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How to Write the AP Lang Argument Essay + Example
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What is the ap language argument essay, tips for writing the ap language argument essay.
- AP English Language Essay Argument Example
- How Will AP Scores Impact My College Chances?
In 2020, over 535,000 students across the U.S. took the AP English Language and Composition exam and 62% scored higher than a three. 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 give you tips and tricks so you can write a great essay.
The AP English Language exam is structured as follows:
Section 1: 45 multiple choice questions to be completed in an hour. This portion counts for 45% of your score. These questions will ask students to analyze a piece of literature and ask questions about its content 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. For this essay, you should develop a logical argument in support or against the statement given 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 one to nine 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 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 is 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 is best if you pick one side of the debate and stick with it in the entire essay. All of your evidence should be in support of that one side. However, in your introductory paragraph as you introduce the debate, be sure to mention if there are merits to the arguments of the other side. This can make the essay a bit more nuanced and show that you did consider both sides before determining the best one. Often, acknowledging another viewpoint but then refuting it can make your essay stronger.
3. Provide evidence to support your claims
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 election. The AP readers are not looking for perfect examples, but they are looking for you to give enough evidence so that your claim can be easily understood and backed up using examples.
4. Create a strong thesis statement
The thesis statement will set up your entire essay, so it is important that it is focused, specific, and sets up 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 write them. Each new point you mention in your thesis should start a paragraph in your essay.
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AP English Language Argument Essay Example
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.
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:
 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.
 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.
 A similar idea of “competition” can be applied to business. On the most fundamental level, competition serves to be a beneficial regulator prices and business models for both the business themselves and consumers. However, as businesses grew increasingly greedy and desperate, companies have 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 4/9, 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 in business. This follows the chronological order of somebody’s life and flows nicely.
The arguments within 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 with 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, only simply 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 does not discuss why 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 further and instead of explaining why business structures such as monopolies harm competition, the author should discuss how those 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 their 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 4/9.
How Will AP Scores Impact my College Chances?
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 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!
To understand how your course rigor stacks up, check out our free admissions calculator . This resource takes your course rigor, test scores, extracurriculars, and demographics to determine your chances of getting into over 500 colleges in the U.S. Best of all, it’s free!
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AP U.S. Government and Politics: Argument Essay
Question 4 of the AP U.S. Government and Politics free response section will always be the Argument Essay. These questions begin with a brief paragraph about a given topic, such as the balance between federal and state powers. The prompt will then give specific instructions about how you must format your essay, including a list of several required foundational documents that are relevant to the topic at hand. You will need to discuss one of the listed documents as well as another piece of specific evidence from your own knowledge.
Argument Essay Strategies
While the scoring for the first three free-response questions is more straightforward—you earn points (or not) based on fully addressing each part of the prompt—the scoring for the Argument Essay is a little more complex. The following rubric outlines what the AP readers are generally looking for when they grade your Argument Essay; note the various categories and the ways you can earn points.
- Formulate a defensible thesis that establishes a chain of reasoning.
- Federalist 10
- U.S. Constitution
- Take your other piece of evidence from a different foundational document from the list above OR from your own study.
- Logically explain why your evidence supports your thesis.
- Present and reply to an alternative viewpoint using refutation, concession, or rebuttal.
Step 1: Analyze the Prompt
Step 2: plan your response.
You’ll want to create a brief outline before you start writing, just like you would for any other full-length essay. As you saw from the rubric, AP readers are interested in your thesis development, your use of evidence, and your treatment of an alternative view. Everything you write should be toward one or more of those ends.
You will need to state a thesis that specifically addresses the prompt and makes a claim. Avoid rewording the prompt or being too general. A good question to ask yourself is, “Am I actually taking a position on this issue that someone else might argue against?” Also, while the Argument Essay necessitates a longer, more detailed response than the other free-response question types, it does not require a formal introduction; in fact, writing a lengthy introduction can take up valuable time and frustrate the AP reader who is scoring your essay. Assert your thesis as soon as possible, and then move into the rest of your response.
It is important to note that the Argument Essay’s topic and prompt wording will always intentionally allow for multiple positions. Therefore, you should be strategic and choose the position that you can best back up with evidence. You may even advocate for a different position than the one you personally agree with! To that end, no matter how strongly you feel about a topic, always present your evidence and claims in a balanced manner. Throughout your essay, even and especially when responding to an alternative viewpoint, avoid wording that makes it seem like your argument is simply your personal opinion (e.g., “I think” or “I believe,” or any language that is overly emotional).
With all of this in mind, a high-scoring writer might write the following outline:
Thesis: Trustee is the best model (ideals of Constitution)
- Madison’s fear: large country + big gov’t = factions (many groups disagree)
- Trustee can mediate, come to concl, act in best interests
- Needed trustee model to make change
- Civil rights and women’s rights movements
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965
Response to alternative view: Anti-Feds would fear large repub (Brutus), but pol system in place would keep trustee honest
Step 3: Action! Write Response & Step 4: Proofread
Sample high-scoring response.
The trustee model of legislative representation is the best reflection of the founders’ intentions in setting up American democracy because it offers the best hope for what the Preamble to the Constitution calls “a more perfect union,” one that will bring together war- ring factions and increase harmony.
As James Madison pointed out in Federalist 10, it is inevitable that a republic will contain many groups which vehemently disagree. The bigger a country grows, the more frequent and violent factional clashes are likely to become. Madison was looking ahead to the U.S. that would burst the bounds of the original colonies and create more factionalism. This vision of an expanding, clashing nation makes the trustee model very appealing. A trustee Congressperson is one who will listen to all sides, make an independent judgment, but then go on to explain it so that opponents may be persuaded to change their minds, thus bringing resolution to conflicts.
A trustee is a representative willing to do the principled thing even if the public thinks otherwise. Many issues in our history have seemed so polarized that they were beyond resolution and could not wait for popular consensus. This was the case with civil rights issues and legislation in the 1960s. Technically, African Americans had the right to vote since the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. However, this right was violently suppressed through intimidation tactics and a variety of restrictive measures such as poll taxes and literacy tests. It was not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that substantial voting protections were extended to all black people. The Voting Rights Act outlawed literacy tests and other tactics; under this act, federal officials were sent to the South to ensure that African Americans were allowed to vote free from fear and intimidation, and the election practices of local governments were held under greater scrutiny. Civil rights movement leaders had challenged discriminatory practices for decades, but due to intense polarization in society, there was no public consensus on how to address racism in voting practices or even agreement as to whether to address it at all. Legislators had to go against the opinions of the majority in order to act in a way that advanced American ideals for all citizens, and the public eventually caught up.
Similarly, legislators pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was supported by people within social movements but not by the general populace. Additionally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 touched on the goals of not just the civil rights movement but also the women’s rights movement; for example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited sex discrimination in public accommodations. Members of these movements had been working for years to get society at large to expand rights and protections to all people. However, if legislators had waited to act until a majority of their constituency approved of these civil rights bills, the bills may never have passed. In this way, the trustee model can be used to uphold the rights of the minority despite majority resistance.
The trustee idea would have been opposed by Brutus and other Anti-Federalists. Brutus 1 warns that a large republic would necessarily be disconnected from its people. Following this logic, a concern with the trustee model would be that the representative would deviate too far from the will of the people and become despotic. But it is important to note that the people have the ultimate voice if they disagree with the trustee’s judgments: the power of the ballot. The legislator’s desire to stay in power is a strong check on him or her, acting as an incentive to listen to constituents.
All in all, the trustee is in the best position to reduce the intense factionalism Madison feared. Even before the advance of mass media, the trustee had many means to learn of the people’s different views and to explain why the legislator was voting a certain way, or advancing this or that philosophy. This give and take of ideas surely helped to get the republic through its rocky early decades, and also helped the country to recover from the volatile growing pains and changes in the mid-twentieth century by finding ways to bring people together and advance equal rights for all.
Sample Response Explanation and Scoring
- Thesis (0–1 pt): The writer sets up a clear X because Y sentence to introduce the thesis, which could be paraphrased as, The trustee model brings about harmony. Everything that follows is connected to the founders’ ideal of harmony. The writer would therefore earn 1 point for Thesis.
- Support (0–3 pts): There is more than enough evidence to gain the full 3 points for Support, as the writer explains Madison’s argument in Federalist 10 and elaborates upon relevant historical examples of disharmony that those acting as trustees helped to fix through assertive actions. In addition, the references to the Constitution and Brutus 1 (while unnecessary for earning full credit in Support) show a strong command of course material.
- Reasoning (0–1 pt): The writer earns the 1 point for Reasoning by clearly explaining how a trustee offers the best hope for Madison’s vision. Specifically, the writer asserts in paragraphs 3 and 4 how trustees could not wait for public opinion in order to act.
- Reply to Alternative Viewpoint (0–1 pt): There is a whole paragraph at the end dedicated to rebutting the Anti-Federalists’ objections. In this way, the writer makes it clear that this requirement has been met and earns the final 1 point.
Question-Specific Rubric: 6 points (1 + 3 + 1 + 1)
Learn more about the other free response questions on the AP U.S. Government and Politics exam. Concept Application • Quantitative Analysis • SCOTUS Comparison
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- Knowledge Base
- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 14, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
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You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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Long Essay Questions (LEQ)
AP World Long Essay Question (LEQ) Overview
15 min read • may 11, 2022
AP World History: Modern 🌍
- Overview of the Long Essay Question (LEQ)
- A valid thesis
- A discussion of relevant historical context
- Use of evidence supports your thesis
- Use of a reasoning skill to organize and structure the argument
- Complex understanding of the topic of the prompt
- How to Rock the LEQ: The Rubric
- The thesis is a brief statement that introduces your argument or claim, and can be supported with evidence and analysis. This is where you answer the prompt.
- This is the only element in the essay that has a required location. The thesis needs to be in your introduction or conclusion of your essay. It can be more than one sentence, but all of the sentences that make up your thesis must be consecutive in order to count.
- The most important part of your thesis is the claim , which is your answer to the prompt. The description the College-Board gives is that it should be “historically defensible,” which really means that your evidence must be plausible. On the LEQ, your thesis needs to be related topic of the prompt.
- In a causation essay, a complex argument addresses causes and effects.
- In a comparison essay, a complex argument addresses similarities and differences.
- In a continuity and change over time essay, a complex argument addresses change and continuity .
- Powers in both land-based and maritime empires had to adapt their rule to accommodate diverse populations. However, in this era land-based empires were more focused on direct political control, while the maritime empires were more based on trade and economic development.
- This thesis works because it clearly addresses the prompt (comparing land and maritime empires). It starts by addressing a similarity, and then specifies a clear difference with a line of reasoning to clarify the actions of the land vs. maritime empires.
- Contextualization is a brief statement that lays out the broader historical background relevant to the prompt.
- There are a lot of good metaphors out there for contextualization, including the “previously on…” at the beginning of some TV shows, or the famous text crawl at the beginning of the Star Wars movies.
- Both of these examples serve the same function: they give important information about what has happened off-screen that the audience needs to know to understand what is about to happen on-screen.
- In your essay, contextualization is the same. You give your reader information about what else has happened, or is happening, in history that will help them understand the specific topic and argument you are about to make.
- There is no specific requirement for where contextualization must appear in your essay. The easiest place to include it, however, is in your introduction . Use context to get your reader acquainted with the time, place, and theme of your essay, then transition into your thesis.
- Good contextualization doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to go into a ton of detail, but it does need to do a few very specific things.
- Your contextualization needs to refer to events, developments and/or processes outside the time and place of the prompt. It could address something that occurred in an earlier era in the same region as the topic of the prompt, or it could address something happening at the same time as the prompt, but in a different place. Briefly describe this outside information.
- Then, connect it to your thesis/argument. The language from the College Board is that contextualization must be “relevant to the prompt,” and in practical terms this means you have to show the connection. A transition sentence or phrase is useful here (plus, this is why contextualization makes the most sense in the introduction!)
- Also, contextualization needs to be multiple consecutive sentences, so it’s all one argument (not sprinkled around in a paragraph). The introduction is the best place for contextualization, but not the only place.
- Basically, choose a connected topic that “sets the stage” for your thesis, and briefly describe it in a couple sentences. Then, make a clear connection to the argument of your thesis from that outside information.
- In the period 1450-1750, both European and Asian powers expanded their reach and created large empires across the world. In Asia, the trend was toward large, land-based empires which were controlled from a central capital city. Europeans built empires that stretched across oceans included territories in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
- This contextualization works by addressing the time period of the prompt and establishing basic definitions for empire-building and the types of empires (land and maritimes.) These definitions will be valuable context for seeing the comparisons developed in the thesis and body paragraphs of this essay.
- Evidence: Provide Specific Examples
- For this point, the focus is simply about having evidence. Evidence is the historical detail you include in your writing. The specific facts and examples that prove your argument. In the LEQ, your evidence comes your knowledge of history.
- Evidence goes in your body paragraphs. In fact, the bulk of your body paragraphs will be made up of evidence and supporting analysis or commentary that connects that evidence to other evidence and/or to the argument you are making.
- Good evidence is specific, accurate, and relevant to the prompt. For this point, simply including multiple pieces of quality evidence is enough. If you’re a numbers person, a good starting point is to aim for two pieces of quality evidence in each body paragraph and go up from there.
- In order for your evidence to count for this point, it needs to be really specific. Using course-specific vocabulary is a great strategy here to know that you are writing specific evidence. If you can’t remember a specific vocabulary term, describe what you mean in plain language with as much detail as possible.
- Though the Ottoman Sultans were Muslims, they ruled over a population that included fellow Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
- This evidence works because it includes specific and relevant details, namely the religions of both the Ottoman rulers and the diverse population they ruled over.
- Evidence: Supports an Argument with Evidence
- In addition to having evidence, this point is about using that evidence to support an argument in response to the prompt. Basically, connect your evidence back to your topic sentence and/or thesis.
- Supporting statements go with your evidence in your body paragraph. Ideally, a connecting statement comes right before or after a piece of evidence.
- This point is harder to earn than the previous evidence point, because it’s a little more difficult to explain fully.
- One way to know if you are doing this at all is to look at the topic sentences of your body paragraphs. First of all, do you have one? You should. The first sentence of your body paragraph should make it clear what you are talking about in that paragraph. It should relate to some aspect of your thesis, and it should be connected to the reasoning skill you have chosen to organize your argument.
- One characteristic shared by both kinds of empires was the need to adapt to diverse populations. As the Ottoman empire expanded its influence, it took over territory previously controlled by the Byzantines. Though the Ottoman Sultans were Muslims, they now ruled over a population that included fellow Muslims, Christians, and Jews. In order to keep peace within their empire, the Ottomans allowed people to continue practicing their traditional faiths. Ottoman cities such as Istanbul had areas of the cities set aside where different groups could live and worship without interference from others .
- This section works because it defines the adaptation made by Ottoman rulers to effectively rule a diverse population, and elaborates on both how and why that adaptation was made.
- Following your topic sentence, your body paragraph should elaborate on the idea in that topic sentence, using the evidence to prove your point. At first, you may rely on phrases like “this shows…” or “this means…,” which can get repetitive, but may also help you know when you are making the connections between evidence and argument explicit.
- Analysis and Reasoning: Historical Reasoning
- A good argument needs structure, and yours needs to use one of the course reasoning skills to create that structure. You can choose whichever skill works best for a particular prompt: causation , comparison , or continuity and change over time .
- Strong reasoning goes throughout an essay, so this will be the overarching structure of your writing from the thesis through your body paragraphs.
- The reasoning doesn’t necessarily have to be completely balanced or even in order to count, which gives you room to write about what you know best. For example, in an essay structured around continuity and change, you might spend most of your time addressing changes and relatively little time addressing continuity. And that’s ok.
- The best essays do address both “sides” of the historical reasoning, and yours should too. If you created a complex thesis in your introduction, you can extend those ideas into your body paragraphs. Even if you don’t have equal sentences or paragraphs for each topic, as long as you address the reasoning process in your essay, you’re on the right track.
- Analysis and Reasoning: Complexity
- The College Board awards this point for essays that “demonstrate a complex understanding” of the topic of the prompt.
- Complexity cannot be earned with a single sentence or phrase. It must show up throughout the essay.
- A complex argument starts with a complex thesis. A complex thesis must address the topic of the prompt in more than one way. Including a counter-claim or alternate viewpoint in the thesis is a good way to set up a complex argument, because it builds in room within the structure of your essay to address more than one idea (provided your body paragraphs follow the structure of your thesis!)
- A complex argument may include corroboration - evidence that supports or confirms the premise of the argument. Clear explanation that connects each piece of evidence to the thesis will help do this. In the LEQ, your evidence is all from your knowledge of history, so it’s up to you to fully explain how that evidence backs up your thesis. Consistent, thoughtful explanation can go a long way toward the complexity point.
- A complex argument may also include qualification - evidence that limits or counters an initial claim. This isn’t the same as undoing or undermining your claim. Qualifying a claim shows that it isn’t universal. An example of this might be including continuity in an essay that is primarily about change.
- A final way to introduce complexity to your argument is through modification - using evidence to change your claim or argument as it develops. Modification isn’t quite as extreme as qualification, but it shows that the initial claim may be too simple to encompass the reality of history.
- How to Rock the LEQ: The Process
- Before you start writing...
- Writing the essay
- Sample Prompts
- The LEQ Rubric (Quick Reference)
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Synthesis Essay Materials
The two synthesis essay questions below are examples of the question type that has been one of the three free-response questions on the AP English Language and Composition Exam as of the May 2007 exam. The synthesis question asks students to synthesize information from a variety of sources to inform their own discussion of a topic. Students are given a 15-minute reading period to accommodate the additional reading required for the question.
Below is a sample synthesis essay question, sample scoring guidelines, comments from the Chief Reader about the sample student essays, seven sample student responses, and scoring commentary for each sample.
Approximately 300 AP English Language and Composition students from eight schools in New York, Maine, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, Florida, and New Mexico wrote responses to this synthesis topic. Students from these schools were given a 15-minute reading period followed by a 40-minute writing period in which to complete the sample synthesis assignment.
- AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay #1 (.pdf/84KB)
- Sample Scoring Guidelines (.pdf/43KB)
- Comments from the Chief Reader (.pdf/47KB)
- Sample Student Responses (.pdf/3.65MB)
- Scoring Commentary (.pdf/50KB)
An additional sample synthesis essay question is provided here.
- AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay #2 (.pdf/338KB)
How to Encourage Students to Master the AP Lit Thesis
- December 1, 2021
- AP Literature , Writing
For years, I have used a Poem of the Week as part of my poetry instruction in AP Literature . Last year, because the pandemic resulted in hybrid instruction and only 50% (or fewer) of my kids were in class at a time, I wanted to be sure that I put some significant emphasis on AP Lit thesis writing.
As part of our weekly poem study, the Friday prompt became an AP-style poetry essay prompt. Students only needed to write a thesis. And early in the year, it became evident that our thesis statements needed work.
AP Literature Thesis Statements and “The Point”
When the College Board came out with the new rubrics in 2019, they set aside a point that is designated for the thesis. It’s one point and students either get it or they don’t. And truthfully, it is not that hard to “get” the point. Students must simply “provide a defensible interpretation in response to the prompt” which could be supported by the text (for more, see AP Central). So in other words, students must be able to find *something* in the text that they can write about beyond a summary.
Early on, I observed two things: 1. Not all AP Lit thesis statement are created equal (even if they do earn the point) and 2. Students needed help moving from making a base claim to making a strong claims that lead to better analysis later in the essay.
AP Lit Thesis Starting Points
At the beginning of the year, my kids were writing things like
- The author uses metaphors to reveal that life gives you new, and endless opportunities each and every day.
- Merriam’s use of her metaphor for a new day in “Metaphor” reveals her positive outlook on life.
- eve marriam’s use of metaphor shows that she feels that every day is new day to write your own story.
- Love can cause pain
- Lowell uses diction and figurative language to show her intimate and spiritual connection to her partner in the poem
- Through Lowell’s uses of poetic elements and techniques, she’s able to carefully convert the speaker’s complex relationship with whoever they’re addressing.
While indeed some of these would earn the thesis point, they do no convey the depth that a good, strong AP Lit thesis will. We want students to address the complexity of the text and these just don’t cut it.
The Issue of Complexity
So the first step in helping students to develop a strong thesis is to get beyond just repeating the topic with a few elements of author’s craft thrown in. They have to be sure that they are fully addressing the complexity of the topic highlighted by the task.
The first set of thesis statements above go with Eve Merriam’s poem “Metaphor.” This is my favorite poem to start the school year with because it reflects where we are. Each school year is also like a “new sheet of paper.”
We spend the week discussing the poem ( My daily prompts are available here. ) Then on Friday, I present students with the following prompt:
In Eve Merriam’s poem “Metaphor” (1986), the speaker portrays the blankness of a new day. In a well written essay, analyze how Merriam uses poetic elements and techniques to convey the speaker’s complex attitude toward life.
And while all of the above thesis statements DO say something about her attitude toward life, none of them get to how it is complex. So the first step is to get students thinking about contrasts within the poem and other elements that help add to the depth of the text. A good way to do this might be through the Interstate, Microscope and Compass Technique from Gina at AP Lit and More .
Once students see complexity in a text, they can move into developing a more complex AP literature thesis statement.
It is also important to remind them that the College Board calls these essays “literary argument.” And an argument is by definition something that has two sides. When we teach argument writing to our English 11 students in preparation for the New York State English Regents we encourage them to include the counterargument in their thesis. And although a literary argument doesn’t necessarily have a counterargument, it should have two sides. In other words, complexity.
In these early stages, it is sometimes useful to give the students complexity starters that they can use as the basis of their thesis statements. This is a list that I provide to my students:
- even though x, y is also true
- not only j, but also k
- although d, also e
- in contrast
This list along with other helpful tips on writing AP Literature Thesis Statements is included in my AP Thesis Anchor charts here .
AP Lit Thesis Examples
As we work through the year, thesis statements that once read “love can cause pain” become
“Even though Edith Matilda Thomas’s poem entitled “Winter Sleep” appears to be a simplistic take about growing old she also uses poetic elements such as symbolism, diction, and parallel structure to convey a complex attitude towards aging as she looks back on her life.”
“Although the speaker is reflecting on the spring-like happiness of her youth, she understands that death is coming as she moves into the metaphorical winter of her life due to her old age.”
Building on Complexity
The key to helping students earn the thesis point on the AP Literature Rubric is to help them understand that they are writing a literary argument and that an argument by its very nature has two sides or two part. Then include both of those sides in your thesis.
For more help in AP Lit Writing, be sure to check out these other AP Lit Essay Writing Anchor Charts.
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The AP score for this essay was a 4/9, 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.
In your essay, you must: Formulate a defensible thesis that establishes a chain of reasoning. Provide evidence for your thesis with at least two pieces of relevant, accurate information. Take at least ONE of your pieces of evidence from the following list of foundational documents. Federalist 10 Brutus 1 U.S. Constitution
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay. It usually comes near the end of your introduction. Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across.
1815-2001. Writing time on the AP Exam includes both the Document Based Question (DBQ) and the (LEQ), but it is suggested that you spend 40 minutes completing the LEQ. You will need to plan and write your essay in that time. A good breakdown would be 5 min. (planning) + 35 min. (writing) = 40 min. Try using a study timer like the one in ...
AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay #1 (.pdf/84KB) Sample Scoring Guidelines (.pdf/43KB) Comments from the Chief Reader (.pdf/47KB) Sample Student Responses (.pdf/3.65MB) Scoring Commentary (.pdf/50KB) Sample 2 An additional sample synthesis essay question is provided here.
The key to helping students earn the thesis point on the AP Literature Rubric is to help them understand that they are writing a literary argument and that an argument by its very nature has two sides or two part. Then include both of those sides in your thesis.