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AP English Literature Information Packet Lisa Danos Gunnison High School AP English Literature and Composition test: May 10, 2007 a.m. session I recommend you purchase your own copies of the literature we read so you can better interact with the text by annotating and close reading. This, of course, is optional. The AP English Literature and Composition course engages students in the careful reading and critical analysis of imaginative literature. Through the close reading of selected texts, students deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language to provide both meaning and pleasure for their readers. As they read, students consider a work’s structure, style, and themes as well as such smaller-scale elements as the use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone. Reading in an AP course is both wide and deep. This reading necessarily builds upon the reading done in previous English courses. In their AP course, students read works from several genres and periods—from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century—but, more importantly, they get to know a few works well. They read deliberately and thoroughly, taking time to understand a work’s complexity, to absorb its richness of meaning, and to analyze how that meaning is embodied in literary form. In addition to considering a work’s literary artistry, students reflect on the social and historical values it reflects and embodies. Careful attention to both textual detail and historical context provides a foundation for interpretation, whatever critical perspectives are brought to bear on the literary works studied. In short, students in an AP English Literature and Composition course read actively. The works taught in the course require careful, deliberative reading. And the approach to analyzing and interpreting the material involves students in learning how to make careful observations of textual detail, establish connections among their observations, and draw from those connections a series of inferences leading to an interpretive conclusion about a piece of writing’s meaning and value. Writing is an integral part of the AP English Literature and Composition course and exam. Writing assignments focus on the critical analysis of literature and include expository, analytical, and argumentative essays. Although critical analysis makes up the bulk of student writing for the course, creative writing assignments help students see from the inside how literature is written. Such experiences sharpen their understanding of what writers have accomplished and deepen their appreciation of literary artistry. The goal of both types of writing assignments is to increase students’ ability to explain clearly, cogently, even elegantly, what they understand about literary works and why they interpret them as they do. To that end, writing instruction includes attention to developing and organizing ideas in clear, coherent, and persuasive language. It includes study of the elements of style. And it attends to matters of precision and correctness as necessary. Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on helping students develop stylistic maturity, which, for AP English, is characterized by the following: a wide-ranging vocabulary used with denotative accuracy and connotative resourcefulness; a variety of sentence structures, including appropriate use of subordinate and coordinate constructions; a logical organization, enhanced by specific techniques of coherence such as repetition, transitions, and emphasis; a balance of generalization with specific illustrative detail; and an effective use of rhetoric, including controlling tone, maintaining a consistent voice, and achieving emphasis through parallelism and antithesis. The writing required in an AP English Literature and Composition course is thus more than a mere adjunct to the study of literature. The writing that students produce in the course reinforces their reading. Since reading and writing stimulate and support one another, they are taught together in order to underscore both their common and their distinctive elements. FAQ’s on the AP English Literature Exam Multiple Choice: 1 hour You will get about 55 multiple choice questions based on a close reading of four short selections, usually two prose and two poetry. The questions can be analyzed according to three types: o Level 1: Understanding the content o Level 2: Understanding the style o Level 3: Identifying the theme and tone The multiple choice section is worth 45% of your total score. You lose 1/4 point for guessing, so narrow your choices down to two or leave it blank. Essays: 2 hours You will write three essays in 2 hours (about 40 minutes per essay.) One essay will be based on a prose selection; one based on a poetry selection. These essays deal with the effects writers create by artful manipulation of language: stylistic analysis focusing on tone, diction, syntax, imagery, point of view, and use of figurative and ironic devices. The third essay allows you to select a play or novel that you have read to answer a prompt that reflects close reading and literary analysis. The essay section is worth 55% of your total score. Each essay is scored by a different reader, but is only read once on a 9 point rubric. Composite Scores: You will receive an AP grade of 1 to 5. 3’s, 4’s, & 5’s will usually earn college credit for an introductory lit/comp course. Approximately 11% of students score 5’s, 20% score 4’s, and 35% score 3’s. You can get about half the multiple choice questions right and score an average of 5 (out of 9) on the essays and get a grade of 3. A.P. Literature Exam Multiple Choice Section General Information: Expect 55 questions divided into four sections. There will be two prose sections and two poetry sections. Occasionally, there are five sections. The following are the types and frequency of questions often asked: Comprehension: Vocabulary-define words in context (1-2 of 55) Comprehension: Narration/point of view—identify the speaker or the speaker's purpose/tone (4-5 of 55) Comprehension: Pronoun object reference (2-3 of 55) Comprehension: Meaning through inference (12-15 of 55) Comprehension: Characterization (6-7 of 55) Organization-how does the structure of the quoted material contribute to the work (2-3 of 55) Comprehension/Organization total: 27-35 of 55 questions in part 1 Style: Literary techniques (4-7 of 55) Style: Diction (3 of 55) Style; Syntax (0-1 of 55) Style: Effect (2-3 of 55) Style: Tone(4-6 of 55) Style: Rhetorical purpose (5-6 of 55) Style total: 18-21 of 55 questions in part 1 Multiple Choice Test Taking Strategies and Suggestions: 1. Know the directions. 2. Skim each passage before beginning. A good choice is to start with the one where your comfort level is highest, but be sure to mark your answer sheet properly. 3. Skim through the questions before reading the passage. Read the passage actively, marking points as you go. 4. When choosing an answer, cross out the obviously wrong answers then select the answer where there is nothing wrong. 5. The questions are listed sequentially. 6. There is a deduction of .25 for an incorrect answer, so leave a blank where you cannot make an educated guess. 7. Paraphrase the passage and the author's main idea. Take notes. 8. Manage your time carefully. Do not spend more than 15 minutes on a passage or you will be unable to complete the final passages. Don't dwell too long on difficult questions leaving easier, later questions unanswered because of lack of time. If you have trouble with an answer, eliminate the obviously wrong answers (contradict the passage, are irrelevant to the passage), skip the question and come back later within the 15 minute time block. 9. Be aware of questions which include the words NOT, LEAST, or EXCEPT. In these cases, the right answer will be the one that does not apply to the passage. Suggestions for AP Essays 1. Titles of works that are published separately (like novels, plays, and long poems) should be underlined. a. If you are word processing, you can either underline or use italics. b. Look in the question! If the title is printed there, follow the same format, although you will need to switch from italics to underlining if you are writing by hand. 2. Titles of works that are not published separately (like short poems and short stories) should be quoted. a. Look in the question. If the title is printed there, follow the same format. 3. AP readers will “cut you some slack” on organization. a. They realize that you have a short period of time in which to accomplish your task, and that you will get more ideas as you work. So they will not penalize you if your writing becomes stronger as your essay goes on. b. However, the opposite is a problem. Plan your work as thoroughly as you can up front, but be prepared to add valid new ideas as you go. 4. You have approximately 40 minutes from reading the question to finished essay. Use 5-8 minutes to plan and do a rough outline before you start writing. 5. Sloppiness is generally not a problem. You are writing from your brain and you’ll want to change things, so if you cross things out and insert things, that is not a problem, as long as the final product is readable. a. Make your handwriting as legible as you possibly can although teachers understand the pressure you are under. b. Just remember, it can be very frustrating to spend most of one’s effort deciphering what is being said, rather than reflecting on the brilliance of a writer’s ideas! c. The AP Reader will attempt to decipher your writing to the best of his or her ability, but if your handwriting is too cryptic to be understood it will only frustrate the reader – something you do not want to do! 6. Spelling is generally not a problem either. Readers understand that you cannot use a dictionary. However, certain things must be spelled correctly: a. Common words – the big culprits are “there,” “their,” and “they’re” and words that somehow get in your brain improperly spelled. Two years ago I had a student who insisted on spelling “which” as “wich.” This reflects badly on you as a writer, no matter how brilliant your ideas are. b. Names of characters – here there can be no excuses. You simply must know the c. character names and their proper spellings! This is where those index cards come in handy. d. Names of locations in a novel or play. See “b” above. 7. If you don’t finish, write “ran out of time” at the end of your essay and write a brief outline of what you would have said had you had the time to finish. a. This is not something you ever want to do intentionally, because you will be penalized for it, but if you are out of time it is better than not putting anything down at all. You may get some credit for it. 8. Grammar – you should aim for polished writing, without grammatical errors. Traditionally, students writing AP essays have three major problems: a. pronoun-antecedent agreement errors b. passive voice problems c. parallel construction errors 9. Write sentences that are smooth, flowing, clear, sensible; avoid short, choppy sentences. a. Proofread to ensure that you have not omitted words that render sentences unclear or nonsensical and to make sure that your wording is not so confused, awkward, or ineffective that the reader cannot figure out what you are saying. b. Use sentences which are sharp, precise, and clear but which at the same time show complexity characterize the best writing and use sentences whose structures enable you to express intricate, layered understandings effectively will mark you as a mature and capable writer. c. Make sure you have a fluent, clear style is a primary characteristic of higher level writing. d. Use sentence variety to develop a more sophisticated style. 10. Pay attention to organization and content: THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES. a. Respond exactly to the question asked. The literature and questions are logical and focused. b. Your answer is in the question. Accept that guidance; interpret and illustrate the question. c. Keep your focus clear throughout your essay; make certain the thoughts are in a logical sequence that is continually connected to the focus, thus yielding a unified essay. d. Use specific details both to offer commentary and interpretation about the literary piece and to support and illustrate your points. e. Explain through examples and comments on the details of the text. f. Think through you whole answer before you begin. g. Once you begin writing, try to maintain a continuous, logical, and focused flow. You may have new insights as you proceed, but try to connect continually where you began, where you are, and where you are going with your central idea. 11. Weak construction - This can be rather difficult given the fact that you have only 40 minutes in which to write, but make every effort to be as succinct and powerful as you can. a. Good writers avoid simplistic and inane comments, especially to start off the essay. b. A good example comes from the 2006 poetry question which required students to evaluate the use of language in a poem. The prompt assumed that students would write about the devices of language. But some essays started with: i. “In poetry, words are everything.” (Really, what else would the poet use?) ii. “Without language, poets would have to draw pictures or grunt to tell the stories or poems that are inside of them.” (That is a real quote off an AP essay from 2006.) iii. “The final idea that the poet brings across with language is meaning.” (As opposed to an idea that didn’t have any meaning?) c. Be careful. You can get so caught up in what you are saying that you don’t do a good job of clearly stating what you mean. This is HUGE on the AP grading! It can mean the difference between an upper half and a lower half paper! 16 Detractors from Mature Academic Voice Use of first person. Avoid “I think,” “I believe,” “To me this means...” Use of second person “you.” Avoid the use of the second person. No: “When you die...” Instead use: “When humans die...” No: “The slant rhyme makes you notice...” Instead use: “The slant rhyme makes the reader notice...” Colloquial speech and immature, excessively informal vocabulary. Examples: “Your average Joe,” “Joe College,” “Back in the olden days, ““Nowadays,” “A bunch of.. . a ton of...” (Does the writer mean “a significant number of...”?); “I would have to say ..“ (Not really); “That would have to be...” (Again, not really); “He got off...” (Rather than the more elevated: “He escaped justice...”); “really hassled by” (Suggestion: “extremely agitated by”). Use of psychobabble: “Pap destroyed Huck’s self-esteem.” “The peer pressure on Hester Prynne,” “Gatsby was depressed by...” “Huck and Jim’s life-style on the raft...” Use of absolutes: “always” “never” “everybody” “I’ll bet 99.99% of the people...” Excesses of tone: hysterical, breathless, indignant, self-righteous, cute, breezy, etc Example: “If a homeless man even talks he gets arrested.” Cheerleading, a special kind of excess of tone when the student lavishes praise on an author or her work. Examples: “The greatest poet...” “Does an magnificent job of...” “. . . so awesome,” “obviously a genius,” “. . . will affect me for the rest of my life.” (Note: this observation is not intended to squelch true passion or heart-felt response to literature.) Silly, weak, childish examples; students’ lack of discernment with regard to quality of examples or evidence; using cartoons, Disney movies, etc. as legitimate evidence. Rhetorical questions, especially those with an indignant response, such as: “Do we Americans have to put up with this? I think not!” Clichés, all of them. They are as old as the hills. Exclamation points, especially lots of them! !!! Most adverbs, such as basically, obviously, surely, certainly, very, really, incredibly, totally, etc. should be used sparingly! Writing about author and speaker or narrator as though they are the same. Weak: Dickinson greets death as a courtly suitor. Stronger: Dickinson’s speaker greets Death as a courtly suitor. Misspelling the author’s name, although I am partial to “Whit Waitman.” Referring to authors by their first names. Please use “Whitman and Dickinson,” never “Walt and Emily.” Writing about an author’s life rather than his or her work or specific purpose in a text. Weak: “Whitman and Dickinson write about death differently due to their different life experiences.” Better: “Dickinson’s purpose in using this image is...” or “Whitman’s imagery suggests...” Format for Essays that Received a Grade of “9” (Jane Shaffer, an advanced placement student, found that papers with the highest grades generally followed this format. You might wish to follow this suggested format until your are comfortable with your own style.) Introduction Includes thesis – usually the first or last sentence Paragraph contains more than forty words Has three or more sentences including the thesis Body Has two or more paragraphs Each paragraph contains on the average of 11 sentences Each paragraph contains 125 or more words Concluding Paragraph Has 40 or more words Shows insight Does not repeat the thesis Gives a finished feeling (draws a conclusion) Each paragraph is generally structured in the following way Topic sentence – refers to thesis found in introduction Concrete detail sentence #1 shows support for the topic sentence (For Example…) Commentary Commentary Concrete detail sentence #2 shows support for the topic sentence (In addition…) Commentary Commentary Concrete detail sentence #3 shows support for the topic sentence (Furthermore…) Commentary Commentary Concluding sentence – sums up the paragraph AP English Literature and Composition Essay General Rubric 9-8 BEST ESSAYS These well-organized essays address the question astutely. The writer, using relevant and specific references to the text, convincingly develops a valid thesis. Perceptions of the literature are insightful and clearly expressed in language appropriate to literary criticism. The writer may also offer more than a single interpretation of a piece of literature or any of its parts. Although the essays may not be completely error-free, they demonstrate the writer's control of the elements of composition and the craft of analytical writing. 7-6 ABOVE-AVERAGE ESSAYS. These essays contain a solid, clearly expressed thesis, but the evidence provided for its development and support may fall short of excellence. The analysis of the literature, while thoughtful, may not be thorough or altogether precise. Or the discussion may lack the depth of insight or persuasiveness found in the very best essays. Although the essays give evidence of the student's ability to read and respond sensitively to literature, they are less mature, sophisticated, and controlled than papers that deserve ratings of 8 or 9. 5 MID-RANGE ESSAYS. These essays respond to the assignment but offer little more than pedestrian observations of the literature. Their analysis, while mostly accurate, may suffer from superficiality and a lack of conviction. Support of the thesis may be vague or limited. The text of these essays may accurately convey the students' thoughts but may contain a number of mechanical writing errors, none so severe, however, to obscure meaning. 4-3 BELOW-AVERAGE ESSAYS. Essays in this range often attempt to address the question but do so only marginally, possibly because the writer has either misread the literature or misunderstood the prescribed task. Essays may include a thesis, but supporting material drawn from the text is meager or inexact. As for literary analysis, it is vague and unconvincing, or it may rely largely on paraphrase. The writing in these essays is sufficiently clear to convey meaning, but it may suffer from lack of coherence, weak diction, faulty sentence structure, and a variety of mechanical errors. 2-1 WEAK ESSAYS. Failure to respond adequately to the question places an essay into this category. Thus, an essay consisting largely of plot summary may earn a 2. The same applies to essays in which confused or incoherent literary analysis demonstrates the writer's inability to comprehend the literature and to essays that reveal minimal understanding of composition and the conventions of standard written English. Essays that are particularly deficient in content, clarity, or the mechanics of writing are scored 1.
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