Multiple Choice — 52 to 55 Questions | 1 Hour | 45% of Exam Score
- Excerpts from non-fiction texts are accompanied by several multiple-choice questions
Free Response — 3 Free-Response Questions | 2 Hours, 15 Minutes (includes a 15-minute reading period) | 55% of Exam Score
This section has three prompts:
- Synthesis: Students read several texts about a topic and create an argument that synthesizes at least three of the sources to support their thesis.
- Rhetorical analysis: Students read a non-fiction text and analyze how the writer's language choices contribute to his or her purpose and intended meaning for the text.
- Argument: Students create an evidence-based argument that responds to a given topic.
The total Section II time is 2 hours and 15 minutes. This includes a 15-minute reading period. The reading period is designed to provide students with time to develop thoughtful, well-organized responses. They may begin writing their responses before the reading period is over.
What is the AP English Language Synthesis Essay?
The AP English Language synthesis essay reveals that in fifty-five minutes you can create a cohesive paper with a stance that incorporates at least three sources. You must be able to both understand the material given by reading critically as well as crafting a supported argument from the sources.
The AP English Language synthesis rubric is a nine point system which determines your score on the synthesis essay. A nine is the highest score and a zero is the lowest score. Four elements of the synthesis essay make up this numbered score. These elements are the writer’s ability to take a position, his or her effectiveness in synthesizing, the effectiveness of the writer’s argument, and his or her command of the language, or prose.
The Writer’s Ability to Take a Position
When writing the synthesis essay you are expected to take a position, or a stance, on a topic. This means that you must read the given sources and formulate your opinion based on the information. By doing this you will form a thesis statement and show that you can prove a point.
A great example of taking a stance is from one student sample in 2005. This, as well as the other essays that will be examined, are from a prompt that asked the students how the media has affected the presidency and democracy in the United States. The students must utilize at least three sources in their arguments. Please feel free to read the full essays here for better understanding. This student claims, “The media’s impact on American society has done little to increase voter population and by doing so, has created a new sort of identity for the president himself.” This student is giving his or her opinion based on the prompt and presenting it in a thesis statement. This statement outlines the rest of the essay as well, making this a vital part of the AP English Language synthesis essay rubric. A student that does not take a position will not score well on the synthesis essay. One example of a poorly taken stance is the student that says, “TV has multiple effects on the president.” Here the student is not being specific enough. How the president was affected needs to be addressed. This is not an arguable statement; therefore, there is no stance taken here. By doing this, the highest score that you will be able to earn is a 2.
The AP English Language synthesis essay rubric also includes your ability to synthesize the information that you are given. The student must bring together at least three sources and his or her argument in order to receive a high score. These sources must not be merely summarized, but they must also be analyzed and utilized as a point of support within your argument.
One student example of great synthesizing is this essay sample where the student writes, “Lyndon B. Johnson, one of the first televised presidents, was a “’great believer in the public opinion polls’ (source E). Although, throughout history this has hardly been the case.” This student takes a quotation from one source, names the source, and relates it back to his or her argument. This is effective in showing the examiners that the student knows how to properly synthesize his or her arguments.
This student effectively brings together his or her ideas and the ideas expressed in the source by taking small quotes and paraphrasing. This shows sophistication in writing, which will earn you a higher score.
Without this sophistication of integrating sources effectively, you cannot expect to get any higher than a 3 on the synthesis essay. A student who does this synthesis poorly is one that says, “The evidence suggests that while television may have initially made people interested in politics, the effect is wearing off.” The student does not cite this source, showing a lack in proficiency. This student will not score well.
The Effectiveness of the Argument
The third component of the synthesis essay rubric covers the effectiveness of the student’s argument. There are multiple ways that you can have an effective argument; however, ones that the College Board focuses on are use of rhetorical devices. Some examples of rhetorical devices that are most recommended are ethos and logos. Through these elements that roughly translate into ethics and logic, the student can elevate his or her scores.
An example of ethos, or ethics, is the student properly citing the sources to build his or her credibility. One student that did this well wrote, “’In 1968 Lyndon B. Johnson spoke about the nation’s progress in Vietnam (source E)’. This means that…” The student utilized another source and properly cited where he or she got it. This builds on the effectiveness of the argument that is trying to be made.
An example of logos is a student that utilizes inductive or deductive reasoning in order to draw conclusions from the sources. This will strengthen the argument by increasing the support and linking sources logically together. This shows great synthesis as well as the ability to fortify an argument.
When a student does not support his or her argument well, this will cause the student to receive a score of a four. This is because sufficient support is needed for any claim to be made. Without a foundation to hold up the argument, your claim is useless.
Command of the Language
The last portion of the AP English Language synthesis rubric is the writer’s command over the language. This refers to the student’s ability to convey proficiency and persuasion with the language.
A great example of displaying proficiency is having grammar that is understandable to the reader. Utilizing proper grammar allows the student to appear more intelligent and dedicated to the exam. Grammar and mechanics are important, because if there are a multitude of glaring errors that distract from the argument, then the highest score possible is a two. It would be horrible to have an amazing argument and essay but receive a 2 because of grammar and mechanics.
An example of a student paper with errors that would lead to receiving a 2 is, “Demcrasy is important for presidants. Need demcrasy for better life.” These two sentences make some sense, but the fragment and the spelling mistakes are glaring and annoying to read. This will make exam graders label this essay with a 2.
Utilizing the language for persuasive purposes will enhance your argument as well, leading to a higher score. An example of a technique that can be used is parallelism. Parallel structure is utilizing the rhythmic structure of words to be more persuasive. An example of parallel structure is, “Democracy is there to protect, to persuade, and to find truth.” The writer has an advanced handle on the language, and when examiners see this they will reward the student with an extra point.
How to Cover Your Bases
In order to make sure that you have every element of the AP English Language synthesis essay covered, you want to be sure that you make an outline before writing. This will allow you to think ahead and be sure that you have all of the components needed.
Crafting your thesis is the next step. Your argument must be strong and supported with plenty of details from the sources.It is also important to note that considerable scrutiny is given to how you use the sources to make your argument more credible and logical. This thesis should state your argument as well as referring to the three points that you will make in the body. Here is a great place to use parallel structure.
The synthesis essay has a large emphasis on utilizing sources. Therefore, you will need to quickly and critically read and mark portions that support your argument. Find quotations from three different sources to use in each body paragraph in order to fulfill the rubric.
While there may not be an excess of time once you finish your essay, you are encouraged to go back and read over the essay for any glaring errors. Doing this will keep you from losing points because you were unclear. If you know that you will not have enough time to reread, then be sure to revise as you go. Allowing revision time is important, but the argument and supporting that argument is your first priority.
Reference for AP English Language Sample Essays
Reference for AP English Language Synthesis Essay Rubric
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