubrics with the decision rules here:

AP ® English Language

  • Q1: Synthesis Essay
  • Q2: Rhetorical Analysis
  • Q3: Argument Essay

AP ® English Literature

  • Q1: Poetry Analysis
  • Q2: Prose Fiction Analysis
  • Q3: Literary Argument

Applying the Rubric to Student Samples

Many teachers will want to continue to use released exams for student practice (available on the College Board website: AP ® English Language , AP ® English Literature ).

Here’s how to apply the new rubric to your students’ practice timed writings.

Not only is the thesis a vital part of effective written work, it is now a scoring category for AP ® English essays – an explicit requirement. In each essay, students should “respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position/interpretation” (the object here varies slightly depending on the question type). Understandably, this must take a position and should go beyond merely restating the prompt or summarizing source texts.

AP ® English Language Argument Essay: Thesis Category

ap lang essay scoring guide

Pay special attention to the “additional notes” at the bottom:

First, a thesis located anywhere in the essay may earn the point. While it is typically not good practice for a student to bury their thesis in a conclusion paragraph (because the clarity of their argument may be impacted), a successful concluding thesis would earn the point. When the thesis is not obviously placed in its traditional spot at the end of an introductory paragraph, read closely in case a clear position in response to the prompt is hiding later in the essay.

Second, a thesis may earn a point even if the rest of the response does not support the same line of reasoning . The thesis is evaluated entirely independently from the successful development of the argument.

What changed about THESIS in the revised rubrics?

  • Having a defensible position or interpretation (depending on essay type) matters, but the language around “establishing a line of reasoning” has been removed.
  • Students are not expected to use the thesis to outline their essay. There have been a few scoring notes added, such as that the thesis does not necessarily need to be a single sentence, but the separate sentences need to be in close proximity.


Worth 4 of the possible 6 points, the Evidence and Commentary category carries the weight of the new rubric. While the source of the evidence varies by essay type, regardless of prompt, students are asked to provide evidence for their position and expand on it with commentary that connects the evidence to their position.

Each rubric’s decision rules include descriptions of “typical” responses that fall into each score level. These descriptions will help you decide how to score a response, but may still prove challenging since you’ll still need to determine how successful a student’s explanation is and where that places it on the rubric.

AP ® English Language Argument Essay: Evidence and Commentary Category

ap lang essay scoring guide

As our team of AP ® readers have practiced applying these rules, we have had the most difficulty determining what meets the level of “explanation” in the expectations of the AP ® Language Argument Essay rubric. If a student has provided explanation for their evidence, but not very successfully, for example, they may still be eligible for a score of 3 in this category. This might seem a bit high if you’re oriented to the rigor of the old holistic rubric, but as we’ll explain more below, you’ll need to move away from thinking in terms of the rigor of the old rubric or thinking of essays as “high” or “low.”

If you’re on the fence about a point, we recommend falling back to the classic guidance to reward students for what they do well , particularly in this scoring category. While that specific language has not persisted to this new rubric, based on what we know now, we expect it to persist as a value in College Board scoring on exams.

Note: An essay that does NOT earn the Thesis point is highly unlikely to earn 3 or 4 points in Evidence and Commentary. These higher scores require a clear connection between thesis and evidence.

What changed about EVIDENCE & COMMENTARY in the revised rubrics?

  • Compared to the initial version, the College Board made a helpful structural change: Evidence and Commentary are now discussed independently within the scoring criteria.
  • There is now more focus on supporting all claims for scores of 3 or 4 rather than simply providing examples or evidence that may not be totally successfully linked back to a claim.


We’ve found the Sophistication component requires the most group norming. There are 3-4 “ways” students might demonstrate sophistication of thought listed in the scoring notes, but the scoring criterion is king: the response must, above all, “demonstrate sophistication of thought and/or a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation.”

ap lang essay scoring guide

As noted in the rubric, sophistication must be part of the argument , not a passing phrase or reference. While it might be easy to coach students to fulfill one or more of the strategies (“check the box”), it will be very difficult for students to successfully earn the point.

What changed about SOPHISTICATION in the revised rubrics?

  • The College Board has fine-tuned to the decision rules for this point. It is now more clear that this point is very rigorous.
  • There are fewer examples of possible strategies (now 3-4 versus 5-6), notably removing “Utilizing a prose style that is appropriate to the student’s argument”.

ap lang essay scoring guide

Teacher tip: The ways a student might demonstrate sophistication may not be obvious for them to include in a response (e.g., using relevant analogies to help an audience better understand an interpretation or discussing alternative interpretations of a text). While we don’t recommend encouraging your students to incorporate the listed strategies to “check the box,” we do recommend encouraging them to be creative in their engagement with the text. And look to these descriptors for teaching ideas!

Avoid These Common Scoring Mistakes

Make sure your scoring is focused on the core areas of the AP ® rubric and doesn’t get caught up by any of these common scoring mistakes.

  • Don’t focus on grammar and mechanics. These aspects of writing are relatively unimportant in scoring. However, if grammatical and/or mechanical errors are so frequent and significant that they interfere with your understanding of the essay, the student is ineligible for the fourth point in the Evidence and Commentary reporting category. It is, however, rare to see this level of technical writing errors in a high-scoring essay.
  • Don’t penalize for “missing” conclusions. While they do make for “nicer” writing, conclusion paragraphs are usually brief and are not actually required in this exam! A student’s conclusion (or the lack of one) is not weighted in the score.
  • Don’t be fooled by flowery writing! Sometimes, a student may write with sophisticated style or flowery language, but fail to adequately analyze evidence or support their argument. While these essays might sound nice, they don’t achieve the main goals of AP ® assignments — namely, the development and analysis of evidence in support of a relevant argument. If an essay is written extremely well on the surface, take a moment to consider whether it meets the assignment goals or if sophisticated styling is masking a lack of analysis. Make sure the specific scoring categories guide your evaluation of each student’s essay!
  • Be careful not to compare the new analytic scoring with the old holistic scores. If you’re very familiar with the 9-point holistic rubric, you may be tempted to continue to consider essays in terms of their success on the old rubric, but the new analytic rubric requires a shift in thinking. Try not to compare the overall scores of students to each other (an overall score of 3 for two students might reflect success in different scoring categories, for example), and be careful about calibrating to past released student samples that were scored on the old scale.

“I believe that the main challenge with the new rubrics is developing a different mindset from the previous holistic scoring. The one for me that seemed most difficult to discard was seeing an essay as either an upper level or a lower level essay. The new rubric discourages such thinking, which many of us experienced scorers often relied upon when first reading through an essay.”

ap lang essay scoring guide

Implications for Teaching

We asked Michael Stracco, a long-time English teacher with sixteen years experience as a College Board reader for the AP ® Literature and Composition course, for his advice for teachers when guiding students on the new rubric.

What advice would you give to teachers when guiding students on the new rubric?

Any rubric is going to be a bit formulaic when it comes to preparing students. To the degree that the rubric describes good writing, this new rubric is clearly good teaching of writing. For example, the descriptors of a good thesis sentence are excellent. A teacher would do well to teach a student how to write a good, clear thesis which answers a prompt. However, in years past, it was conceivable that a thesis could be implied on these essays since a stated thesis was not a part of the rubric. Now it is a part of the rubric. Because of this change, all students must now be certain to have a clearly stated thesis. This is a bit formulaic, but it is what teachers must teach in order to prepare their students well for the test.

So this would be my advice to teachers:

  • Remember that you are always a writing teacher. The aspects of writing a literary analysis response are still just teaching how to write well. To be specific, teach students to rely upon the text , to make an analysis of the text, and to elaborate upon that analysis. Be certain to teach students the difference between summary and analysis . This is the heart of scoring well in Row B.
  • I would teach students to put the thesis in the introduction and to underline It always helps for a writer to think about audience in all writing, and in this case the audience is someone who is reading many essays and needs to be certain to see the thesis to assign the point.
  • Regarding a thesis: Teach students that creating a good thesis has two purposes. The first is so that the reader knows where the piece is headed. But the second is so that the writer knows where the piece is headed.
  • Related to this: Planning is essential before writing. You need to know your thesis so that you can keep the piece focused. As an experienced reader, I sometimes would see a student write him/herself into a good essay. The piece would develop into a better essay than the thesis. With a full point being for a good thesis, a student must plan before writing and must write within the context of the thesis or no point would be assigned.

Next Steps for Tackling the New Rubric

As you begin to use the new AP ® English rubrics in your classroom this school year, we encourage you to use the rubric categories and language to guide the skills you teach and follow these next steps:

  • First, download our fillable Teacher English Language Scoring Rubric to keep track of all of these pointers when you are evaluating student work on the new AP ® English rubric. Make copies to reuse with each essay you grade!

TEACHER Scoring Rubric

  • Second, plan a lesson to introduce your students to the new rubric. Review the rubric with them and prep them to use it for self-assessment on their next essay.
  • Third, assign your first practice essay of the school year with confidence! Plan to have your class practice writing thesis statements, and give students plenty of opportunities to practice and workshop more straightforward evidence and commentary strategies.

If your school partners with Marco Learning, take advantage of the opportunity to get personalized feedback for your students from one of our qualified Graders. Graders complete qualification modules to demonstrate proficiency with the new rubric in addition to calibration exercises specific to each prompt.

Log in to your Marco Learning account , and pick from any College Board released prompts dating back to 1999. Scoring and feedback on all AP ® English prompts will be completed using the new rubrics so students and teachers can be prepared for the exams in May!

If we don’t currently work with your school, learn more about how Marco Learning supports AP teachers here .

ap lang essay scoring guide

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Last Modified: 1/24/2023

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Find what you need to study

2024 AP English Language and Composition Exam Guide

12 min read • august 18, 2023


Your guide to the 2024 AP English Language and Composition exam

We know that studying for your AP exams can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We created a study plan to help you crush your AP English Language and Composition exam. This guide will continue to update with information about the 2024 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you do your best on test day.  Unlock Cram Mode  for access to our cram events—students who have successfully passed their AP exams will answer your questions and guide your last-minute studying LIVE! And don't miss out on unlimited access to our database of thousands of practice questions. FYI, something cool is coming your way Fall 2023! 👀

Format of the 2024 AP English Language and Composition exam

This year, all AP exams will cover all units and essay types. The 2024 AP English Language and Composition exam format will be:

Section I: Multiple Choice - 45% of your score

45 questions in 1 hour

Section II: Free Response Section - 55% of your score

2 hours and 15 minutes for:

1 synthesis essay

1 rhetorical analysis essay

1 argument essay

Scoring Rubric for the 2024 AP Lang Essays

Synthesis Essay

1 point for a defensible thesis that responds to the prompt

Evidence and Commentary

Max of 4 points for providing evidence from at least 3 sources that support the line of reasoning AND commentary that explains and analyzes the evidence


1 point any of the following:

Creating a nuanced argument

Showing the limitations of the argument

Making effective rhetorical choices

Employing a style that is vivid and persuasive

Rhetorical Analysis Essay

1 point for a defensible thesis that analyzes rhetorical choices

Max of 4 points for providing specific evidence AND consistently explaining how the evidence relates to the line of reasoning AND showing how the rhetorical choices contribute to the author's message .

1 point for any of the following:

Explaining the significance of the rhetorical choices ( rhetorical situation )

Explaining the complexities of the passage and their purpose

Argument Essay

1 point for a defensible thesis

Max of 4 points for providing specific evidence AND consistently explaining the relevance of that evidence .

Crafting a nuanced argument by identifying complexities

Explaining the limitations of the argument by placing it in a broader context

Making rhetorical choices to improve the argument

Check out our study plan below to find resources and tools to prepare for your AP English Language and Composition exam.

When is the 2024 AP English Language and Composition Exam and How Do I Take It?

How should i prepare for the ap lang exam.

First, take stock of your progress in the course so far. What areas have you excelled and which sections need more focus? Download the AP English Language Cheatsheet PDF - a single sheet that covers everything you need to know at a high level. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses!

Build your study plan to review every unit and question type, but focus most on the areas that need the most improvement and practice. We’ve put together this plan to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam

Practice essays are your best friends! The more essays you write, the more automatic the process will come, and the easier the AP exam will be!

Try some of the past exam questions here

We've put together the study plan found below to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam. Pay special attention to the units that you need the most improvement in.

Study, practice, and review for test day with other students during our live cram sessions via  Cram Mode . Cram live streams will teach, review, and practice important topics from AP courses, college admission tests, and college admission topics. These streams are hosted by experienced students who know what you need to succeed.

Pre-Work: Set Up Your Study Environment

Before you begin studying, take some time to get organized.

🖥 Create a study space.

Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space. 

📚 Organize your study materials.

Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also, create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get yourself set up!

📅 Plan designated times for studying.

The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.

🏆 Decide on an accountability plan.

How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First, set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!

🤝 Get support from your peers.  

There are thousands of students all over the world who are preparing for their AP exams just like you! Join  Rooms  🤝 to chat, ask questions, and meet other students who are also studying for the spring exams. You can even build study groups and review material together! 

2024 AP Lang Study Guide

🚧 unit 1 foundations of rhetoric: analysis of the rhetorical situation and claims ., big takeaways:.

Unit 1 is an introductory unit that lays the foundations for the reading skills associated with how to understand and analyze complex texts. Skills here include identifying the ASPECTS of a text, analyzing the claim given and the evidence used to support that claim, and determining the function of the “chunks” in the argument. Because the content in this unit is very foundational, it is looped throughout the rest of the course instruction.

Definitely do this:

📚 Read these study guides:

Unit 1 Overview: Claims , Reasoning , and Evidence

1.1 Identifying the purpose and intended audience of a text

1.2 Examining how evidence supports a claim

1.3 Developing paragraphs as part of an effective argument

🎥 Watch these videos:

College Board’s Instructional Video: Overview of The Rhetorical Situation .

Fiveable’s How to Read Like an AP Student .

Rhetorical Analysis Thesis Statements  

Rhetorical Analysis Body Paragraphs

✍️ Practice:

Use the Fiveable ASPECTS Guidesheet to help you break down a complex text.

🗺 Can you identify these rhetorical devices?

You won’t be asked to name drop on the exam, but it can be helpful to use devices when discussing strategies. Try this Quizlet to help prepare.

Unit 2 Foundations of Argument: Analysis of an author’s choices in appeals and evidence

Unit 2 is an introductory unit that builds onto the foundations of rhetorical ASPECTS and moves toward planning and writing your own arguments. This unit focuses on the relationships between subject, speaker, and message, including examination of the structure and purpose of the given argument. The unit then moves into the developing thesis statements and building your own arguments with a clear line of reasoning .

Unit 2 Overview: Organizing Information for a Specific Audience

2.1 Analyzing audience and its relationship to the purpose of an argument

2.2 Building an argument with relevant and strategic evidence

2.3 Developing thesis statements

2.4 Developing structure and integrating evidence to reflect a line of reasoning

College Board’s Instructional Video: Identify Rhetorical Situation in a Pre 20th Century Text .

Fiveable’s video on How to Find Rhetorical Devices  

📰 Check out these articles:

Here’s a list of recommended rhetorical devices with definitions and examples!

Use the Fiveable Rhetorical Precis Guidesheet to help you break down a complex text.

🗺 Can you identify these elements of practical argument?

You won’t be asked to name drop of the exam, but it can be helpful to use devices when discussing strategies. Try this Quizlet to help prepare.

👥 Unit 3 Confluence: Synthesis of multiple sources in argumentation

Unit 3 approaches multiple perspectives in argument through the lens of synthesis (that’s FRQ 1). In this study, you learn to identify effective and faulty reasoning while integrating a variety of evidence from credible resources that is properly cited in an original text.

Unit 3 Overview: Perspectives and How Arguments Relate

3.1 Interpreting character description and perspective

3.2 Identifying and avoiding flawed lines of reasoning

3.3 Introducing and integrating sources and evidence

3.4 Using sufficient evidence for an argument

3.5 Attributing and citing references

3.6 Developing parts of a text with cause-effect and narrative methods

Fiveable’s Introduction into Synthesis Essays and How to Begin Your Argument

College Board’s Instructional Video: Complexity in Argument .

🗺 Can you identify these elements of synthesis?

👀 Unit 4 Reasoning : Analysis of argument from introduction to conclusion

Unit 4 includes a greater depth of focus on the writing of effective arguments -- the line of reasoning created in the introduction, built with modes of discourse, and strengthened in the conclusion. An important note about these skills of argumentation is that they build toward all parts of every FRQ. 

Unit 4 Overview: How writers develop arguments, intros, and conclusion

4.1 Developing and connecting thesis statements and lines of reasoning

4.2 Developing introductions and conclusions

4.3 Adjusting an argument to address new evidence

College Board’s Instructional Video: Understanding a Line of Reasoning .

Fiveable’s Effective Annotations .

Try Fiveable’s Guide to LOR Body Paragraphs .

🗺 Can you identify the rhetorical modes?

You won’t be asked to name drop them on the exam, but it can be helpful to use devices when discussing strategies. Try this Quizlet to help prepare.

🧐 Unit 5 Commentary and Analysis: Analysis of complex argument and intentional rhetoric

In Unit 5, the skills look at the minutiae involved in argumentation: development of the line of reasoning that produces strong commentary and maintains the primary claim through all parts of the writing. To achieve these goals, this unit includes a focus on transitions , modifiers , and qualifications for argumentative perspective .  

Unit 5 Overview

5.1 Maintaining ideas throughout an argument

5.2 Developing commentary throughout paragraphs

5.3 Using modifiers to qualify an argument and convey perspective

5.4 Using transitions

Fiveable’s video on How to Improve Analysis Part 1 and Part 2

As well as how to Embed Quotes into Body Paragraphs  

Rhetorical Analysis Body Paragraphs  

Synthesis Essay Body Paragraphs  

Argument Essay Body Paragraphs

Tara Seale’s adaptation for Creating a Line of Reasoning .

🏃‍♂️ Unit 6 Rhetorical Risks: Analysis of multiple perspectives , bias , and shifts with new evidence

In Unit 6, you will notice a direct link building on the ideas of Unit 3 as this instruction looks at position and perspectives while synthesizing information strategically to support a claim.  For greater depth, this unit moves to modify a current argument to include new evidence .

Unit 6 Overview: Position, Perspective , and Bias

6.1 Incorporating multiple perspectives strategically into an argument

6.2 Recognizing and accounting for bias

6.3 Adjusting an argument to new evidence

6.4 Analyzing tone and shifts in tone

College Board’s Instructional Video: Creating a Nuanced Argument .

Fiveable’s video on Tracking an Author’s Argument  

🚀 Unit 7 Complex Argumentation: Analysis of effective arguments, including concession and refutation

The skills of Unit 7 are about putting all units of study together to look at the complexity of a given argument and the effectiveness of the pieces built into that argument.  Though many teachers will have addressed counterarguments, concessions, and refutations before reaching this unit, those skills are highly scrutinized in this segment of learning.

Unit 7 Overview: Successful and Unsuccessful Arguments

7.1 Examining complexities in issues

7.2 Considering how words, phrases, and clauses can modify and limit an argument

7.3 Examining how counterargument or alternative perspectives affect an argument

7.4 Exploring how sentence development affects an argument

Fiveable’s video on Arguments and Counterarguments  

College Board’s Instructional Video: How Argument Demonstrates Understanding .

Check your progress with Fiveable’s AP Language Skills Matrix .

📝 Unit 8 Style: Analysis of how style influences the audience movement

Unit 8 covers how to understand the influence style has on the audience , and the purpose behind each decision. By analyzing these various tactics, students are able to understand the author’s audience , and how to effectively persuade them. Style is an important part in connecting the rest of the course and understanding how the rhetorical choices and devices are used to accomplish a purpose .

Unit 8 Overview: Stylistic Choices

8.1 Choosing comparisons based on an audience

8.2 Considering how sentence development and word choice affect how the writer is perceived by an audience

8.3 Considering how all choices made in an argument affect the audience

8.4 Considering how style affects an argument

Fiveable’s Analysis of the Mindset of the Audience

College Board’s Instructional video: Analyzing and Understanding the Audience

College Board’s explanation of Elements and Context for Style  

Review this quizlet on Elements of Style for more practice.

✏️ Unit 9 Craft: Creation of your own complex argument with synthesis and rhetoric

The final unit of AP Language and Composition covers how to effectively form your own arguments by acknowledging and understanding complexities to create a nuanced and sophisticated argument. It focuses on your ability to comprehend and connect multiple sources to create a well reasoned, and detailed argument as well as how to add in your own rhetorical devices and choices to make your writing more persuasive and effective.

Unit 9 Overview: Developing a Complex Argument

9.1 Strategically conceding, rebutting, or refuting information

9.2 Crafting an argument through stylistic choices like word choice and description

Fiveable’s video on Creating your own Synthesis Arguments

College Board’s video on Complexities within Arguments and How to Create a Nuanced Argument

Key Terms to Review ( 38 )

Argument Structure

Author's Message

Cause-Effect Method





Line of Reasoning

Multiple Perspectives

Narrative Method

Objective Reasoning



Rhetorical Choices

Rhetorical Situation

Sentence Development

Stylistic Choices

Subjective Reasoning

Textual Evidence

Thesis Development

Thesis Statement

Tone Shifts


Word Choice


Stay Connected

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Tools & Calculators

Ap® english language score calculator.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: January 29, 2024

ap_english_language score calculator

If you’re looking for an AP® English Language score calculator, you’ve come to the right place. This interactive widget helps you see how you might do on the exam.

Need extra help in preparing for AP® English Language? Check out our AP® English Language section for tons of review articles or explore The Best AP® English Language Review Guide for 2022 .

If you’re an educator interested in boosting your AP® English Language student outcomes, l et us know and we’ll tell you how you can get started on Albert for free!

How are you projecting the scoring curve?

At this time, the College Board has not officially released a scoring worksheet that reflects the latest changes in AP® English Language. In order to create our projected curve, what we have done is taken the relative percentages of the MCQ and FRQ as well as the point values of each question as outlined In the scoring guidelines released for 2020 here .

AP® English Language

Enter your scores.

Section I: Multiple-Choice: Reading

Section II: Free Response - Q1 - Synthesis

Section II: Free Response - Q2 - Rhetorical Analysis

Section II: Free Response - Q3 - Argument

Section I: Multiple-Choice

Section II: Free Response - Question 1

Section II: Free Response - Question 2

Section II: Free Response - Question 3

Choose your score curve

2020 2007 2001

Looking for AP® English Language study materials? 

Also, check out this reference for the best AP® English Language review books .

What is a good AP® English Language score?

Scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on any AP® exam is generally considered good. Typically, a 3 is defined as ‘qualified,’ 4 as ‘well qualified,’ and a 5 as ‘extremely well qualified.’ Most colleges and universities have well-established AP® Credit Policies for students that score in these ranges. If you are curious in learning more about what credits you can earn at each respective school, go  here .

When considering how you scored on your AP® English Language exam, you should do so within the context of the exam test takers. For AP® English Language, 62.1% of overall test takers scored a 3 or higher in 2020. This information can be found in the latest student score distributions here .

What is the average AP English Language score?

Since there is a new group of test takers every year, the average AP® English Language score changes. However, generally speaking the College Board strives to keep a relatively consistent distribution for each subject. We recommend you think about the average AP® English Language score by considering a multi-year trend. For example, if you reference the AP® Student Score Distributions released by the College Board, the mean AP® English Language score was 2.79 in 2014, 2.79 in 2015, 2.82 in 2016, 2.77 in 2017, 2.83 in 2018, 2.78 in 2019 and 2.96 in 2020. Thus, if you took the raw average of these seven years, the average AP® English Language score is 2.82.

Why are AP® English Language scores curved?

The College Board curves AP® exams so that a consistent standard can be achieved every year, despite the different sample of test takers. AP® courses are college-level classes, so the way the exams are scored are reflected to account for the difficulty of these courses.

How do I get a 5 on AP® English Language?

While we all wish we could get 5 on AP® English Language, only 10.7% of test takers did so in 2016. In preparing for AP® English Language, there is no secret to scoring a 5 aside from practicing deliberately, learning by doing, and forming great study habits. English exams from the College Board ask students to be able to demonstrate comprehension of diverse texts, analyze individual texts in isolation, synthesize information from many texts, and form well-rounded arguments.

The Albert blog is home to many free review articles and study guides for AP® English Language. Here are a few that we recommend for you to read today:

  • How to Study for AP® English Language
  • Is AP® English Language Hard?
  • The Ultimate List of AP® English Language Tips
  • The Ultimate SOAPSTONE Analysis Guide for AP® Exams
  • Understanding the AP® English Language Argument Rubric

Looking for practice questions? Albert features  hundreds of AP-aligned AP® English Language practice questions and free response questions for you to study as you prepare for your AP® exam. Use Albert to study at your own convenience. Deliberate practice works! Students who used Albert for AP® English Language have beat the national pass rates by 13.61%.

Why should I use this AP® English Language score calculator?

Albert’s AP® English Language score calculator references the previously released scoring worksheets from the College Board, making it the most accurate and up-to-date. We encourage you to use score calculators as a way to motivate yourself when you’re preparing for your AP® exams. Understanding the number of MCQ and FRQ points you’ll need to pass the AP® English Language can help you stress less on the big day.

Looking for AP® English Language practice?

Kickstart your AP® English Language prep with Albert. Start your AP® exam prep today .

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ap lang essay scoring guide

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:

[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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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!

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