To score an 8 on the AP English Argument FRQ question, the CollegeBoard outlines that students need to write an essay that effectively argues a position, 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, additionally, demonstrate sophistication in their argument.
An essay that does all of that is an essay that is well constructed. Such an essay needs a solid framework and excellent support. To construct an essay like that, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are being asked, to not waffle, to spend time and care with your thesis and outline, and to support every claim you make.
The best way to write an AP English FRQ that does all of that is to understand what you are going to see on the AP English Language test.
What You are Going to See on the AP English Argument FRQ
The AP English argument FRQ is the most straightforward of the AP English FRQs because it is the most like essays you are already used to writing. It’s exciting to have free reign and make your own argument, unrestrained from rhetorical analysis devices or documents. But, like most AP writing, it also can be a little overwhelming. There’s nothing to read to provide evidence for you or to help you form an argument. Whether you’re feeling excited or overwhelmed by the AP writing argument FRQ, being strategic about forming your thesis, crafting a strong, chronological argument, and utilizing good, supportive evidence will lead to a better overall essay response.
Determine the Question
The first question to ask yourself is what am I being asked to do? Look for keywords and phrases that will answer that question.
Here’s an example from the 2016 AP English Language argument FRQ.
Though there are just two short paragraphs, there is a lot of room for confusion here. In this case, “Write an essay that argues your position on the extent to which Wilde’s claims are valid” is the key sentence you are looking for. In 2016, AP English Language test takers were asked to argue either for, or against, the idea that disobedience is the virtue through which progress is possible.
If you cannot determine what the question is, go back and reread the prompt. Knowing the question you are answering is the most important part of AP writing. You will not be able to answer the question effectively if you aren’t certain what the question is. Pick out a specific sentence or two to determine the question, and thereby ensure that you aren’t just writing an essay that responds to the general sense of the prompt.
Pick an Opinion and Stick to it
The next step is both simple and difficult. Identify your own opinion on the subject.
But remember — the AP argument FRQ is designed to test how well you can craft an argument. Questions like the 2016 question seem so daunting, because how one feels about disobedience has ramifications. It is a bigger question than students are used to encountering on an AP test.
But there is no right or wrong answer for this AP English FRQ. And whatever argument you choose will not come back later in the exam or in your final grade in the class. This is not to say that you shouldn’t believe in what you are writing. Only that you should remember that both sides are arguable, pick one, and stick to it. Don’t waffle.
Craft a Thesis Statement
The thesis statement should be both simple and elegant. It should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence. So, for the 2016 argument FRQ:
Good thesis: As Wilde claims, disobedience is a valuable human trait without which progress could not be made because, in situations like the American Revolution, it is only deviance from the norm that can change the norm.
This thesis breaks down a) that the author is claiming to agree with Wilde, b) that the author will support that claim with examples from the American Revolution, and c) that the author will continually return to the idea that only deviance from the norm can change the norm.
Not a Good thesis: Disobedience is a good trait for humans, because historically, disobedient men and women made history.
This thesis doesn’t really answer the question. It says that disobedience is good but doesn’t mention Wilde. It alludes to the idea that disobedient men and women made history but doesn’t mention progress. Plenty of people, like Franz Ferdinand, made history without progressing the human race. This thesis isn’t specific and doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the author will be saying next.
See the difference?
After you’ve determined your thesis, use it as a jumping point to sketch a quick outline. Then, follow your outline, bringing in your own concrete examples and evidence. Doing so will improve your AP writing.
Craft a Chronological Argument
A good argument builds as you move through the essay. It does not simply repeat the same points. Instead, the different points of the argument build off one another and work together to advance the author’s point.
Let’s look at the 2014 AP English argument FRQ for an example.
In this case, students are being asked to both define creativity and to argue for, or against, the creation of a class in creativity.
All students are likely to have their own definitions of creativity and their own opinions about a creativity class. For the purposes of example, let’s use Steve Jobs’ definition of creativity and quickly outline an argument for the creation of a class in creativity.
Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” Jobs sees creativity not as the art of making something completely new from scratch, but instead the art of connecting dots differently.
A chronological argument builds off itself. So, in this question’s case, an outline would look something like this:
- Creativity is best thought of as making connections.
- Making connections is a type of thinking that can be taught.
- Making connections is best taught in school, as opposed to outside of it.
First, a student would have to argue why creativity is best thought of as making connections. The second point, that making connections is a type of thinking that can be taught, cannot be proven until the first point has been sufficiently supported. And the final point, that this is a skill that is best taught in school, cannot be made without the other two. The points of the argument cannot be moved around, changed, or removed. This shows the argument is chronological and has built on itself.
When you sketch your outline, quickly ask yourself if the outline would make just as much sense if you rearranged it. If the answer is no, start writing your essay. If the answer is yes, try to structure your argument so that your points build off one another.
Support Your Claims
All arguments need evidence. This is the proof you need to support your thesis. And in the case of the AP English argument FRQ, the evidence all comes from you. What exactly that evidence is will vary from question to question and from student to student. But make sure that every point you make is supported by evidence.
Here’s some good news — you already know quite a bit about effective evidence from what you have learned in AP English about rhetorical devices. Your main purpose in this essay is to persuade. What have you learned in class about effective ways to persuade? What rhetorical devices can you utilize? Try to pick the best devices to support your argument that you can.
Here are some examples of supportive and non-supportive evidence that students could use to support their claims.
The 2015 AP English language argument FRQ asked students to argue what the function of polite speech in a culture they are familiar with.
Supportive evidence: Polite speech is useful for conveying tone, especially in the world of the Internet. A great example of this need is email. Because emails are virtual communications, they are completely stripped of the context that non-verbal cues, like body language, eye contact, and physical touch, can provide. Polite, formal speech conveys that the sender of the email respects the receiver. Phrases like “How are you?” help convey friendliness between e-mailers. Taking the time to ensure an email sounds friendly can, for example, help ease the sting of a virtual scolding from a boss to a subordinate. As more communication becomes virtual, polite speech is more important than ever to provide context.
In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of polite speech in the culture of the Internet. The student claims that polite speech is necessary to convey tone in communication without context and uses emails as a frame. The student uses examples of situations where email and polite speech are directly involved to support her claims. Every one of the claims is followed up with an example.
Non-supportive evidence: Polite speech is useful for conveying tone, especially in the world of the Internet. In forums, people are never polite, and it is bad for discourse, which is bad for democracy. The world would be a much better place if when people online disagreed with one another, they were polite instead of angry and ready to form a new subreddit at any time. When people on the Internet aren’t polite, they don’t worry about their tone at all, and it offends people. The lack of polite speech makes the Internet a hostile place.
In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of polite speech in the culture of the Internet. However, the student does not utilize supportive evidence to do so. The paragraph is full of claims, like that the world would be better if people on the Internet were polite, but does not provide a concrete example to anchor the claim. Additionally, the paragraph does not support the idea that polite speech conveys tone on the Internet because it primarily focuses on the lack of polite speech on some parts of the Internet.
There is so much variance in prompts and students’ prior knowledge; it’s impossible to provide a checklist of what makes evidence supportive. But a good trick to decide if you’ve supported your claims well enough is to talk to yourself. No really, it’s a good idea.
Picture yourself discussing your essay with someone. Imagine that this person disagrees with everything that you say. Every time you make a claim, like that it’s important to be polite in an email, your imaginary person shakes their head and tell you no. How would you try to convince them? What examples would you use? Make sure that for each opinion you put forward; you have provided an answer to someone who would disagree with you.
The evidence is an important part of your essay. If your outline and your argument are a framework, your evidence is the brick and mortar. A house without brick and mortar won’t fall, but it won’t be a very nice house to inhabit. Tie every claim you make to a piece of evidence to ensure the best essay possible.
To Sum up
The AP English argument FRQ varies quite a bit. But it is ultimately about how well you can put forth an argument. So, don’t be afraid to spend some time crafting that argument. Pick a clear position that can offer no confusion, write a clear and direct thesis statement, and make an argument that has to be in the order you write it. Support yourself with concrete, specific evidence and examples. But most of all, have fun. This essay is the one you should be looking forward to, where you have the freest rein. Enjoy it and earn yourself a 9.
Do the examples shown make sense to you? Can you picture yourself moving through the AP writing argument FRQ with ease now?
Test yourself and write a practice essay response. Here are tips on how to score your own AP English Practice Essay.
Featured Image Source
Let’s put everything into practice. Try this AP English Language practice question:
Looking for more AP English Language practice?
Check out our other articles on AP English Language.
You can also find thousands of practice questions on Albert.io. Albert.io lets you customize your learning experience to target practice where you need the most help. We’ll give you challenging practice questions to help you achieve mastery of AP English Language.
Start practicing here.
Are you a teacher or administrator interested in boosting AP English Language student outcomes?
Learn more about our school licenses here.
What is AP English?
AP English is a rigorous college-level course that is divided into two different classes: AP English Language and Composition; AP English Literature and Composition. The Language course deals with rhetoric while the Literature course focuses on literature analysis. Both exams require knowledge on how to write a synthesis essay, AP English format integrated.
Table Of Contents
2017 Language and Composition Exam
During the exam, you are required to answer write three essays: two of them analyze a piece of literature (an excerpt from a short story, a poem, or a narrative essay) and one answers a free response prompt on a piece of merit-based literature that you’ve read prior to the exam. Your exam is divided into portions. There will most likely be:
- 10-20 questions on Modern (20th century) poetry/prose.
- 10-20 questions on Victorian or Romantic poetry/prose.
- 5-10 questions on 17th-century Elizabethan poetry/prose.
You are not likely to see much Contemporary (beyond 20th century) or Middle English (450-1600), so do not waste your time practicing those poems.
AP English Literature Essay
To some, the AP English analysis essay is harder than the free response essay. To approach this type of writing, EssayPro team have selected several steps you could take to prepare.
- Learn to read and comprehend poetry/prose quickly. Practice by reading a lot of different poems from different time periods.
- Read the prompt before reading the poem/prose and right before writing. Annotate the prompt. Look for keywords and themes. Make sure you understand the question completely.
- Annotate the passage/poem as you go. Pay close attention to the keywords and main themes given to you in the prompt.
Remember: practice makes perfect. Here are a couple of AP English Literature essay prompts for you to practice.
This question states that you need to analyze how the speaker uses symbolism through such devices as form, diction, and imagery. In your English class, you probably learned that symbolism is when a writer takes a symbol and attaches a secondary meaning to it. Symbols can be metaphors or metaphysical conceits. In this case, the Flea resembles something that isn’t exactly a Flea. Your interpretation should be accurate and supported by evidence. You don’t want to list rhetorical devices. Instead, you want to analyze the essay and make sure your claim is supported.
This question asks you to analyze the way structure contributes to the meaning of the poem. The structure of the poem is a villanelle. From here on, you have to develop a unique interpretation of how the structure contributes to the meaning. Here, you can focus on repetition and elaborate on how it contributes to meaning. While writing essays like this, instead of quoting the whole line in your custom essay, just write the line number when referring to a specific point in the poem.
Most people say that the hardest part of an AP English exam is the free response section. This specific prompt asks you to explain why a character’s moral ambiguity contributes to the novel’s theme. After picking a novel and a character (a benefit of the free response essay is that you have the freedom to choose whatever novel and character you want), you have to demonstrate how their moral ambiguity contributes largely to the plot of the story. The little note at the end of the prompt about avoiding plot summary is very important. Do not summarize events of the novel. This will hinder your score and take points off your paper.
AP English Language and Composition Essay
What Does That Mean?
This course has an exam that is divided into four parts: multiple choice portion and three essays argumentative, persuasive essay, and synthesis). Essentially, an AP English argument essay is exactly like a basic argument paper that you’ve written in high school but with a twist: you have to equip it with perfect grammar and have a well-structured claim. In gist, AP Language and Composition is an extremely rigorous course that requires you to write essays that demonstrate primal ability to analyze works of literature. Perfect grammar and structure on an exam like this will not award you maximum points or a 5 on the exam.
How to deal with the Prompt
Prompts in AP English Language aren’t the same as in AP English Literature. Prompt consists of an article that you have to synthesize. On occasion, an AP English Literature exam will have a designated prompt, but the objective of the course is to allow you to build analytical pieces. The most important thing you can do to prepare for your AP English synthesis essay is to learn the format of and analyze/dissect many AP English essay prompts (pieces of writing, that is) as you can before taking the exam.
Rubric and Tips
An AP English essay rubric can be divided into three parts: a high scoring essay, a mid-range essay, and a low-scoring essay.
- High Range Essay
- High range Essay (8-9 points)
- Effectively develops a position on the assigned topic.
- Demonstrates full understanding of the sources or text.
- Correctly synthesizes sources and develops a position. The writer drives the argument, not the sources.
- The writer’s argument is convincing.
- The writer does not make general assertions and cites specific evidence for each one of his points.
- The writer’s evidence effectively answers the “so what?” question.
- The essay is clear, well-organized, and coherent. It is a stand alone piece rather than an exam response.
- Contains very few grammatical and spelling errors or flaws, if any.
Note: 8-9 essays are an extremely rare. A strong ‘7’ paper can jump to an 8-9 if the writing style is outstanding.
Middle-Range Essay (5-7)
- Adequately develops a position on the assigned topic.
- Demonstrates sufficient understanding of the ideas developed in sources
- Sufficiently summarizes the sources and assumes some control of the argument. ‘5’ essays are less focused than ‘6’ and ‘7’.
- The writer's argument is sufficient but less developed.
- Writer successfully synthesizes the sources and cites them.
- The writer answers the “So what?” question but may use generalizations or assertions of universal truth. The writer cites own experience and specific evidence.
- The essay is clear and well organized. ‘5’ essays less so.
- Contains few minor errors of grammar or syntax.
Note: A ‘7’ is awarded to papers of very sophisticated writing. A ‘5’ designates a 3 on the AP exam; these essays use generalizations and have limited control of the claim and argument. ‘5’ essays often lose focus and digress.
Low-Range Essays (1-4)
- Inadequately develops a position on the assigned topic.
- The author misunderstands and simplifies the ideas developed in the sources.
- Over-summarizes the sources, lets the sources drive the argument.
- The writer has weak control of organization and syntax. The essay contains numerous grammatical/spelling errors.
- A writer does not cite the sources correctly, skips a citation, or cites fewer than the required minimum of the sources.
- Notes: ‘4’ or ‘3’ essays do assert an argument but do not sufficiently develop it.
- A ‘2’ essay does not develop an argument.
- A 1-2 essay has severe writing errors and does not assert a claim.
- As long as you don’t draw a picture on your exam paper, write a bullet point list, or compose a narrative about your dog, you will get above a 3 on this essay.
How to Approach the Format
The AP English essay format is similar to the format of any other essay. Your introductory paragraph should have a thesis and demonstrate your argument clearly. Your body should illustrate points that back your argument up and your conclusion should summarize your essay. A significant difference is the three components of an AP English Language and Composition synthesis essay that absolutely must be present.
- Argument: a central claim with specific supporting evidence.
- AP English Language synthesis essay focuses on the analysis of multiple perspectives.
- Rhetorical Analysis: definition of the author and his intentions. Purpose audience and claim are all parts of the assignment.
Read more: How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
Pure Essays, fromEssayPro
The #1 tip I can give you to being a star student in your AP English class and ace the exam is to read read read! If your teacher assigned you summer reading to do before taking the course, then you absolutely must do it. I know, summer feels like the time to party and spend time with friends, but if you want to embark on a course like AP English, then you absolutely must do all the prior reading. If your teacher hasn’t assigned you any summer reading, then find a suggested list of AP English books that will help you on the exam. There are some great classics in there and that way you can be choosy and pick 3-5 novels that you will enjoy. If you’re taking summer classes or do not have a time to work, then I suggest you read at least 5 pages every night before going to sleep. Keep a reading diary to remind you of your initial reflections on the reading. Nearing the exam, reread your notes for the novels and skim through book summaries. If you do all of this prior to the exam, you will have nothing to worry about.
Proofread Your Essay
Check and double check your paper. Read again and again. When you are writing an English essay, you have no opportunity to check your paper by another person. Be your reader. Find out the flaws, grammatical and spelling mistakes. Correct all the errors and submit the paper. You can hire the best essay writing service and receive an original custom essay written by experienced writers.