Getting ready for the AP
Test layout, helpful hints, and test
1. Brief Intro. To AP Exam:
 -2 sections: multiple choice and essay
 -Need to know not just what will be
tested, but how it will be tested.
 -tests knowledge and skills in
expository writing and rhetoric
1. Brief Intro. To AP Exam:
 -can take language and lit. tests the
same year
 -test is designed by high school and
college professors
 -test duration is 3 hours (180 min)
 -Section 1: Multiple Choice (60 min)Counts for 45% of grade; 50-55
1. Brief Intro. To AP Exam:
 -Section 2: Free response (120 min)- Counts
for 55 % of your grade; composed of 3 essays
-1) Analysis of passage/Presentation of
analysis (40 min essay)
-2) Argumentative Essay (40 min: supports,
refutes, of qualifies a statement)
-3) Synthesis essay (55 min: integrates info
from a variety of sources)
1. Brief Intro. To AP Exam:
 -Final Score:
1- Not qualified
2- Possibly Qualified
3- Qualified
4- Well Qualified
5- Extremely Qualified
1. Brief Intro. To AP Exam:
 -Free Response Score (scored from 09)
 -Criteria for a 9: “answers all facets of
the question completely, making good
use of specific examples to support its
points, and is ‘well-written’
 -Criteria for a 0: means you basically
wrote gibberish
1. Brief Intro. To AP Exam:
 -Your final score is from 1-5 (Generated from a
combination of your scores from the first 2 sections):
Process is complicated. If you really want a detailed
description of this process see me and I will show you a
detailed explanation.
 -Getting AP Credit:
- Need to check with colleges (counselor) to see if
school accepts AP credit
- 4-5 will get you credit
- 3 usually will get you credit
- 1-2 will get you no credit
1. Brief Intro. To AP Exam:
 - Test day: Bring comfortable clothes
(dress in layers), a snack to eat
during break, at least 2 #2 pencils, a
few blue or black ink pens (they do
care about the colors unlike me), and
get sleep the night before.
2. Cracking the System: The
Multiple Choice Section
Passages on the Exam
 Multiple choice section is made up of
5-7 passages
 They are followed by 5-12 multiple
choice questions for each passage
 Most works are from 19th and 20th
 You will probably see one passage
that was written before 1800.
Passages on the Exam
 Variety of Passages:
 fiction, essays, biography,
autobiography, diary entries, speeches,
letters, pieces of journalism, literary
criticism, science and nature writing,
writings about politics or history
Passages on the Exam
 Passages will be varied in types of:
Points of view
Passages on the Exam
 You MUST focus on:
 Rhetorical devices
 Figures of speech
 Purpose of writings
Questions of Anonymity
 Passages missing context clues
historical context
maybe title
explanatory notes
Possibly names of the authors
The Big Picture
 DO NOT read the questions before you
read the passage.
 Why? Because you may filter your
reading and ignore important
 Imagine the first question will be,
“What’s the gist of the passage?”
 Questions may try to trick you into
identifying wrong answers because you
focus too much on a sentence/question.
Two-Pass System
 54 questions, 60 minutes to complete
test, about 1 min. to answer each
 Should spend 8-12 minutes on each
 Make a first pass answering questions
that are easy and circling those that
are hard.
Two-Pass System
 Steps to take:
 1. Answer all the easy questions first.
 2. Circle the hard questions.
 3. Look a watch to see how much time
you have remaining out of the 8-12
allotted minutes. If you’re out of time,
comeback after you’ve finished the rest
of the passages in the section.
POE and Guessing
 Some people think that guessing can
hurt you, but that isn’t true. Your
chances of guessing correctly will go
up if you can eliminate one or more
choices. Imagine that.
 You should take your best guess as
long as you can eliminate even one
answer choice.
 Read the passage for the big picture.
 Pace yourself (use the two-pass
 Use POE on every question.
Read Sample Passage #1:
 Henry David Thoreau’s Walden
The Analysis
 Dominant Rhetorical Strategy: analogy that
compares the behavior of the ants with that of
human being.
 Dwells on details about the insects to lead us
to a revelation about human beings
 “He’s asking us to see that people are like ants
and is commenting on the inappropriateness of
associating warfare with grandiloquence and
 This is the big picture.
The Analysis
 Big picture questions will ask you to
characterize the speaker’s tone, style,
or attitude in a passage.
 Another type will ask you to describe
how a particular detail fits into the big
picture-what a particular word means
in context or how a reader is meant
to interpret a word based on tone,
style, or attitude in a passage.
The Questions (Thoreau)
 1) The author’s tone in this passage
can best be described as one of
A. suspicion and confusion
B. horror and shock
C. detachment and criticism
D. condescension and bemusement
E. admiration and empathy
The Questions (Thoreau)
 Answer explanation:
 The answer is D.
 Need to consider the overall meaning or
intent of the passage
 “observer is to the ants as some higher
being would be to humans”-this is why
condescension is a valid answer
 Both answers in the choice must be
correct; if one is wrong then the whole
choice is wrong.
The Questions (Thoreau)
 2. In this passage, the author
exaggerates the greatness of the
ants’ struggle to
A. exaggerate the greatness of nature
B. show the true greatness of nature
C. demonstrate the importance of war
D. illustrate the fierceness of ants
E. suggest the exaggerated greatness of
The Questions (Thoreau)
 Answer Explanation:
 The answer is E.
 C and D may have looked good, but
were meant to deliberately trap readers
who didn’t pay attention to the big
Details and the Big Picture
 Big picture questions usually come at
the beginning or the end of the
question set.
 Detail questions are sandwiched in
The Questions (Thoreau)
 3. In lines 1-2, Thoreau changes
“wood-pile” to “pile of stumps”
because he wants to
 A. enhance the scene of realism in the
 B. trivialize the setting of the action
 C. be thoroughly truthful in his depiction
 D. create a sense of drama
 E. make the setting more natural
The Questions (Thoreau)
 Answer Explanation:
 Eliminate A, C, and E; from the big
picture you know these answers aren’t
 If you got the first two questions correct,
B would have been a choice that
reinforced your confidence.
 Your answers should match each other.
The Questions (Thoreau)
 4. All of the following humorously
aggrandize the battle EXCEPT
 A. it was not a duellum, but a bellum (line 8)
 B. the hills and the vales of my wood-yard (lines 1112)
 C. human soldiers never fought so resolutely (line
 D. whose mother had charged him to return with his
shield or upon it (lines 37-39)
 E. Or perchance he was some Achilles (line 40)
The Questions (Thoreau)
 Answer Explanation:
 The answer is C.
 It is almost the only line in the passage
that could be considered not tinged with
The Questions (Thoreau)
 The Details:
 Don’t read the passage over for details.
 As you come to detail questions (dealing
with specific lines) go back and reread
more closely.
 ALWAYS reread those lines.
 Questions that refer to words or lines in
the same passage be sure to “read
around the lines.”
The Questions (Thoreau)
 The Details (con.)
 Most non-big picture questions focus on
detailed info. from passage.
 Do NOT go back and read large portions
of the text.
The Questions (Thoreau)
 5. In context, “pertinacity” (line 31)
most nearly means
A. pertinence
B. loyalty
C. perspicacity
D. obstinacy
E. attentiveness
The Questions (Thoreau)
 Answer Explanation
 “In context” guarantees that the answer
won’t be the first meaning that pops into
your head.
 If you go back and look at the context
you should be able to eliminate all
answers except for D.
The Questions (Thoreau)
 6. The phrase “who had nourished his
wrath apart” (lines 39-40) most
nearly means
A. who was hungry for battle
B. who worked up great anger in private
C. who was only partly angry
D. who fought alone
E. who feasted alone
The Questions (Thoreau)
 7. The phrase “who had nourished his
wrath apart” (lines 39-40) serves
mainly to
 A. create the impression of an epic tone
 B. sustain the seriousness of the author’s point of
 C. highlight the extent of the hatred between the
 D. underscore the loneliness of the combatants
 E. emphasize the cannibalistic nature of the
The Questions (Thoreau)
 Answer Explanations:
 Question 6 is a translation question. The
answer is B.
 Question 7 is more of a big picture
 Eliminate B because we have determined
that there is playful humanization of the
combat of the insects.
 The answer is A. Thoreau’s aim is to have
us understand the futility and insignificance
of events in the grand scheme of things.
3. Basic Principles of the
Essay Section
Format and Content of the
Essay Section
 Essay Section made up of the
 1 rhetorical analysis essay
 1 argumentative essay
 1synthesis essay
Format and Content of the
Essay Section
 Time: 2 hours to answer 3 essay
 Need to write in pen (blue or black
 You are responsible for time
management. (You will be given no
 Plan on spending 40 min. on each
 You are not writing for your teacher.
Your reader does not know you.
 You’ll be graded at least as much on
form and writing as on the content.
AP Essay Scoring
 Given a score between 0-9
 About 65% of the essays receive a
score in the middle range: 4,5,6
 Your goal is to have your essays
stand out from the rest.
 Your goal should be to at least get a
6 or 7.
AP Essay Scoring
 Essays are scored holistically.
 The readers are individuals who will
make subjective judgments.
 Avoid :
 Being monotonous
 Providing a generic essay
 Doesn’t address the prompt
Analysis of the scoring guide
 High scoring essays are:
 Clear and well organized.
 Use clear examples.
 Are not mechanical.
How to make the reader give
you a high score
 Half the points you are given come
from the content of an essay.
 Make your essays readable. (legible)
 If your thoughts are a mess your
essay will be a mess.
 The occasional scratch-out is fine.
Too many and then you create a
How to make the reader give
you a high score
 Indent: Indent twice as far as you
normally would.
 Paragraphs should be approximately
the same length.
 Write perfectly…for the first two
 Write with pizzazz.
 Use more precise, colorful wording.
How to make the reader give
you a high score
 Address the prompt.
Budget Your Time
 Spend 40 min. on each essay.
 Spend 3-5 min. planning before you
begin writing.
 Save a few minutes at the end for
 You may write your essays in any
order. (But why would you?)
Quick pointers
 Write a BRIEF outline.
 You should plan to fill 2-3 lined pages
in the essay booklet.
 Write around 3 sentences in your
 1st: Thesis
 2nd-3rd: contain enumeration of the main
points that will support your thesis
Quick pointers
 Do not use identical wording. (introrest of essay)
 End each paragraph with either a
clincher or a transitional sentence.
 Keep the conclusion short. (DO NOT
 Invite the reader to reflect upon what
you have written.
4. The Rhetorical Analysis
The First Time You Read the
 The first time you read the prompt
identify the type of essay they’re
asking you to write and what you’re
supposed to do.
 Underline any directions that the
essay gives you.
 Prompts do not always have a marker
to show that you are required to
present your analysis in an expository
essay, but it will be obvious that you
The First Time You Read the
 If the prompt doesn’t instruct you to
argue, then you will be expected to
explain something.
 Sometimes you need to infer the
author’s position, sometimes the
prompt gives it to you.
 First time you read the essay, figure
out the author’s point of view and
identify rhetorical strategies used.
The Second Time You Read the
 You should circle clues or key
elements that you know or need to
 Think PAPA. (Persona, audience,
purpose, and argument)
5. The Argumentative Essay
First, a word…
 For this essay you will be asked to
take a stand.
 Not only do you get to use “I,” but
you have to use it.
 All that matters is how effectively you
argue and back up your position.
 The first time you read the prompt
identify the type of essay they’re
asking you to write and what you’re
supposed to do.
First, a word…
 Most argumentative essays in recent
history have used one of the following
phrases: “refute, support, or qualify.”
 You can easily distinguish between a
rhetorical essay and an
argumentative one.
The first time you read the
 The passages for this essay type are
usually short.
 Underline the directions present
within the prompt.
 When you read, begin to formulate a
response and the evidence you find
should determine the stance you
The first time you read the
 Take the stance that is easiest for
you to defend.
 Your second reading can be fairly
 The analysis:
 This is not a rhetorical analysis, so you
do not need take apart the entire
 At first, your goal is to identify the
author’s claim.
The Analysis (con.)
 Next you need to refute, support, or
qualify the claim.
 Clearly decide how you feel about the
issue and have examples to back up
your claim.
 Don’t forget to write in the present
 Use the present tense when addressing
the author, text, and claim.
Tenses and Misc.
 Use the past tense only when
presenting historical facts.
 One of the most common errors is
using improper verb-tense shifts.
 Don’t get into the habit of using
superfluous words in the introduction.
 I.e. “in the novel Pride and Prejudice,”
“in the play A Doll’s House,” “in the
novella Heart of Darkness”
 Highlight the use of rhetorical
 Ad hominem, non sequitur, etc.
6. The Synthesis Essay
 Purpose behind this essay:
 Test students’ abilities to read and
evaluate multiple sources and integrate
appropriate ones into a coherent, cogent
 Test to see if students know the
rudiments of research paper-style writing
 Suggested times
 Reading 15 minutes
 Writing 40 minutes
Purpose behind this essay
 Use sources in one of two ways: either
to explain something or argue a point
 Basically you are either writing another
rhetorical analysis or another
argumentative essay.
 Tip: Get a clear grasp of the prompt. If
you know what to look for, then you can
skim the parts that do not pertain to
your thesis-and underline the good
The First Time You Read the
 Underline key instructions and other
 Look for guidelines that discuss sources.
 Make sure to outline your thoughts
The Second Time You Read the
 Probably not as useful with this type
of prompt.
 Time to read-sort of
 How closely you read the passages
should depend on how well you know the
context of the topic.
 Underline anything that supports or
refutes the thesis.
 Once you know what you want to write
about underline only what substantiates
your points.
Time to read-sort of
 Examine all sources
 Put a mark through the one that you
do not intend to use.
 Don't assume that all sources are
 It is unlikely you will use them all, but
use as many as you can.
 Be aware of the requirement.

Getting ready for the AP Exam