AP English Language and Composition Essay Rubric

The College Board’s AP English Language and Composition exam are designed to test a student’s understanding of literary analysis and writing. It is considered the equivalent of an introductory course in English literary analysis. 

According to the College Board, which administers the exam, students develop argument and composition skills during an AP English Language and Composition course and use those skills to develop their ability to read critically and write effectively. “You’ll read and analyze nonfiction works from various periods and write essays with different aims: for example, to explain an idea, argue a point, or persuade your reader of something.” The course culminates in an AP exam, administered each May, in which students demonstrate their skills and knowledge through a series of multiple-choice questions and essays.

Many students who take AP courses wonder exactly how they will be scored when it comes to their AP English Language and Composition exam essays. The College Board publishes the scoring rubrics, which students can use to help develop their essay-writing skills in advance of the exam.

In this article, we’ll review the AP rubrics used to grade student essays and offer some thoughts about how students can best prepare for their AP exams.

Before we begin, we should talk a bit about Advanced Placement courses.

Why AP Courses?

AP courses have long been the gold standard for high school students looking to earn college-level credit and get a jump start on their college or university studies. An ambitious student taking a full load of AP courses can sometimes earn a full year of college credit, shaving time off their college career and helping gain entry to advanced level courses faster. AP courses are known for being rigorous and adhering to exceptional standards of quality. Because they culminate in a national exam, they also have the benefit of being fairly consistent wherever they are taught.

At the same time, AP courses have sometimes received criticism as elitist because they often require additional fees, which can put them beyond the reach of some students who would otherwise benefit from an enriched curriculum.

That said, students generally find that they benefit from AP exams and that the experience is overwhelmingly positive in a time when curriculum standards are often watered down.

AP English Language and Composition Classes

The AP English Language and Composition course is designed to impart fundamental college-level skills. The course teaches students how to closely read, analyze, and interpret pieces of writing. It teaches students to evaluate information and to gather and collate information from a variety of sources. The course also teaches students how to develop and articulate a fully supported argument in writing. This process culminates in a 3-hour and 15-minute exam in which students demonstrate what they have learned. According to the College Board, “The AP English Language and Composition Exam will test your understanding of the literary concepts covered in the course units, as well as your ability to analyze texts and develop written arguments based on your interpretations.”

That can sound intimidating, especially when students are asked to develop a written argument about a text that they have not yet seen. Fortunately, the scoring rubric offers some help to point students in the right direction to plan ahead for the essays that they are going to write.

Of course, if you have any fears about writing your AP English Language and Composition essays, it can be helpful to look at some models. Many students have found that purchasing professional academic essay writing services from an online writing service like SmartWritingService.com can be beneficial. When you work with a writer from a custom writing service, you can receive papers that will show you exactly how a professional would approach your topic and develop an essay to address it. In this case, professional writers can develop sample AP English Language and Composition essays that can show you the best way to approach sample questions so you can better develop your own paper when the time comes.

AP English Language and Composition Scoring Rubrics

The College Board publishes scoring rubrics that explain how students will be evaluated on the essays that they write for the AP exam. There are three essays: the synthesis essay, the rhetoric essay, and the argument essay. Each has its own rubric, which you can find on the College Board’s website.

While the three essays are somewhat different, the scoring rubrics have some basic commonalities that students should understand. First, essays need to have a clear and defined thesis statement. Second, they need to respond to the essay prompt and not merely restate it. The essays are also scored on their evidence and commentary—meaning how well the student explains the essay topic and develops a clear analysis of the material in the essay. Finally, essays are scored on “sophistication.” This is the most ambiguous of the categories, but the AP rubric explains what this means. In a sophisticated essay, the “response demonstrates the sophistication of thought and/or a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation.” That might not be very helpful, but what it means is that the essay is nuanced, can articulate clear and compelling points, and uses a clear and well-developed writing style to speak persuasively to the audience.

Overall, the three rubrics are very similar, and they provide a general guide to the level of language and analysis AP scorers will be looking for.

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