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AP Lit Essay Portion of

the Exam
Part I: Multiple Choice:1 hour for 55
questions 45% of the composite score

Part II: 3 Essay questions: 2 hours 55%


of the composite score:
1. Poetry Question
2. Prose Question
3. Novel/Play Question (a moment in the novel)

AP Lit Essay
Breakdown
Intro: thesis answers the question WHAT?
-What is the complex/dramatic situation here?
- What did the author do to create the drama?
________________________________________________
The body of the essay answers the question
HOW?
- How did the author accomplish the complexity in
each the given passage or poem?
- Discuss and analyzie (dont simply identify) the
effect of the devices used: structure, imagery,
tone, diction, syntax.

AP Lit Exam 2010:


how to read an AP
essay prompt
Lets look at the poetry question: AP Central
Instructions: Read carefully the following poem by
Marilyn Nelson Waniek. Then write an essay analyzing
how Waniek employs literary techniques to develop
the complex meanings that the speaker attributes to
The Century Quilt. You may wish to consider such
elements as structure, imagery, and tone.

Read the poem twice to yourself.

Example 1: Introduction:
How do I arrive at my
thesis?
Step 1: What is the prompt
asking you to do?
e.g. If the prompt asks you to discuss the complex meanings
of the century-old quilt (Waniek poem), write the
definition of complex meanings for yourself.
Step 2: Mark the prompt every time the blanket is described
in a complex way: intense feeling, strangeness,
contradiction, irony, hot-cold, tension-release.
Step 3: Linger in the details about the many meanings of
the blanket! Texturize and layer that blanket. Approach the
blanket from as many angles as possible. Let the details
about poem pile up. Annotate, annotate, annotate. Circle/
highlight any detail, word, or sentence that stands out
about the complexity of the blanket.

Example 2: Introduction:
How do I arrive at my
thesis?
Step 1: What is the prompt asking you to do?
e.g. If the prompt asks you to discuss the attitude of the
speaker, write the definition of attitude at the top
of your paper.
Step 2: Mark the prompt every time the attitude changes or
is described.
Step 3: Linger in the details about the attitude! Let the
details about the passage or poem pile up. Annotate,
annotate, annotate. Circle/ highlight any detail, word, or
sentence that stands out about the speakers attitude.
Now youre ready to have a position and write your
thesis.

Now that youve annotated


your prompt (no more than 78 minutes),

decide where the major shifts are


(shift=change, contradiction, irony)

and put a slash at the beginning of every MAJOR


shift (remember, youre trying to break the
prompt down into manageable chunks)
What are some clues for finding shifts?
- Conjunctions: although, but, yet, however,
nevertheless
- Punctuation marks: dashes
- Time breaks/ passage of time breaks (additional
space between paragraphs)

How to read an
essay prompt: Tom
Jones

What did the author do?


How did s/he do it?

Define the literary concept you are to write


about at the top of your prompt to remind
yourself of:
a) what to look for in a prompt
b) what to write about in response to the
prompt

This is an illustration of a Victorian


paragraph: a unigraph, :D, usually with
a few
REALLY long sentences
but we
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Topic
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sentence 2
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Topic sentence 3
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Conclusion (do not
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conclusion but
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just conclude)

will not be intimidated!

We always look for


major shiftsHere
is a poem:

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Again, the paper isnt determined by stanzas or paragraphs, but the shifts!
How many shifts in this poem? How many body paragraphs?

Lets re-cap: In the intro,


we need
The title of the literary work (what do we underline?
when do we use quotations?)
Full name of the author at first; after that, only the last
name
Thesis CFC (complexity or shift, function, conjunctions)
1. An argument, position - NOT A FACT
2.C: States the main complexity (contradiction: hot &
cold, tension/release, irony, juxtaposition, change, shift)
OF THE ENTIRE PROMPT
3.F: Explains the function of the complexity/shift (What
is the purpose or role of that complexity?)
4.C: Conjunctions or key words to help you construct the
thesis: not only but, however, yet, despite, but

Raising the level of


student work
Essays scored 4 (out of 9) or lower most
often result from students dumbing down
the task.
A series of lower-scoring sample essay
opening paragraphs will be projected in the
next few slides. What instructions would
you give these students in order to get
them to engage the task more fully?

The Prompt and the


Problem
The following prompt can be found on
Question 1 of the 2010 AP English Lit/Comp
Exam: Read carefully the following poem by
Marilyn Nelson Waniek. Then write an essay
analyzing how Waniek employs literary
techniques to develop the complex meanings
that the speaker attributes to The Century Quilt.
You may wish to consider such elements as
structure, imagery, and tone.

2010 Q1 Sample B;

and the Problem


again

2010 Sample A;
score: 3

and the Problem


again

2010 Q1 Sample R
Score 4

What instructional questions


do these low-scoring essayopenings raise?
1. Should students be trained to repeat the
prompt in the first paragraph?
2. Should students be trained to organize
essays around a list of literary
techniques/devices?
3. Should the first paragraph make specific
claims about the complex effect or
meaning of the text? Or should it remain
vague?

What important tasks


are these essay
writers failing to take
These writers dont discuss
on?specific complex
meanings that the speaker attributes to The
Century Quilt.

They introduce specific literary techniques without


stating how these are used by the poet to
develop the complex meanings that the speaker
attributes to The Century Quilt.

What an adequate response


might look like:

Sample YYY; score:


9

What strategies does


this highly successful
student-writer use?

The first paragraph has a thesis which


defines the complex meanings attributed to
the quilt.
The description of the quilts theme or
meanings respects that fact that the
poems meaning is not static but
develops as we read and as we deepen
our understanding of the work.

What is this highly


successful studentwriter NOT doing?

The student does not repeat the prompt.

There is no laundry list of technical terms


for literary techniques.
There is not much of a distracting
grabber-type introduction. Nearly all of
this first paragraph is about the poem;
there is a brief grabber sentence, but it is
seamlessly related to the statement of the
poems theme (i.e.complex meanings).

How does the successful


writer introduce the
literary
techniques?
The one technique
mentioned
in 1, symbol, is
not from the list of suggested techniques in the
prompt; moreover, it is embedded in a meaningful
statement about a specific idea:

A different way to
succeed:

2010 Q1 Sample VVV Score


8

Now that we have a


thesis,
lets write the Organic Essay (handout)!