How to Get a 5 in AP English Language

#exam-prep

#exam-tips

#exam-format

โฑ๏ธย ย 5 min read

written by

Brandon Wu

brandon wu

November 8, 2020


AP English Language is often the first AP English course that students will take, and many are unaware of what it entails. While it may seem incredibly intimidating at first, AP Lang will actually develop skills that you can use in several AP courses. Let's get into how you can score a five on the exam!

1. Learn the format of the exam.

Before beginning your preparation, you need to understand the format of the AP Lang exam, which looks like this:

  • Multiple Choice [45 Questions]โ€”1 Hour ๐Ÿ“

    • 23-25 Rhetorical Analysis Q's

    • 20-22 Composition Questions

  • Free-Response [3 Essays]โ€”2 Hours, 15 Minutes

    • 1 Synthesis Essay

    • 1 Rhetorical Analysis Essay

    • 1 Argument Essay

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Your hand is going to get really tired after the Lang exam! Image Courtesy of Unsplash

For multiple-choice, you have about half rhetorical analysis and half composition questions to answer. Rhetorical analysis questions include questions about the function of devices, passage structure, and other literary analysis topics. On the other hand, composition questions are similar to SAT writing questions where you have to "think like a writer" and fix errors in writing โš ๏ธ

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You'll go through a bunch of pens in Lang, whether it's annotating on multiple-choice or writing your free-response essays. Image Courtesy of Unsplash

The three essays cover three completely different areas of writing. You'll have roughly 40 minutes to write each essay.

  • Synthesis Essay โ™ป๏ธ

    • Given sources, write an essay (while incorporating evidence) to take a stance on a prompt.

    • Similar to a DBQ from the AP Histories

  • Rhetorical Analysis Essay ๐Ÿ’ฌ

    • Analyze the rhetorical choices an author used to build their argument.

  • Argument Essay ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ

    • Respond to a prompt and create an argument that asserts your position on the prompt, using outside evidence and reasoning

๐Ÿ”ฅ Check out College Board's official rubrics for these three essays!

2. Take detailed notes in class and ask questions

One of the great aspects of AP Lang is that there is very little memorization required for the exam. Therefore, you need to absorb the information that your teacher gives you in class. Many AP Lang teachers have years of experience, some as AP graders, so make sure to listen and take good notes ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿซ Also, asking questions can be applied to many classes, especially for AP Lang. See your teacher before or after class to ask specific questionsโ“about your essays or for advice on multiple-choice โ€” it'll help you in the long run.

3. Read books beyond the scope of your class syllabus.

Many high school English classes teach a stringent five-paragraph essay structure or require reading literature that is often inapplicable to AP Lang. However, a great way to improve your analysis skills is to read books that may not be in your class syllabus.

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Some of your teacher's classrooms may look like this. Image Courtesy of Unsplash.

Brave New World and 1984 are two fantastic books that you can learn how to analyze rhetorical devices. You can apply evidence from books like Amusing Ourselves to Death and Outliers in your argument and synthesis essays. This AP Nonfiction Reading List from Knox County Schools is a good start if you're bored and want to pick up a good book to read ๐Ÿ“š

4. Learn important literary vocabulary

Something that remains important for both the multiple-choice section and the rhetorical analysis essay is your literary vocabulary. While the AP Lang exam has moved away from questions that ask "what is a synecdoche," you still need to be able to apply certain literary devices across the exam. Fiveable's AP Lang rhetorical devices article is a fantastic start for your studying. Feel free to use paper flashcards or Quizlet to help you memorize some of these terms. In fact, Fiveable put together a great list of Quizlet decks based on AP Lang's units that will help you study for the exam!

5. Annotate in passages and prompts

Annotation is incredibly underrated! While reading through multiple-choice passages or looking at prompts for the first time, make sure you're actually internalizing the information on that page. There are two steps to annotation, and for the first step, you have a few options:

  • Underlining
  • Boxing
  • Circling

You can create your own system as to what each means so that certain things would pop out from the text.

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Here's an example of a student's annotationsโ€”note the notes made throughout the passage. Image Courtesy of Sincerely, CWIK

The second step, however, is often overlooked by students: jotting down notes. Putting ink near phrases won't help you memorize it, but you should paraphrase or write commentary, which will help you comprehend that information later on โœ๏ธ On multiple-choice passages, you should annotate any information that could prove relevant for rhetorical analysis questions later on. For the three essays, annotating the prompt and making notes about important context or the prompt's task is crucial for your success.

6. Practice using both official and unofficial AP Lang resources

There are a lot of great resources that will help you succeed on the AP Lang exam.

One of the best resources is Fiveableโ€”the website you're reading this blog post on! The Fiveable AP Lang content hub includes study guides about each of the free-response prompts and multiple-choice sections in addition to live reviews, stream replays, and relevant trivia games!

Another great resource is the AP Lang Course & Exam Description (which includes sample multiple-choice and free-response prompts) in addition to Fiveable's list of past AP Lang FRQs. You'll have plenty of resources to practice for the AP Lang exam ๐Ÿ

Finally, if you want to do some unofficial practice, CrackAP's AP Lang page offers some practice multiple-choice questions and free-response prompts to make you feel more confident before exam day.

While taking advantage of resources is fantastic, it's more important that you develop habits that'll aid you on test day. For instance, practicing to finish writing your essays 5 minutes before the time ends allows you to look over your essay. You'll figure out a common structure or phrases to make your essay writing more productive and efficient โฒ๏ธ

7. Get feedback from former and current AP Lang students.

While AP Lang teachers can be extremely helpful with feedback, obtaining advice and feedback from your peers is beneficial ๐Ÿ’ฏ

You can seek advice from former AP Lang students about their experiences in the class and on the exam. They may have different perspectives and strategies that you can try out when you're practicing, resulting in new ways to score higher on the exam!

Closing

All in all, getting the 5๏ธโƒฃ on AP Lang is not as difficult as it may appear. You'll find that paying attention in your classes, committing to practice, and asking for help will heavily contribute to your high score in May!

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