So this episode is really how to write the free response essay. What we are going to look at once again a kind of the logistics of the situation you find yourself in, and then some strategies, a basic format kind of, for approaching the test, this part of the test, the free response essay part, so that you really are well equipped and ready to go with strategies. In another episode, actually we'll practice one. We'll take a question, and we will work through it, and you will go do your work and come back. But right now what we want to do, is just take a kind of a big picture approach, looking at how to write the free response essay.
So here is some basic strategy in helpful hands, and an overview for the free response essay. 70 minutes to write two essays. You have two essays that each have two choices. So you want to take a look at what those are. Spend 5 minutes prepping for each essay that’s not hard and fair so obviously, so that’s the logistics. That’s the overview.
Again, you want to read the questions carefully. Now here especially because you have two choices, you want to take a look and check out each one, before you decide which one you are going to write first. After you read the questions and you start to attack them, you want to identify the prompt category. What’s the question about?
The organization of American historians, which is like the most distinct group of historians in the country, did some interesting research about the AP US history test from 1994 to 2006. And it had to deal with this. And one of the things they found, when they looked at categories was in that period of time, there were 105 references in the free response essay just specific categories and they broke down the number of references and then the percentage of the total. And I think if you look at this graphic, what you see is, basically right here you got 73%.
I’m not going to tell you to put all your eggs in one basket, but it certainly seems about three quarters of the free response essays have to do. These are broad categories; economic, political, social and diplomatic, military. You probably have in your course this year and in your review, look at economic, political, social those are common categories. But it may help you in your reviewing, and in your thinking about approaching the free response essay, to know in fact that the preponderance of references have been to those areas.
The other is geographic expansion, cultural, intellectual, religious. You can see, there have certainly been references there and very often this tie in. There is some combination categories. But this is how you want to look at. In the same way, the OAH the Organization of American Historians, broke down the time periods that free response essays were asking about. And again, we see if we look at this, before 1763 and after 1960, 27%. So again, you've got somewhere in, let’s see if I could do my math. 27 comes down to 73% again in these categories between really 1763 and 1960. And within that, you can say preponderance between 1820 and 1960.
So again, I’m not going to tell you to put all your eggs in that basket, but it does help I think, to see that there is a tendency to go for a certain time period, as well as certain categories. So when you are doing practice test, and again if you go online and look at our practice test, you may see that those categories show up most often. So you might want to really sharpen your knowledge, increase the depths of your knowledge for those periods.
Once you identify that prompt, here we go again and this is why you should sharpen your knowledge and increase your depth. You're going to brainstorm. You're going to get all your ideas out. You want to make sure that no stone is left unturned. One of the things that readers are impressed with, is your knowledge of history your breadth of knowledge, okay as well as your depth. So you want to brainstorm get everything out here and then you want to organize it. And again graphic organizers, I think are a big help here, because they kind of break down the categories which can really step your paragraph writing.
If you read it carefully, you identify the prompt category, brainstorm, organize, the last thing to do is write. Now going back to the organizing, you may want to use a graphical organizer like this, that just breaks it down into those categories. You may want to identify specific people.
But any kind of graphical organizer that helps you put it together, answering that question, addressing the prompts really should help you write the best possible free response essay. You have plenty of time to do it, so follow these basic strategies and you won’t have any problem with free response.
So just to kind of wrap up the free response writing strategy, and tips, here are the final tips I really want to leave you with. Because I think, with this in mind, you can really do very well on this part of the test. Be assertive in your thesis. Don’t just restate what they ask. There is nothing more bland and uninteresting to a reader. So really try to figure out a more dynamic way to say what you want to say.
Take some time to really think out by being assertive in your thesis. I mentioned the more the better. The readers love to see that you know your history. So if you can particularly bring in closing effect and we can see that this happened because of that, or if you can reference Plessey versus Ferguson, even though you are talking about Brown versus Board of education. Really using your historical knowledge is important and it’s impressive. Being organized, you can’t be all over the map. You may know your history really well, but if you just throw in facts out there and hoping something sticks, it’s not going to help your case. You want to really approach this with that assertive thesis with your historical facts, but in an organized fashion.
One thing I would recommend that you do before you take the exam, is if you just Google AP US History rubrics. There are some great teachers out there, aside from the College Board and you get it from their website. But there are teachers out there who’ve put this online also. Take a look at what the scores are going to be using to assess your writing. Because, that will give you a pretty good idea of what a high score essay is. If you can get one of these sample books or maybe your AP history teacher can get something from the College Board which are released exams from years ago, they actually even show some essays that have been written in the past. And you could take a look at that and get an idea of this is what a highly score essay is.
So the rubric and seeing test exams might help out. And I can’t stress this enough, practice, practice. I’ve mentioned before we’ve got some online practice test. You might be able to get some of these released exams. Again if you go online, there are some great history teachers around the country who have been incredibly generous and put their stuff online.
So if you just Google AP US history exam, you’ll find stuff out there. Now you might have to sort it out a little bit but, the fact is everything will help. The more practice you can do, the better your results are going to be. And with the free response essay, you don’t have to necessarily take 70 minutes and write two exams. Take a half an hour, try one, see how you do. Have somebody read it for you and give you some feedback about was your thesis assertive? Do you really organize it well?
There’s lots of ways; classmates can help you out, teachers can help you out. Obviously there’s information online that can help you out. So, the key thing here is that you got to take the time to practice because the more you do that, the better your results are going to be, and the more confident you will be going into the free response essay writing.
As we approach AP exam time, you’ll want to explore how to best prepare yourself for the AP English Literature free-response section of the exam. Free-response makes up 55% of your test score. In this section, you will write three essays regarding prompts from poetry, a selected passage, and a work of literary fiction you select.
Only 7.6% of AP English Literature students scored a 5, in 2016. Follow this AP English Literature study plan to improve your chances of a possible 5 on this year’s test. Included herein are best practices for studying, practice exams, and tips on writing extraordinary essays.
What is the format of AP English Literature?
The goal of the AP English Literature course is to familiarize students with complex literary works of fiction. Through analytical reading and a careful attention to detail, students learn critical analysis of creative writing. Writing is an integral part of the course and exam. Essay assignments focus on the critical analysis of provided literary works and can be expository, analytical or argumentative.
The exam takes 3 hours. It is comprised of three free-response essays and 55 multiple-choice questions. The free-response section accounts to 55% of your score.
You will be given two hours to complete three free-response essays. The first will be corresponding to a given poem. The second will be regarding an excerpt from prose fiction or drama. The third is centered around a literary work chosen by you, from a specified category.
Why is the AP English Literature Free-Response Important?
Scoring guidelines for the AP English Literature Exam show that essays are assigned grades from 1-9. A 9 is the best score possible. Each of your scores is then multiplied by 3.0556. This weighted score is added to your multiple-choice totals, and the sum is your score. Overall scores ranging 114-150 are required for a 5 on the AP English Literature Exam.
If you score a perfect 68 on the multiple-choice portion, you would need three solid 5’s on your essays to earn a 5, on your overall exam. Since, it’s unlikely for anyone to achieve a perfect multiple-choice score, you should aim higher on the free-response questions.
A reasonable goal to strive for, would be earning 7’s on your essays. This would allow you to earn a 5 for your overall score by answering 40 MCQs correctly.
What Content is Covered in the Free-Response Section of AP English Literature?
For the AP English Literature Free-response section you are required to write three essays. They may be argumentative, analytical or expository depending on instructions. This section tests your ability to read and interpret various literary works, as well as your ability to communicate your ideas in a stylized, coherent response.
The test questions and subject matter change yearly, however, the structure remains the same. There will be one poem, one passage from prose fiction (or drama), and one work that you choose from a given category. Each fictional work will be accompanied by a question that you must answer in your essay. These range from specific interpretation of a given line or literary device used, to overall understanding of a writer’s purpose, theme or style.
Literature represented may span the 18th to 20th centuries. Poets such as John Keats, Walt Whitman, and Gwendolyn Brooks are possible examples. In drama, you may see the likes of Samuel Beckett, Sophocles, or Tennessee Williams. And, in expository prose, you’ll find authors such as Gloria Anzaldua, George Orwell, or Edward Said.
How to Prepare for AP English Literature Free-Response
Managing your time, as the AP exams grow closer, is imperative if you want a perfect score. There are many resources available online to help get the most from your AP English Literature study plan, both on Albert.io and CollegeBoard. Whether you’re natural at writing and comprehending literature, or not, you’ll want to prepare for the coming exam. Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of study sessions.
Practice Makes Perfect
You can find released exams and sample essays from previous years, on CollegeBoard. On Albert.io there are a multitude of helpful study resources including 15 Must Know Rhetorical Terms For AP English Literature, AP English Literature; 5 Essential Reads, and practice free-response essays for various works. If you’d like to follow a specific route the One Month AP English Literature Study Guide is helpful and comprehensive.
Focus on Critical Reading
Critical reading is essential for any AP English Literature review. It’s important to never skim through passages while studying. You will miss underlying themes and subtext which are important for answering the AP English Literature practice questions.
Always read at a normal pace in practice and during your exam. Repeat or elaborate passages to ensure you’ve understood them. Consider the following question as you read, “What is the meaning of this sentence, paragraph, stanza, or chapter?”
Utilize Your Syllabus
At the beginning of the year, collect as many of the books, poems and other works assigned for your AP English Literature course as you can. This will allow you to read at your own pace and save valuable time looking for assigned texts as they come up.
Take Notes as You Read
When reviewing any book, poem, essay or other literary work take careful notes which, can be used later. Include the exact title, author’s name and a paraphrasing of the preface or introduction. Also note important themes, styles, and content. When recording specific ideas related to a particular part include page, paragraph, and line number for easy re-examination at a later date.
Carefully Consider Principal Ideas
Take into account the key concepts in any reading assignment. What evidence or support does the author show? In the writings of journalists, identifying these ideas and reinforcing materials is easy. However, accomplishing the same task for a more subtle work, such as that of Sylvia Plath or F. Scott Fitzgerald, may prove challenging.
Explore the Context
Spending a short amount of time researching the context surrounding an author or their work can expand your understanding of issues they tried to address and how well they succeeded. For example, researching Berlin in 1935 will give you insight to better understand the motivations of Vladimir Nabokov, when he wrote The Gift.
Read out Loud
When reading complex passages or poetry it is helpful to read aloud. Often, this approach slows your reading and aids in your comprehension of underlying tones and themes.
Reread when Necessary
It is regularly advised to read a literary work more than once to fully understand complex issues and sophisticated expressions.
Consult Your Dictionary, Thesaurus or Encyclopedia
Take advantage of these invaluable resources at your local library or online to expand your knowledge of words and content that you are reading. Remember that many English and American texts require familiarity with the major themes of Judaic and Christian religious traditions and with Greek and Roman mythology.
Write, Review, and Rewrite Regularly
Writing quality essays takes practice. It’s not an innate ability we are born with. Proper use of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax are just as important as understanding the literature you’re analyzing. Refer to How To Score Your Own AP English Literature Practice Essay to review and improve your writing. For an in depth review of free-response strategies turn to 3 Ways to Tackle AP English Literature Prompts. Use of the Albert.io AP English Literature free-response practice questions will be invaluable to your study plan.
How to Answer AP English Literature Free-Response Questions?
Here are some basic guidelines for writing a cohesive free-response essay. For more specific details on writing an exemplary response, check out How to Score Your Own AP English Language Practice Essay. Also, head over to 11 AP English Literature Test Taking Strategies for exam insight.
Understand the Subject Matter
Before you begin formulating your answer, read the prompt and any corresponding passage thoroughly. Ensure you fully comprehend what is being asked of you.
Outline Your Essay
Begin answering any free-response question with a quick outline of your planned essay. An effective introduction will include a thesis statement. Your thesis statement and supporting ideas should be clear and well thought out. Remember to structure your points and end with a conclusion which summarizes your answer.
Write Clearly and Eloquently
As you craft your response pay special attention to structure, vocabulary, and grammar. A well written essay is essential. Be certain to answer the presented question fully with supporting evidence from the passage provided. Ensure that your tenses are in line, pronoun use is not messy, and read your essay for fluidity as you go. Conclude by restating your thesis and summarizing your argument.
What are AP English Literature Free-Response Questions Like?
The following are actual free-response questions from AP English Literature Exams of the past years. You can find many more released questions and responses on CollegeBoard, for reference.
Example One is from the 2016 exam.
“In this excerpt from Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Michael Henchard and his daughter Elizabeth-Jane are reunited after years of estrangement. During this separation, Henchard has risen from poor seasonal farm worker to wealthy mayor of a small country town, while Elizabeth has supported herself by waiting tables at a tavern.
Read the passage carefully. Paying particular attention to tone, word choice, and selection of detail, compose a well-written essay in which you analyze Hardy’s portrayal of the complex relationship between the two characters.”
When reading the passage, pay special attention to the relationship between the two characters. Note specific lines which give particular insight. Formulate your opinion and structure your essay to support it. A well-written response for this prompt would understand the many nuisances seen in this excerpt. Notable points to mention in an effective essay include the underlying hypocrisy of Henchard, the unhealthy relationship between the characters and the paradox wherein Elizabeth-Jane tries in vain to relate to her father, causing her own pain.
Take a look at some past responses for this prompt and the scores on CollegeBoard’s 2016 Scoring Guidelines.
Example two is from the 2015 exam.
“In literary works, cruelty often functions as a crucial motivation or a major social or political factor. Select a novel, play, or epic poem in which acts of cruelty are important to the theme. Then write a well-developed essay analyzing how cruelty functions in the work as a whole and what the cruelty reveals about the perpetrator and/or victim.
You may select a work from the list below or another work of equal literary merit. Do not merely summarize the plot.”
Some of the choices given included Beloved, Oliver Twist, The Scarlet Letter, and The Crucible.
Select one of the given options or your own, based on your confidence that you remember and understand the plot, characters and details well enough to write a convincing and sophisticated essay. Examine how cruelty plays a role in the story, what that means for the victim and/or perpetrator, and any underlying themes which relate to cruelty. Use specific examples from the piece and support your argument clearly.
Take a look at a few past responses from this prompt and the scores on CollegeBoard’s 2015 Scoring Guidelines.
How can I practice AP English Literature Free-Response?
As you continue to prepare yourself for the AP English Literature free-response portion of the exam, take advantage of the many resources cited herein. Also, look on Albert.io for helpful AP English Literature practice questions, study tips and essay guides.
Don’t forget to check the quality of your writing as you practice by self-scoring your practice responses. Check out How to Score Your Own AP English Literature Essay for help.
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