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For more information, please see full course syllabus of AP English Literature & Composition
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Intro to The Essay Section

  • The Numbers
    • Three essays, 120 minutes (about 40 minutes per essay)
      • One essay on a prose passage
      • One essay on a poem or pair of poems
      • One open essay
    • Worth 55 percent of your test grade
      • Slightly more important than the multiple-choice section
      • Not that much more important
    • Scored holistically by a specialized Reader on a scale from 0 to 9.
  • The Prompt
    • “Read the following work carefully. Then, write a well-organized essay in which you discuss the manner in which the author conveys ideas and meaning. Discuss the techniques the author uses to make this passage effective. Avoid summary.”
    • What does that mean?
      • “What does this passage mean?” (Don’t dwell on the literal meaning; focus on the emotional content, and DO NOT SUMMARIZE.)
      • “How does the author make you understand that?” (This is the part where you talk about diction, imagery, pace, and all that stuff.)
  • Holistic Scoring
    • Your essays won’t be graded according to a checklist.
    • Your score reflects the overall quality of your essay, taken as a whole—and it also reflects the reader’s opinion of that quality.
    • ETS table leaders choose real essays from each year’s crop to represent typical essays of each level. They then use these samples to train the readers.
    • A reader will end up re-reading and re-correcting certain essays at random, and every reader will grade some essays that other readers have already graded, to ensure consistency.
  • What the Reader Wants
    • The reader wants an essay that is easy to score.
      • The clearer and more outstanding your writing, the greater the odds that you’ll quickly be given a high score, and then passed on.
    • The reader wants an essay that is interesting.
      • Three-quarters of the essays each reader encounters will be average or worse.
      • A compelling beginning and a strong writing style will earn you a lot of points immediately.
  • Scoring Guide
    • Scores 8-9 (6%):
      • A well-written, well-organized essay that clearly analyzes the work
      • Uses apt, specific references to discuss diction, imagery, pace, point of view, etc.
      • Demonstrates an understanding of the text and of the techniques of composition.
      • Expresses ideas skillfully and clearly.
    • Scores 6-7 (30%):
      • Resembles a higher-scoring essay, but is less precise and has less apt support.
      • Has most of the characteristics of higher-scoring essays, but uses them to less effect.
      • 7 essays display fewer mechanical errors and use slightly better specific examples than 6 essays.
    • Score 5 (23%):
      • Superficial.
      • On-topic, but misses the complexity of the text and offers only a perfunctory analysis.
      • Overly generalized treatment of elements such as diction, imagery, point of view.
      • Conveys writer’s thoughts, but is commonplace, ill-conceived, disorganized, and/or simplistic in its writing.
      • An average score, and one dreaded by readers.
    • Scores 3-4 (37%):
      • Incomplete understanding of the passage
      • Discussion unclear or misses the point
      • Scanty treatment of literary elements
      • Unsupported statements
      • Marked weaknesses in English mechanics
    • Scores 1-2 (4%):
      • Like a 3 or 4, but worse!
      • May completely misunderstand the prompt/passage, or simply summarize instead of analyzing.
      • Incoherent, too short, or both.
      • Poor organization.
      • Poor English mechanics
    • Score 0:
      • Fails to address the question, and may only reference its existence.
    • Score “—”:
      • Completely off-topic or no answer.
      • Receives no points.
  • The Two Secrets of Essay Scores
    • Clarity is everything!
    • Clear organization, clear examples, clear prose style
    • You don’t have to be profound if you can be clear.
    • It’s all about level 5.
    • Readers mentally divide essays into “above 5,” “5”, and “below 5”.
    • Above level 5, essays sparkle (at least a little) and the reader can get into what the writer is saying more than how he or she is saying it.
    • If you can understand what you read and write fairly well, your goal should be a 6 or 7 minimum. After that, the tricks to raise your score are more specialized.
  • How to Make Any Essay Better
    • Write neatly. Printing is fine (in fact, it’s usually better than cursive).
    • Indent your paragraphs.
    • Write your first paragraph perfectly.
    • Use literary vocabulary (for poetry: diction, imagery, metaphor, rhyme, and form; for prose: point of view, characterization, diction, imagery, and metaphor).
    • Use verbs that sizzle and nouns that soar.
    • Be specific.
    • Beware of logorrhea. Use the best word, not the longest one.
    • Answer the question.
  • How to Make a Good Essay Great
    • Focus on the whatand the howwhat the author is saying (or implying) and how he’s getting that point across.
    • Talk about language. Talk about imagery. These things are pretty much always important.
    • Use opposition—the pairing of two or more unlike elements (big and small, inside and outside, introverted and extroverted, etc.).
    • Trust your instincts. If a passage makes you think or feel a certain way, go with that.
    • If a new idea occurs to you as you’re writing, work it in. Hyper-organized, conventional essays get 5s. Loosely organized, original essays get 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s.

Intro to The Essay Section

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.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:12
  • The Numbers 0:34
    • Three Essays, 120 minutes
    • Worth 55% of your grade
    • Scored 0 to 9
  • The Prompt 1:48
    • What the prompt says
    • What does that mean?
  • Holistic Scoring 3:16
  • What the Reader Wants 4:34
    • An essay that is easy to score
    • An essay that is interesting
  • Scoring Guide 5:38
    • Scores 8-9 (6%)
    • Scores 6-7 (30%)
    • Score 5 (23%)
    • Scores 3-4 (37%)
    • Scores 1-2 (4%)
    • Score 0
    • Score “--”
  • The Two Secrets of Essay Scores 9:34
    • Clarity is everything!
    • Its all about level 5
  • How to Make Any Essay Better 11:14
    • Write neatly
    • Indent your paragraphs
    • Write first paragraph perfectly
    • Use literary vocab
    • Use verbs that sizzle and nouns that soar
    • Be specific
    • Beware of logorrhea
    • Answer the question
  • How to Make a Good Essay Great 15:58
    • Focus on the what and the how
    • Talk about language
    • Use opposition
    • Trust your instincts
    • Make it original
  • The Ultimate Essay Secret 18:47