Scoring Your AP English Language and Composition Essays
Adapted from: English Language and Composition, 3rd Edition
Each of the three AP English Language and Composition essays equals
one-third of the total essay score, and the entire essay (free-response)
section equals 55% of the total exam score.
Each essay is read by experienced, well-trained high school AP
teachers or college professors. The essay is given a holistic score from
1 to 9. (A score of 0 is recorded for a student who writes completely
off the topic-for example, "Why I think this test is a waste of money."
A student who doesn't even attempt an essay, who leaves a blank
page, will receive the equivalent of a 0 score, but it is noted as a dash
[-] on the reader's scoring sheet.) The reader assigns a score based on
the essay's merits as a whole, on what the essay does well; the
readers don't simply count errors. Although each essay topic has its
own scoring rubric (or guide) based on that topic's specific
information, a general scoring guide for rhetorical analysis and
argumentation essays follows. Notice that, on the whole, essay-scoring
guides encompass four essential points; AP readers want your essay to
be (1) on topic, (2) well organized, (3) thoroughly developed, and (4)
correct in mechanics and sophisticated in style.
High Score (8-9)
High-scoring essays thoroughly address all the tasks of the essay
prompt in well-organized responses. The writing demonstrates stylistic
sophistication and control over the elements of effective writing,
although it is not necessarily faultless. Overall, high-scoring essays
present thoroughly developed, intelligent ideas; sound and logical
organization; strong evidence; and articulate diction.
• Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate significant understanding of
the passage, its intent, and the rhetorical strategies the author
• Argument essays demonstrate the ability to construct a compelling
argument, observing the author's underlying assumptions,
(addressing multiple authors in the synthesis essay) and
discussing many sides of the issues with appropriate evidence.
Medium-High Score (6-7)
Medium-scoring essays complete the tasks of the essay topic well -
they show some insight but usually with less precision and clarity than
high-scoring essays. There may be lapses in correct diction or
sophisticated language, but the essay is generally well written.
• Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate sufficient examination of the
author's point and the rhetorical strategies he uses to enhance
the central idea.
• Argument essays demonstrate the ability to construct an adequate
argument, understand the author's point, and discuss its
implications with suitable evidence. The synthesis argument will
address at least three of the sources.
Medium Score (5)
Essays that earn a medium score complete the essay task, but with no
special insights; the analysis lacks depth and merely states the
obvious. Frequently, the ideas are predictable and the paragraph
development weak. Although the writing conveys the writer's ideas,
they are presented simplistically and often contain lapses in diction or
• Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate uneven or insufficient
understanding of how rhetorical strategies create an author's
point. Often, the writer merely lists what he or she observes in
the passage instead of analyzing effect.
• Argument essays demonstrate the ability to present an argument,
but they frequently provide limited and inadequate discussion,
explanation, or evidence for the writer's ideas. The writer may
not address enough of the sources in the synthesis essay.
Oversimplification of the issue(s) minimizes the essay's
Medium-Low Score (3-4)
These essays are weaker than the 5 score because the writer
overlooks or perhaps misreads important ideas in the passage. The
student may summarize the passage's ideas instead of analyzing
them. Although the writer's ideas are generally understandable, the
control of language is often immature.
• Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate little discussion of rhetorical
strategies or incorrect identification and/or analysis of those
• Argument essays demonstrate little ability to construct an argument.
They may not clearly identify the author's point, may not present
multiple authors' points of view in the synthesis essay, and may
offer little evidence for the student's position.
Low Score (1-2)
These essays demonstrate minimal understanding of the topic or the
passage. Perhaps unfinished, these essays offer no analysis of the
passage and little or no evidence for the student's ideas. Incorrect
assertions may be made about the passage. Stylistically, these essays
may show consistent grammatical problems, and sentence structure is
usually simple and unimaginative.
• Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate little ability to identify or
analyze rhetorical strategies. Sometimes these essays misread
the prompt and replace it with easier tasks, such as
paraphrasing the passage or listing some strategies the author
• Argument essays demonstrate little ability to understand the
author's point (or multiple authors in the synthesis essay) and
then construct an argument that analyzes it. Minimal or
nonexistent evidence hurts the essay's effectiveness. Some
students may substitute an easier task by presenting tangential
or irrelevant ideas, evidence, or explanation.
Sample AP English Essay
“The Author to Her Book” - Question 2 - 1996 - Sample 9
In Anne Bradstreet’s seventeenth century poem, “The
Author to Her
Book,” the idea of rearing a child and
attempting to perfect a child is
compared to the writing and
revising of a book. The speaker is caught in
conflicting love of her book and shame of its weaknesses,
which are expressed in the metaphor and in the
The poem begins with the words, “Thou ill-formed
the speakers critical attitude toward the
book. Yet the following line
shows a sense of appreciation
of the book’s loyalty with the words: “Who
after birth did’st
by my side remain.” This struggle between love and
continues throughout the poem. The speaker attempts to
finds only more mistakes, she finds shame
when others read the book and
fears “critics’ hands.”
Through the gentle and playful tone, it becomes apparent
speaker herself is proud of her work, but fearful of
others’ responses to
it. Although she refers to the book as
“rambling brat” and “hobbling,” the
tone is of protective
affection, thus the mother-child metaphor. The
says, “‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam,” in reference to
outside world. This shows the speakers sense of
connection with the book
that is separate from all others
and reinforces the gentleness of tone. The
fact that the
poem is in second person and is a private list
instructions, in a sense, also increases the intimacy of
the poem. Even the
line, “If for thy Father asked, say thou
had’st none,” sets the speaker and
her subject apart. No
one can break into the bond between the two.
The final two lines of the poem are perhaps the most playful
therefore, soften some of the previous seemingly
harsh words. The lines
read: “And for thy Mother, she alas
is poor / Which caused her thus to send
thee out the door.”
The idea of the speaker making excuses for sending
book away is charming and, at the same time quite
telling, for, regardless
of the necessity to publish the book,
the fact remains that the speaker has
grown to accept the
book for all of its shortcomings and to deem it,
Using a metaphor of the gentlest and most loving
is to describe her relations to her book
the speaker establishes the tone
and creates playful and
conflicting emotions about separation and fear.
love, shame, insecurity, devotion, and finally, acceptance
shine through this metaphor and tone, leaving the
reader relating the poets
words to more than just a book.
AP Timed Writing
Things to Keep in Mind...
AP means "analyze prompt" AND "attack prompt." In other word
All Timed Writings in this course are 40 minutes long, period, to
The AP Lit Timed Writing Essays assess your ability to write a pe
a well-reasoned argument for interpretation and to support that
developed inferences of specific details from the literature.
Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the AP Rub
(the highest) to 0 (the lowest). Students are expected to careful
The AP score on the timed writing is far more instructive and rel
grow as an AP Lit student, pay more attention to the AP ESSAY R
The following point conversions will be in effect for the timed wr