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Ap Lang Synthesis Essay 2015 Form

There were once two neighbors who lived in a small town on the edge of a roaring river. Their houses were set on piles of brick as a precaution for when the river would flood. The bricks had worked for a while, but they began to wear away over the years, and it had left the houses unstable.

One of the neighbors was always conscious of the fact that there could be another flood, so he spent countless hours building and fortifying the foundation of his house. He would get up early on the weekends and go to sleep late on the weeknights to rebuild his home the right way. While he was busy working, his neighbor would sleep in and go out at night, always commenting to his hard-working neighbor that there would be time for work later.

The hours he spent working resulted in a much stronger foundation. He eventually put the house on a set of sturdy stilts that would hold up against the power of a rushing river. He was never able to take his neighbor up on the offer to go out, but that spring when the waters of the river came rushing toward their houses, it all paid off. His house was left standing, while the flood destroyed his neighbor’s house.

Taking your AP Language test puts you in the unique situation to choose your path. You can be like the man who put off preparing, going into the test blind. Or you can be like the man who spent long hours in preparation, making sure he was ready when the time came.

You want to be like the man who ensured his house had a stable foundation. The foundation you are building, though, will reflect the time you put into learning how to write stellar essays. That foundation includes learning about what the essays require, the best way to write them, and the scoring process. If you prepare yourself for the Free Response Questions, your writing will stand up to the flood, at least metaphorically.

Test Breakdown

The Free Response Questions (FRQs) are the essay portion of the AP Language exam. The exam itself has two parts, the first is a multiple choice section, and the second is the FRQs. This guide provides an overview, strategies, and examples of the FRQs from the CollegeBoard. There is a guide to the multiple choice here.

The FRQ section has two distinct parts: 15 minutes for reading a set of texts and 120 minutes for writing three essays. The 15 minute “reading period” is designed to give you time to read through the documents for question 1 and develop a thoughtful response. Although you are advised to give each essay 40 minutes, there is no set amount of time for any of the essays. You may divide the 120 minutes however you want.

The three FRQs are each designed to test a different style of writing. The first question is always a synthesis essay – which is why they give you 15 minutes to read all of the sources you must synthesize. The second essay is rhetorical analysis, requiring you to analyze a text through your essay. The third paper is an argumentative essay.

Each essay is worth one-third of the total grade for the FRQ section, and the FRQ section is worth 55% of the total AP test. Keep that in mind as you prepare for the exam, while the multiple-choice section is hard, the essays are worth more overall – so divide your study time evenly.

The scale for essay scores ranges from 1-9. A score of 1 being illegible or unintelligible, while a score of 9 is going to reflect the best attributes and aspects of early college level writing. You should be shooting to improve your scores to the passing range, which is 5 or above. Note that if you are struggling with the multiple choice section, a 9-9-9 on the essays can help make up for it.

The Tale of Three Essays

If you are currently taking an AP class, you have probably experienced the style and formats of the three assignments. You may have learned about the specifics of the different types of essays in class, and you may have already found out which of the three is easiest for you. However, you must possess skill in all three to master the AP test.

The First Essay (Synthesis)

The first essay on the test is going to be the synthesis essay. This essay can be the trickiest to master, but once you do get the hang of it, you will be one step closer to learning the others. The synthesis requires you to read six texts, which can be poems, articles, short stories, or even political cartoons.

Once you have read and analyzed the texts, you are asked to craft an argument using at least three of the documents from the set. The sources should be used to build and support your argument, and you must integrate them into a coherent whole.

On the 2015 FRQ section of the AP exam, the synthesis essay focused on university honor codes. The complete prompt for the section is below:

If we break down the task it is asking you to use the six sources to create a “coherent, well-developed argument” from your own position on whether or not schools should create, maintain, change, or eliminate the honors system. As you read this you might have some experience with the idea of honor codes; perhaps you have one from your high school. You can use that experience, but your response needs to focus on the given texts.

To find the actual documents you can go here. Taking a look at the documents will provide some context for the essay samples and their scores.

The question is scored on a scale from 1-9, with nine being the highest. Let’s take a look at some examples of student essays, along with comments from the readers – to break down the dos and don’ts of the FRQ section.

Do’s

You should always strive to get the highest score possible. Writing a high scoring paper involves learning some practices that will help you write the best possible synthesis essay. Below are three examples taken from student essays.

Craft a Well-Developed Thesis

One of the key elements of scoring high on the synthesis essay section of the FRQ is to craft a well-developed thesis that integrates three sources.

This thesis is from a high scoring essay based off of question 1 from the 2015 FRQ. Take note of some of the good things that this student is doing:

• The essay mentions three examples that they will reference throughout the rest of their essay: promotes a healthy academic environment, statistically lowers the percentage of academic dishonesty in school, and adaptability to school environments.

Part of a strong thesis is the use of three reasons to support the main claim. Each of the reasons that supports your claim should come from a different source text. By using a three-reason support of your claim, you ensure that you have at least the three required sources integrated. Remember: to get a 6 or higher requires 3 or more sources.

• The intro always introduces a counterclaim as a contrast to the thesis. The student points out that, “Some argue that honor codes should not be implemented for reasons such as ineffectiveness of the code and creation of a “big-brother”-esque environment…”

This counterclaim sets the student up to include a paragraph that argues against the claims posed in some of the articles, allowing them to use more of the given sources to their advantage. Using a counterclaim sets them up to write a well-supported essay.

Use Sources Effectively

Another essential part of scoring well on the synthesis essay is to utilize the sources effectively. The student demonstrates their command of the text through their second and third paragraphs:

The student seamlessly integrates the different sources in their essay. Notice how in the section above the student can go from one source (Vangell) into information and argument based off of another source (Dirmeger and Cartwright). The ability to use the sources together to form a coherent and cohesive whole is one factor that can set your essay apart from other students’.

Have a Well-Developed Reason for Each Source

Lastly, you will want to ensure that you give a well-developed explanation of the texts when speaking about them. Take this for example:

The student demonstrates deep understanding, and it shows in their writing. You should read a range of texts to prepare for the test. In the example above the student demonstrates a few key skills:

• The student establishes that they understand that Bacall’s comic is satiric, and isn’t meant to seriously. The analysis shows the reader that the student understood the text, and was able to grasp the nuance of the satire.

• The student also establishes that the use of the spy cam is connected to a philosophical idea like totalitarianism – showing the student understands how the text relates to other parts of the world as a whole.

• The student uses the cartoon as a way to jump into his argument, showing how the fears of critics are unwarranted.

Don’ts

There are some practices that students should avoid on FRQ 1 of the test. Students who do these things can expect to receive low scores on their essays, and if you wish to score above a five, you should avoid them at all costs.

Don’t Change Your Argument Midway Through Your Essay.

Changing your argument creates confusion and will make your essay weaker overall. Let’s look at a few pieces from a student essay to see how they change their arguments midway through:

Notice that this student talks about the honor system at their school. The student say that it should be maintained in its current form because it is fair, but also punishes students. This statement is taken from the end of the intro paragraph and sets this up as the main crux of the student’s argument – with the idea that they will expand this idea in their paragraphs later.

However, they do not expand the argument with any evidence:

The student continues to talk about how the system at their school is stable, but at the same time, they offer no proof of the actual policy at their school. They use words like “possible” and “fairly” to describe the system – which seems to suggest they don’t have a good grasp of it.

Up to this point, the student has been somewhat consistent, despite being vague and offering no evidence to support the point about how their school’s honor code is a good example of an honor system that works. In the next paragraph, though, the student’s essay takes a complete turn:

In their second to the last paragraph, the student turns from the idea that their school’s honor code is “solid” and instead state that they should change it to incorporate a peer-enforced honor system. This line of argument doesn’t go well with the rest of their essay and even acts to contradict their main points.

Most likely the student added this part to their paper after they realized that they had only utilized a single source. The essay ends with confusion and two sources used inadequately. The lesson to learn from this bad essay is that we should stay consistent in our arguments, sticking to the points we discuss at the beginning.

Don’t Fail to Argue the Prompt

One of the easiest ways to fail question one is to write an essay that doesn’t answer the task in the prompt. If we take a look at a sample of a student’s writing, we can see what it looks like when the aim of the essay isn’t focused on the prompt:

This student is not focusing on whether or not honor codes work. The student is instead giving information and background about honor codes. This explanation goes on for the entire introductory paragraph of the essay, but in the end, the reader has no idea what the student is going to say in the rest of the essay.

The use of information instead of argument is an ineffective strategy for the AP Language exam, and you should avoid it. Don’t try to make the essay about something other than the assigned prompt. If you stick to the prompt, you will have a better shot at getting a high score like an 8 or 9.

AP Readers’ Tips:

  1. Read every text before you start your essay. One of the pitfalls of many students is that they do not use enough sources and try to fit them in after the fact.
  2. Plan ahead. Ensure that you understand what you are going to be saying and how you will incorporate the different sources into your writing. You will need at least three sources to get above a 6, so ensure you have at least that many mapped in your plan.

The Second Essay (Rhetorical Analysis)

The second essay on the FRQ section is always a rhetorical analysis essay. This essay will focus on analyzing a text for an important aspect of the writing. In the case of the 2015 FRQ, the analysis was supposed to concentrate on rhetorical strategies:

The prompt asks the reader to carefully read the article written by Cesar Chavez and write an essay analyzing the rhetorical choices he uses in the article. Rhetorical choices are simply another term for rhetorical strategies and include things like the rhetorical appeals, and rhetorical devices.

Let’s examine the do’s and don’ts for the second essay.

Do’s

Utilize Specific Examples from the Text in Your Analysis

In this high scoring essay, the student goes into their analysis right away. The student points out that Chavez uses precise diction, a rhetorical device, to get his point across. This specific example shows the depth and understanding of the student’s analysis and sets the student up to receive a high score.

Whatever you identify in the text for your analysis, you should be able to point out precisely how it supports your main point. The more depth you can give in your analysis, the more accurate you can be with your comments, the better you will do.

Use Outside Knowledge Effectively to Strengthen Your Argument

The ability to pull in outside knowledge from your classes or books you have read will help enhance your analysis. Let’s take a look at how a student did this on the 2015 exam:

In the example above, the student can provide a more in-depth analysis of Chavez’s words by connecting Chavez’s mention of Gandhi to background knowledge of what Gandhi did in British-controlled India.

The student can provide a comparison of sorts and show how effective Chavez’s comparison is by offering background information about Gandhi’s efforts in India.

Whenever possible, bring in background information that will help with your analysis. It might only seem like extra knowledge about the topic or author, but it could provide some insight into why they chose to write about something or show the full effect of their argument.

Don’ts

Some things to avoid on the literary analysis essay include misreading the passage and providing inadequate analysis of the text.

Don’t Misread the Text

One of the easiest ways to lower your score is to explain something from the text that is incorrect. Let’s look at one of the examples of this from a student essay:

The article mentions that the farm workers union was inspired by the work of Martin Luther King Jr. The student’s misreading of the article led them to write, “Chavez’s appeal reached out to an audience of African-American working for justice and equality…” This analysis is a blatant misread of the passage because nowhere does it signify that Chavez was reaching out to African-Americans specifically.

This type of misread may seem minor, but it indicates that the student’s grasp of the article is less than what they need to analyze it in depth. It will also alert the reader to that fact, and they may look more closely for other signs of misunderstanding and shallow reading.

Don’t Over-simplify Your Points

You will want to ensure that your analysis is detailed and gets to the very root of the text. Here is an example of simple analysis from a student:

The student references lines from the text, but the student does not go into detail about what those lines say, nor does the student elaborate on why “…readers are overcome with a sense of duty and motivation.” This simplistic analysis of the text leaves a lot to be desired, and it received a low score because it didn’t provide the necessary details to analyze the text accurately.

You should elaborate on each piece of evidence that you bring forth from the text, and be specific about what in the text you are analyzing. The more you pay attention to the smaller details, the better your score will be in the long run.

AP Readers’ Tips

  1. Pay attention to both the holistic (overall) and analytic (particular) views of the piece. You will need to understand both the text as a whole and the specific parts of the text to analyze it effectively.
  2. Don’t just analyze the rhetoric used, but instead connect the rhetoric to the specific purpose that Chavez hopes to achieve through his speech. This rule applies to any rhetorical analysis essay.

The Third Essay (Argument)

The third and last essay of the FRQ does not respond to a particular text. Instead, the prompt focuses on crafting an argument about a particular issue. Your essay will need to argue a particular position, though most of the questions put forth by the exam will not be simple either/or questions.

Let’s look at the prompt for the third essay from 2015:

Before we get into the do’s and don’ts of the essay, let’s talk about the particular challenge of this task. You are presented with a scenario, in this case, it deals with small talk, and you are asked to create an argument about that issue.

For 2015, the scenario asks you to argue what value or function you see in small or “polite” talk. You are asked to reference a culture or community you are familiar with, and use evidence from some sources.

Do’s

A few of the most important things you can do to ensure you score well on the essay include clearly articulating your thesis and use every example to support your main claim.

Clearly Articulate Your Thesis

Like with the synthesis essay a clear thesis is important for the argumentative essay. The thesis should be clear in articulating the essay’s claim, and it should demonstrate that the student understood the requirements of the prompt. Let’s examine a well-written thesis statement:

The student, in this case, chose to argue that polite speech serves the purpose of making others more receptive to your purpose. The student then points out three specific situations where polite speech matters: when speaking to superiors, juries, and the general public.

At the end of the thesis statement, the student makes plain the exact nature of the exchange of polite speech for the desired goal. The clarity of their speech and the depth of their understanding is made clear by their command of language.

Use Examples to Support Main Claim

The best essays are going to use all of their examples to support their main claim. In the case of the third essay, the student sets the essay up so that every example will support the idea that polite speech works as an exchange between those with power and those seeking their purpose.

Let’s take a look at one example of how this support works:

The student ensures that they are supporting their main claim. The student is very explicit in tying the example back to the claim with phrases like, “polite speech is an expectation in an environment like school”.

The student points out that there is an expectation of polite speech, and then shows what would happen if polite speech wasn’t used, “…without its implementation, students’ words, and by extension, requests or queries would be disregarded.” This evidence shows that not only is this type of speech required in a school setting but that it is what allows people to get what they want.

This passage demonstrates the level of depth and connection you must make from your evidence to your claim if you want to score well on the third essay of the FRQ. Keep the relationship in mind, and ensure that all your examples explicitly support your claim.

Don’ts

If we take a look at the essay samples from 2015, there are few examples that stand out as don’ts. In particular, you should avoid circular reasoning, and a failure to use variety in your sentences and writing.

Don’t be Unclear in Your Writing

When you are making an argument, and it is based solely on your experiences and reasoning, it can be easy to get bogged down in the details and fail to write a clear well-reasoned essay. You need to take your time and ensure you use clear, well-reasoned logic in your essay.

Let’s take a look at a sample from an essay that has circular reasoning:

The essay doesn’t have a clear, logical path. The thesis statement that polite speech is polite doesn’t add anything to the discussion of the value of polite speech. Their essay is set up by this reasoning to fail. You should avoid circular arguments and logical fallacies at all costs in your argumentative essay.

There is a three-part process to creating an argument and avoiding the mistakes from the sample above. Arguments have three main parts:

• Claim: What you are arguing is true.

• Warrant: Your explanation and reasoning for why it is true.

• Evidence: The proof that your warrant uses to prove your claim.

Without any of these three parts any argument is incomplete, and like the sample above – an argument that is incomplete will fail to earn you a high score.

Don’t use a Repetitive Sentence Structure

It seems simple, but many students use simple and repeated sentence structure. You don’t want your writing to become repetitive, so instead try to create variety. Let’s take a look at a student that used repetition too often:

Now the mistake this writer makes may have been done by accident, but it perfectly represents the problem of repetitive structure. It would be advised that you reread your essay before time is up to ensure that you don’t have any repetitions this obvious (In short…In short. above).

This problem can be solved by using a variety of sentence structures, lengths, and formations. You should work diligently as your practice to vary all the elements of your sentences and work to elevate the diction (word choice) you use to make it more formal and academic.

AP Readers’ Tips

  1. Keep track of all parts of the prompt. One of the easiest ways to drop points is to forget to answer an important aspect of the prompt. In the case of the 2015 prompt, the essay needs to discuss both a community that is familiar with the student and the value of “polite” speech in that community.
  2. Try to reference literary examples in your writing. There wasn’t much opportunity to reference readings in the 2015 prompt, but if you can reference the different literature you have read as evidence, it can help boost your scores.

General AP Readers’ Tips

• Make a plan. One of the best things you can do for any essay you are writing under a time crunch is make a thought-out plan. Sometimes, in the heat of writing, it is easy to forget where we are in our arguments. Having a simple outline can save you from that misfortune.

• Answer the question in your introduction, and be direct. Directly answering the prompt is one of the easiest ways to ensure you get a higher score.

• Clearly, indent your paragraphs, and ensure that you always have an easy to navigate structure. Topic sentences are a must, so make sure those figure into your structure.

• Use evidence especially quotes from the texts, and explain what they mean. You need to make an explicit connection between the evidence you use, and how it supports your points.

• Part of all great writing is variety. Vary your sentence structures, don’t make all of your sentences short or choppy, but instead try to inject some creativity into your writing. Utilize transitions, complex sentences, and elevated diction in your writing.

• Use active voice, and make every word add to the paper as a whole. Avoid fluff; you don’t want your paper to look bad because you are trying to pad your word count.

Wrapping up the Ultimate Guide to 2015 AP English Language FRQs

Now that you better understand the expectations of the AP Language and Composition FRQ section, you are one step closer to getting your five on the exam. Take what you have learned in this guide, and work on applying it to your writing. So, now it is time to go practice to perfection.

If you have any more tips or awesome ideas for how to study for the AP Lang FRQ add them in the comments below.

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The Advanced Placement (AP) English Language course aligns to an introductory college level rhetoric and writing curriculum. The AP English Free Response Questions (FRQ’s) are aimed to evaluate students’ ability to develop evidence-based analytic and argumentative essays that go through several stages, which is especially true of the synthesis FRQ.

The synthesis FRQ gives students six sources with which to form and argue for a position on a topic the test provides. In order to score an 8 on the synthesis FRQ question, students need to write an essay that effectively argues a position, synthesizes at least 3 of the sources, uses appropriate and convincing evidence, and showcases a wide range of the elements of writing. Essays that score a 9 do all of that and demonstrate sophistication in their argument.

So how do you write an essay that does all of that in just 40 minutes? First, take a deep breath. And remember, you don’t have to do it on the fly. Prepare yourself. You are given a 15-minute planning period, so make sure that you use it to read the documents, label them, and ask yourself questions about them. Then, while writing the essay, interact with the sources. Don’t just regurgitate them. Use them to support your arguments and question them.

Use these strategies to calm down, be prepared, and write an essay that will earn you a 9 on the AP English synthesis FRQ.

Read, Carefully, then Label Your Documents.

The AP English test gives you fifteen minutes to read over the documents. Make sure that you use them! Read over the documents carefully, don’t skim them. Fully comprehend them, and try to understand their meaning. A deeper understanding of the documents will help you much more than a few extra minutes of writing time.

It can seem overwhelming to try and carefully read six sources in fifteen minutes. But the creators of the AP English Language test don’t want to overwhelm you. Each source is roughly one page and one of the sources is visual–a graph, chart, or photograph. You have time to carefully read all of the documents that the AP Language synthesis FRQ provides.

After you read each document, it’s a good idea to take a moment to label the documents. Think of the annotations as notes to a friend.

If you had to text your friend right before a test and tell them what this document was about, what would you say? Just write down one sentence or less that explains what the author said. It will help cement your understanding of the source and will help you keep track of all of them.

Here’s an example of a source from the 2014 AP English synthesis FRQ.

As you are reading, circle and underline things that could be helpful to your later, like the words of the honor code in the first paragraph or the 157 students involved in the cheating scandal in the fourth.
But after you have finished reading, write a one-sentence summary near the top of the source. Think of this as your quick-label. For this source, a good example would be a sentence like: “Despite emphasis on not cheating, elite private school caught up in cheating scandal.” The label at the top will help you keep track of the documents. The labels within the documents will help you pull the best evidence to support your arguments. Reading the documents carefully helps you pull out the most important information.

Talk to Yourself. No, Really, it’s a Good Idea.

Before you start writing, craft a thesis. The thesis should be thoughtful and present an argument. One of the best ways to come up with a thesis for the synthesis FRQ, which asks students to formulate an argument, is to come up with several possible positions that you could take.

Then pick one. It can feel a little quick to be asked to form an opinion like that, and some students worry that the argument they come up with from this process won’t be good enough.

Don’t waffle on your opinion. The AP FRQ is designed to evaluate how well students can synthesize documents and use them to support an argument. In other words, there is no right or wrong answer. As long as you can support your opinion with a well-crafted argument, it’s a good opinion. If you find yourself questioning it in the middle of your essay, just remind yourself to not worry about it.

Your thesis needs to be direct and specific. It shouldn’t give the reader any question as to what opinion you have decided to argue for. It should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence.

The 2014 AP English synthesis FRQ asked students to synthesize information from six sources and “incorporate it into a coherent, well-developed argument for your own position on whether your school should establish, maintain, revise, or eliminate an honor code or honor system.” For this question:

Good thesis: My school should eliminate our current honor code because honor codes do not adequately prevent cheating and are often used in place of teaching students the ethical reasons for not cheating, as shown by recent scandals both in and out of school.

This thesis breaks down a chronological argument whose evidence can be drawn from the documents. Just reading the thesis tells you that this student’s essay will a) prove that honor codes do not prevent cheating, b) discuss the idea that honor codes promote repeat-after-me ethics over actual understanding and c) draw on examples of cheating in school and out of school (which will be drawn from the documents).

Bad thesis: My school should maintain their current honor code because I don’t cheat, but it should revise it for all the other students who do.

This is not a good thesis because it is not at all clear whether the student is going to argue that their school should maintain their honor code or revise their honor code. The student is waffling on their opinion and the reader will definitely have some questions. The thesis is not specific or direct.

Take your well-crafted thesis and try pretending, briefly, that you sent your thesis to the author of the sources. What would they say? Would they agree or disagree? What parts of their own sources would they bring up? Use that imaginary conversation to help write your outline.

Talking to yourself like this may feel odd, but in the context of writing an essay, it is the best way to organize your thoughts. It will help you to come up with several ideas, pick an opinion, craft a good thesis, and sketch out a good outline.

Resist the Urge to Summarize the Sources.

It is so tempting to summarize the sources, especially when you are in the middle of your synthesis essay and worried you are running out of time. Resist that temptation.

It is important to use the sources in front of your to inform your FRQ response. But the graders of the AP English test do not want you to simply summarize the sources. They’ve read them.

Try to take a deep breath and instead go for short quotations and paraphrasing. Go back to your notes and read what you underlined to see if it is helpful for quick quotations.

Look at another source from the 2014 AP English synthesis FRQ:

If a student wanted to use this source as support for eliminating honor codes on the basis that they do not work, here is an example of summarizing the source and analyzing the analysis for support.

Summary: Honor codes do not work because only 48% of survey respondents at a small public university believed the honor code was enforced fairly. Only 42% knew the range of sanctions that can occur and just 8% would report a fellow student for cheating. 65% of students say the honor system is discussed in class and on the syllabus and 40% of students have violated the honor code and not been caught. Clearly, honor codes do not work.

Instead of adding to the information from the source, the student just rewrote the information from the source. The student does not include information that the reader cannot get from reading the document.

Analysis: Honor codes are ineffective at preventing cheating. Often, the perception of the honor code varies from the intention of the honor code. It is written to sound as if it will be strictly enforced, but students do not perceive it to be. For example, when students from a small, public university were surveyed, 40% of them admitted to having violated the honor code and gotten away with it, and only 8% of them would report another student for having violated it. While the wording of the honor code was not provided, and so it is unclear how harsh the punishments it promises are, clearly students do not take it seriously. There’s a disconnect between intent and execution, where the school says the honor code is important, but student think it is enforced unfairly, often because they have violated it themselves or they know someone who has.

This paragraph uses the source to support a point. The student is trying to convey that the school appears to take honor codes seriously, but students do not perceive that they do so. The student does not summarize the entire source, but instead pulls two statistics from it and use them to support their argument.

Remember, even if you are running out of time, that quality is always better than quantity on the AP Language FRQ responses. Take the time to really support your arguments with good quotations instead of stuffing up the rest of your space with summary.

Question the Sources.

Don’t just accept the sources at face value. Pretend that, instead of encountering the sources on the AP English exam you found them on the Internet. Would you buy them? Why or why not?

The AP synthesis FRQ graders will appreciate that same type of thinking. Each source comes with a description, at the top, with the name, origin, and author of the source. Use that information to question the sources. Be cynical about the sources and be critical of the information they provide you, if it is appropriate.

Take this excerpt from Source B of the 2016 AP English synthesis FRQ.

The 2016 question had to do with the educational benefits of learning a foreign language. This David Thomas piece is one of the sources. Here’s a good way to question that source:

Look at the top–the little box at the top of the source contains a treasure trove of information. It says who wrote the article, when they wrote it, and who published the article.

In the case of this source, it was published by Mail Online, an online magazine. As students know, online magazines compete for page views and are interested in selling ads. Rehashing the same ideas does not attract viewers in the same way that being a little controversial does. So, in the case of David Thomas, this piece was written partially to say something different than the rest of the UK and to attract attention to an online magazine.

Questioning the sources does not mean dismissing them. The above analysis isn’t to suggest that David Thomas does not believe what he has written, or that he was simply trying to be contrarian; only that the purpose of an article written for an online opinion column is fundamentally different than an article written in an academic journal, for example. That purpose is reflected in the language and subject matter of the piece.

Treat the sources on the AP English test the way you would treat sources in the real world. If you wouldn’t believe it if someone shared it as a Facebook status, bringing that disbelief into your essay demonstrates your critical thinking abilities. Just make sure you can back it up and give good reasons for questioning your sources.

Plan to Address the Opposition.

Remember when you came up with several possible responses you could have made to the prompt? Addressing some of them increases the sophistication of your argument astronomically.

The AP English synthesis FRQ is largely about how well you can handle making an argument. A huge part of good argument involves thinking about the opposition. Take time to engage with the opposite opinion to the one you put forward.

To Sum up!

Following these five strategies will ensure a 9 on the AP English synthesis FRQ and, hopefully, a 5 on the AP English test. Prepare yourself by reading carefully and labeling the documents. Interact with the documents by explaining them to yourself, using them for support, and questioning them when necessary.

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