How to Write an AP English Essay

 You Can Score a 9 on Your AP English Test!

High School English is just too elementary for you, so you decide to take AP English classes. Not only will it look good on your college application, it will also give you an exemption from one or two college writing composition classes during your freshman year. You can’t just enroll in AP English classes as you would a Zumba class though. You need to take a “free response” test first. Score a 9 in that test and you are on your way towards English academic excellence. There are 3 steps and multiple processes that you must complete before you can become an AP English student.

  1. Learn to Develop a Strong Essay
  2. Emulate those that came before you. Read the work of the successful test takers. Figure out what made them score a 9 by analysing the content of their essay. Underline what you think made it an essay worthy of a 9. Underline the supporting claims, note the number of times that the writer used transition words in his essay. Paragraph structuring is one of the main scoring considerations so don’t take it lightly.
  • Always practice writing in actual exam settings. That means setting your timer for 120 minutes then writing like a bat out of hell to complete 3 essays within the allotted time frame.
  1. The prompt is the instruction manual for the essay. Make sure you understand it before you write down your first sentence. If you don’t understand the prompt and just write for the heck of it, you can bet that you just failed the test by default. Don’t just summarise the prompt, make sure you know what it is talking about.
  • Take note of the key parts of the argument. These are keywords located within the prompt that help direct the flow of discussion in the essay.
  • Remember to write for SOAPST, that’s the Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, and Tone as defined by the prompt.
  • It would help if you could note the action words in the prompt that tell you how to discuss the essay. Words like “Agree or Disagree”, or “Compare and Contrast” often give solid clues as to what kind of discussion is expected in the essay.

  1. Connect the dots. Make sure the argument aligns with the prompt task given. This is also known as paraphrasing the prompt. Make sure that you properly restate the topic and the discussion instruction. Use your own words. That is all that paraphrasing is. Let the reader know exactly how you understand the topic for discussion in relation to the method of discussion. Make sure you present a valid argument at the end of it.
  • If asked to write a general discussion based on personal experience, consider your personal experience and how it relates to the topic so that you can write a proper argument.
  1. Develop your line of discussion. Don’t formulate a thesis yet. At this point, you just want to write down what exactly your argument is going to be. Will you be for or against the topic given? When developing your argument consider the following:
  • It is better to qualify rather than simply agree with a stance. When you qualify and argument, that means you will consider both sides of the discussion and are not simply sticking to one side of the issue. It shows an understanding of events rather than a bias towards certain results.
  1. Evidence makes the grade. A fantastic AP essay uses plenty of information culled from various sources. So, if you are analysing a passage, underline relevant portions, then support it using other evidence. If required, brainstorm and list examples to support your claims. Sometimes, using quotes from other people can help drive home your discussion points so if you accurately remember a related quote, make sure to use it. Finally, just keep track of as much evidence or information that you can use for the essay. You never know which ones will come in handy.
  2. It’s time for the thesis statement to take its place beside your argument. Make sure that you directly respond to the prompt using information that can be argued in the essay. Here is a suggested format for a thesis statement:

Your argument + 3 supporting reasons = _______ is true because______, _____,and _____.

Since the thesis statement appears at the end of the opening paragraph, it should read something like this:

By constantly practicing to take the AP English test, the test taker gains experience and hones his writing skills.

  1. Outline the discussion. The outline helps you to present your discussion in a coherent and logical manner. This helps you transition from one discussion point to another without losing focus in the written essay.
  2. Writing the Essay
  3. Create a strong opening by using an interesting “hook” at the start of the essay. A personal experience, an anecdote, a quote, or something taken from the prompt usually works. Include any extra information from the prompt such as the book you are analysing, the author name, or whatever else pops up. Your literary elements such as character and setting should be included as well. Combine that with your thesis statement and you are set to discuss.
  4. Use topic sentences at the start of the paragraph to explain what is being discussed in that section. Then close with a transition sentence using words like “also” and “likewise” will help segue into the next paragraph topic sentence.
  5. Explain the evidence that you use. Make sure to use no more than 4 lines of quote if necessary. Try to avoid using quotes if possible because formatting those will take away valuable time from your discussion.
  6. Develop a strong conclusion without presenting new ideas. It sounds hard to do but it really isn’t just say something like, “The relevance of this topic is something that should be thought about as the debate progresses.”
  7. Edit, Revise, Finalise.
  8. Show an ability to write various sentence types. Go from simple to complex sentence structures in your discussion. The number of sentence can vary, but always aim to write at least 3 sentences so that you can vary the sentence presentation. Don’t forget, the transition words need to be in play so keep an eye out for portions where you can use those words.
  9. Show off your vocabulary skills but make sure the definition fits the purpose of use in the sentence. Otherwise, you come across as someone trying hard to sound intellectual. You score a 9 for using the correct vocabulary in the essay, and lose points when words are used out of context.
  10. Proper grammar is a hard requirement. Do not mess around with the sentence development. Slang words do not have a place or use in an AP English essay. Always aim for academic excellence in your vocabulary. Leave the “LULZ” and “ROFL” at the door for now. It may sound boring to write in proper grammar but c’mon, it’s not like you are expected to write like Shakespeare. Just keep it formal and clean. You want that 9, don’t you?

While there is no fool-proof method of getting a 9 in the AP English test, following these guidelines should at least help you get on track for the test preparations. Practice is the key to passing the test. Do a lot of writing, it’s the only way to go.