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- What is the AP Language Argument Essay?
- Tips for Writing the AP Language Argument Essay
- AP English Language Essay Argument Example
- How Will AP Scores Impact My College Chances?
In 2020, over 535,000 students across the U.S. took the AP English Language and Composition exam and 62% scored higher than a three. The AP English Language exam tests your ability to analyze a piece of writing, synthesize information, write a rhetorical essay, and create a cohesive argument. In this post, we’ll be discussing the best way to approach the argumentative essay section of the test, and give you tips and tricks so you can write a great essay.
What is the AP Language Argument Essay?
The AP English Language exam is structured as follows:
Section 1: 45 multiple choice questions to be completed in an hour. This portion counts for 45% of your score. These questions will ask students to analyze a piece of literature and ask questions about its content or what could be edited within the passage.
Section 2: three free response questions to be completed in the remaining two hours and 15 minutes. This section counts for 55% of your score. These essay questions include the synthesis essay, the rhetorical essay, and the argumentative essay.
- Synthesis essay: Read 6-7 sources and create an argument using at least three of the sources.
- Rhetorical analysis essay: Describe how a piece of writing evokes meaning and symbolism.
- Argumentative essay: Pick a side of a debate and create an argument based on evidence. For this essay, you should develop a logical argument in support or against the statement given and provide ample evidence that supports your conclusion. Typically, a five paragraph format is great for this type of writing. This essay is scored holistically from one to nine points.
Do you want more information on the structure of the full exam? Take a look at our in-depth overview of the AP Language exam.
Tips for Writing the AP Language Argument Essay
Although the AP Language Argument may seem daunting at first, once you understand how the essay should be structured it will be a lot easier to create cohesive arguments. Below are some tips to help you as you write the essay.
1. Organize your essay before writing
Instead of jumping right into your essay, plan out what you will say beforehand. It is easiest to make a list of your arguments and write out what facts or evidence you will use to support each argument. In your outline, you can determine the best order for your arguments, especially if they build on each other or are chronological. Having a well-organized essay is crucial for success.
2. Pick one side of the argument, but acknowledge the other side
When you write the essay, it is best if you pick one side of the debate and stick with it in the entire essay. All of your evidence should be in support of that one side. However, in your introductory paragraph as you introduce the debate, be sure to mention if there are merits to the arguments of the other side. This can make the essay a bit more nuanced and show that you did consider both sides before determining the best one. Often, acknowledging another viewpoint but then refuting it can make your essay stronger.
3. Provide evidence to support your claims
AP readers will be looking for examples and evidence to support your argument. This doesn’t mean that you need to memorize a bunch of random facts before the exam. This just means that you should be able to provide concrete examples in support of your argument. For example, if the essay topic is about whether the role of the media in society has been detrimental or not and you argue that it has been, you may talk about the phenomenon of “fake news” during the 2016 election. The AP readers are not looking for perfect examples, but they are looking for you to give enough evidence so that your claim can be easily understood and backed up using examples.
4. Create a strong thesis statement
The thesis statement will set up your entire essay, so it is important that it is focused, specific, and sets up the reader to understand your body paragraphs. Make sure your thesis statement is the very last sentence of your introductory paragraph. In this sentence, list out the key points you will be making in the essay in the same order that you write them. Each new point you mention in your thesis should start a paragraph in your essay.
AP English Language Argument Essay Example
Below is a prompt and sample student essay from the May 2019 exam. We’ll look at what the student did well in their writing and where they could improve.
The term “overrated” is often used to diminish concepts, places, roles, etc. that the speaker believes do not deserve the prestige they commonly enjoy; for example, many writers have argued that success is overrated, a character in a novel by Anthony Burgess famously describes Rome as a “vastly overrated city,” and Queen Rania of Jordan herself has asserted that “[b]eing queen is overrated.”
Select a concept, place, role, etc. to which you believe that the term “overrated” should be applied. Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment. Use appropriate evidence from your reading, experience, or observations to support your argument.
Sample student essay:
 Competition is “overrated.” The notion of motivation between peers has evolved into a source of unnecessary stress and even lack of morals. Whether it be in an academic environment or in the industry, this new idea of competition is harmful to those competing and those around them.
 Back in elementary school, competition was rather friendly. It could have been who could do the most pushups or who could get the most imaginary points in a classroom for a prize. If you couldn’t do the most pushups or win that smelly sticker, you would go home and improve yourself – there would be no strong feelings towards anyone, you would just focus on making yourself a better version of yourself. Then as high school rolled around, suddenly applying for college doesn’t seem so far away –GPA seems to be that one stat that defines you – extracurriculars seem to shape you – test scores seem to categorize you. Sleepless nights, studying for the next day’s exam, seem to become more and more frequent. Floating duck syndrome seems to surround you (FDS is where a competitive student pretends to not work hard but is furiously studying beneath the surface just like how a duck furiously kicks to stay afloat). All of your competitors appear to hope you fail – but in the end what do you and your competitor’s gain? Getting one extra point on the test? Does that self-satisfaction compensate for the tremendous amounts of acquired stress? This new type of “competition” is overrated – it serves nothing except a never-ending source of anxiety and seeks to weaken friendships and solidarity as a whole in the school setting.
 A similar idea of “competition” can be applied to business. On the most fundamental level, competition serves to be a beneficial regulator prices and business models for both the business themselves and consumers. However, as businesses grew increasingly greedy and desperate, companies have resorted to immoral tactics that only hurt their reputations and consumers as a whole. Whether it be McDonald’s coupons that force you to buy more food or tech companies like Apple intentionally slowing down your iPhone after 3 years to force you to upgrade to the newest device, consumers suffer and in turn speak down upon these companies. Similar to the evolved form of competition in school, this overrated form causes pain for all parties and has since diverged from the encouraging nature that the principle of competition was “founded” on.
The AP score for this essay was a 4/9, meaning that it captured the main purpose of the essay but there were still substantial parts missing. In this essay, the writer did a good job organizing the sections and making sure that their writing was in order according to the thesis statement. The essay first discusses how competition is harmful in elementary school and then in business. This follows the chronological order of somebody’s life and flows nicely.
The arguments within this essay are problematic as they do not provide enough examples of how exactly competition is overrated. The essay discusses the context in which competition is overrated but does not go far enough in explaining how this connects with the prompt. In the first example, school stress is used to explain how competition manifests. This is a good starting point, but it does not talk about why competition is overrated, only simply that competition can be unhealthy. The last sentence of that paragraph is the main point of the argument and should be expanded to discuss how the anxiety of school is overrated later on in life.
In the second example, the writer discusses how competition can lead to harmful business practices, but again, this does not discuss why this would be overrated. Is competition really overrated because Apple and McDonald’s force you to buy new products? This example could’ve been taken one step further and instead of explaining why business structures such as monopolies harm competition, the author should discuss how those structures are overrated.
Additionally, the examples the writer used lack detail. A stronger essay would’ve provided more in-depth examples. This essay seemed to mention examples only in passing without using them to defend their argument.
It should also be noted that the structure of the essay is incomplete. The introduction only has a thesis statement and no additional context. Also, there is no conclusion paragraph that sums up the essay. These missing components result in a 4/9.
How Will AP Scores Impact my College Chances?
Now that you’ve looked at an example essay and some tips for the argumentative essay, you know how to better prepare for the AP English Language Exam.
While your AP scores don’t usually impact your admissions chances, colleges do care a lot about your course rigor. So, taking as many APs as you can will certainly boost your chances!
To understand how your course rigor stacks up, check out our free admissions calculator. This resource takes your course rigor, test scores, extracurriculars, and demographics to determine your chances of getting into over 500 colleges in the U.S. Best of all, it’s free!
In your introduction, make sure that you include a strong, analytical thesis statement, a sentence that explains your paper's idea and defines the scope of your essay. Also, be sure that the introduction lets the reader know that you're on topic; use key phrases from the question if necessary.How do you write an introduction for an AP Lang argument essay? ›
In your introduction, make sure that you include a strong, analytical thesis statement, a sentence that explains your paper's idea and defines the scope of your essay. Also, be sure that the introduction lets the reader know that you're on topic; use key phrases from the question if necessary.How to write an argumentative essay step by step with examples? ›
- Introduce the problem.
- Explain your opponent's perspective first. Validate their points when correct.
- Explain your perspective.
- Bring both sides together. Present a middle ground where both viewpoints coexist.
- Conclude your (balanced) argument.
For a timed AP® Lang argument essay, you'll likely have 2, possibly 3, body paragraphs. Think of your main ideas as “sub claims,” meaning that these claims should relate to your thesis. As you're writing your main ideas, be sure to think about the best order for them.What is the format of argument essay? ›
The standard argumentative essay consists of five paragraphs: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction of an argumentative essay should include background information that contextualizes a topic for the reader and a thesis that succinctly explains the essay's position.How do you start an argumentative essay starter? ›
Start with a hook or attention getting sentence. Briefly summarize the texts • State your claim. Make sure you are restating the prompt. Include a topic sentence that restates your claim and your reason.What is the AP Lang essay structure? ›
The AP English Language section contains three essay prompts: a synthesis essay, a rhetorical analysis essay, and an argument essay. Synthesis essay: You'll be given a scenario and tasked with writing a response using at least three of six or seven short accompanying sources for support.Can you use first person in AP Lang argumentative essay? ›
We don't recommend using the first person pronoun in an argumentative essay. Unless your instructor suggests that you do so, omit it from the assignment because your writing will read better without it.What is a good sentence starter for an argumentative essay? ›
According to … Based on the findings of ... it can be argued... … proposed that … It can be argued… Arguably…What are the 5 main parts of an argumentative essay? ›
Information is used, but it is organized based on these major components of an argument: claim, reason, evidence, counter-claim, and rebuttal.
- Introduce the problem. Introduce the problem or issue at the center of your argument. ...
- Present your claim. ...
- Support your claim. ...
- Acknowledge the opposing side of the argument. ...
- Restate your claim.
Your CLAIM should consider the opposing argument and provide a REASON why you believe your CLAIM. Example: Although I disagree with much that those who oppose animal testing say, I fully endorse their final conclusion that there are many better alternatives to animal testing.What are the 3 steps in writing an argumentative essay? ›
- Step 1: Pick a topic and write a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a one or two sentence summary of the central message or main claim of your essay. ...
- Step 2: Research your ideas and organise your findings. ...
- Step 3: Draft a structure and write your essay.
Yes, you can start your argumentative essay with a question or with a thesis statement. Or you can do both - ask a question and then immediately answer it with a statement.What is a thesis for an argumentative essay in AP Lang? ›
A strong thesis statement for an argument essay states a clear position on the issue. The thesis often includes a word or phrase that signals an opinion, such as should, ought to, need to, have an obligation to, or even must or had better.How long does it take to write an AP Lang essay? ›
Students are given 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete the essays. (This includes an extra 15 minutes exclusively for reading the passages for the synthesis essay.) The suggested time for writing each essay is 40 minutes. You must complete all three essays within the 2-hour writing time limit.How many pieces of evidence do you need in an AP Lang essay? ›
Each body paragraph should be at least five-eight sentences long and should include 1-2 pieces of evidence to support your argument.What are the 4 elements of argument essay? ›
The 4 parts of an argumentative essay are the claim, counterclaim, reasoning, and evidence.Can you start an argumentative essay with a quote? ›
Start With a Hook
Start your introduction with a sentence that gets the reader interested in the topic. To pique the reader's interest, you can begin with a quote, a personal story, a surprising statistic or an interesting question.
- Introductory paragraph. The first paragraph of your essay should outline the topic, provide background information necessary to understand your argument, outline the evidence you will present and states your thesis.
- The thesis statement. ...
- Body paragraphs. ...
DON'T preface a statement with phrases such as, “I believe,” or “I think.” These expressions only serve to weaken the statement. It's akin to an apology for your opinion. Unless you are quoting or paraphrasing, it's a given you “believe” or “think” something.What are some good sentence openers? ›
- For example . . .
- For instance . . .
- To illustrate . . .
- Specifically . . .
- We can see this in . . .
- This is evidenced by . . .
- Consider the [case/example] of . . .
It can be done by using a few different types of hooks, which are a question, quote, statistic, or anecdote. Be mindful that the hook has to be related to the overall topic of the paper.What is the hardest AP class? ›
This class combines physics, scientific inquiry, and algebra. AP Physics 1 is considered one of the hardest AP classes, covering topics like Newtonian mechanics and electrical charge and force. Students also spend about 25% of their class time performing college-level lab experiments and writing reports.
AP English Language and Composition is considered moderate difficulty, with class alumnae rating it 5.2/10 for overall difficulty (the 16th-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed). The pass rate is lower than other AP classes, with 56% graduating with a 3 or higher.What is a good AP Lang essay score? ›
High Score (8-9)
Overall, high-scoring essays present thoroughly developed, intelligent ideas; sound and logical organization; strong evidence; and articulate diction. Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate significant understanding of the passage, its intent, and the rhetorical strategies the author employs.
"One," "the reader," "readers," "the viewer," or something similar sometimes can be used effectively in place of first-person pronouns in formal papers, but be careful not to overuse these expressions. You want to sound formal, not awkward and stiff.What to say instead of I believe in an argumentative essay? ›
- “In my opinion, + [your sentence]”
- “I believe that + [your sentence]”
- “In my mind, + [your sentence]”
- “It would seem that + [your sentence]”
- “It could be argued that + [your sentence]”
- “This suggests that + [your sentence]”
- “This proves that + [your sentence]”
Even though you're writing your argument from a single opinion, don't use first person language—"I think," "I feel," "I believe,"—to present your claims. Doing so is repetitive, since by writing the essay you're already telling the audience what you feel, and using first person language weakens your writing voice.What are the 5 sentence openers? ›
In this lesson you have learned to use several kinds of sentence openers: dependent clause, prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, -ing word groups, and transitional words.
Your thesis statement is the most important sentence in your essay.What are 7 ways to start a sentence? ›
- Adjective (a word that modifies a noun) ...
- Adverb (a word that modifies a verb) ...
- Prepositional phrase (a phrase that starts with a preposition) ...
- Infinitive phrase. ...
- Gerund phrase. ...
- Participle phrase. ...
- Adverb clause.
Because argumentative essays usually follow a five-paragraph structure, your structure should be as follows: First paragraph: introduction and thesis statement. Second to the fourth paragraph: body paragraphs, each one detailing your claims. Fifth paragraph: conclusion.What is an example of an argumentative sentence? ›
He was in an argumentative mood and appeared disagreeable with his assignment in Denver. She changes from a loud, happy and bubbly person into being argumentative and aggressive. I was an argumentative, stroppy drunk. Ordinarily, you'd have a quick comeback for anybody in an argumentative mood.What are the 3 essential parts of an argumentative essay? ›
- Claim: Claims assert your position on an issue. ...
- Arguments: You also need to provide reasons to support your claim(s), and back up your reasons with evidence (note: your "evidence" is usually what you have found by doing your research!).
- Counterarguments: ...
- Select an arguable topic, preferably one which interests, puzzles, or appeals to you. ...
- Take a position on your topic, and form a thesis statement. ...
- Consider your audience. ...
- Present clear and convincing evidence. ...
- Draft your essay. ...
- Edit your draft.
- An opening hook to catch the reader's attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
- Is the death penalty effective?
- Is our election process fair?
- Is the electoral college outdated?
- Should we have lower taxes?
- How many Supreme Court Justices should there be?
- Should there be different term limits for elected officials?
- Should the drinking age be lowered?
- Pre-Write/Outline. ...
- Make sure you begin each paragraph with a topic sentence. ...
- Make sure every topic sentence (and therefore, every paragraph) relates directly back to your thesis statement. ...
- Use effective transitions between paragraphs. ...
- Re-read your paper!
For each body paragraph, you must first clearly state the reason in a topic sentence. Next, you must provide relevant and specific evidence to support this reason. Then you must explain how that evidence supports your reason. Finally, you must show how this reason relates back to your thesis or overall view.
- Fail to address the question's topic in your introduction. ...
- Stray from the focus of the question (especially in the conclusion) ...
- Insert quotes without introducing them or relating them back to the topic. ...
- Fail to provide references. ...
- Use informal language, colloquialisms, or overuse rhetorical questions.
A good argument is one where there is a logical connection between the assumptions presented and the final conclusion. If you've taken a geometry class, it's a bit like writing a geometric proof: Given that this is true, therefore, that must be true.What is an argumentative essay in AP Lang? ›
Argumentative essay: Pick a side of a debate and create an argument based on evidence. For this essay, you should develop a logical argument in support or against the statement given and provide ample evidence that supports your conclusion. Typically, a five paragraph format is great for this type of writing.What is an argument in AP language? ›
Simply put, an argument is an opinion (claim) supported by evidence. Evidence can take on different forms depending on the nature of the argument, the purpose of the argument, and the needs of the audience.How do you write an argument in an academic essay? ›
- Claim. At the heart of all arguments is a claim – the main premise that you are interested in proving. ...
- Proof. To convince your reader of your claim, you will need to provide some proof. ...
- Objections. ...
- Conclusion. ...
- Internal. ...
Information is used, but it is organized based on these major components of an argument: claim, reason, evidence, counter-claim, and rebuttal.How much evidence do you need for AP Lang argumentative essay? ›
First body paragraph + argument
Each body paragraph should be at least five-eight sentences long and should include 1-2 pieces of evidence to support your argument. o Make sure you effectively transition from the thesis to the first piece of evidence.
An argumentative essay is an essay that uses evidence and facts to support the claim it's making. Its purpose is to persuade the reader to agree with the argument being made. A good argumentative essay will use facts and evidence to support the argument, rather than just the author's thoughts and opinions.