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How to Answer Questions on the English AP Test

by Bonnie Crowe, studioD

The College Board offers two kinds of English Advanced Placement tests: AP English Literature and Composition, and AP English Language and Composition. Both exams involve multiple-choice questions and expository writing. For the Language and Composition test, the College Board states that students should be able to “analyze and interpret samples of good writing, identifying and explaining an author’s use of rhetorical strategies and techniques,” in addition to using these same approaches and practices in their own writing. In the AP English Literature and Composition exam, students read and write literal examinations and interpretations of famous works of poetry, drama, fiction and expository prose.

Take Your Time

College Board Chief Readers Gale Larson and Marilyn Elkins advise reading and rereading each question carefully to really get to the heart of what is being asked. Organize your thoughts before you answer anything or write anything down. When you do write, use unique, insightful, varied language using high levels of critical thinking.

Give Relevant Details

Go beyond giving basic evidence to answer essay questions. Make sure the connections that you make are relevant. It’s good to give details to support your arguments, but only if those details are relevant to the story. Just regurgitating details that you may remember from literature without explaining their significance looks like you’re padding your essay.

Make an Educated Guess

Multiple-choice questions are graded based on the number you’ve answered correctly. There’s no deduction for answering a question incorrectly, so it makes sense to guess. Try to make educated guesses. An educated guess is when you eliminate the answers you know are incorrect first and then pick the most logical answer, even if you’re not sure whether it’s correct.

Know the Three Essay Prompts

BenchPrep advises becoming familiar with the three kinds of essay prompts on the English Language and Composition AP test: synthesis, analysis and persuasion. Synthesis is taking a side on an issue, using three sources to back up your point of view. Analysis is going into detail to describe the author’s message, including any rhetorical devises used. Persuasion is using your writing to craft a persuasive argument using current events. Practice answering these types of prompts before taking the test so that you’ll be comfortable with them come exam day.

About the Author

Bonnie Crowe is a mother of two teenagers; a teacher and author of children's books, curriculum and articles on English grammar, literature, technology, art, parenting and career guides for high schoolers. She's a former director of AOL Parenting, a member of SCBWI, and a graduate from the University of California,Berkeley.

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