1 Bralkree

Possible Apush Essay Topics 2012

2015 Edit

The APUSH exam went under a major redesign for 2015. The free-response portion now only contains one DBQ and one LEQ (from a choice of two).

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Explain the reasons why a new conservatism rose to prominence in the United States between 1960 and 1989.
    • Frerelations with Great Britain, analyzing what changed and what stayed the same from the period before the war to the period after it.
      • Evaluate the extent to which the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) marked a turning point in the debate over slavery in the United States, analyzing what changed and what stayed the same from the period before the war to the period after it.0

2014 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: How and why did the goals of United States foreign policy change from the end of the First World War (1918) to the end of the Korean War (1953)?
    • Free response, part B:
      • Choose TWO of the following and analyze their impact on colonial North American development between 1620 and 1776: Puritanism, The Enlightenment, The First Great Awakening
      • Compare and contrast the Jacksonian Democratic Party and the Whig Party of the 1830's and 1840's. Focus on TWO of the following: The role of the federal government in the economy, Social reform, Westward expansion
    • Free response, part C:
      • To what extent were the goals of Reconstruction (1865–1877) regarding African Americans achieved by 1900?
      • Explain the social, economic, and foreign policy goals of New Right conservatives from the 1960's to the 1980's and assess the degree to which the Reagan administration succeeded in implementing these goals in the 1980's.

2013 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the causes of growing opposition to slavery in the United States from 1776 to 1852. In your response, consider both underlying forces and specific events that contributed to the growing opposition.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the role of trans-Atlantic trade and Great Britain’s mercantilist policies in the economic development of the British North American colonies in the period from 1650 to 1750.
      • Analyze the ways in which the United States sought to advance its interests in world affairs between 1789 and 1823.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the impact of technological innovations on the lives of TWO of the following groups. Confine your answer to the period 1865–1920: Factory workers, Middle-class urban residents, Mid-western farmers.
      • Between 1945 and 1975 various groups in the United States engaged in acts of protest. Analyze the reasons that protest emerged in this period for TWO of the following groups: African Americans, College students, Latino Americans, Women.

2012 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: In the post–Civil War United States, corporations grew significantly in number, size, and influence. Analyze the impact of big business on the economy and politics and the responses of Americans to these changes. Confine your answer to the period 1870 to 1900.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the effect of the French and Indian War and its aftermath on the relationship between Great Britain and the British colonies. Confine your response to the period from 1754 to 1776.
      • Analyze how western expansion contributed to growing sectional tensions between the North and the South. Confine your answer to the period from 1800 to 1850.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the origins and outcomes of the intense cultural conflicts of the 1920's. In your response, focus on TWO of the following: Immigration, Prohibition, Religion.
      • Compare and contrast the Cold War foreign policies of TWO of the following presidents: Harry Truman (1945–1953), Dwight Eisenhower (1953–1961), Richard Nixon (1969–1974).

2011 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the international and domestic challenges the United States faced between 1968 and 1974, and evaluate how President Richard Nixon’s administration responded to them.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the origins and development of slavery in Britain’s North American colonies in the period 1607 to 1776.
      • To what extent did political parties contribute to the development of national unity in the United States between 1790 and 1840?
    • Free response, part C:
      • Compare and contrast the ways that many Americans expressed their opposition to immigrants in the 1840's– 1850's with the ways that many Americans expressed their opposition to immigrants in the 1910's– 1920's.
      • African American leaders have responded to racial discrimination in the United States in a variety of ways. Compare and contrast the goals and strategies of African American leaders in the 1890's–1920's with the goals and strategies of African American leaders in the 1950's-1960's.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: Explain the ways that participation in political campaigns and elections in the United States changed between 1815 and 1840, and analyze forces and events that led to these changes.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Compare and contrast the British, French, and Spanish imperial goals in North America between 1580 and 1763.
      • Analyze the ways in which the political, economic, and diplomatic crises of the 1780's shaped the provisions of the United States Constitution.'
    • Free response, part C:
      • Compare and contrast the foreign policies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
      • Compare and contrast the women’s rights movement of the 1840's–1860's with the women’s rights movement of the 1960's–1980's.

2010  Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: In what ways did ideas and values held by the Puritans influence the political, economic, and social development of the New England colonies from 1630 through the 1660's?
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the political, diplomatic, and military reasons for the United States victory in the Revolutionary War. Confine your answer to the period 1775-1783.
      • Analyze the ways in which controversy over the extension of slavery into western territories contributed to the coming of the Civil War. Confine your answer to the period 1845-1861.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the roles that women played in the Progressive Era reforms from the 1880's through 1920. Focus your essay on TWO of the following: Politics, Social conditions, Labor and working conditions.
      • Explain the causes and consequences of TWO of the following population movements in the United States during the period 1945–1985: Suburbanization, The growth of the Sunbelt, Immigration to the United States.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: The issue of territorial expansion sparked considerable debate in the period 1800–1855. Analyze this debate and evaluate the influence of both supporters and opponents of territorial expansion in shaping federal government policy. Use the documents and your knowledge of the years 1800–1855 in your answer.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Evaluate the influence of religion on the development of colonial society in TWO of the following regions: The Spanish Southwest, New England, New France.
      • Compare and contrast the experience of slaves on tobacco plantations in the early seventeenth-century Chesapeake region with that of slaves on nineteenth-century cotton plantations in the Deep South. What forces transformed the institution of slavery from the early seventeenth century to the nineteenth century?
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the effectiveness of Progressive Era reformers in addressing problems of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In your answer, focus on reform efforts in TWO of the following areas: State and federal government, The workplace, Living conditions in cities.
      • Analyze the effects of the Vietnam War on TWO of the following in the United States in the period from 1961 to 1975: The presidency, The population between 18 and 35 years old, Cold War diplomacy.
    • Henry Clay NEVER DIES

2009 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: From 1775 to 1830, many African Americans gained freedom from slavery, yet during the same period the institution of slavery expanded. Explain why BOTH of those changes took place. Analyze the ways that BOTH free African Americans and enslaved African Americans responded to the challenges confronting them.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the ways in which British imperial policies between 1763 and 1776 intensified colonials' resistance to British rule and their comitment to republican values.
      • Analyze the social, political, and economic forces of the 1840s and early 1850s that led to the emergence of the Republican Party.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Choose TWO of the following organizations and explain their strategies for advancing the interests of workers. To what extent were these organizations successful in achieving their objectives? Confine your answers to the period from 1875 to 1925. Choices: Knights of Labor, American Federation of Labor, Socialist Part of America, Industrial Workers of the World.
      • Analyze the home-front experiences of TWO of the following groups during the Second World War: African Americans, Japanese Americans, Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: In what ways did African Americans shape the course and consequences of the Civil War? Confine your answer to the years from 1861 to 1870.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze how the ideas and experiences of the revolutionary era influenced the principles embodied in the Articles of Confederation.
      • Analyze the political, economic, and religious tensions between immigrant Roman Catholics and native-born Protestants in the United States from the 1830s through the 1850s.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Explain the origins of TWO of the following third parties and evaluate their impact on United States politics and national policies: The People's Party (Populists) in 1892, the Progressive Party (Bull Moose Party) in 1912, the States' Rights Party (Dixiecrats) in 1948, the American Independent Party in 1968.
      • Analyze the ways in which the events and trends of the 1970s diminished the nation's economic power and international influence, and challenged Americans' confidence in both.

2008 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the ways in which the Vietnam War heightened social, political, and economic tensions in the United States. Focus your answer on the period 1964 to 1975.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Early encofghvand, Chesapeake, Spanish Southwest, California and New France.
      • Analyze the impact of the market ratchets (1815-1860) on the economies of TWO of the following regions: the Northeast, the Midwest, the South.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Following Reconstruction, many southern leaders promoted the idea of a "New South." To what extent was the "New South" a reality by the time of the First World War? In your answer be sure to address TWO of the following: Economic development, Politics, Race relations.
      • Presidential elections between 1928 and 1948 revealed major shifts in political party loyalties. Analyze both the reasons for these changes and their consequences during this period.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: For the years 1880 to 1925, analyze both the tensions surrounding the issue of immigration and the United States government's response to these tensions. Use the following documents and your knowledge of the period from 1880 to 1925 to construct your answer.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the reasons for the Anti-Federalists' opposition to ratifying the Constitution.
      • Use TWO of the following categories to analyze the ways in which African Americans created a distinctive culture in slavery: Family, Music, Oral traditions, Religions.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the extent to which the Spanish-American War was a turning point in American foreign policy.
      • Analyze the extent to which the 1920s and 1950s were similar in TWO of the following areas: Impact of technology, Intolerant attitudes, Literary developments.

2007 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the ways in which technology, government policy, and economic conditions changed American agriculture in the period 1865-1900. In your answer be sure to evaluate farmers' responses to these changes.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Settlers in the eighteenth-century American back country sometimes resorted to violent protest to express their grievances. Analyze the causes and significance of TWO of the following: March of the Paxton Boys, Regulator movement, Shays' Rebellion, Whiskey Rebellion.
      • In what ways did the Second Great Awakening in the North influence TWO of the following? Abolitionism, Temperance, the Cult of Domesticity, Utopian communities.
    • Free response, part C:
      • To what extent did the role of the federal government change under President Theodore Roosevelt in regard to TWO of the following: Labor, Trusts, Conservation, World affairs.
      • "Landslide presidential victories do not ensure continued political effectiveness or legislative success." Assess the validity of this statement by comparing TWO of the following presidential administration: Franklin Roosevelt (1936), Lyndon Johnson (1964), Richard Nixon (1972), Ronald Reagan (1984).
  • Form B
    • DBQ: In what ways did the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson respond to the political, economic, and social problems of the United States? Assess the effectiveness of these responses. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1960-1970 to construct your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • The French and Indian War (1754-1763) altered the relationship between Britain and its North American colonies. Assess this change with regard to TWO of the following in the period between 1763 and 1775: Land acquisition, Politics, Economics.
      • Compare the experiences of TWO of the following groups of immigrants during the period 1830 to 1860: English, Irish, German.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Explain how TWO of the following individuals responded to the economic and social problems created by industrialization during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Jane Addams, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Gompers, Upton Sinclair.
      • Analyze the ways in which the federal government sought support on the home front for the war effort during the First World War.

2006 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Discuss the changing ideals of American womanhood between the American Revolution (1770s) and the outbreak of the Civil War. What factors fostered the emergence of "republican motherhood" and the "cult of domesticity?" Assess the extent to which these ideals influenced the lives of women during this period. In your answer be sure to consider issues of race and class.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the differences between the Spanish settlements in the Southwest and the English colonies in New England in the seventeenth century in terms of TWO of the following: Politics, Religion, Economic development.
      • Explain why and how the role of the federal government changed as a result of the Civil War with respect to TWO of the following during the period 1861-1877.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Historians have argued that Progressive reform lost momentum in the 1920s. Evaluate this statement with respect to TWO of the following: Regulation of business, Labor, Immigrants.
      • While the United States appeared to be dominated by consensus and conformity in the 1950s, some Americans reacted against the status quo. Analyze the critiques of United States society made by TWO of the following: Youth, Civil Rights Activists, Intellectuals.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: Analyze developments from 1941 to 1949 that increased suspicion and tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1941-1949 to construct your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • "The United States Constitution of 1787 represented an economic and ideological victory for the traditional American political elite." Assess the validity of that statement for the period 1781 to 1789.
      • In what ways and to what extent was industrial development from 1800 to 1860 a factor in the relationship between the northern and the southern states?
    • Free response, part C:
      • For whom and to what extent was the American West a land of opportunity from 1865 to 1890?
      • How did TWO of the following help shape American national culture in the 1920s? Advertising, Entertainment, Mass production.

2005 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: To what extent did the American Revolution fundamentally change American society? In your answer, be sure to address the political, social, and economic effects of the Revolution in the period from 1775 to 1800.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Compare and contrast the ways in which economic development affected politics in Massachusetts and Virginia in the period from 1607 to 1750.
      • To what extent did the debates about the Mexican War and its aftermath reflect the sectional interests of New Englanders, westerners, and southerners in the period from 1845 to 1855?
    • Free response, part C:
      • Describe the patterns of immigration in TWO of the periods listed below. Compare and contrast the responses of Americans to immigrants in these periods: 1820 to 1860, 1880 to 1924, 1965 to 2000.
      • Analyze the extent to which TWO of the following transformed American society in the 1960s and 1970s: The Civil Rights movement, the antiwar movement, the women's movement.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: In the early nineteenth century, Americans sought to resolve their political disputes through compromise, yet by 1860 this no longer seemed possible. Analyze the reasons for this change. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1820-1860 in constructing your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • "Geography was the primary factor in shaping the development of the British colonies in North America." Assess the validity of this statement for the 1600s.
      • To what extent was the United States Constitution a radical departure from the Articles of Confederation?
    • Free response, part C:
      • How successful were progressive reforms during the period 1890 to 1915 with respect to TWO of the following? Industrial conditions, Urban life, Politics.
      • Analyze the ways in which TWO of the following contributed to the changes in women's lives in the United States in the mid-twentieth century: Wars, Literature and/or popular culture, Medical and/or technological advances.

2004 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: In what ways did the French and Indian War (1754-63) alter the political, economic, and ideological relations between Britain and its American colonies? Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1740-1766 in constructing your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the impact of the American Revolution of the both slavery and the status of women in the period from 1775-1800.
      • Analyze the effectiveness of political compromise in reducing sectional tensions in the period 1820 to 1861.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Compare and contrast the programs and policies designed by reformers of the Progressive era to those designed by reformers of the New jkhkDeal period. Confine your answers to programs and policies that addressed the needs of those living in poverty.
      • Analyze the successes and failures of the United States Cold War policy of containment as it developed in TWO of the follow regions of the world during the period 1945 to 1975: East and Southeast Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: How and for what reasons did the United States foreign policy change between 1920 and 1941? Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1920-1941 to construct your response.
    • Free response, part B:
      • To what extent was the election of 1800 aptly named the "Revolution of 1800?" Respond with reference to TWO of the following areas: Economics, Foreign policy, Judiciary, Politics.
      • To what extent and in what ways did the roles of women change in American society between 1790 and 1860? Respond with reference to TWO of the following areas: Domestic, Economic, Political, Social.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Analyze the primary causes of the population shift from a rural to an urban environment in the United States between 1875 and 1925.
      • "Between 1960 and 1975, there was great progress in the struggle for political and social equality." Assess the validity of this statement with respect to TWO of the following groups during that period: African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Women.

2003 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: Analyze the responses of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration to the problems of the Great Depression. How effective were the responses? How did they change the role of the federal government? Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1929-1941 to construct your essay.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Evaluate the extent to which the Articles of Confederation were effective in solving the problems that confronted the new nation.
      • In what ways did developments in transportation bring about economic and social change in the United States in the period 1820-1860?
    • Free response, part C:
      • Evaluate the impact of the Civil War on political and economic developments in TWO of the following regions: The South, the North, the West. Focus your answer on the period between 1865 and 1900.
      • Compare and contrast United States society in the 1920s and the 1950s with respect to TWO of the following: race relations, role of women, consumerism.
  • Form B
    • DBQ: Evaluate the effectiveness of Progressive Era reformers and the federal government in bringing about reform at the national level. In your answer be sure to analyze the successes and limitation of these efforts in the period 1900-1920.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Compare the ways in which TWO of the following reflected tensions in colonial society: Bacon's Rebellion (1676), Pueblo Revolt (1680), Salem witchcraft trials (1692), Stono Rebellion (1739)
      • Although the power of the national government increased during the early republic, this development often faced serious opposition. Compare the motives and effectiveness of those opposed to the growing power of the national government in TWO of the following: Whiskey Rebellion (1794), Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (1798-1799), Hartford Convention (1814-1815), Nullification Crisis (1832-1833).
    • Free response, par C:
      • Analyze the ways in which farmers and industrial workers responded to industrialization in the Gilded Age (1865-1900).
      • Describe and account for changes in the American presidency between 1960 and 1975, as symbolized by Kennedy's "Camelot," Johnson's Great Society, and Nixon's Watergate. In your answer, address the powers of the presidency and the role of the media.

2002 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: "Reform movements in the United States sought to expand democratic ideals." Assess the validity of this statement with specific reference to the years 1825-1850.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Compare the ways in which religion shaped the development of colonial society (to 1740) in TWO of the following regions: New England, Chesapeake, Middle Atlantic.
      • Analyze the contribution of TWO of the following in helping establish a stable government after the adoption of the Constitution: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington.
    • Free response, part C:
      • Compare and contrast United States foreign policy after the First World War and after the Second World War. Consider the periods 1919-1928 and 1945-1950.
      • How did the African American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s address the failures of the Reconstruction?
  • Form B
    • DBQ: Historians have traditionally labeled the period after the War of 1812 the "Era of Good Feelings." Evaluate the accuracy of this label, considering the emergence of nationalism and sectionalism. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1815-1825 to construct your answer.
    • Free response, part B:
      • Analyze the impact of the Atlantic trade routes established in the mid 1600s on economic development in the British North American colonies. Consider the period 1650-1750.
      • Identify and analyze the factors that changed the American city in the second half of the nineteenth century.
    • Free response, part C:
      • How successful were the programs of the New Deal in solving the problems of the Great Depression? Assess with respect to TWO of the following: Relief, recovery, reform.
      • Analyze the ways in which TWO of the following shaped American politics after the Second World War: Anticommunism in the 1940s and 1950s, the women's liberation movement in the 1960s, the "silent majority" in the 1970s.

2001 Edit

  • Form A
    • DBQ: What were the Cold War fears of the American people in the aftermath of the Second World War? How successfully did the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower address these fears?
    • Free response, part B:
      • How did economic, geographic, and social factors encourage the growth of slavery as an important part of the economy of the southern colonies between 1607 and 1775?
      • The Jacksonian Period (1824-1848) has been celebrated as the era of the "common man." To what extent did the period live up to its characterization? Consider TWO of the following in your response: Economic development, Politics, Reform movements.
    • Free response, part C:
      • How and why did transportation developments spark economic growth during the period from 1860 to 1900 in the United States?
      • Describe and account for the rise of nativism in American society from 1900 to 1930.

In no time, it’ll be here. Will you be ready? The AP English Language and Composition exam is tough but not impossible. Sure, you must study hard and write as many essays as possible to succeed, but a few handy tips and some guidance goes a long way in preparing you for what to expect. To do well on the AP English Language and Composition exam, you’ll need to write organized, substantive essays. Specifically, you must write an argument defending your position, using sources provided in the Free Response Question section along with your experience and knowledge.

The AP English Language and Composition exam consists of two parts. The first consists of 52 to 55 multiple choice questions worth 45% of the total test grade. This section tests your ability to read and answer questions about a host of nonfiction subjects and rhetorical texts. The second section worth 55% of the total score requires essay responses to three questions, demonstrating your ability to analyze, comprehend, synthesize, and cite a variety of nonfiction materials in a well-structured argument. Exam takers have fifteen minutes to read the sources and the remaining two hours to write three essays.

By the time you take the test, you should know how to write a clear, organized essay that argues a claim. Beginning with a brief introduction that includes the thesis statement, you’ll use newspaper, journal, magazine articles, excerpts, or visuals in body paragraphs that support your claim. Pulling quotes and details from the sources, you’ll discuss how your support connects with your thesis statement, and then conclude by reiterating the thesis statement without repeating it. Clear organization, specific support, and full explanations or discussions are three critical components of high-scoring essays.

General Tips for the AP English Language and Composition FRQs

Your teacher may have already told you how to approach the essays, but it’s important to keep the following in mind coming into the exam:

  1. Carefully read, review, and underline key to-do’s in the prompt.
  2. Briefly outline where you’re going to hit each prompt item–in other words, pencil out a specific order.
  3. Be sure you have a clear thesis or claim that responds to the call of the instructions, given the available evidence for support.
  4. Identify the sources used as support in your essay by author and title or the letter A, B, or C, etc.
  5. Use quotes, paraphrases, and statistics—lots of them—to exemplify your points throughout the essay.
  6. Fully explain or discuss how your examples support your claim. A deeper, fuller, and focused explanation of fewer items is better than a shallow discussion of more items (shotgun approach).
  7. Avoid making vague, general statements or merely summarizing the sources cited in support of your claim.
  8. Use transitions to connect sentences and paragraphs.
  9. Write in the present tense with generally good grammar.
  10. Keep your introduction and conclusion short, and don’t repeat your thesis verbatim in your conclusion.

The previously-released 2012 sample AP English Language and Composition exam questions, sample responses, and grading rubrics are valuable learning tools. It’s instructive to analyze the three sample essays for each of the three FRQ essays and zero in on the differences between what AP readers deem a high, medium, and low scoring essay. In that way, you’ll know what to do and what to avoid come test time.

Free Response Question #1

The subject in the first FRQ of the 2012 exam is the United States Postal Service. The prompt requires exam takers to use three of the seven provided sources to argue the following:

  • Whether the USPS should restructure to meet modern demands
  • What the USPS should do to meet modern demands

To model successful strategies, you want to break down the CollegeBoard’s three sample answers: the high scoring (A) essay, the mid-range scoring (B) essay, and the low scoring (C) essay. Together, they’re a road map to a high score on the rhetorical analysis essay.

Start with a Succinct Introduction that Includes Your Claim

All three essays present their claims in the introductory paragraph. All three also defend the proposition that the USPS should restructure to fit the times. However, the A essay, unlike the other two, structures the introduction to both inform and pique interest. For example, the introduction begins discussing the background of the issue with commonly known facts about the world’s increasing technological dependence. Then, the essay funnels or scopes to narrow to the claim in the last sentence to launch the argument.

The B example also spurs interest with an anecdote to warm the reader to the subject of the essay. Unlike the A essay, however, this one positions the claim in the middle of a long introduction that begins discussing the supporting points that belong in the body paragraphs.

The B introduction previews the essay argument to guide the reader, but not as clearly as the A essay, although far more completely than the C, which merely states the claim in general terms, “for the following reasons”.

In sum, make introductions focused, compact, and precise. Good introductions inform, spark interest, and focus the essay’s main idea in an organized paragraph.

Use Source Facts and Opinions to Support Your Argument Points and Discuss them

The A answer models how to begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that furthers the claim and then adeptly supports the topic sentence. In the introduction, the A writer asserts the USPS is a symbol as well as a provider of postal services. Logically, the first paragraph begins with proving that assertion. The second sentence explains and exemplifies how the USPS is a symbol. Afterward, the student seamlessly weaves together assertions, quotes or paraphrases, and discussion in dense paragraphs. Sources are introduced by author or in parenthetical citations. Since economy is critical, the writer makes every sentence count.

Through a methodical process of presenting topic sentences, supported with quotes, facts, opinions, and discussion, the A writer demonstrates keen reasoning and composition skills. The essay proceeds logically from the introduction to the conclusion with well-chosen details and proper sourcing to make the student’s points clear. For example, the writer’s order proceeds from the importance of the USPS to the suggested USPS revisions. Throughout, transitions (“furthermore”) reinforce the relationships between paragraphs.

The mid-range sample, on the other hand, struggles to maintain clarity and consistency. Like the A essay, the B essay body paragraphs contain a topic sentence and examples, but the writer explains some examples (the first body paragraph’s point about extending services) but no others (hiring commission and specialized workers). Additionally, the student cites sources inconsistently. The writer doesn’t stick to the A formula of assertion, support, and citation, but generalizes and omits discussion of the main points in support of the claim.

As the CollegeBoard warns, you don’t want merely to summarize sources. The B response does just that in the second body paragraph. Instead of using the source to support the idea that letters are still a source of joy the USPS offers, “to keep in touch with family and friends,” the writer uses anecdotal experience (“I know I’m fiercely tearing away at the envelope”) and summarizes the D source. Moreover, the source is not used authoritatively to support the second point to the claim since the writer just incorporates it into a personal story.

Sample C needs fully developed, clear topic sentences throughout the essay. The first body paragraph starts with an assertion that letters are much more significant as a reason to keep the USPS unchanged. To illustrate, the writer provides: “You can actually feel, hold, and touch a handwritten letter…” without explaining how that’s significant. There’s no discussion tying the example to the topic sentence. Also, all three words–feel, hold, and touch–waste precious time by repeating the same thing (you can feel a letter not an email).

Write a Brief Conclusion

Conclusions leave the reader satisfied and give the writer one last opportunity to cement the argument points and claim in the reader’s mind. If you run out of time, however, omitting the conclusion is not as fatal to your score as writing thin, underdeveloped, disorganized body paragraphs. A quick one or two sentence recap, like the A sample, rounds out thorough preceding paragraphs when nearing the time cut-off.

The A response uses the conclusion to tie together succinctly the three points of the preceding paragraphs: the USPS as tradition, the USPS as symbol, and the USPS modernized but not lost. The writer achieves the dual purpose of recapping and reminding the reader of the claim in the introduction without repeating the claim verbatim.

Conclusions are not for introducing new ideas or points not previously discussed in the body paragraphs. The B essay recaps some but not all points made in the essay but also presents the fact that the USPS provides services other carriers don’t. The disorderly ending doesn’t persuade as well as the A’s shorter but clearer restatement, although it is better than C’s vague opinion that doesn’t restate the claim, propose action, or tie up the essay.

Finally, a conclusion compositionally rounds out your essay so that your reader doesn’t struggle with any part of your essay. By repeating recapped points or fleshing them out with insights, you help the reader pull the argument together and wrap up.

Free Response Question #2

The 2012 AP English Language and Composition exam, Free Response Question 2, required test takers to read the given commentary by John F. Kennedy from a 1962 news conference and write an essay that does the following:

  • Analyze Kennedy’s rhetorical strategies used to achieve his purpose (the assumption being you identify the purpose).
  • Support the analysis with “specific references to the text”.

Whereas the first FRQ required test takers to synthesize broad ideas, facts, and writing points in three sources (or portions of them) as support, this second question is different. It requires a closer reading and analysis of one source, forcing writers to tease out meaning from the fewer words and facts in a page and a half commentary.

Introduction and Thesis Statement

The A Essay

The writer packs the first sentence with strong verbs (“condemned,” “appeals”), details (“raising steel prices”), description (“communal sacrifice,” “collective responsibility,” and “every man audience”), and direction (claim: Kennedy exhorts “outrage” over raised steel prices).

Then, the student identifies the rhetorical stance of the speaker, Kennedy, with one of the “185 million Americans” against the “handful” of greedy “steel executives” and establishes the tone of the argument as “righteous indignation”.

The sophisticated vocabulary, confident weaving of source facts, and keen analytical ability (astute observation about the point of view) lend credibility to the writer’s argument immediately.

The B Essay

Unlike the economy of the A essay, the B response uses one sentence of a short introduction to repeat the prompt. While the introduction adequately covers the claim and rhetorical strategies, it does so without as much specificity as the A response, opting instead for vague language (“strong diction”) and off-the-mark tone description (Kennedy’s a little more than “disappointed”). By the end of the introduction, the reader understands the essay will touch on tone and diction in analyzing Kennedy’s posited aim to get the steel companies’ price reversal.

The C Essay

The C introduction lacks specificity and focus. It does not include a claim or address what’s required by the directions. The “it” in “JFK… was able to present it in a way that it was accessible” has no antecedent (what does the “it” refer to?), and the sentence, like the entire introduction, is vague and unclear. The writer shows little understanding of the meaning of “rhetorical strategies”.

Exemplification, Citation, and Discussion in the Body Paragraphs

A Essay

Hinging on the word “appeal” from the introduction, the A writer moves in the first body paragraph to Kennedy’s patriotic as well as class appeal. The student cites the text to seamlessly connect the source with the support in a grammatically correct incorporation of quotations into the student’s writing (“but also extends to ‘reservists… and servicemen’”).

The student then expands on the significance of calling upon those specifically addressed in the commentary–servicemen, businessmen, and farmers–to invoke quintessentially American citizens and ideas, hard-working, rugged individualists. The essay proceeds in this highly succinct, fluid pattern of drawing on source language to further each point until the end.

Throughout the body paragraphs, the writer demonstrates confidence and control over language, ideas, and composition skills. The student analyzes methodically, pulling out specific words and devices (“rhetorical caution” in the third paragraph) to reach complex conclusions synthesized from the passage’s language. No statement is left unexplained, and each paragraph begins with a pinpoint focused topic sentences bolstered by transition words that logically connect sentences and paragraphs to cohere all paragraphs to the claim.

B Essay

The first body paragraph begins with the “disappointing tone” from the introduction, a good segue into the body of the essay. However, the writer then spends too much time on an analogy between a parent and Kennedy to the nation, taking up valuable time that could be used to incorporate sources in making the point about tone. The first quoted excerpts come mid-way through the paragraph. The student could have spent more time explaining how the quoted language connotes disappointment rather than continue the hypothetical parent example, which dilutes the point. The essay clearly lacks the compactness of the A model.

The broad language, like “well-chosen diction,” and “exceptional word choice” leave the readers scratching their heads to the meaning. The examples of exceptional words “utter contempt” and “tiny handful” don’t clarify the point. The reader must glean the student’s assertion that the diction is effective since there’s no explanation.

The C Essay

This essay is a shallow analysis, using no direct quotation or specific reference to the commentary until the final body paragraph when the writer finally tackles rhetorical strategies, such as repetition and a restatement of the “Ask not what your country can do for you” reference. The essay primarily summarizes the text content and mentions rhetorical devices but doesn’t exemplify “listing” and “details”. The writing also contains many spelling errors.


None of the essays make grand conclusions, but only the A essay ends concurrently with the writer’s final point and JFK’s parting remark. The other two end with brief paragraphs, the B restating the claim in a sentence and the C winding up with admiration for JFK’s ability to stop people from fighting, a random point. Even though the A essay doesn’t devote a separate paragraph to conclude, it does leave the reader with a sense of completion, ending with the final point in the essay synced to the overall effect of Kennedy’s speech as strong without capitulating.

The Free Response Question #3

The year’s third question poses two quotations, one by William Lyon Phelps, educator, journalist, and professor, and the other by Bertrand Russell, British mathematician, writer, and philosopher, on the nature of certainty and doubt. The prompt requires examinees to write an essay that

  • Defends a position about the relationship of doubt and certainty
  • Supports the argument with appropriate evidence and examples

Broader than the two preceding questions, this open question requires the student to draw on personal experience or the world to demonstrate the ability to concretize two abstract terms with examples and explanation. The attention to detail, economy, and specificity are critical to successfully anchoring the words to concrete examples. Writers must resist the temptation to define abstract terms with generalizations and vague ideas.

Introductions and Thesis Statements

The A Essay

The top essay gets right to the heart of defending a position. It defends a relationship of certainty to doubt by alluding to the first quotation in summary fashion–certainty is the key to achieving your dreams. The writer then moves on to doubt by first defining it, and then showing its relationship to certainty: “Doubt is what allows us to question and challenge those certainties”. The final sentence of the introduction contains the claim, which all of the preceding sentences lead to in an organized and clear opening to the essay.

The B Essay

Like the B responses of the two prior sections, the introduction lacks a clear organization, and the language is vague and loose. This short introduction starts out strong by acknowledging a truth about certainty and how doubt fits into that truth. However, by the last sentence, the apparent claim, the ideas become unclear, awash in vague terms like, “the right times,” or “certain times” and entangled in a wordy sentence (“to show through as a more prominent feeling”). Without a clear thesis statement or claim, the reader is unsure where the essay will go.

The C Essay

The third introduction melds into the entire essay, which is one page-long paragraph. The first sentence promises to tackle the certainty concept, but it immediately turns to agreeing with the Phelps quote with one personal anecdote as proof. It’s difficult to decipher where the introduction ends and the essay body begins.

Exemplification and Discussion

The A Essay

Like the model essays before it, this sample successfully organizes each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that seamlessly connects with the preceding paragraph (“In history, countless examples of doubt have changed the world” connects with the last sentence in the introduction about “doubt”).

The next order of business after introducing the claim is locating examples that illustrate the relationship between certainty and doubt. The A writer chooses history. The topic sentence encompasses the main idea that history shows significant instances of doubt, and the following sentences prove that assertion with details about moon landings and other seemingly fictional possibilities that turn into reality. The student elaborates on the idea in a full paragraph that makes the topic sentence clear.

The A essay also contains clear transitions to connect paragraphs together and paragraphs to the thesis statement. For example, the second body paragraph begins, “One of the most important components of doubt is trial and error”. In defending the claim, the writer teases out the meaning and character of doubt.

After exemplifying with Thomas Edison’s discovery based on trial and error, the writer goes on to “another example,” which starts off the final body paragraph. The trail from thesis statement to conclusion is methodical and organized. The order of least to most important–technological advancements to religion–leaves the reader with a strong impression of the writer’s compositional capability and keen insights.

The B Essay

This response also contains insights about the relationship of certainty and doubt (sometimes doubt can mean the difference between living and dying) and examples from history and literature, but the explanations that connect the examples to the point of each paragraph are unclear. The writer uses vague language (“in certain circumstances,” “the right mindset,” “in a bigger, more important view” and less obvious facts (the confidence of the colonists). However, the B writer gets the job done though not without some confusion and work on the reader’s part.

The last example from literature had the potential to exemplify the necessity for doubt, but the reader who hasn’t read the referenced book doesn’t know what the main character did or did not do in the name of confidence. The example is not obvious without a one sentence contextual summary of the character’s behaviors that led to his death might have strengthened the example.

The C Essay

The last example essay uses a personal anecdote of winning a lacrosse game by confidence to agree with the Phelps quote. However, the example is a mere conclusion and a hasty generalization. One incident does not exemplify the broad scope of the quote, which the writer interprets as confidence leads to success.

Without more than a conclusion that the team was confident and the team won, there’s little to no support for the claim, which is that the writer agrees with the Phelps quote. More explanation and detail are necessary to make the example illustrative of the relationship between confidence and doubt. The entire essay needed more: content, order, examples, and paragraphs.


All three essays conclude, but the first one clearly does the best job of winding up the argument. The writer uses the conclusion to reinforce and broaden the reach of the claim that doubt compels creativity to other historical figures not mentioned in the body of the essay. All final examples in the A response support the last comments. They don’t open up a new claim or supporting premise. The last line hammers the essential point home declaratively.

The B and C conclusions, however, don’t satisfy. Consistent with the rest of the essay, the B essay ends vaguely with broad terms that don’t form clear images or ideas: “appropriate time,” “achieve great things,” and “limits available to a person”. The writer needed to specify what’s appropriate, which things, and rephrase “limits available” as the phrase makes little sense. However, the C essay does worse, shifting into second person point of view to instruct the reader in the end. The writer veers off course and doesn’t, in fact, conclude the essay started in the introduction.

Write in Complete Sentences with Proper Punctuation and Compositional Skills

As you can see from all nine samples, writing counts–heavily. Though pressed for time, it’s important to write an essay in concise sentences with words both precise and economical. Choosing strong verbs and adjectives vivify and crystallize your ideas. Fragments and misspelled words cause confusion and weaken your argument. Additionally, sound compositional skills create a favorable impression on the reader.

You want your essay to read smoothly, without the reader having to re-read sentences to figure out what you mean. Using appropriate transitions or signals (furthermore, therefore) to tie sentences and paragraphs together solidifies relationships between sentences and paragraphs (“also”–adding information, “however”–contrasting an idea in the preceding sentence), making your essay organized and clear.

Starting each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that previews the main idea or focus of the paragraph helps both writer and reader keep track of each part of the argument. Each section furthers your points on the way to convincing your reader of your argument. If one point is unclear, unfocused, or grammatically unintelligible, like a house of cards, the entire argument crumbles. Excellent compositional skills help you lay it all out orderly, clearly, and completely.

So by the time the conclusion takes the reader to your parting words, you have done all of the following:

  • followed the prompt
  • followed the propounded thesis statement in exact order promised
  • provided a full discussion with examples
  • included quotes, paraphrases, and citations, proving each assertion
  • used clear, grammatically correct sentences
  • written paragraphs ordered by a thesis statement
  • created topic sentences for each paragraph
  • ensured each topic sentence furthered the ideas presented in the thesis statement

Have a Plan and Follow it

It takes discipline to lay out an order, a strict time limit for each essay, and stick to them. To score high on the AP Language and Composition FRQs, practice planning responses under tight time constraints. Write as many practice essays as you can. Follow the same process each time.

First, be sure to read the instructions carefully, highlighting, circling, or underlining the parts of the prompt you absolutely must cover. Then quickly pencil a scratch outline of the order you intend to cover each point in support of your argument. You should write a clear thesis statement, written as a complete sentence, as well as the topic sentences to each paragraph. Then quickly write underneath each topic sentence, the quotes and details you’ll use to support the topic sentences. Then refer to your outline often and follow it faithfully.

Be sure to give yourself enough time to review and revise. Give your essay a brief read over to catch mechanical errors, missing words, or necessary insertions to clarify an incomplete or unclear thought. With time, an organized approach, and plenty of practice, earning high scores on the AP English Language and Composition FRQs is attainable. Be sure to ask your teacher or consult other resources, like albert.io’s English Literature practice essays, if you’re unsure how to identify poetic devices, prose elements, or just need more practice writing literary analyses.

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