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(borrows heavily and directly from the Princeton Review’s Cracking the A.P. ELC Exam. )
The Test Itself A. 3 hours long B. Two sections 1. Multiple Choice: 60 min., 45 percent of score, 4 passages, 50-55 questions total, 10-15 questions per passage 2. Essays: 120 min., analysis of a poem, a prose passage, and an open choice C. To do well 1. Manage time effectively 2. Stay in-control (Beat the test, don’t let it beat you) Multiple Choice A. Create a plan 1. Note the time and stay aware of time throughout not spending more than 15min. on any passage and its questions. 2. In 1-2 min. of opening the exam pick and mark a passage to do last (the hardest) and then pick and mark a passage to do first (the easiest or most familiar) 3. Read the passage first not the questions: 4. Answer all the questions for each section using the process of elimination outlined below. (The more questions you answer using intelligence and reasoning the higher your chance of scoring well. You’d have to miss 9 out of 10 “guesses” to get fully penalized. Guess 3 out of 10 correctly and you pick up a full point.) a. Process of Elimination -don’t guess blindly -answers which strike you immediately as obviously right, usually are - when you don’t know the answer eliminate obviously wrong answers first -if an answer looks partially wrong, it’s all wrong -don’t blank out, gaze over or drift off B. Prose 1. Read twice a. 30 sec.-1min read first sentence closely, skim the rest getting a vague impression and then look closely at last sent. or two. b. read passage closely, don’t fixate on details, get the main idea and overall tone of passage 2. Goal is to establish what is said and how the author says it.
C. Poetry 1. Read poem twice a. get a sense of its general tone, language, and pattern b. read slowly phrase by phrase, focus on poem’s idea and try to understand it at its simplest level. Essay Section A. General suggestions 1. Grader wants an essay which is easy to grade 2. Neatness counts. If you can, print. Make them easy to read 3. Indent 4. Write perfectly for the first sentence or two 5. Clarity, clarity, clarity, clarity, clarity, clarity 6. Use nouns and verbs which are precise and interesting 7. Spend about 40min. on each essay 8. Answer the question 9. Choose an essay to do last and one to do first B. Writing the essays 1. Read each selection twice a. skim first time through b. read carefully the second time (5-7 min.) 2. Decide what is being said and how the author says it. a. What: main idea and the dominant tone or attitude b. How: important images, specific words and phrases, literary elements 3. Butter your first paragraph a. DO NOT SUMMARIZE OR RESTATE THE QUESTION b. state an idea, communicate something real which: -answers the question -states specifically what and how 4. Do an essay check a. what points am I making b. do those points address the question c. what order will I go in 5. Write the rest of your essay C. The classic ETS essay question: Read the following work carefully, then write a well-organized essay in which you discuss the ways by which the author conveys his meaning. Be sure to consider such literary elements as diction, imagery, structure, and point of view. 1. It will usually be modified in some way and direct you to look at specific element of
the work but almost always is asking two basic questions: a. What is said b. How is it said
2. What do those fancy terms at the end of the classic question mean?
Tone (voice, attitude) How the piece sounds and feels overall. Diction (word choice, language, figurative language, metaphor) What kind of words are used. Detail (imagery, information) What is focused on. What senses and sensibilities are referred to or conjured up? Who, what, where, and when. Point of View (narration, narrative voice) Who tells the story. First person, second person, third person (limited or omniscient) Organization How the piece as a whole is constructed. Paragraphs, patterns, repetition Syntax (sentence structure) How individual sentences are written for variety and rhythm. Word order. Use of punctuation Night before and day of the test: A. Look at notes for prepared work B. Review test taking strategies C. Get a good night’s sleep D. Don’t dash to school the day of the exam E. Treat yourself to a good breakfast (maybe even go out), read the paper, engage in some form of relaxing and lesuirely activity D. Avoid coffee or mega-sugar hits (the crash one hour into the exam is not worth thirty min. buzz) Of course, if you are hopelessly addicted to caffine, continue at your normal dosage E. Arrive at the exam feeling psychologically in-control and at ease F. Breathe G. Thank your mother for giving birth to you
ADVANCED PLACEMENT ESSAYS: HELPFUL HINTS
1. Don’t present yourself as an immature writer
• AP readers see beyond handwriting to the larger issues of style and • • • • •
content, but handwriting can reflect problems. Is the handwriting so excessively large or small that it is difficult to decipher? Is the handwriting excessively florid? If you have poor, difficult to read handwriting, strive to be certain the writing is clear enough to read. AP readers must grade 20+ essays an hour and your handwriting may affect attentiveness. Don’t make it difficult for the reader to “see” your thinking Brief, scant responses are the worse error you can make as the AP reader is left with no way to evaluate your ability.
2. Avoid those serious errors, which will mark you as an unprepared writer.
• A very serious error is repeated comma splices – running two
independent clauses together without a conjunction and with only a comma. (Run-on sentences omit the comma and present the same problem.) Another serious error is repeated occurrences of sentence fragments. Spelling errors are serious, but a few are acceptable; too many may cost you points. Spelling errors combined with a lack of sentence control are more apt to count against you. Errors of usage – e.g., affect/effect – affect how the readers evaluate your language competence.
• • •
3. Write sentences that are smooth, flowing, clear, sensible; avoid short, choppy sentences.
• Proofread to ensure that you have not omitted words that render •
sentences unclear or nonsensical. Proofread to make sure that your wording is not so confused, awkward, or ineffective that the reader cannot figure out what you are saying.
• Sentences which are sharp, precise, and clear but which at the same
time show complexity characterize the best writing. Sentences whose structures enable you to express intricate, layered understandings effectively will mark you as a mature and capable writer. A fluent, clear style is a primary characteristic of higher level writing. Use sentence variety to develop a more sophisticated style.
4. Pay attention to organization and content: THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES.
• Respond exactly to the question asked. The literature and questions
are logical and focused. Your answer is in the question. Accept that guidance; interpret and illustrate the question • 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. • Use specific details both to offer commentary and interpretation about the literary piece and to support and illustrate your points. • Explain through examples and comments on the details of the text. • Plan to spend about five minutes brainstorming, and structuring your response; then write from your outline or list of ideas. Think through you whole answer before you begin. • 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.
8-9 These well-written essays choose an appropriate work of literature and respond clearly and convincingly to the prompt. Superior papers will be specific and knowledgeable in their references, cogent in their development, and free from plot summary which is not clearly connected to the central focus. They need not be written without flaw, but they must demonstrate the writer’s ability to discuss a literary work with insight and understanding and to control a wide range of the elements of effective composition. 6-7 These essay also analyze an appropriate work; they respond to the prompt but are less perceptive and/or specific that 8-9 papers. Also, their responses are less convincing than the best responses. These essays are well-written, but with less maturity and control than are the top papers. They demonstrate an ability to analyze a literary work, but reveal a less sophisticated analysis and command of the elements of effective writing than essays scored in the 8-9 range. 5 Superficiality characterizes these essays. They choose an appropriate work but the explanation of the work vague or over-simplified. Their discussion may be pedestrian, mechanical, or inadequately related to the work. These essays may demonstrate inconsistent control over the elements of composition and are not as well-conceived, organized, or developed as the upper-half papers; the writing, however, is sufficient to convey the writer’s ideas. 3-4 These lower half papers may have chosen an inappropriate text or failed to adequately respond to the question. The analysis may be unpersuasive, perfunctory, underdeveloped, or misguided. The writing may convey the writer’s ideas, but it reveals weak control over such elements as organization, diction, syntax or grammar. These essays may also contain significant misinterpretations of the text, contain little, if any supporting evidence, and/or summarize plot at the expense of analysis. 1-2 These essays compound the weaknesses in the 3-4 range. They seriously misread the work or the question. In addition they are poorly written on several counts including many distracting errors in grammar and mechanics, or are unacceptably brief. The writer may have made an attempt to answer the question but little more. The views presented have little clarity or coherence. 0 Uhhhhhh.......
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