Ap Language And Composition Rhetorical Analysis Essay Prompt

The AP English Language course is designed to develop critical literacy and facilitate informed citizenship in students. To that end, students examine and discuss non-fiction works of various types and themes, summarizing who is being addressed, what is being said, how the idea is being presented and why it is being said.

According to the AP English Language Course Description the exam strives to test reading and writing skills necessary for successful college careers and intellectual and civically responsible involvement in the world, as a whole. The review includes three free-response prompts within 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Free-response section accounts to 55% of your score.

What is the format of AP English Language Exam?

The exam consists of 52 – 55 multiple-choice questions. You have one hour to complete the multiple-choice section. The free-response section includes three essay responses within 2 hours and 15 minutes. Each piece follows a particular prompt.


Students review several different texts about a common topic. They must create an argument which uses at least three of the sources to support their thesis.

Rhetorical Analysis

Students read a non-fiction passage and interpret how the author’s language choice contributed to his or her intended meaning and purpose for writing.


Students reply to a given topic by creating an evidence-based argument.

You can find AP English Language practice questions on the Albert.io Guide to AP English Language.

Why is the AP English Language Free-Response Important?

According to CollegeBoard’s 2016 Student Score Distributions Guide only 10.7% of AP English Language students received a 5 in 2016. To achieve the optimal score, you’ll need to present yourself clearly with well-written essays.

Essays are scored 1 – 9. This grade is then multiplied by 3.0556 for the weighted score. An exam must total a minimum of 112 to receive a 5.

What Content is Covered in the Free-Response Section of AP English Language?

There is no set syllabus or recommended reading for the course. However, there are guidelines which AP teachers use to choose included texts. Reading assignments should represent a clear rhetorical situation (e.g. topical fiction), speak to one another through a variety of genres, offer various rhetorical devices, and challenge AP students to understand non-fiction writing. Albert.io has compiled the Ultimate AP English Language Reading List as a helpful tool for students.

The free-response section of the exam will require you to write three essays, as outlined in the course description on CollegeBoard. There are three types of articles, and each year the content is changed. However, the primary goals remain the same.


You will be presented a topic and must choose a position. Then you will formulate a clear and convincing essay to sway the reader. You must employ appropriate evidence and persuasive arguments, to make your point.

For an in-depth guide read How To Master AP English Language Arguing or How To Craft An Argument For AP English Language on Albert.io.

Rhetorical Analysis

You will read a selected non-fiction text or passage. Your essay must attend to the stylistic and pragmatic choices the author made for the piece. Then surmise how these decisions affect the author’s ability to address their intended audience, or possibly multiple unintended readers.

Read Understanding the Rhetorical Triangle for AP English Language and 3 AP English Language Rhetorical Strategies for specific direction on this subject.


You are given multiple texts with a common theme. It is your assignment to formulate an opinion after analyzing multiple views on the same topic. You must write an informed, authoritative, and convincing argument which answers the prompt and includes data from multiple sources.

Turn to Understanding the AP English Language Synthesis Rubric for help on this topic, as well as How to Ace the AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay.

How to Prepare for AP English Language Free-Response Section

How you distribute your time will be a major factor as the AP exams grow closer. There are many invaluable resources online through CollegeBoard and Albert.io to aid in your test preparation. Take advantage of AP English Language Free-Response Questions from past years on CollegeBoard. Don’t discount Albert.io’s practice questions and the One Month AP English Language and Composition Study Guide. The following are some quick tips for your AP English Literature study plan.

Familiarize Yourself with AP Questions

Use the resources available to read and practice answering real AP questions. There are free-response questions from past exams, along with example responses, and scoring on CollegeBoard. Albert.io offers model AP style questions for various topics. Read different prompts, write practice essays and improve your performance.

Self-score Your Practice Essays

Check out How To Score Your Own AP English Language Practice Essay for tips. Be objective, pay particular attention to grammar, syntax, and spelling. Don’t let yourself perpetuate small mistakes. If possible, trade practice exams with a classmate and grade each other using the guide.

Choose a Review Book

Employ the use of an AP English Language review book to help you prepare. The Best AP English Language Review Books of 2016 is an excellent resource for that purpose.

Read Comparable Texts

Read all your assigned texts and as many others as you can. Use the Ultimate AP English Language Reading List for insightful suggestions.

Take Notes

Make thoughtful and detailed notes as you read every text that answers the important qualifying questions for any AP English Literature review. Who is the writer addressing? What are they saying? Why are they saying it? And, how is the author presenting this information?

Use all Your Resources

In addition to class work, syllabus and extra reading, online AP English Language practice questions, and CollegeBoard free-response questions, responses and scoring guides for previous years, think outside the box. Form a study group. Watch YouTube videos on the topics you’re researching. Adapt your study tactics for your personal learning preferences.

How to Answer AP English Language Free-Response Questions?

Thoroughly Review Essay Prompts

Read the given instructions and clearly identify the objective. Look at the solution from opposing viewpoints before beginning your outline.

Adopt a Position

Decide what your thesis statement will be. When choosing what position to take, consider the evidence you are provided. Pick a position that is easily dependable with the given information.

Outline Your Essay

Construct a quick outline which will include the main idea, supporting evidence (three items are recommended) and a conclusion.

Write Your Thesis

Create a cohesive and intelligible statement which addresses the given prompt and topic. Answer all questions presented in your introductory paragraph and present the main point of your argument.

Write Supporting Paragraphs

Include evidence to defend your position and cite origin. Expand on how your thesis is justified by your presented information.

Include Provided Resources

Cite passages, statements, and facts from the given texts. It is important to connect your points with supporting information directly. Failing to do so will be detrimental to your performance.

Avoid Ambiguity

Use precise language and specific examples to support your supposition. Each example should work towards the goal of proving your thesis.

Establish a Tone

Your essay should maintain a consistent tone which is suitable for the topic and your intentions.

Use Logic to Your Advantage

The ability to make logical assumptions is imperative to your score on the AP English Literature free-response prompts. Use these inferences to substantiate your claims and clarify your opinions.

Take Time for Style

When writing your essay, utilize sophisticated vocabulary, proper grammar and syntax. Ensure that you understand any words used and that your argument makes sense. A well-written response will engage the reader and use style to entice them.

Manage Your Time

As you organize and write your response, be mindful of the time. You must complete three prompts in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Keep this in mind.

Understand the Scoring Rubric

This is a valuable method for scoring well on the free-response section. Comprehension of the way your essay will be scored can help you model better responses.

Visit Understanding the AP English Language Argument Rubric, Understanding The AP English Language Synthesis Rubric, and How To Score Your Own AP English Language Essay for tips.

What are AP English Language Free-Response Questions Like?

The following are actual free-response prompts from past exams. You can find more released essay questions with example responses and scores on CollegeBoard.

Example one is from the 2016 exam.

“Over the past several decades, the English language has become increasingly globalized, and it is now seen by many as the dominant language in international finance, science, and politics. Concurrent with the worldwide spread of English is the decline of foreign language in English-speaking countries, where monolingualism-the use of a single language-remains the norm.

Carefully read the following six sources, including the introductory information for each source. Then synthesize information from at least three of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent, well-developed essay that argues a clear position on whether monolingual English speakers are at a disadvantage today.

Your argument should be the focus of your essay. Use the sources to develop your argument and explain the reasoning for it. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Clearly indicate which sources you are drawing from, whether through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. You may cite the sources as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parenthesis”.

To view the sources, take a look at the complete 2016 prompt.

As you tackle this question, it’s important to observe the following steps for a successful synthesis essay. For more in depth direction refer to How to Ace the AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay.

Use the 15 Minute Planning Time Effectively

Read all the sources provided for you. As you examine the evidence, plan your position. Write your outline and the basis of your thesis during this time.

Evaluate Sources Critically

Take into account the background information provided for each source and what biases may be in effect.

Create a Cohesive Argument

Support your cohesive argument with specifically cited information from provided sources.

Proofread Your Essay

Cross check your essay for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.

Example two was given during the 2015 exam.

“On the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., labor union organizer and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez published an article in the magazine of a religious organization devoted to helping those in need. Read the following excerpt from the article carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the rhetorical choices Chavez makes to develop his argument about nonviolent resistance.”

When answering this prompt, it is important that you fully understand the rhetorical triangle, before you begin. As you read the excerpt, mark passages or points that will be relevant to your argument. Refer to 3 AP English Language Rhetorical Essay Strategies for help in developing this type of answer.

Carefully Discern what the Prompt is Asking for.

Collect your thoughts and outline your essay in the planning time allotted.

Organize your thoughts

as you read the text. Make annotations along the margins to direct your writing. Remember to cite relevant passages to support your position.

Begin each body paragraph

with an assertion you will prove within. This clearly outlines what you are attempting to demonstrate with the enclosed citations and explanations

Remember LORA

LORA stands for Language, Organization, and Rhetorical Appeals.

To view the entire prompt,example responses and scoring visit the CollegeBoard.

How can I practice AP English Language Free-Response?

The most efficient AP English Language study plan will include a variety of resources and devices. Take full advantage of the practice prompts provided on Albert.io, the many free-response questions presented and reviewed on CollegeBoard and helpful articles to pinpoint strategies for exceptional performance.

To that end, check out How To Study For AP English Language and Composition and 9 Things You Need To Remember About The AP English Language and Composition Exam next!

Looking for AP English Language practice?

Kickstart your AP English Language prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.

Posted on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 in Practice Test Rhetorical Analysis

Here is a process that may help you think more methodically and creatively (which actually is a paradox) when you are writing a rhetorical analysis essay.  Here are the two most important elements in a nutshell:

  • Precis (a fancy SOAPSTone) as your introductory paragaph
  • Body of your essay is all about What the writer has said, Howthe writer said it, and Why the author said it the way he/she did for his/her purpose.

  You will receive a Packet Test #2 with several rhetorical analysis essay prompts. We will be using these to practice successful analysis essays. So open the following handout and practice finding and analyzing the rhetorical elements of these essay prompts.  Steps-in-Rhetorical-Analysis-Essay-Writing

Practice Essays: Cary’s ” article about the Provincial Freeman  in Packet #2
                            Letters for  “Cocoa Cola”  In Packet #1
                            Alfred M. Green’s Speech on African Americans   
                           Florida’s Okefenokee Swamp    1999 Florida’s swamp essay
                               Student Responses         1999 Flordia’s Swamp Student Responses

Want to read one more good student response?  Go to the first sample. It’s received an 8 score.  Notice how the student writes the precis and then moves through the essay paragraphs explaining the author’s ideas and feelings, not forgetting to insert examples and comment on how the author uses rhetorical devices in order to make her feelings about North Dakota clear and meaningful.     2010 student response for rhetorical analysis question 2 form B

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