AP Exam Preparations

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					            AP Exam
   Preparations and Strategies
                  Prepared by Mrs. Do
With thanks to Mrs. Swovelin from Torrey Pine High School
               And many other contributors
The AP Program
 The Advanced Placement program was begun by the College
  Board in 1955 to construct standard achievement exams that
  would allow highly motivated high school students the
  opportunity to be awarded advanced placement as freshmen
  in colleges and universities in the U.S. Today, there are 33
  course and exams offered all over the nation and the world.
 The AP programs are designed for high school students who
  wish to take college-level courses. The AP Literature course
  and exam are designed to involve high school students in
  college-level English studies in both literature and
   Why Take AP?
   According to AP Central:
 ―AP can change your life.
 Through college-level AP courses, you enter a universe of
  knowledge that might otherwise remain unexplored in high
 Through AP Exams, you have the opportunity to earn credit or
  advanced standing at most of the nation's colleges and
 Although a lot of attention is given to the AP Exam, the AP
  experience really begins a whole year before then.
 Why Participate?
   With 37 courses and exams across 22 subject areas, AP offers something for everyone. The only requirements
    are a strong curiosity about the subject you plan to study and the willingness to work hard. Here are just a few
    reasons to sign up:

 Gain the Edge in College Preparation
 Get a head start on college-level work.
 Improve your writing skills and sharpen your problem-solving techniques.
 Develop the study habits necessary for tackling rigorous course work.

 Stand Out in the College Admissions Process
 Demonstrate your maturity and readiness for college.
 Show your willingness to push yourself to the limit.
 Emphasize your commitment to academic excellence.

 Broaden Your Intellectual Horizons
 Explore the world from a variety of perspectives, most importantly your own.
 Study subjects in greater depth and detail.
 Assume the responsibility of reasoning, analyzing, and understanding for yourself
About the Exam
 AP Central – ―An English exam that included literature and
  composition was among the first AP offerings in 1956. In
  1980, separate exams in AP English Language and
  Composition and AP English Literature and Composition
  were offered for the first time. ‖
 According the College Board, the AP Literature exam is
  created by college and high school English instructors called
  the AP Development Committee.
   2011 AP Exam Dates
Week 1             Subjects
Monday 5/2
                  Chemistry
Tuesday 5/3
Wednesday 5/4      Calculus AB, BC
Thursday 5/5       English Lit. & Comp.
Friday 5/6 U.S.    History
Weeks 2
Monday 5/9         Biology
Tuesday 5/10       U.S. Gov. & Politics
Wednesday 5/11     English Language & Comp.
Thursday 5/12      Mcroeconomics
                   World History
AP Exam Scores
 The Readers’ scores on the free-response questions are combined
  with the results of the computer-scored multiple-choice
  questions; the weighted raw scores are summed to give a
  composite score. The composite score is then converted to a score
  on AP’s 5-point scale.
 While colleges and universities are responsible for setting their
  own credit and placement policies, AP scores signify how qualified
  students are to receive college credit or placement.
    The essay section score
 Each essay is scored as 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1, plus 0, with 9
  the highest possible score. Once your essay is given a number
  from 9 to 1, the next set of calculations is completed. Here, if
  there are 27 possible points divided into 55 percent of the total
  possible score, each point awarded is given a value of 3.055. the
  formula looks something like this:
   (pts. X 3.055) + (pts. X 3.055) + (pts. X 3.055) = essay
         essay 1            essay 2           essay 3     raw score
   Composite score
 The total composite score for the AP Lit test is 150. Of this
  score, 55% is the essay section; that equals 82.5 points. The
  multiple-choice section is 45% of the composite score, which
  equals 67.5 points. Each of your three essays is graded on a 9-
  point scale; therefore, each point is worth 3.055. Divide the
  number of multiple-choice questions by 67.5, for instance, if
  there were 55 questions, each point of the raw score would be
  multiplied by 1.227.
 If you add together the raw score of each of the two sections, you
  will have a composite score.
Your AP grade report
 Just a reference:
   150 – 100 points = 5
   99 – 86 = 4
   85 – 67 = 3
   Grades 2 and 1 fall below this range.You do not want to be
                                                      M.C.           Essay
5 Extremely well qualified                        5 81% (45-55)      9-8
(equivalent to A grades in the
corresponding college course.)
4 Well qualified (equivalent to grades            4 70-70% (39-44)   7-6
of A–, B+ and B in college. )

3 Qualified (equivalent to grades of B–,          3 53-27% (29-38)   5
C+ and C in college. may or may not get college

2 Possibly qualified                              2 52-27% (15-28)   4-3
1 No recommendation                               1 27% ↘            2-1
Why you are in AP class
 Please know that you are not here only to learn how to pass
  the AP test, instead, it is my goal that you would develop
  appreciation and the insights and skills that lead to advanced
  levels of facility with literature and composition. These are
  the same skills that will enable you to do well on the AP
  literature exam.
 The reading and writing skills you will review, practice, and
  master will give you the very best chance to do your very
  best.You will have the opportunity to learn, to practice, and
  to master the critical thinking processes that can empower
  you to achieve your highest score.
Susan Strehle on why you are in AP:
 AP English Literature and Composition classes resemble college
  classrooms and give both students and teachers an opportunity to
  challenge easy answers, replace formulaic writing with original and
  complex arguments, and grapple with more subtle and divergent
  understandings of perennial human problems.
 AP classes prepare students to succeed at the most important
  challenges they will find in college.
 While AP credit allows students to skip a required freshmen writing
  course in some universities, students who receive grades 3, 4, and 5
  do not always skip English; they may start at higher levels and continue
  to improve their ability to write college-level analysis.
 Since learning to read increasingly complicated texts, to analyze in
  greater depth, to grasp issues that do not resolve themselves in simple,
  tidy conclusions, and to write increasingly sophisticated essays is one
  main goal of college education, these students should be imagined, not
  as getting out of important work, but rather as getting more richly into
Skills you need to pass the AP Lit.
 Skills in close reading
 Critical thinking
 Critical/analytical writing
 (go to ppt on Reading, Analyzing, and Writing about
Strategies for taking the exam
 Learn about the test itself
 Learn to read multiple-choice questions
 Learn how to answer multiple-choice questions, including
  whether or not to guess
 Learn how to deconstruct the essay prompts
 Learn how to plan the essay
 Learn the techniques and skills to manage your time
   Section I: Multiple-Choice
 The multiple-choice section tests your critical reading skills.
  You'll read several passages and answer questions about the
  content, form, and style of each. Remember that random
  guessing can hurt your final score. While you don't lose
  anything for leaving a question blank, one quarter of a point
  is subtracted for each incorrect answer on the test. But if
  you have some knowledge of the question and can eliminate
  one or more answers, it's usually to your advantage to
  choose what you believe is the best answer from the
  remaining choices.
Multiple Choice section (45%)
 The first section is a set of multiple-choice
  questions based on a series of prose passages and
 1 hour; usually 55 questions (about one minute per
  question, including reading time)
 Receive 1 point for each correct response
 As of 2011, you will not lose any fraction of a point
  for a wrong answer; so always guess something. Do
  NOT leave any question blank!
 Divide time per passage – be ruthless! About 10-15
  minutes per passage.
Multiple Choice section (45%)
 Expect at least two poems, two prose passages
  (occasionally an extra piece of drama). Out of
  the four passages, 2 are British and 2
 Test only uses literature from 1575-present
  (no Middle English or Old English) and no
  translated works.
 One passage will include a minority writer.
    Multiple Choice section (45%)
 Work systematically; do NOT skip around from passage to passage. Answer all the
    questions for a passage before continuing.
   Skim the questions before reading the passage (works for most). DON’T read the
    answers yet! Look 3-4 specific ideas to search for, ignoring the ―generic‖
    questions. Turn it into a scavenger hunt.
   Read the passage ONCE. Avoid rereading at this time; get the content by reading
           a. Actively
           b. Visualize (2 meanings)
           c. PARAPHRASE as you read(each paragraph and whole passage)! Write
           on the test! Underline key words.
           d. Analyze for theme, style, speaker, structure, tone, figurative language
   Read the questions CAREFULLY! Many wrong answers stem from misreading
    the question; know what is being asked. Accuracy and efficiency count.
   Read ALL answer choices, eliminate wrong ones as you go. Remember directions
    call for the BEST answer choice.
Multiple Choice section (45%)
 Essential to practice at home or small groups.
 Essential to analyze any wrong answers – spot trends and
  personal weaknesses, then fix them! Understand why a wrong
  answer is wrong especially in practice.
1. Situation
   who? to whom? (poetry)
   subject of 3rd Paragraph (prose)
2. Structure
   poetry: how stanzas relate
        what word in ______ relates back to ______
        what divisions represent its structure
   prose: how one paragraph relates to another
        progression of thought and overall structure
3. Theme
   whole and parts
4. Grammar and Word Meaning
  poetry: specific word choice definitions within context
        pronoun references/antecedents
        paraphrase word choice
  prose: subject of long sentence is…
5. Diction
  poetry:      Use of _______ indicates
               poet’s idea of _________ is suggested by _______
  prose: choice of verbs in paragraph 4 suggests _______
               speaker’s anger is implied by ________
6. Images/ Figurative language/ Literary Technique
   which one? Where else in work?
   Purpose of a metaphor
   analogy in 2nd paragraph
7. Tone (perhaps metrics in poetry)
8. Rhetoric (mostly in prose)
   function of last sentence
   effect of shift in point of view
      phrase presents example of…
      all are Figurative language except
      Man in line ___ is pictured mainly in his role as ___
      in line ___ the ___ is seen chiefly as …
      in line ___ the speaker regards himself as …
      beginning in ___ speaker does which …
      excerpt is written in …
      according to the speaker, …
      ―they‖ in line ___ refers to …
      the object of ―to‖ in line ___ is …
2. MAIN IDEA (Did you get it? What’s the message? What is the purpose
   of the passage?)
         ______ hated ______ because _____
         parable of _______ serves to _______
         _______ believed human nature is ________
         which best describes ______ at the end
         which describes how ____ felt about …
         passage is concerned with …
         relation between line ____ and line ___ is best described as …
         main point about ___ is …
         line ___ speaker attempts to …
         style is characterized by …
         irony rests chiefly on ______
3. HIDDEN IDEA (go deeper)
      ____ interpreted to mean
      phrase evokes ______
      image of _______ refers to …
      ________ most likely represents ______
      can be inferred
      in line ___ the phrase ― ____‖ means _____
      line ___ suggests that …
      can be inferred speaker would agree with …
1. Irrelevant to the question
2. Contradictory to the passage
3. Unreasonable (the ―Huh?‖ choice)
4. Too general or too specific
5. Never addressed in the passage
6. Absolutes and/or qualifiers
7. Look for the SPECIFIC WORDS that make the
   answer wrong
   Sample Multiple-Choice Questions
 Questions 1-13. Read the following passage carefully before you
  choose your answers.
 Please go to your test sheet.
 Mr. Jones, of whose personal accomplishments we have hitherto said very
  little, was, in reality, one of the handsomest young fellows in the world.
  His face, besides being the picture of health, had in it the most apparent
  marks of sweetness and good-nature.
 These qualities were indeed so characteristical in his countenance, that,
  while the spirit and sensibility in his eyes, though they must have been
  perceived by an accurate observer, might have escaped the notice of the
  less discerning, so strongly was this good-nature painted in his look, that it
  was remarked by almost every one who saw him.
 It was, perhaps, as much owing to this as to a very fine complexion that his
  face had a delicacy in it almost inexpressible, and which might have given
  him an air rather too effeminate, had it not been joined to a most
  masculine person and mien: which latter had as much in them of the
  Hercules as the former had of the Adonis. He was besides active, genteel,
  gay and good-humoured, and had a flow of animal spirits which enlivened
  every conversation where he was present.
 When the reader hath duly reflected on these many charms which all
  centered in our hero, and considers at the same time the fresh obligations
  which Mrs. Waters had to him, it will be a mark more of prudery than
  candour to entertain a bad opinion of her because she conceived a very
  good opinion of him.
 But, whatever censures may be passed upon her, it is my
  business to relate matters of fact with veracity. Mrs. Waters
  had, in truth, not only a good opinion of our hero, but a very
  great affection for him. To speak out boldly at once, she was in
  love, according to the present universally received sense of
  that phrase, by which love is applied indiscriminately to the
  desirable objects of all our passions, appetites, and senses, and
  is understood to be that preference which we give to one
  kind of food rather than to another.
 But though the love to these several objects may possibly be
  one and the same in all cases, its operations, however, must be
  allowed to be different; for, how much soever we may be in
  love with an excellent sirloin of beef, or bottle of Burgundy;
  with a damask rose, or Cremona fiddle; yet do we never
  smile, nor ogle, nor dress, nor flatter, nor endeavour by any
  other arts or tricks to gain the affection of the said beef, etc.
  Sigh indeed we sometimes may; but it is generally in the
  absence, not in the presence, of the beloved object. . . .
 The contrary happens in that love which operates between
  persons of the same species, but of different sexes. Here we
  are no sooner in love than it becomes our principal care to
  engage the affection of the object beloved. For what other
  purpose, indeed, are our youth instructed in all of the arts of
  rendering themselves agreeable? If it was not with a view to
  this love, I question whether any of those trades which deal in
  setting off and adorning the human person would procure a
  livelihood. Nay, those great polishers of our manners, who are
  by some thought to teach what principally distinguishes us
  from the brute creation, even dancing-masters themselves,
  might possibly find no place in society.
 In short, all the graces which young ladies and young
  gentlemen too learn from others, and the many improvements
  which, by the help of a looking-glass, they add of their own,
  are in reality those very spicula et faces amoris* so often
  mentioned by Ovid; or, as they are sometimes called in our
  own language, the whole artillery of love.
1. The structure of the sentence beginning in line 5 does which of the

(A) It stresses the variety of Mr. Jones’s personal attributes.

(B) It implies that Mr. Jones is a less complicated personality than the
  speaker suggests.

(C) It disguises the prominence of Mr. Jones’s sensitive nature and
  emphasizes his less readily discerned traits.

(D) It reflects the failure of some observers to recognize Mr. Jones’s
  spirit and sensibility.

(E) It belies the straightforward assertion made in the previous sentence.
2. In context, the word ―sensibility’’ (line 6) is best interpreted to mean
(A) self-esteem
(B) forthright and honest nature
(C) capacity to observe accurately
(D) ability to ignore the unimportant
(E) awareness and responsiveness

3. The first two paragraphs indicate that the speaker assumes that
(A) accurate observers of human nature are rare
(B) spirited and sensible people are by nature rather effeminate
(C) a person’s character can be accurately discerned from his or her outward appearance
(D) a correlation exists between an individual’s ―personal accomplishments’’ (line 1) and
   his or her physical prowess
(E) good-naturedness in a person is usually not readily apparent
4. The shift in the speaker’s rhetorical stance from the first sentence of
   the second paragraph (lines 11-16) to the second sentence (lines 16-
   18) can best be described
   as one from
(A) subjective to objective
(B) speculative to assertive
(C) discursive to laconic
(D) critical to descriptive
(E) literal to figurative

5. The word ―former’’ in line 15 refers to
(A) ―face’’ (line 12)
(B) ―delicacy’’ (line 12)
(C) ―air’’ (line 13)
(D) ―person’’ (line 14)
(E) ―mien’’ (line 14)
6. The speaker’s allusion to Hercules and Adonis (lines 15-16)
  serves primarily to
(A) imply an undercurrent of aggressiveness in Mr. Jones’s
(B) suggest the extremes of physical attractiveness represented
  in Mr. Jones’s
(C) assert the enduring significance of mythical beauty
(D) symbolize the indescribable nature of Mr. Jones’s
(E) emphasize how clearly Mr. Jones’s features reflected his
7. The use of the phrase ―it will be’’ in line 21 indicates that the
(A) wishes the reader to arrive at the same conclusion
  regarding Mrs. Waters as the speaker has
(B) believes the presentation of Mr. Jones before this passage
  to have been predominantly negative
(C) expects that the description of Mr. Jones will offend some
  of the more conservative readers
(D) regards Mrs. Waters’ judgment concerning Mr. Jones to be
  impulsive rather than sincere
(E) fears that the readers will be overly lenient in their
  judgment of Mrs. Waters
8. The style of the third paragraph differs from that of the first and
   paragraphs in that it is
(A) instructive rather than descriptive
(B) argumentative rather than expository
(C) interpretative rather than metaphorical
(D) objective rather than representational
(E) conversational rather than analytical
9. In the fourth paragraph, the speaker establishes the
  predominant tone for the rest of the passage primarily by
(A) exaggerating the affection Mrs. Waters has for Mr. Jones
(B) contrasting the popular understanding of love with the
  speaker’s own view of love
(C) describing candidly the affection Mrs. Waters has for Mr.
(D) likening the popular conception of love to people’s
  physical appetites
(E) insisting on the veracity of the speaker’s personal opinions
  concerning Mrs. Waters
10. The speaker’s attitude toward ―dancing-masters’’ (lines 50-51)
  might best be
  described as
(A) assumed arrogance
(B) grudging respect
(C) feigned bitterness
(D) sarcastic vindictiveness
(E) wry disdain
11. The passage indicates that the speaker believes which of the
  following to be true of Mr. Jones?
(A) He is principally concerned with attracting the attention of
(B) He is naturally suited to engage the affections of women.
(C) He has practiced extensively the arts and graces with
  which youths render themselves agreeable.
(D) He is too good-natured to make full use of ―the whole
  artillery of love’’ (lines 56-57).
(E) He has cultivated his good nature and sensibility in order
  to compete well with other men.
12. The final metaphors of the last paragraph (lines 54-57)
  suggest that this passage most probably precedes a
  description of
(A) the way in which Mr. Jones acquired his manners and
(B) a costume ball at which Mr. Jones and Mrs. Waters meet
  and dance
(C) a scene in which Mr. Jones prepares himself for a meeting
  with Mrs. Waters
(D) an attempt by Mr. Jones to engage the affections of Mrs.
  Waters with the help of classical love poetry
(E) an encounter between Mr. Jones and Mrs. Waters couched
  in the terminology of war
13. The speaker’s tone in the passage can best be described as which
  of the following?
(A) Flippant
(B) Whimsical
(C) Pretentious
(D) Satirical
(E) Contemptuous
     Answers to Multiple-Choice Questions
   1–D
   2–E
   3–C
   4–B
   5 –A
   6–B
   7 –A
   8 –A
   9–D
   10 – E
   11 – B
   12 – E
   13 – D
Section II: Free-Response
 In this section you'll write essays to show your ability to
  analyze and interpret literary texts in clear and effective
   Essay section (55%)
 2 hours; 3 essays; allow approximately 40 minutes for each.
 Address ALL PARTS of the prompt in every paragraph!
  AP = Address Prompt or All Parts
 Do NOT wait until the last paragraph(s) to bring up your
  deep ―universal truth‖ (handout on tips for timed essays)
  ideas. Remember, if you only write an essay on the ―obvious‖
  idea (e.g. what the speaker’s attitude or reaction is, which
  character has an inner conflict, etc.), you will only score a 5
  at best.
 Use a blue or black pen…no pencil or other colors.
Essay section (55%)
 Spend 1-2 minutes to read the topic carefully
 Spend 5-6 minutes to organize the essay
   know what your thesis is (and that it answers the
    entire prompt),
   Organize you body paragraph divisions, topic
    sentence concepts
   Plan what examples you will use
 Spend 30 minutes to write!
 Save about 2-3 minutes to proofread. Do not make
  major editing changes. Remember it’s just a draft.
   The AP Literature exam structure
 The exam has two parts and is scheduled to last 3 hours.
 The first section is a set of multiple-choice questions based on a
  series of prose passages and poems.
 You will have 1 hour to complete this part of the test.
 The second section of the exam is a 2-hours essay writing
  segment consisting of three different essays:
   one on prose,
   one on poetry, and
   one free-response.
Essay section (55%)
 The second section of the exam is a 2-hours essay writing segment
  consisting of three different essays:
   one on prose,
   one on poetry, and
   one free-response.
 Always try to write at least 2-4 pages per essay. Those that are only
  1 page virtually never get a high score because, according to the
  phrasing on the scoring guide, they are ―unacceptably brief.‖ 1
  page essays run the risk of getting nothing higher than a 3.
 Remember that all scoring guides essentially address the following
  four points:
    Write on the topic
    Use clear, logical organization
    Develop all ideas thoroughly; address all parts of the prompt
    Use sophisticated diction and syntax
Opening paragraph
 Don’t ask questions
 Don’t define the words
 Avoid a 3-part thesis statement
 Avoid rephrasing the prompt
 Put thesis statement at the end of the
 introduction paragraph
Concluding paragraph
 Try to give enough time to write a
  concluding paragraph: conclusion is always
 BUT, if you do run out of time and can not
  write a concluding paragraph, make sure to
  write one or even two wonderful body
  paragraphs which will still be enough for
  the essay readers to grade your essay.
Body paragraphs
 Do not force a 3-body paragraph essay
 Two fat and good body paragraphs can get
  you a good score
 Four body paragraphs, if time allows, are
  very good.
 Style alone can raise your score
Essay section (55%)
 For the open topic, review the plot, characters,
  themes, etc. of 3-5 novels (and one play, perhaps) so
  that you can write on one of your chosen works.
 Do NOT misread: author’s name, character’s name,
  or anything.
 Finally, never forget the basics:
   On topic
   Organization
   Development
   Language/style
These tips should help with your
 This list was compiled during the 1994 AP English reading at
  Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Although its participants
  read essays that answered only one prompt, their suggestions apply
  to other parts of the exam as well.
 The prompt, which generated the essays being scored, was from a
  language exam. The one used for our purpose stated, ―The passage
  below is a series of excerpts from an essay about England’s King
  Charles II(1639-1685) by Sir George Savile, a member of Charles
  Privy Council. Many in Savile’s audience thought of Charles
  mainly as a lover of pleasure. Read the passage carefully. Then
  write an essay in which you decide the attitude toward Charles II
  that Savile would like his readers to adopt and analyze the
  rhetorical strategies Savile employs to promote that attitude.‖
   Tips that help with your writing
 I. Read the prompt: It hurts to give a low score to someone who
  misread the prompt but wrote a good essay. While readers do
  try to reward students for what they do well, the student must
  address the prompt.
 2. Do everything that the prompt suggests: This one suggested
  that the student ―define the attitude toward Charles II and analyze
  the rhetorical strategies Savile employs to promote that attitude.‖
  Most writers focused on discussing strategies and never truly
  discussed aspects of attitude.
 3. Think before you write: Which strategies are employed by the
  author, and how do they evoke the attitude Savile wishes the
  reader to adopt.
Tips that help with your writing
 4. Plan your response: You needn’t have a formal outline, but a
  little organization will help you avoid extensive editing, such as
  crossing out lines or, in some cases, whole paragraphs. It is not sin
  for the reader to pick over the remains and attempt to decipher
  sentences crammed into margins.
 5. Make a strong first impression: Build your opening response
  artistically. Don’t parrot the prompt word for word. The reader
  knows it from memory.
 6. Begin your response immediately: Do not take the circuitous
  route with generalizations such as, ―The passage discusses Charles
  II and his habits during his lifetime and tries to convince those
  congregated at his funeral that he was a good man.‖
   Tips that help with your writing
 7. Be thorough and specific: Do not simply ―point out‖
  strategies. Explain how they are used, give examples, and show
  how they establish attitude. ANALYZE!
 8. Use clear transitions that help the reader to follow the flow of
  your essay: Keep your paragraphs organized; do not digress.
 9. Resist putting in ―canned‖ quotations or critics’ comments that
  may not fit: You will get a response from your reader, but it may
  not be the one you want.
 10. Write to express, not to impress: Keep vocabulary and syntax
  within your zone of competence. Students who inflate their
  writing often inadvertently entertain but seldom explain.
     Tips that help with your writing
 11. Demonstrate that you understand style: Show the reader how the
    author has developed the selection to create the desired effect. This
    indicates that you understand the intricacies of the creative process.
   12. Maintain the economy of language, saying much with few words:
    The best student writers say much but say it in the fewest possible
   13. Let your writing shine with idea and insights: You can receive a 6 or
    7 with a lockstep approach, but the essays that earn 8’s or 9’s expand to
    a wider perspective.
   14. Write legibly: If a reader cannot read half the words (especially at
    5:30 PM. on the sixth day of reading) you will not get a fair reading—
    even if your essay is passed on to a reader with keener eyesight. Patience
    decreases as the reading progresses.
   15. Let your work stand on its own merit: Avoid penning ―pity me‖
    notes (‖I was up all night.‖ ―I have a cold,‖ etc.) to the reader.
   Make a plan.
 Students should not begin writing until they fully comprehend
  the prompt and/or the passage. Mere parroting of the prompt
  often leads to floundering around instead of developing a clear
  direction. Write directly on the passage and make quick notes
  and outlines in the margins. This planning step enables most
  writers to organize their ideas more efficiently.
 Mark up the passage and use the margins to fill in some of the
  acronym steps. Although this active planning takes an extra five
  minutes or so, it is well worth the time. Students who fail to
  read closely frequently wind up paraphrasing rather than
  analyzing the passages. Planning helps them to stay focused.
    Begin quickly and directly.
 Although AP readers are instructed to read the entire essay and not to
  be prejudiced by a weak introduction, a strong opening paragraph can
  be a real asset to a student’s paper. When answering the free-response
  part of the AP English Exams, writers should answer the question
  quickly and avoid beginning with ideas that do not relate directly to
  the prompt.
 Create an introduction strong enough to earn a grade of 3 all by itself.
  That means that students should learn ways to answer the entire
  prompt—answer the prompt, not simply repeat it--in the
  introduction. This indicates to the reader that the paper could be
  heading into the upper-half zone. One way to help students improve
  their beginning is by providing them with several introductory
  paragraphs from papers that have earned a wide range of scores and
  asking them to identify stronger and weaker openings.
Use paragraphs and topic sentences.
 Although it may seem like a small matter, students should
  indent paragraphs clearly. A paper without indentation or
  with unclear indentation often confuses a reader. Paragraphs
  create the fundamental structure of the essay, and without
  them good ideas can get muddled. Most essays that do not
  use paragraphs tend to be full of confused and rambling
 Many writers find topic sentences a useful tool both for
  organizing paragraphs and also for helping readers navigate
  through the essay.
Use quotations and explain them
 To score at least a 3, students would be wise to make use of
  pertinent references from the text.
 Encourage them to use specific quotations to back up their
  assertions. However, remind them that they must explain
  their quotes clearly and demonstrate how they are relevant to
  the question. It is important for young writers to realize that
  offering long quotes without explanation bogs down the
  essay and can give the undesirable impression that the student
  is trying to fill up space rather than answer the prompt!
Create variety
 Short, choppy sentences without variety indicate a student
  who has little background in grammar and style, perhaps
  someone who has read and written minimally. Connect ideas
  with transitional wording, participial phrases, appositives,
  subordinate clauses, etc.
 Both writers and readers get bored when everything is
  formulaic, lacking some individual pizzazz! Experiment with
  different sorts of syntactical devices to develop a sense of
Find the right word
 An arsenal of appropriate vocabulary and analytical wording
  reveals a brilliant mind at work, but writers should make
  certain that the words fit. Some students stick in big words
  just to sound scholarly. Ironically, some of their papers score
  only a 2 because they lack clarity and sometimes say nothing
  of relevance to the prompt.
 Use the active voice as much as possible as one remedy for
  repetition and other superfluous wording. Develop a mental
  thesaurus, so you will have a large variety of words available
  as you compose.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
 Make a list of the major works you studied in grades 9—12 (i.e.
  Great Expectations, Oedipus the King,The Grapes ofWrath, Heart of
 Narrow the list to three titles that worked for you…novels (or
  full-length plays) that really meant a lot to you, ―spoke‖ to you
  loudly…titles that you’ve got a lot to say about, namely good,
  deep universal truths. In general, avoid titles that you read in
  early years, especially middle school. You want your title to be
  one of ―suitable literary merit‖ and a college-level text. Also, in
  general, review books you’ve analyzed, not just read for pleasure
  and enjoyed.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
 Then, review your three titles. Go to a reputable online or research
  source to refresh your memory. You need to know the basics:
   Title and author (correct on both, please!)
   Main characters and their dominant traits (again, correctness is in order!
      It looks bad when students get the names wrong or write ―I don’t
      remember, so I’ll call him Joe.‖)
     Major plot events (to use as your examples; remember, be concrete,
      specific, and use actions)
     Setting (both time and place and their appropriateness)
     Point-of-view (perhaps might be valuable, perhaps not)
     Important symbols
     Important quotations (only about 3 really key ones, and remember to
      blend them into your own sentences)
     Anything else helpful…maybe a great motif, dominant style element, etc.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
 Make a study sheet of the above elements, but don’t go on
    and on…. One page per novel is plenty.
 Remember that articulating more than one universal truth
    (theme) per title is important. Great literature has many
    great ideas to share. Mulling over more than one idea will
    give you the flexibility to write on any topic they give you.
 Look over the list of twenty past topics I’ll give you and
    think about how your three novel choices could be used.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
 Finally, read broadly.
 Please refer to the handout with a list of
 books that have been mentioned in
 Question 3.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
by Susan Strehle

 The Open Question is the third question of
  the free-response section of the exam.
 This question require students to select a
  novel or play of literary merit and write an
  essay about the specific topic. The topics
  change yearly: in 2007 it was the effect of
  the past, either personal or societal, on the
  actions, attitudes, or values of a character.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
by Susan Strehle
 The AP Exam in general, and the open question in
  particular, measure a student’s ability to read,
  write, and think both analytically and creatively
  about literature.
 Students need to formulate a plausible argument
  that answers the specific question through an
  insightful reading of their chosen text. To do this
  students must know the test well and analyze its
  elements from the perspective introduced by the
  topic, e.g. the effect of the past.
 Students must actually know several literary texts
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
by Susan Strehle
 Successful students can
   Create an argument,
   design a logical structure for the essay, and
   recall evidence from the text that illustrates and
    adds support to their claims;
   Refer to incidents and sometimes even quote
    from memory (not required)
   Envision the trajectory (course, path, trail) of
    their essays by creating flawless transitions,
    increasingly persuasive claims and evidence, and
    graceful conclusions.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
by Susan Strehle
 Essays in the upper half begin with an argument that
  answers the question in a specific and interesting way.
   One writer begins a fine essay on the impact of Jane Eyre’s
    education on her later life by saying that Jane ―is affected
    very much by her past experiences from eight years of
    living at Lowood School, a Christian charity school…This
    radically reserved teaching follows her all her life and
    influences her feelings, values, and decisions‖ (see handout)
   Looking at Jane’s choices and values through the specific
    lens of her schooling, with what the writer elegantly terms
    its ―radically reserved teaching,‖ the writer identifies a
    particular phase in her past and proceeds to show how it
    shapes Jane’s later life.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
by Susan Strehle
 Essays in the upper half begin with an argument that answers
  the question in a specific and interesting way.
   Some successful students choose surprising and interesting
    characters for their focus, developing arguments about the
    effects of the past in the novel on a secondary character for
    whom the past bears different burdens. Such an essay remains
    focused on the effects of the past, from an angle that may lead
    to a different look at the novel.
   One student selects the monster rather than Victor Frankenstein
    as shaped by the past and writes an essay about the traumatic
    effects of the monster’s abandonment in Shelley’s Frankenstein.
    The essay concludes: ―The monster’s strong tie to his troubling
    past essentially is the novel. All of the action spawns (generates)
    from this source, whether being carried out by the monster or
    Victor’s reaction to the monster‖ (see handout).
      How to Prepare for the Open Topic
      by Susan Strehle
 Essays in the upper half would
    Select a specific focus and develop readings that cohere around a well-chosen angle of
    Answer the question and write clearly and often well, as well as
    Reject the simplistic, clichéd, and obvious in favor of more sophisticated and original
       One essay argued that Jane Eyre emerges from a formative experience when Aunt Reed locks her in the red
         room where her uncle died:
         ―She believes she sees his ghost and faints. From then on, she fears entrapment of any form. She initially
         does not marry Rochester because it would mean enslavement as a mistress, breaking her principles. When
         St. John proposes that she be his wife in India, she again refused marriage because of fear of imprisonment.
         In this case, she could exercise her principles of charitable work but would be trapped emotionally; there is
         no affection between her and St. John.‖
         As a conclusion, ―She is in no way trapped because she can legally marry Rochester (his wife died), she is
         financially his equal (because of her inheritance), and his injuries actually make him dependent upon her.
         They can support each other’s emotional needs‖
      While this essay could have used more development of its claims, it was scored in the upper
        half for its sustained focus on Jane’s yearning for a relationship in which her choices
        and principles matter, a commitment freely chosen rather than imposed and entrapping.
      The events cited throughout this essay are related to the analytical argument rather than
        appearing for a sake of summary or paraphrase.
How to Prepare for the Open Topic
by Susan Strehle

 What essay readers do or do not do:
   In scoring the essays holistically, readers do not
    separate strong writing from smart thinking;
   Readers respond positively to writers who use
    language with sensitivity and grace;
   Readers are impressed with powerful pose with
    a rich control of language and nuance shaped by
    copious reading.
   How to Prepare for the Open Topic
   by Susan Strehle
 Lower-half essays sometimes
   Impose a five-paragraph template and well-worn assumptions about culture or values
    onto thin or inadequate readings of the text,
   Mistake a character’s values for the author’s,
   Misread one part of a text’s contents for its central theme,
      One essay on The Great Gatsby asserts that Gatsby’s past leaves him ―in love with the lifestyle of the
       rich. The glitz and glamour and all it had to offer.‖
      One essay on Death of a Salesman finds tragedy in Willy Loman’s refusing to take a risk that could
       have made him wealthy: ―And so he stayed a salesman while other’s got rich.‖
   Interpret a topic in simplistic, mechanical, or literal ways, avoiding any complex
    assessment of causality or change in character:
      ―If Pip had not helped this convict then he would not have been caught again which means he
        would not have been sent to the Americas which means that he would not have been able to work
        to get the money for Pip.‖
   Simply describe the novel or play, summarizing events that occurred in a character’s
    past, without grappling at all with the way past events alter present actions or values.
   Paraphrase without analysis
   Fails to answer the question because the writer does not explore how the past affects
    the present in the chosen text.
This is how it looks:
          Open-ended Questions for Advanced Placement English Literature and
          Composition, 2007-2009
   2007. In many works of literature, past events can affect, positively or negatively, the present activities, attitudes, or values of a
    character. Choose a novel or play in which a character must contend with some aspect of the past, either personal or societal.
    Then write an essay in which you show how the character's relationship to the past contributes to the meaning of the work as a
   2007, Form B. Works of literature often depict acts of betrayal. Friends and even family may betray a protagonist; main
    characters may likewise be guilty of treachery or may betray their own values. Select a novel or play that includes such acts of
    betrayal. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the nature of the betrayal and show how it contributes to the meaning of the
    work as a whole.
   2008. In a literary work, a minor character, often known as a foil, possesses traits that emphasize, by contrast or comparison,
    the distinctive characteristics and qualities of the main character. For example, the ideas or behavior of a minor character might
    be used to highlight the weaknesses or strengths of the main character. Choose a novel or play in which a minor character
    serves as a foil for the main character. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the relation between the minor character
    and the major character illuminates the meaning of the work.
   2008, Form B. In some works of literature, childhood and adolescence are portrayed as times graced by innocence and a sense
    of wonder; in other works, they are depicted as times of tribulation and terror. Focusing on a single novel or play, explain how
    its representation of childhood or adolescence shapes the meaning of the work as a whole.
   2009. A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something or that creates a range of associations beyond itself. In
    literary works a symbol can express an idea, clarify meaning, or enlarge literal meaning. Select a novel or play and, focusing on
    one symbol, write an essay analyzing how that symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about the characters or themes
    of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.
   2009, Form B. Many works of literature deal with political or social issues. Choose a novel or play that focuses on a political or
    social issue. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the author uses literary elements to explore this issue and explain
    how the issue contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.
          Open-ended Questions for Advanced Placement English Literature and
          Composition, 2004-2006
   2004. Critic Roland Barthes has said, "Literature is the question minus the answer." Choose a novel, or play, and, considering
    Barthes' observation, write an essay in which you analyze a central question the work raises and the extent to which it offers
    answers. Explain how the author's treatment of this question affects your understanding of the work as a whole. Avoid mere
    plot summary.
   2004, Form B. The most important themes in literature are sometimes developed in scenes in which a death or deaths take
    place. Choose a novel or play and write a well-organized essay in which you show how a specific death scene helps to illuminate
    the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.
   2005. In Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899), protagonist Edna Pontellier is said to possess "That outward existence which
    conforms, the inward life that questions." In a novel or play that you have studied, identify a character who outwardly
    conforms while questioning inwardly. Then write an essay in which you analyze how this tension between outward conformity
    and inward questioning contributes to the meaning of the work. Avoid mere plot summary.
   2005, Form B. One of the strongest human drives seems to be a desire for power. Write an essay in which you discuss how a
    character in a novel or a drama struggles to free himself or herself from the power of others or seeks to gain power over others.
    Be sure to demonstrate in your essay how the author uses this power struggle to enhance the meaning of the work.
   2006. Many writers use a country setting to establish values within a work of literature. For example, the country may be a
    place of virtue and peace or one of primitivism and ignorance. Choose a novel or play in which such a setting plays a significant
    role. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the country setting functions in the work as a whole.
   2006, Form B. In many works of literature, a physical journey – the literal movement from one place to another – plays a
    central role. Choose a novel, play, or epic poem in which a physical journey is an important element and discuss how the
    journey adds to the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.
How to Use Quotations with Sophistication
 Poor use of quotations…
 While the massacre was going on in the harbour, Odysseus drew his sword
  and saved the men’s lives. ―While this massacre was going on in the deep
  harbour, I drew my sword and cut the hawsers of my ship…‖ (114).
 Odysseus still has a lot to learn. A quote on page 114 proves this very well.
  ―We blessed the open sea when we got clear of those grim rocks; my ship
  was the only one which escaped, all the rest were lost.‖ This quote shows that
  Odysseus was not wise in his decision to send all of his ships forward.
 Penelope’s creation of the contest is an even greater example of her
  masterful manipulation of the suitors. ―Those were indeed arrows of sorrow
  which Penelopeia came to fetch‖ (234). Her skillful use of the archery
  contest surpasses Odysseus’s physical skill in shooting them through the axe
    How to Use Quotations with Sophistication
 More effective use…
 Telemachos‟ experiences in travel and his on-going communications with Athena lead
    him to important self-revelations. In speaking with King Menelaos, in fact, he graciously
    admits that “ „in seeking for [his] noble father [he] may be lost [him]self‟ ”(171).
    Additional losses, however, may be even greater when he further implies that he is not
    upholding his familial duty and may “lose” his mother to one of the suitors. Such
    elevated ideas and wording come as a surprise to the reader, for it was not very long ago
    that Telemachos whined to Mentor, fretting that he had “ „no practice in polite speeches‟”
 Though he was blind and most people with such a disability were outcasts from society,
    Demodocos was treated with immense respect by the Phaiacian community because he
    was able to bring peace. Hearing the enchanted voice of Domodocos forced Alcinoos to
    realize that “ „ [War is the] thread of destruction which [the gods] spun for men, to make
    songs for future generations‟ ” (99). The near-euphoric state to which the songs lifted
    them was a blossom that rose from the soil of war. This state allayed the devastation
    brought by the depths to which war had plunged their bodies, minds, and spirits.
 Finally, while Odysseus was staying as a beggar in his own house he had to restrain
    himself, because “`For a while he did not know whether to kill [the suitors]‟”; however,
    he counseled himself, “‟Patience my heart! You have been in a worse mess than this‟”
    (226) and he was able to keep his anger hidden.
How to prepare for poem questions
This is what it looks like:

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