In the lesson, our professor Rebekah Hendershot goes through an introduction on tips for the test. She discusses what the test will be like, what to bring and what not to bring, preparing for the multiple choice section, the rhetorical analysis essay, the argumentative essay, the synthesis essay, and last minute strategies.
The AP English Language and Composition Test is 3 hours and 15 minutes long.
The test is usually held at schools, although you may have to travel to another campus to take it if your school does not offer this exam.
The testing environment is usually quiet and nervous—there’s no talking allowed once the exam begins, but everyone is under stress because it’s a high-stakes test.
The proctors take cheating, and the appearance of cheating, very seriously. Rarely a student will be pulled out or have his or her results voided for cheating.
You will usually have 1 hour to complete the multiple-choice section, a 15-minute reading period, and 2 hours to complete the three essays.
What to Bring
Several sharpened No. 2 pencils with good erasers. (2-4 is usually sufficient.) Even if you don’t normally break pencils, it might happen on a high-stakes test.
Pens with dark blue or black ink. Bring several—preferably relatively new, tested out in advance.
Your six-digit school code.
A photo ID if you’re taking the exam at a school other than your own.
Your Social Security number (optional, but recommended). Some colleges prefer to see your SSN on your test results.
Your SSD Student Accommodation Letter if you have been approved for extra time or other accommodation.
What Not to Bring
Cell phones, digital cameras, personal digital assistants (PDAs), BlackBerry smartphones, Bluetooth-enabled devices, MP3 players, email/messaging devices, or any other electronic or communication devices.
Portable recording or listening devices (even with headphones) or anything that takes pictures.
Food and drink.
There are exceptions to this list for students who have been approved for accommodation. These arrangements must be made in advance with the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities office.
Preparing for the Multiple-Choice Section
Read, read, read! The more you read, and the more widely you read, the better you will be at interpreting what you read. That’s what the multiple-choice section is all about!
Read what you’re assigned in school—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, you name it.
Read what you enjoy.
Read things that challenge you—newspapers, nonfiction books, classic literature, texts with slightly challenging vocabulary.
Take practice tests, replicating actual test conditions as well as you can.
Preparing for the Rhetorical Analysis Essay
Read arguments—both classic ones and contemporary ones.
Classic arguments include the work of Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, famous speeches, and opinion essays. (Check out Thomas Paine, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the Federalist papers, documents for and against the preservation of slavery, etc.)
Contemporary arguments can be found on the op-ed pages of newspapers and news websites. You can even find arguments in commercials and other advertising.
As you read, try to pick out the elements of argument and identify any logical fallacies or rhetorical modes.
Practice writing essays under test conditions.
Preparing for the Argumentative Essay
Pick a few contemporary issues and practice writing arguments on all sides of them. Make sure to follow the elements of argument, to use your rhetorical modes, and to avoid fallacies.
Use a quotation website or a book of famous quotations to find clear statements of opinion. Do you agree, disagree, or fall somewhere in the middle? Outline your arguments.
Read widely and well to build up your store of support.
Practice writing essays under test conditions—including the time limit.
Preparing for the Synthesis Essay
Read, read, and read AGAIN! This essay is all about your ability to read and interpret a variety of texts.
Pick a few current issues and read a variety of sources on all sides of the debate. Include visual elements like posters, cartoons, and photographs. Plan how you would write an essay explaining each issue to someone unfamiliar with the question.
Practice writing essays under test conditions.
Scout the location before test day. Can you find the building? The room?
Pack your kit for the test the night before. Don’t leave it until morning.
Read something you enjoy the night before the test. Don’t stay up too late; just relax and let your brain absorb a favorite subject or a beloved story. You might be able to use whatever you read on the test, and it will definitely get you in a better mood.
Get a good night’s sleep.
Eat a good breakfast.
Avoid any food or behavior that will “crash” your system during the test—no sugar or caffeine highs, please.
Relax. No, really. It will give you an advantage over all the stressed-out students who aren’t thinking straight.
Bring spare writing utensils. Seriously.
Don’t forget your paperwork (ID, letter, etc.)
Remember that any individual question isn’t worth much on the test, so if something baffles you, do your best and move on. This test is a marathon, not a sprint.
Don’t think about consequences during the test. Focus on the task at hand, one step at a time.
Set yourself a reward for finishing the exam. Performing well is easier with a carrot than with a stick.
Once the test is over, relax! There’s nothing you can do now to raise or lower your score. You’ve earned a break.
And Remember …
Thousands of students take this exam every year. A large number of them get 4s or 5s. If you’ve studied and practiced, you are already ahead of half your competition.
Have fun! It shows!
Tips for the Test
Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.
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