how to write a good ap lit thesis statement

How to Encourage Students to Master the AP Lit Thesis

  • December 1, 2021
  • AP Literature , Writing

For years, I have used a Poem of the Week as part of my poetry instruction in AP Literature .  Last year, because the pandemic resulted in hybrid instruction and only 50% (or fewer) of my kids were in class at a time, I wanted to be sure that I put some significant emphasis on AP Lit thesis writing.

As part of our weekly poem study, the Friday prompt became an AP-style poetry essay prompt.  Students only needed to write a thesis.  And early in the year, it became evident that our thesis statements needed work.

The AP Lit Thesis is probably the most important point a student can earn on the AP Literature exam.  Students either get it or they don't.  And that thesis is key to setting students up to earn the other rubric points.  Read on to help your students write a better thesis...

AP Literature Thesis Statements and “The Point”

When the College Board came out with the new rubrics in 2019, they set aside a point that is designated for the thesis.  It’s one point and students either get it or they don’t.  And truthfully, it is not that hard to “get” the point.  Students must simply “provide a defensible interpretation in response to the prompt” which could be supported by the text (for more, see AP Central).  So in other words, students must be able to find *something* in the text that they can write about beyond a summary.

Early on, I observed two things: 1. Not all AP Lit thesis statement are created equal (even if they do earn the point) and 2.  Students needed help moving from making a base claim to making a strong claims that lead to better analysis later in the essay.

AP Lit Thesis Starting Points

At the beginning of the year, my kids were writing things like

  • The author uses metaphors to reveal that life gives you new, and endless opportunities each and every day. 
  • Merriam’s use of her metaphor for a new day in “Metaphor” reveals her positive outlook on life.
  • eve marriam’s use of metaphor shows that she feels that every day is new day to write your own story.
  • Love can cause pain
  • Lowell uses diction and figurative language to show her intimate and spiritual connection to her partner in the poem
  • Through Lowell’s uses of poetic elements and techniques, she’s able to carefully convert the speaker’s complex relationship with whoever they’re addressing. 

While indeed some of these would earn the thesis point, they do no convey the depth that a good, strong AP Lit thesis will.  We want students to address the complexity of the text and these just don’t cut it. 

The Issue of Complexity

So the first step in helping students to develop a strong thesis is to get beyond just repeating the topic with a few elements of author’s craft thrown in.  They have to be sure that they are fully addressing the complexity of the topic highlighted by the task.

The first set of thesis statements above go with Eve Merriam’s poem “Metaphor.”   This is my favorite poem to start the school year with because it reflects where we are.  Each school year is also like a “new sheet of paper.”

We spend the week discussing the poem ( My daily prompts are available here. ) Then on Friday, I present students with the following prompt:

In Eve Merriam’s poem “Metaphor” (1986), the speaker portrays the blankness of a new day.  In a well written essay, analyze how Merriam uses poetic elements and techniques to convey the speaker’s complex attitude toward life.

And while all of the above thesis statements DO say something about her attitude toward life, none of them get to how it is complex.  So the first step is to get students thinking about contrasts within the poem and other elements that help add to the depth of the text.  A good way to do this might be through the Interstate, Microscope and Compass Technique from Gina at Lit and More.

The AP Lit Thesis is probably the most important point a student can earn on the AP Literature exam.  Students either get it or they don't.  And that thesis is key to setting students up to earn the other rubric points.  Read on to help your students write a better thesis...

AP® Lit Literary Argument

Once students see complexity in a text, they can move into developing a more complex AP® literature thesis statement. 

It is also important to remind them that the College Board calls these essays “literary argument.”  And an argument is by definition something that has two sides.  When we teach argument writing to our English 11 students in preparation for the New York State English Regents we encourage them to include the counterargument in their thesis.  And although a literary argument doesn’t necessarily have a counterargument, it should have two sides.  In other words, complexity.

In these early stages, it is sometimes useful to give the students complexity starters that they can use as the basis of their thesis statements.  This is a list that I provide to my students:

  • even though x, y is also true
  • not only j, but also k
  • although d, also e
  • nevertheless
  • notwithstanding
  • in contrast

This list along with other helpful tips on writing AP Literature Thesis Statements is included in my AP Thesis Anchor charts here .

Anchor Charts for AP Literature Writing Tasks help guide students to better essays for the AP exam.

AP® Lit Thesis Examples

As we work through the year, thesis statements that once read “love can cause pain” become 

“Even though Edith Matilda Thomas’s poem entitled “Winter Sleep” appears to be a simplistic take about growing old she also uses poetic elements such as symbolism, diction, and parallel structure to convey a complex attitude towards aging as she looks back on her life.” 

“Although the speaker is reflecting on the spring-like happiness of her youth, she understands that death is coming as she moves into the metaphorical winter of her life due to her old age.”

The AP Lit Thesis is probably the most important point a student can earn on the AP Literature exam.  Students either get it or they don't.  And that thesis is key to setting students up to earn the other rubric points.  Read on to help your students write a better thesis...

Building on Complexity

The key to helping students earn the thesis point on the AP Literature Rubric is to help them understand that they are writing a literary argument and that an argument by its very nature has two sides or two part.  Then include both of those sides in your thesis.

For more help in AP Lit Writing, be sure to check out these other AP Lit Essay Writing Anchor Charts.  

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Is there a way to get working links. Both the link to the poem and the link to the daily prompts are both broken and give an error message when clicked.

Thank you for bringing that to my attention. These links are fixed now.

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  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

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Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

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You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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McCombes, S. (2023, August 15). How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 15, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/thesis-statement/

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AP Literature - Theme Statements and Thesis Statements

september 26, 2019

Candace Moore

Candace Moore

Using the collective annotation of a poem, theme was defined and discussed, and a format was given for students to always be able to create a thematic statement. Then, given a prompt, thesis statements were discussed and established for the same poem, highlighting the difference between thematic statements and thesis statements, especially in the AP context.

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how to write a good ap lit thesis statement

How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay + Example

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What is the ap lang synthesis essay, how will ap scores affect my college chances.

AP English Language and Composition, commonly known as AP Lang, is one of the most engaging and popular AP classes offered at most high schools, with over 535,000 students taking the class . AP Lang tests your ability to analyze written pieces, synthesize information, write rhetorical essays, and create cohesive and concrete arguments. However, the class is rather challenging as only 62% of students were able to score a three or higher on the exam. 

The AP Lang exam has two sections. The first consists of 45 multiple choice questions which need to be completed in an hour. This portion counts for around 45% of your total score. These questions ask students to analyze written pieces and answer questions related to each respective passage.  All possible answer choices can be found within the text, and no prior knowledge of literature is needed to understand the passages.

The second section contains three free-response questions to be finished in under two hours and 15 minutes. This section counts for 55% of your score and includes the synthesis essay, the rhetorical essay, and the argumentative essay.

  • The synthesis essay requires you to read 6-7 sources and create an argument using at least three sources.
  • The rhetorical analysis essay requires you to describe how a piece of writing evokes specific meanings and symbolism.
  • The argumentative essay requires you to pick a perspective of a debate and create an argument based on the evidence provided.

In this post, we will take a look at the AP Lang synthesis essay and discuss tips and tricks to master this part of the exam. We will also provide an example of a well-written essay for review.  

The AP Lang synthesis essay is the first of three essays included in the Free Response section of the AP Lang exam. The exam presents 6-7 sources that are organized around a specific topic, with two of those sources purely visual, including a single quantitative source (like a graph or pie chart). The remaining 4-5 sources are text-based, containing around 500 words each. It’s recommended that students spend an hour on this essay—15 minute reading period, 40 minutes writing, and 5 minutes of spare time to check over work.

Each synthesis essay has a topic that all the sources will relate to. A prompt will explaining the topic and provide some background, although the topics are usually broad so you will probably know something related to the issue. It will also present a claim that students will respond to in an essay format using information from at least three of the provided sources. You will need to take a stance, either agreeing or disagreeing with the position provided in the claim. 

According to the CollegeBoard, they are looking for essays that “combine different perspectives from sources to form a support of a coherent position.” This means that you must state your claim on the topic and highlight relationships between several sources that support your specific position on the topic. Additionally, you’ll need to cite clear evidence from your sources to prove your point.

The synthesis essay counts for six points on the AP Lang exam. Students can receive 0-1 points for writing a thesis statement, 0-4 based on the incorporation of evidence and commentary, and 0-1 points based on the sophistication of thought and demonstration of complex understanding.

While this essay seems extremely overwhelming, considering there are a total of three free-response essays to complete, with proper time management and practiced skills, this essay is manageable and straightforward. In order to enhance the time management aspect of the test to the best of your ability, it is essential to divide the essay up into five key steps.

Step 1: Analyze the Prompt

As soon as the clock starts, carefully read and analyze what the prompt asks from you. It might be helpful to markup the text to identify the most critical details. You should only spend around 2 minutes reading the prompt so you have enough time to read all the sources and figure out your argument. Don’t feel like you need to immediately pick your stance on the claim right after reading the prompt. You should read the sources before you commit to your argument.

Step 2: Read the Sources Carefully

Although you are only required to use 3 of the 6-7 sources provides, make sure you read ALL of the sources. This will allow you to better understand the topic and make the most educated decision of which sources to use in your essay. Since there are a lot of sources to get through, you will need to read quickly and carefully.

Annotating will be your best friend during the reading period. Highlight and mark important concepts or lines from each passage that would be helpful in your essay. Your argument will probably begin forming in your head as you go through the passages, so you will save yourself a lot of time later on if you take a few seconds to write down notes in the margins. After you’ve finished reading a source, reflect on whether the source defends, challenges, or qualifies your argument.

You will have around 13 minutes to read through all the sources, but it’s very possible you will finish earlier if you are a fast reader. Take the leftover time to start developing your thesis and organizing your thoughts into an outline so you have more time to write. 

Step 3: Write a Strong Thesis Statement 

In order to write a good thesis statement, all you have to do is decide your stance on the claim provided in the prompt and give an overview of your evidence. You essentially have three choices on how to frame your thesis statement: You can defend, challenge or qualify a claim that’s been provided by the prompt. 

  • If you are defending the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is correct .
  • If you are challenging the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is incorrect .
  • If you choose to qualify the claim, your job will be to agree to a part of the claim and disagree with another part of the claim. 

A strong thesis statement will clearly state your stance without summarizing the issue or regurgitating the claim. The CollegeBoard is looking for a thesis statement that “states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning on the issue provided in the prompt.”

Step 4: Create a Minimal Essay Outline

Developing an outline might seem like a waste of time when you are up against the clock, but believe us, taking 5-10 minutes to outline your essay will be much more useful in the long run than jumping right into the essay.

Your outline should include your thesis statement and three main pieces of evidence that will constitute each body paragraph. Under each piece of evidence should be 2-3 details from the sources that you will use to back up your claim and some commentary on how that evidence proves your thesis.

Step 5: Write your Essay

Use the remaining 30-35 minutes to write your essay. This should be relatively easy if you took the time to mark up the sources and have a detailed outline.  Remember to add special consideration and emphasis to the commentary sections of the supporting arguments outlined in your thesis. These sentences are critical to the overall flow of the essay and where you will be explaining how the evidence supports or undermines the claim in the prompt.

Also, when referencing your sources, write the in-text citations as follows: “Source 1,” “Source 2,” “Source 3,” etc. Make sure to pay attention to which source is which in order to not incorrectly cite your sources. In-text citations will impact your score on the essay and are an integral part of the process.

After you finish writing, read through your essay for any grammatical errors or mistakes before you move onto the next essay.

Here are six must-have tips and tricks to get a good score on the synthesis essay:

  • Cite at least four sources , even though the minimum requirement is three. Remember not to plagiarize and cite everything you use in your arguments.
  • Make sure to develop a solid and clear thesis . Develop a stable stance for the claim and stick with it throughout the entire paper.
  • Don’t summarize the sources. The summary of the sources does not count as an argument. 
  • You don’t necessarily have to agree with the sources in order to cite them. Using a source to support a counterargument is still a good use of a source.
  • Cite the sources that you understand entirely . If you don’t, it could come back to bite you in the end. 
  • Use small quotes , do not quote entire paragraphs. Make sure the quote does not disrupt the flow or grammar of the sentence you write. 

how to write a good ap lit thesis statement

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Here is an example prompt and essay from 2019 that received 5 of the 6 total points available:

In response to our society’s increasing demand for energy, large-scale wind power has drawn attention from governments and consumers as a potential alternative to traditional materials that fuel our power grids, such as coal, oil, natural gas, water, or even newer sources such as nuclear or solar power. Yet the establishment of large-scale, commercial-grade wind farms is often the subject of controversy for a variety of reasons.

Carefully read the six sources, found on the AP English Language and Composition 2019 Exam (Question 1), including the introductory information for each source. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the most important factors that an individual or agency should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

Source A (photo)

Source B (Layton)

Source C (Seltenrich)

Source D (Brown)

Source E (Rule)

Source F (Molla)

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis presents a defensible position.
  • Select and use evidence from at least 3 of the provided sources to support your line of reasoning. Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the description in parentheses.
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

[1] The situation has been known for years, and still very little is being done: alternative power is the only way to reliably power the changing world. The draw of power coming from industry and private life is overwhelming current sources of non-renewable power, and with dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, it is merely a matter of time before coal and gas fuel plants are no longer in operation. So one viable alternative is wind power. But as with all things, there are pros and cons. The main factors for power companies to consider when building wind farms are environmental boon, aesthetic, and economic factors.

[2] The environmental benefits of using wind power are well-known and proven. Wind power is, as qualified by Source B, undeniably clean and renewable. From their production requiring very little in the way of dangerous materials to their lack of fuel, besides that which occurs naturally, wind power is by far one of the least environmentally impactful sources of power available. In addition, wind power by way of gearbox and advanced blade materials, has the highest percentage of energy retention. According to Source F, wind power retains 1,164% of the energy put into the system – meaning that it increases the energy converted from fuel (wind) to electricity 10 times! No other method of electricity production is even half that efficient. The efficiency and clean nature of wind power are important to consider, especially because they contribute back to power companies economically.

[3] Economically, wind power is both a boon and a bone to electric companies and other users. For consumers, wind power is very cheap, leading to lower bills than from any other source. Consumers also get an indirect reimbursement by way of taxes (Source D). In one Texan town, McCamey, tax revenue increased 30% from a wind farm being erected in the town. This helps to finance improvements to the town. But, there is no doubt that wind power is also hurting the power companies. Although, as renewable power goes, wind is incredibly cheap, it is still significantly more expensive than fossil fuels. So, while it is helping to cut down on emissions, it costs electric companies more than traditional fossil fuel plants. While the general economic trend is positive, there are some setbacks which must be overcome before wind power can take over as truly more effective than fossil fuels.

[4] Aesthetics may be the greatest setback for power companies. Although there may be significant economic and environmental benefit to wind power, people will always fight to preserve pure, unspoiled land. Unfortunately, not much can be done to improve the visual aesthetics of the turbines. White paint is the most common choice because it “[is] associated with cleanliness.” (Source E). But, this can make it stand out like a sore thumb, and make the gargantuan machines seem more out of place. The site can also not be altered because it affects generating capacity. Sound is almost worse of a concern because it interrupts personal productivity by interrupting people’s sleep patterns. One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support.

[5] As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and the consequences. But, by balancing economics, efficiency, and aesthetics, power companies can create a solution which balances human impact with environmental preservation.

More examples can be found here at College Board.

While AP Scores help to boost your weighted GPA, or give you the option to get college credit, AP Scores don’t have a strong effect on your admissions chances . However, colleges can still see your self-reported scores, so you might not want to automatically send scores to colleges if they are lower than a 3. That being said, admissions officers care far more about your grade in an AP class than your score on the exam.

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AP® English Language

How to get a 6 on the argument frq in ap® english language.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: March 1, 2022

How to Get a 6 on the Argument FRQ in AP® English Language

What We Review

Introduction: How to Get a 6 on the Argument FRQ in AP® English Language

Wondering how to get a 6 on the argumentative essay in AP® English Language? 

To score an 5 on the AP® English Argument FRQ question, the CollegeBoard scoring guidelines outline that students need to write an essay that effectively argues a position, uses appropriate and convincing evidence, and showcases a wide range of the elements of writing. Essays that score a 6 do all of that and, additionally, demonstrate sophistication in their argument.

An essay that does all of that is an incredibly well-constructed essay. Such an essay needs a solid framework and excellent support. To do this, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are being asked, to not waffle, to spend time and care with your thesis and outline, and to support every claim you make.

We know the best way to write an AP® English FRQ that does everything right is to understand what you are going to see on the AP® English Language test. Read on to prepare yourself for exam day and earn that 6!

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions

The AP® English argument FRQ is the most straightforward of the AP® English FRQs because it is the most similar to the essays you’re already used to writing. It’s exciting to have free reign and make your own argument, unrestrained from rhetorical analysis devices or documents. But, like most AP® writing, it also can be a little overwhelming.

There’s nothing to read and analyze to provide evidence or help you form an argument. Whether you’re feeling excited or overwhelmed by the AP® writing argument FRQ, consider the rhetorical situation. Be strategic about forming your thesis, craft a strong, chronological argument, and utilize good, supportive evidence to earn a better overall essay response.

Determine the question.

The first question to ask yourself is what am I being asked to do ? This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how tricky it can be to figure out. Look for keywords and phrases that will answer that question.

Here’s an example from the 2019 AP® English Language argumentative essay.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Determine the Question

Though there are just two short paragraphs, there is a lot of room for confusion here. In this case, “Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment.” is the key sentence you are looking for. In 2019, AP® English Language test takers were asked to select a concept, place, role, etc. that they believed was “overrated,” and explain why.

If you cannot determine what the question is, go back and reread the prompt. Focus on the last few sentences, as that’s where you’ll usually find it.

Knowing the question you are answering is the most important part of AP® writing. You will not be able to answer the question effectively if you aren’t certain what the question is. Pick out a specific sentence or two to determine the question, and thereby ensure that you aren’t just writing an essay that responds to the general sense of the argument essay prompts

Pick an opinion and stick to it.

The next step is both simple and difficult. Identify your own opinion on the subject.

But remember — the AP® argumentative essay exam format is designed to test how well you can craft an argument. Questions like the 2019 question seem so daunting, because claiming anything to be “overrated” is such a broad topic. It is a bigger question than students are used to encountering on an AP® test.

But, always remember, there is no right or wrong answer for this AP® English FRQ. And whatever argument you choose will not come back later in the exam or in your final grade in the class. This is not to say that you shouldn’t believe in what you are writing. Only that you should remember that both sides are arguable, pick one, and stick to it. Don’t waffle.

Below we break down two sample student answers from this same 2019 prompt. 

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - PIck an opinion negative example

In this AP® Lang argument essay example, the student jumps from describing places, to people, to outfits. The prompts asked for only one example and the student gives three.  By doing this, it shows they were not only unable to grasp what the prompt was asking, but that they couldn’t stick to their opinion.  Instead of deeply strengthening one choice, the student gives vague, half-reasons for too many choices. When writing your FRQs, choose just one concept and stick to it.

The following example demonstrates a strong student response:

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Pick an opinion strong example

This student picks one clear concept, capitalism, and clearly outlines their support for it.  They write with clear language that opens the door for the deeper analysis coming later in the essay.

Like this student, choose just one clear argument to delve into when writing your FRQ.

Craft a thesis statement.

The thesis statement should be both simple and elegant. Students often find it one of the more difficult writing skills to master, but we’re here to help. Just remember that it should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence.  So, for the 2019 argument FRQ :

Good thesis: While capitalism undeniably has its upsides, it has many downsides that are rarely recognized. When considering the downsides, capitalism is clearly overrated as it commodifies humanity and uplifts a minority at the expense of the majority.

This thesis breaks down a) that the author clearly states his claim that capitalism is overrated, b) that the author will support that claim with examples on how it commodifies humanity and how it hurts the majority in favor of the minority.

Good thesis: While the Electoral College was created in the name of equality for smaller states, it is ultimately overrated because it undercuts the popular vote, it is an archaic practice that is unsuitable for the modern era.

This thesis claims the Electoral College is overrated by claiming it doesn’t do what it was created to do in the first place- support equality.  It also introduces two supporting examples for the rest of the essay- it undercuts the popular vote and it doesn’t work in the modern era.

Not a good thesis: Kicking a ball in a net and scoring, is not as important as saving lives. Soccer to me would be considered overrated.

This thesis doesn’t give clear direction for the rest of the essay.  The author claims soccer is overrated, but doesn’t tell us why. The example that “it’s not as important as saving lives” is unrelated and also not touched on again later in the essay. This thesis isn’t specific and doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the author will be saying next.

Not a good thesis: The term “overrated” has been used in conversation to diminish the value of roles. In unusual circumstances the term “overrated” should be applied to the idea of freedom in regards to social change, but overall it should not be applied in regards to global devastation and cruel treatment.

This thesis does not directly answer the question.  Is the author arguing that freedom is overrated? They also claim that the term overrated doesn’t apply to global devastation and cruel treatment. This second claim is both unrelated to the first and doesn’t work to answer the initial prompt.

Looking at these four examples, can you see the difference between a strong and weak thesis?

After you’ve determined your thesis, use it as a jumping point to sketch a quick outline. Then, follow your outline, bringing in your own concrete examples and evidence. Doing so will improve your AP® writing.

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Craft a chronological argument.

A good argument builds as you move through the essay. It does not simply repeat the same points. Instead, the different points of the argument build off one another and work together to advance the author’s point.

Let’s look at the 2018 AP® English argument FRQ for an example.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Craft a chronological argument

In this case, students are being asked to argue a position on the value of choosing the unknown. 

All students are likely to have their own definitions of what “choosing the unknown” might mean. You first want to consider what this phrase means to you, and how it applies to the real world.  Could it mean breaking out of your comfort zone in daily routines, or could it mean going to theater school to follow your dreams?  There’s no wrong answers, but try to pin down one. Consider Lindbergh’s quote the prompt gives you, and how shock, disappointment, and enrichment play into choosing the unknown.

Once you’ve nailed down your definition, you can begin to form your arguments. A chronological argument builds off itself. So, in this question’s case, an outline would look something like this:

  • Choosing the unknown is necessary for the development of the human race.
  • Scientific advancements cannot be made without testing the boundaries of the unknown.
  • Cultural and artistic growth can only occur through exploring the unknown.

First, a student must define what choosing the unknown means, and what makes it difficult. Next the student argues for the value of choosing the unknown, in that the human race could never develop without it.  Finally, the student will argue for the invaluable scientific and cultural/artistic advances made throughout history by breaking known boundaries.

When you sketch your outline, quickly ask yourself if the outline would make just as much sense if you rearranged it. If the answer is no, start writing your essay. If the answer is yes, try to structure your argument so that your points build off one another.

Support your claims.

All arguments need evidence. This is the proof you need to support your thesis. And in the case of the AP® English argument FRQ, the evidence all comes from you. What exactly that evidence is will vary from question to question and from student to student. But make sure that every point you make is supported by evidence.

Here’s some good news — you already know quite a bit about effective evidence from what you have learned in AP® English about rhetorical devices. Your main purpose in this essay is to persuade. What have you learned in class about effective ways to persuade? What rhetorical devices can you utilize? Try to pick the best devices to support your argument that you can.

Here are some examples of supportive and non-supportive evidence that students could use to support their claims.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Support your claims

The 2017 AP® English language argument FRQ asked students to argue a position if the most essential skill is artifice. The example student answers given below are from here .

Supportive evidence:   “Throughout history, rulers have utilized countless different methods of achieving power, however none have been so successful as mastering the art of lying.

In his advice to future rulers, Niccolo Machiavelli encouraged them to lie and maintain the illusion of sympathy to the common struggles in order to retain power. He asserts that it is imperative for a ruler to appear caring and sympathetic even if he has no objective but power.

Machiavelli argues that to be sincere and honest is akin to being vulnerable. A ruler must be skilled in the art of deception if he is not to fall prey to usurpers. Thus, it is essential that he appear humble and morally upright to his constituents as he is to appear idealistic, despite his nature being identical to his citizens.”

In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in politics. The student claims that mastering lying is essential to achieving political power. The student uses Machiavelli’s leadership and beliefs as specific examples to support this, by analyzing and connecting each point back to his/her claim.

Non-supportive evidence: “Another example would be actors on red carpets or at interviews they sound generous and relatable, but in reality they could be selfish people who don’t care about anyone. To the public they act charming, honest, and sincere. They do this so they can get famous and rich. They do this so they will never get ignored.”

In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in the culture of entertainment and celebrities. However, the student does not utilize supportive evidence to do so. The paragraph is full of claims about how actors lie, but does not provide a concrete example to anchor the claims. The student provides a lot of very vague generalizations, but no clear evidence or examples of specific celebrities and how they used artifice to succeed.

There is so much variance in prompts and students’ prior knowledge; it’s impossible to provide a checklist of what makes evidence supportive. But a good trick to decide if you’ve supported your claims well enough is to talk to yourself. No really, it’s a good idea.

Picture yourself discussing your essay with someone. Imagine that this person disagrees with everything that you say. Every time you make a claim, like that it’s important to be polite in an email, your imaginary person shakes their head and tells you no. How would you try to convince them? What examples would you use? Make sure that for each opinion you put forward; you have provided an answer to someone who would disagree with you.

The evidence is an important part of your essay. If your outline and your argument are a framework, your evidence is the brick and mortar. A house without brick and mortar won’t fall, but it won’t be a very nice house to inhabit. Tie every claim you make to a piece of evidence to ensure the best essay possible.

Wrapping Things Up: Scoring a 6 on the Argument FRQ for AP® English Language

The AP® English argument FRQ varies quite a bit. But it is ultimately about how well you can put forth an argument. So, don’t be afraid to spend some time crafting that argument. We’ve covered a lot in this article- here are the main points to remember:

  • Determine the question. Figure out what the prompt is asking you to do.
  • Pick an opinion and stick to it. Choose one side of the argument and one clear claim to support all the way through.
  • Craft a thesis statement. Your thesis should be clear, concise, and introduce the content of your essay.
  • Craft a chronological argument. Make an argument that builds on its prior points.
  • Support your claims. Support yourself with concrete, specific evidence and examples. 

But most of all, have fun. This essay is the one you should be looking forward to, where you have the freest rein. Enjoy it and earn yourself a 6.

Do the examples shown make sense to you? Can you picture yourself moving through the AP® writing argument FRQ with ease now?

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8 thoughts on “how to get a 6 on the argument frq in ap® english language”.

Thank you for explaining this so eloquently. Excellent post, I will keep this handy and refer to it often from now on. It’s so educative. Great post!

Sure, glad it helped.

I’m an AP® Language teacher and the title of your article caught my eye because the essays aren’t scored on a 0-9 scale anymore. The max score for an essay now is a 6. Essays are now scored in 3 categories: Thesis: 0 or 1 point Evidence and commentary: 0-4 points Sophistication: 0 or 1 point I just wanted to let you know! I saw this was last updated in 2020 and just thought it should reflect the current AP® exam.

Thank you for the heads up! This is an older blog post that must have had something else updated to it this year. We’ve gone ahead and revised the post.

Hi, my AP® Language teacher emphasized on a counterargument at the end of the supporting paragraphs. Could you elaborate on it? Also, how exactly do we get the sophistication point?

Hi Stephanie, thanks for reaching out! Making a solid counter-argument is definitely one way to make sure that you earn the Sophistication point. We recommend having a look at our AP® English Language Review Guide for 2021 for more tips! The College Board’s Free-Response Question and Scoring Information Archive also provides authentic examples of student writing — many of which successfully make counterarguments and rebuttals to earn the Sophistication point.

Hi can I get a 6?

Hi Roy, we certainly believe that earning a 6 on your FRQs is possible with practice and dedication! I’d recommend having a look at our AP® English Language Review Guide for tips and tricks, and you can also browse our AP® English Language and Composition Resource Page and Free Response practice questions for targeted practice.

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Advanced Placement (AP)

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If you're planning to take the AP Language (or AP Lang) exam , you might already know that 55% of your overall exam score will be based on three essays. The first of the three essays you'll have to write on the AP Language exam is called the "synthesis essay." If you want to earn full points on this portion of the AP Lang Exam, you need to know what a synthesis essay is and what skills are assessed by the AP Lang synthesis essay.

In this article, we'll explain the different aspects of the AP Lang synthesis essay, including what skills you need to demonstrate in your synthesis essay response in order to achieve a good score. We'll also give you a full breakdown of a real AP Lang Synthesis Essay prompt, provide an analysis of an AP Lang synthesis essay example, and give you four tips for how to write a synthesis essay.

Let's get started by taking a closer look at how the AP Lang synthesis essay works!

Synthesis Essay AP Lang: What It Is and How It Works

The AP Lang synthesis essay is the first of three essays included in the Free Response section of the AP Lang exam.

The AP Lang synthesis essay portion of the Free Response section lasts for one hour total . This hour consists of a recommended 15 minute reading period and a 40 minute writing period. Keep in mind that these time allotments are merely recommendations, and that exam takers can parse out the allotted 60 minutes to complete the synthesis essay however they choose.

Now, here's what the structure of the AP Lang synthesis essay looks like. The exam presents six to seven sources that are organized around a specific topic (like alternative energy or eminent domain, which are both past synthesis exam topics).

Of these six to seven sources, at least two are visual , including at least one quantitative source (like a graph or pie chart, for example). The remaining four to five sources are print text-based, and each one contains approximately 500 words.

In addition to six to seven sources, the AP Lang exam provides a written prompt that consists of three paragraphs. The prompt will briefly explain the essay topic, then present a claim that students will respond to in an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources provided.

Here's an example prompt provided by the College Board:

Directions : The following prompt is based on the accompanying six sources.

This question requires you to integrate a variety of sources into a coherent, well-written essay. Refer to the sources to support your position; avoid mere paraphrase or summary. Your argument should be central; the sources should support this argument .

Remember to attribute both direct and indirect citations.

Introduction

Television has been influential in United States presidential elections since the 1960's. But just what is this influence, and how has it affected who is elected? Has it made elections fairer and more accessible, or has it moved candidates from pursuing issues to pursuing image?

Read the following sources (including any introductory information) carefully. Then, in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the sources for support, take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that television has had a positive impact on presidential elections.

Refer to the sources as Source A, Source B, etc.; titles are included for your convenience.

Source A (Campbell) Source B (Hart and Triece) Source C (Menand) Source D (Chart) Source E (Ranney) Source F (Koppel)

Like we mentioned earlier, this prompt gives you a topic — which it briefly explains — then asks you to take a position. In this case, you'll have to choose a stance on whether television has positively or negatively affected U.S. elections. You're also given six sources to evaluate and use in your response. Now that you have everything you need, now your job is to write an amazing synthesis essay.

But what does "synthesize" mean, exactly? According to the CollegeBoard, when an essay prompt asks you to synthesize, it means that you should "combine different perspectives from sources to form a support of a coherent position" in writing. In other words, a synthesis essay asks you to state your claim on a topic, then highlight the relationships between several sources that support your claim on that topic. Additionally, you'll need to cite specific evidence from your sources to prove your point.

The synthesis essay counts for six of the total points on the AP Lang exam . Students can receive 0-1 points for writing a thesis statement in the essay, 0-4 based on incorporation of evidence and commentary, and 0-1 points based on sophistication of thought and demonstrated complex understanding of the topic.

You'll be evaluated based on how effectively you do the following in your AP Lang synthesis essay:

Write a thesis that responds to the exam prompt with a defensible position

Provide specific evidence that to support all claims in your line of reasoning from at least three of the sources provided, and clearly and consistently explain how the evidence you include supports your line of reasoning

Demonstrate sophistication of thought by either crafting a thoughtful argument, situating the argument in a broader context, explaining the limitations of an argument

Make rhetorical choices that strengthen your argument and/or employ a vivid and persuasive style throughout your essay.

If your synthesis essay meets the criteria above, then there's a good chance you'll score well on this portion of the AP Lang exam!

If you're looking for even more information on scoring, the College Board has posted the AP Lang Free Response grading rubric on its website. ( You can find it here. ) We recommend taking a close look at it since it includes additional details about the synthesis essay scoring.

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Don't be intimidated...we're going to teach you how to break down even the hardest AP synthesis essay prompt.

Full Breakdown of a Real AP Lang Synthesis Essay Prompt

In this section, we'll teach you how to analyze and respond to a synthesis essay prompt in five easy steps, including suggested time frames for each step of the process.

Step 1: Analyze the Prompt

The very first thing to do when the clock starts running is read and analyze the prompt. To demonstrate how to do this, we'll look at the sample AP Lang synthesis essay prompt below. This prompt comes straight from the 2018 AP Lang exam:

Eminent domain is the power governments have to acquire property from private owners for public use. The rationale behind eminent domain is that governments have greater legal authority over lands within their dominion than do private owners. Eminent domain has been instituted in one way or another throughout the world for hundreds of years.

Carefully read the following six sources, including the introductory information for each source. Then synthesize material from at least three of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent, well-developed essay that defends, challenges, or qualifies the notion that eminent domain is productive and beneficial.

Your argument should be the focus of your essay. Use the sources to develop your argument and explain the reasoning for it. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Indicate clearly which sources you are drawing from, whether through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. You may cite the sources as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parentheses.

On first read, you might be nervous about how to answer this prompt...especially if you don't know what eminent domain is! But if you break the prompt down into chunks, you'll be able to figure out what the prompt is asking you to do in no time flat.

To get a full understanding of what this prompt wants you to do, you need to identify the most important details in this prompt, paragraph by paragraph. Here's what each paragraph is asking you to do:

  • Paragraph 1: The prompt presents and briefly explains the topic that you'll be writing your synthesis essay about. That topic is the concept of eminent domain.
  • Paragraph 2: The prompt presents a specific claim about the concept of eminent domain in this paragraph: Eminent domain is productive and beneficial. This paragraph instructs you to decide whether you want to defend, challenge, or qualify that claim in your synthesis essay , and use material from at least three of the sources provided in order to do so.
  • Paragraph 3: In the last paragraph of the prompt, the exam gives you clear instructions about how to approach writing your synthesis essay . First, make your argument the focus of the essay. Second, use material from at least three of the sources to develop and explain your argument. Third, provide commentary on the material you include, and provide proper citations when you incorporate quotations, paraphrases, or summaries from the sources provided.

So basically, you'll have to agree with, disagree with, or qualify the claim stated in the prompt, then use at least three sources substantiate your answer. Since you probably don't know much about eminent domain, you'll probably decide on your position after you read the provided sources.

To make good use of your time on the exam, you should spend around 2 minutes reading the prompt and making note of what it's asking you to do. That will leave you plenty of time to read the sources provided, which is the next step to writing a synthesis essay.

Step 2: Read the Sources Carefully

After you closely read the prompt and make note of the most important details, you need to read all of the sources provided. It's tempting to skip one or two sources to save time--but we recommend you don't do this. That's because you'll need a thorough understanding of the topic before you can accurately address the prompt!

For the sample exam prompt included above, there are six sources provided. We're not going to include all of the sources in this article, but you can view the six sources from this question on the 2018 AP Lang exam here . The sources include five print-text sources and one visual source, which is a cartoon.

As you read the sources, it's important to read quickly and carefully. Don't rush! Keep your pencil in hand to quickly mark important passages that you might want to use as evidence in your synthesis. While you're reading the sources and marking passages, you want to think about how the information you're reading influences your stance on the issue (in this case, eminent domain).

When you finish reading, take a few seconds to summarize, in a phrase or sentence, whether the source defends, challenges, or qualifies whether eminent domain is beneficial (which is the claim in the prompt) . Though it might not feel like you have time for this, it's important to give yourself these notes about each source so you know how you can use each one as evidence in your essay.

Here's what we mean: say you want to challenge the idea that eminent domain is useful. If you've jotted down notes about each source and what it's saying, it will be easier for you to pull the relevant information into your outline and your essay.

So how much time should you spend reading the provided sources? The AP Lang exam recommends taking 15 minutes to read the sources . If you spend around two of those minutes reading and breaking down the essay prompt, it makes sense to spend the remaining 13 minutes reading and annotating the sources.

If you finish reading and annotating early, you can always move on to drafting your synthesis essay. But make sure you're taking your time and reading carefully! It's better to use a little extra time reading and understanding the sources now so that you don't have to go back and re-read the sources later.

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A strong thesis will do a lot of heavy lifting in your essay. (See what we did there?)

Step 3: Write a Strong Thesis Statement

After you've analyzed the prompt and thoroughly read the sources, the next thing you need to do in order to write a good synthesis essay is write a strong thesis statement .

The great news about writing a thesis statement for this synthesis essay is that you have all the tools you need to do it at your fingertips. All you have to do in order to write your thesis statement is decide what your stance is in relationship to the topic provided.

In the example prompt provided earlier, you're essentially given three choices for how to frame your thesis statement: you can either defend, challenge, or qualify a claim that's been provided by the prompt, that eminent domain is productive and beneficial . Here's what that means for each option:

If you choose to defend the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is correct . In this case, you'll have to show that eminent domain is a good thing.

If you choose to challenge the claim, you'll argue that the claim is incorrect. In other words, you'll argue that eminent domain isn't productive or beneficial.

If you choose to qualify, that means you'll agree with part of the claim, but disagree with another part of the claim. For instance, you may argue that eminent domain can be a productive tool for governments, but it's not beneficial for property owners. Or maybe you argue that eminent domain is useful in certain circumstances, but not in others.

When you decide whether you want your synthesis essay to defend, challenge, or qualify that claim, you need to convey that stance clearly in your thesis statement. You want to avoid simply restating the claim provided in the prompt, summarizing the issue without making a coherent claim, or writing a thesis that doesn't respond to the prompt.

Here's an example of a thesis statement that received full points on the eminent domain synthesis essay:

Although eminent domain can be misused to benefit private interests at the expense of citizens, it is a vital tool of any government that intends to have any influence on the land it governs beyond that of written law.

This thesis statement received full points because it states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning on the issue of eminent domain. It states the author's position (that some parts of eminent domain are good, but others are bad), then goes on to explain why the author thinks that (it's good because it allows the government to do its job, but it's bad because the government can misuse its power.)

Because this example thesis statement states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning, it can be elaborated upon in the body of the essay through sub-claims, supporting evidence, and commentary. And a solid argument is key to getting a six on your synthesis essay for AP Lang!

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Step 4: Create a Bare-Bones Essay Outline

Once you've got your thesis statement drafted, you have the foundation you need to develop a bare bones outline for your synthesis essay. Developing an outline might seem like it's a waste of your precious time, but if you develop your outline well, it will actually save you time when you start writing your essay.

With that in mind, we recommend spending 5 to 10 minutes outlining your synthesis essay . If you use a bare-bones outline like the one below, labeling each piece of content that you need to include in your essay draft, you should be able to develop out the most important pieces of the synthesis before you even draft the actual essay.

To help you see how this can work on test day, we've created a sample outline for you. You can even memorize this outline to help you out on test day! In the outline below, you'll find places to fill in a thesis statement, body paragraph topic sentences, evidence from the sources provided, and commentary :

  • Present the context surrounding the essay topic in a couple of sentences (this is a good place to use what you learned about the major opinions or controversies about the topic from reading your sources).
  • Write a straightforward, clear, and concise thesis statement that presents your stance on the topic
  • Topic sentence presenting first supporting point or claim
  • Evidence #1
  • Commentary on Evidence #1
  • Evidence #2 (if needed)
  • Commentary on Evidence #2 (if needed)
  • Topic sentence presenting second supporting point or claim
  • Topic sentence presenting three supporting point or claim
  • Sums up the main line of reasoning that you developed and defended throughout the essay
  • Reiterates the thesis statement

Taking the time to develop these crucial pieces of the synthesis in a bare-bones outline will give you a map for your final essay. Once you have a map, writing the essay will be much easier.

Step 5: Draft Your Essay Response

The great thing about taking a few minutes to develop an outline is that you can develop it out into your essay draft. After you take about 5 to 10 minutes to outline your synthesis essay, you can use the remaining 30 to 35 minutes to draft your essay and review it.

Since you'll outline your essay before you start drafting, writing the essay should be pretty straightforward. You'll already know how many paragraphs you're going to write, what the topic of each paragraph will be, and what quotations, paraphrases, or summaries you're going to include in each paragraph from the sources provided. You'll just have to fill in one of the most important parts of your synthesis—your commentary.

Commentaries are your explanation of why your evidence supports the argument you've outlined in your thesis. Your commentary is where you actually make your argument, which is why it's such a critical part of your synthesis essay.

When thinking about what to say in your commentary, remember one thing the AP Lang synthesis essay prompt specifies: don't just summarize the sources. Instead, as you provide commentary on the evidence you incorporate, you need to explain how that evidence supports or undermines your thesis statement . You should include commentary that offers a thoughtful or novel perspective on the evidence from your sources to develop your argument.

One very important thing to remember as you draft out your essay is to cite your sources. The AP Lang exam synthesis essay prompt indicates that you can use generic labels for the sources provided (e.g. "Source 1," "Source 2," "Source 3," etc.). The exam prompt will indicate which label corresponds with which source, so you'll need to make sure you pay attention and cite sources accurately. You can cite your sources in the sentence where you introduce a quote, summary, or paraphrase, or you can use a parenthetical citation. Citing your sources affects your score on the synthesis essay, so remembering to do this is important.

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Keep reading for a real-life example of a great AP synthesis essay response!

Real-Life AP Synthesis Essay Example and Analysis

If you're still wondering how to write a synthesis essay, examples of real essays from past AP Lang exams can make things clearer. These real-life student AP synthesis essay responses can be great for helping you understand how to write a synthesis essay that will knock the graders' socks off .

While there are multiple essay examples online, we've chosen one to take a closer look at. We're going to give you a brief analysis of one of these example student synthesis essays from the 2019 AP Lang Exam below!

Example Synthesis Essay AP Lang Response

To get started, let's look at the official prompt for the 2019 synthesis essay:

In response to our society's increasing demand for energy, large-scale wind power has drawn attention from governments and consumers as a potential alternative to traditional materials that fuel our power grids, such as coal, oil, natural gas, water, or even newer sources such as nuclear or solar power. Yet the establishment of large-scale, commercial-grade wind farms is often the subject of controversy for a variety of reasons.

Carefully read the six sources, found on the AP English Language and Composition 2019 Exam (Question 1), including the introductory information for each source. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the most important factors that an individual or agency should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

Source A (photo) Source B (Layton) Source C (Seltenrich) Source D (Brown) Source E (Rule) Source F (Molla)

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis presents a defensible position.
  • Select and use evidence from at least 3 of the provided sources to support your line of reasoning. Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the description in parentheses.
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

Now that you know exactly what the prompt asked students to do on the 2019 AP Lang synthesis essay, here's an AP Lang synthesis essay example, written by a real student on the AP Lang exam in 2019:

[1] The situation has been known for years, and still very little is being done: alternative power is the only way to reliably power the changing world. The draw of power coming from industry and private life is overwhelming current sources of non-renewable power, and with dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, it is merely a matter of time before coal and gas fuel plants are no longer in operation. So one viable alternative is wind power. But as with all things, there are pros and cons. The main factors for power companies to consider when building wind farms are environmental boon, aesthetic, and economic factors.

[2] The environmental benefits of using wind power are well-known and proven. Wind power is, as qualified by Source B, undeniably clean and renewable. From their production requiring very little in the way of dangerous materials to their lack of fuel, besides that which occurs naturally, wind power is by far one of the least environmentally impactful sources of power available. In addition, wind power by way of gearbox and advanced blade materials, has the highest percentage of energy retention. According to Source F, wind power retains 1,164% of the energy put into the system – meaning that it increases the energy converted from fuel (wind) to electricity 10 times! No other method of electricity production is even half that efficient. The efficiency and clean nature of wind power are important to consider, especially because they contribute back to power companies economically.

[3] Economically, wind power is both a boon and a bone to electric companies and other users. For consumers, wind power is very cheap, leading to lower bills than from any other source. Consumers also get an indirect reimbursement by way of taxes (Source D). In one Texan town, McCamey, tax revenue increased 30% from a wind farm being erected in the town. This helps to finance improvements to the town. But, there is no doubt that wind power is also hurting the power companies. Although, as renewable power goes, wind is incredibly cheap, it is still significantly more expensive than fossil fuels. So, while it is helping to cut down on emissions, it costs electric companies more than traditional fossil fuel plants. While the general economic trend is positive, there are some setbacks which must be overcome before wind power can take over as truly more effective than fossil fuels.

[4] Aesthetics may be the greatest setback for power companies. Although there may be significant economic and environmental benefit to wind power, people will always fight to preserve pure, unspoiled land. Unfortunately, not much can be done to improve the visual aesthetics of the turbines. White paint is the most common choice because it "[is] associated with cleanliness." (Source E). But, this can make it stand out like a sore thumb, and make the gargantuan machines seem more out of place. The site can also not be altered because it affects generating capacity. Sound is almost worse of a concern because it interrupts personal productivity by interrupting people's sleep patterns. One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support.

[5] As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and the consequences. But, by balancing economics, efficiency, and aesthetics, power companies can create a solution which balances human impact with environmental preservation.

And that's an entire AP Lang synthesis essay example, written in response to a real AP Lang exam prompt! It's important to remember AP Lang exam synthesis essay prompts are always similarly structured and worded, and students often respond in around the same number of paragraphs as what you see in the example essay response above.

Next, let's analyze this example essay and talk about what it does effectively, where it could be improved upon, and what score past exam scorers awarded it.

To get started on an analysis of the sample synthesis essay, let's look at the scoring commentary provided by the College Board:

  • For development of thesis, the essay received 1 out of 1 possible points
  • For evidence and commentary, the essay received 4 out of 4 possible points
  • For sophistication of thought, the essay received 0 out of 1 possible points.

This means that the final score for this example essay was a 5 out of 6 possible points . Let's look more closely at the content of the example essay to figure out why it received this score breakdown.

Thesis Development

The thesis statement is one of the three main categories that is taken into consideration when you're awarded points on this portion of the exam. This sample essay received 1 out of 1 total points.

Now, here's why: the thesis statement clearly and concisely conveys a position on the topic presented in the prompt--alternative energy and wind power--and defines the most important factors that power companies should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

Evidence and Commentary

The second key category taken into consideration when synthesis exams are evaluated is incorporation of evidence and commentary. This sample received 4 out of 4 possible points for this portion of the synthesis essay. At bare minimum, this sample essay meets the requirement mentioned in the prompt that the writer incorporate evidence from at least three of the sources provided.

On top of that, the writer does a good job of connecting the incorporated evidence back to the claim made in the thesis statement through effective commentary. The commentary in this sample essay is effective because it goes beyond just summarizing what the provided sources say. Instead, it explains and analyzes the evidence presented in the selected sources and connects them back to supporting points the writer makes in each body paragraph.

Finally, the writer of the essay also received points for evidence and commentary because the writer developed and supported a consistent line of reasoning throughout the essay . This line of reasoning is summed up in the fourth paragraph in the following sentence: "One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support."

Because the writer did a good job consistently developing their argument and incorporating evidence, they received full marks in this category. So far, so good!

Sophistication of Thought

Now, we know that this essay received a score of 5 out of 6 total points, and the place where the writer lost a point was on the basis of sophistication of thought, for which the writer received 0 out of 1 points. That's because this sample essay makes several generalizations and vague claims where it could have instead made specific claims that support a more balanced argument.

For example, in the following sentence from the 5th paragraph of the sample essay, the writer misses the opportunity to state specific possibilities that power companies should consider for wind energy . Instead, the writer is ambiguous and non-committal, saying, "As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and consequences."

If the writer of this essay was interested in trying to get that 6th point on the synthesis essay response, they could consider making more specific claims. For instance, they could state the specific benefits and consequences power companies should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm. These could include things like environmental impacts, economic impacts, or even population density!

Despite losing one point in the last category, this example synthesis essay is a strong one. It's well-developed, thoughtfully written, and advances an argument on the exam topic using evidence and support throughout.

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4 Tips for How to Write a Synthesis Essay

AP Lang is a timed exam, so you have to pick and choose what you want to focus on in the limited time you're given to write the synthesis essay. Keep reading to get our expert advice on what you should focus on during your exam.

Tip 1: Read the Prompt First

It may sound obvious, but when you're pressed for time, it's easy to get flustered. Just remember: when it comes time to write the synthesis essay, read the prompt first !

Why is it so important to read the prompt before you read the sources? Because when you're aware of what kind of question you're trying to answer, you'll be able to read the sources more strategically. The prompt will help give you a sense of what claims, points, facts, or opinions to be looking for as you read the sources.

Reading the sources without having read the prompt first is kind of like trying to drive while wearing a blindfold: you can probably do it, but it's likely not going to end well!

Tip 2: Make Notes While You Read

During the 15-minute reading period at the beginning of the synthesis essay, you'll be reading through the sources as quickly as you can. After all, you're probably anxious to start writing!

While it's definitely important to make good use of your time, it's also important to read closely enough that you understand your sources. Careful reading will allow you to identify parts of the sources that will help you support your thesis statement in your essay, too.

As you read the sources, consider marking helpful passages with a star or check mark in the margins of the exam so you know which parts of the text to quickly re-read as you form your synthesis essay. You might also consider summing up the key points or position of each source in a sentence or a few words when you finish reading each source during the reading period. Doing so will help you know where each source stands on the topic given and help you pick the three (or more!) that will bolster your synthesis argument.

Tip 3: Start With the Thesis Statement

If you don't start your synthesis essay with a strong thesis statement, it's going to be tough to write an effective synthesis essay. As soon as you finish reading and annotating the provided sources, the thing you want to do next is write a strong thesis statement.

According to the CollegeBoard grading guidelines for the AP Lang synthesis essay, a strong thesis statement will respond to the prompt— not restate or rephrase the prompt. A good thesis will take a clear, defensible position on the topic presented in the prompt and the sources.

In other words, to write a solid thesis statement to guide the rest of your synthesis essay, you need to think about your position on the topic at hand and then make a claim about the topic based on your position. This position will either be defending, challenging, or qualifying the claim made in the essay's prompt.

The defensible position that you establish in your thesis statement will guide your argument in the rest of the essay, so it's important to do this first. Once you have a strong thesis statement, you can begin outlining your essay.

Tip 4: Focus on Your Commentary

Writing thoughtful, original commentary that explains your argument and your sources is important. In fact, doing this well will earn you four points (out of a total of six)!

AP Lang provides six to seven sources for you on the exam, and you'll be expected to incorporate quotations, paraphrases, or summaries from at least three of those sources into your synthesis essay and interpret that evidence for the reader.

While incorporating evidence is very important, in order to get the extra point for "sophistication of thought" on the synthesis essay, it's important to spend more time thinking about your commentary on the evidence you choose to incorporate. The commentary is your chance to show original thinking, strong rhetorical skills, and clearly explain how the evidence you've included supports the stance you laid out in your thesis statement.

To earn the 6th possible point on the synthesis essay, make sure your commentary demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the source material, explains this nuanced understanding, and places the evidence incorporated from the sources in conversation with each other. To do this, make sure you're avoiding vague language. Be specific when you can, and always tie your commentary back to your thesis!

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What's Next?

There's a lot more to the AP Language exam than just the synthesis essay. Be sure to check out our expert guide to the entire exam , then learn more about the tricky multiple choice section .

Is the AP Lang exam hard...or is it easy? See how it stacks up to other AP tests on our list of the hardest AP exams .

Did you know there are technically two English AP exams? You can learn more about the second English AP test, the AP Literature exam, in this article . And if you're confused about whether you should take the AP Lang or AP Lit test , we can help you make that decision, too.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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Literary Criticism

  • Introduction
  • Literary Theories
  • Steps to Literary Criticism
  • Find Resources
  • Cite Sources
  • thesis examples

SAMPLE THESIS STATEMENTS

These sample thesis statements are provided as guides, not as required forms or prescriptions.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The thesis may focus on an analysis of one of the elements of fiction, drama, poetry or nonfiction as expressed in the work: character, plot, structure, idea, theme, symbol, style, imagery, tone, etc.

In “A Worn Path,” Eudora Welty creates a fictional character in Phoenix Jackson whose determination, faith, and cunning illustrate the indomitable human spirit.

Note that the work, author, and character to be analyzed are identified in this thesis statement. The thesis relies on a strong verb (creates). It also identifies the element of fiction that the writer will explore (character) and the characteristics the writer will analyze and discuss (determination, faith, cunning).

Further Examples:

The character of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet serves as a foil to young Juliet, delights us with her warmth and earthy wit, and helps realize the tragic catastrophe.

The works of ecstatic love poets Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir use symbols such as a lover’s longing and the Tavern of Ruin to illustrate the human soul’s desire to connect with God.

The thesis may focus on illustrating how a work reflects the particular genre’s forms, the characteristics of a philosophy of literature, or the ideas of a particular school of thought.

“The Third and Final Continent” exhibits characteristics recurrent in writings by immigrants: tradition, adaptation, and identity.

Note how the thesis statement classifies the form of the work (writings by immigrants) and identifies the characteristics of that form of writing (tradition, adaptation, and identity) that the essay will discuss.

Further examples:

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame reflects characteristics of Theatre of the Absurd in its minimalist stage setting, its seemingly meaningless dialogue, and its apocalyptic or nihilist vision.

A close look at many details in “The Story of an Hour” reveals how language, institutions, and expected demeanor suppress the natural desires and aspirations of women.

The thesis may draw parallels between some element in the work and real-life situations or subject matter: historical events, the author’s life, medical diagnoses, etc.

In Willa Cather’s short story, “Paul’s Case,” Paul exhibits suicidal behavior that a caring adult might have recognized and remedied had that adult had the scientific knowledge we have today.

This thesis suggests that the essay will identify characteristics of suicide that Paul exhibits in the story. The writer will have to research medical and psychology texts to determine the typical characteristics of suicidal behavior and to illustrate how Paul’s behavior mirrors those characteristics.

Through the experience of one man, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, accurately depicts the historical record of slave life in its descriptions of the often brutal and quixotic relationship between master and slave and of the fragmentation of slave families.

In “I Stand Here Ironing,” one can draw parallels between the narrator’s situation and the author’s life experiences as a mother, writer, and feminist.

SAMPLE PATTERNS FOR THESES ON LITERARY WORKS

1. In (title of work), (author) (illustrates, shows) (aspect) (adjective). 

Example: In “Barn Burning,” William Faulkner shows the characters Sardie and Abner Snopes struggling for their identity.

2. In (title of work), (author) uses (one aspect) to (define, strengthen, illustrate) the (element of work).

Example: In “Youth,” Joseph Conrad uses foreshadowing to strengthen the plot.

3. In (title of work), (author) uses (an important part of work) as a unifying device for (one element), (another element), and (another element). The number of elements can vary from one to four.

Example: In “Youth,” Joseph Conrad uses the sea as a unifying device for setting, structure and theme.

4. (Author) develops the character of (character’s name) in (literary work) through what he/she does, what he/she says, what other people say to or about him/her.

Example: Langston Hughes develops the character of Semple in “Ways and Means”…

5. In (title of work), (author) uses (literary device) to (accomplish, develop, illustrate, strengthen) (element of work).

Example: In “The Masque of the Red Death,” Poe uses the symbolism of the stranger, the clock, and the seventh room to develop the theme of death.

6. (Author) (shows, develops, illustrates) the theme of __________ in the (play, poem, story).

Example: Flannery O’Connor illustrates the theme of the effect of the selfishness of the grandmother upon the family in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

7. (Author) develops his character(s) in (title of work) through his/her use of language.

Example: John Updike develops his characters in “A & P” through his use of figurative language.

Perimeter College, Georgia State University,  http://depts.gpc.edu/~gpcltc/handouts/communications/literarythesis.pdf

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Encourage Students to Master the AP Lit Thesis

    Early on, I observed two things: 1. Not all AP Lit thesis statement are created equal (even if they do earn the point) and 2. Students needed help moving from making a base claim to making a strong claims that lead to better analysis later in the essay. AP Lit Thesis Starting Points At the beginning of the year, my kids were writing things like

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  4. How to Encourage Students to Master the AP Lit Thesis

    Early on, I observed two things: 1. Not all AP Lit thesis statement are create equal (even if they do earn the point) and 2. Students needed help moving from making one base claim into making an power allegations that lead to better investigation later in the essay. AP Lit Thesis Starting Points

  5. PDF AP English Literature and Composition

    The thesis presented in the introductory paragraph of this essay offers a defensible interpretation of the poem and presents a complex idea: "Illuminating the inherent need not only for appreciation of the little things, but of humans for one another, 'The Man with the Saxophone' demonstrates the affect of external events on internal emotions."

  6. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps: Start with a question Write your initial answer Develop your answer Refine your thesis statement Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text Be assured that you'll submit flawless writing. Upload your document to correct all your mistakes. Table of contents

  7. Ace the AP Lit Exam: Thesis Statements

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  9. AP Lit: Theme & Thesis Statements [video]

    Candace Moore 📑 Summary ⏳ Timestamps 📚 Resources 📚 Exam Skills study guides written by former AP English Lit students to review Exam Skills with detailed explanations and practice questions.

  10. The Ultimate List of AP® English Literature Tips

    2. Develop a strong, well-developed AP® English Literature thesis statement. A well-written thesis is the basis of all successful essays. As mentioned previously, do NOT restate the question. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes students made in the 2019 exam involved moving from commentary (point by point observations) to more cohesive claims.

  11. PDF AP thesis, claims, assert

    1. Thesis - The thesis is a one-sentence statement that answers a prompt or paper exigence (a situation calling for action or attention). The thesis must clearly and concisely answer the prompt with one robust sentence. Prompt - What universe is created by James Thurber in the short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"?

  12. Creating a thesis for AP Lit?

    Here are a few steps you can follow to create a strong thesis statement: 1. Read the prompt carefully: Make sure you understand what the prompt is asking you to do, whether it's analyzing a specific aspect of the text, exploring a theme, or discussing a particular character. 2.

  13. How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay + Example

    1. Have a Clear Understanding of the Prompt and the Passage Since the prose essay is testing your ability to analyze literature and construct an evidence-based argument, the most important thing you can do is make sure you understand the passage.

  14. PDF Instruction AP English Lit Writing

    Your thesis should be a complex sentence; the easiest way to do this is with an "although" construction. You can also link subordinate and independent clauses with "however" and "nevertheless". (ex: Although Huck Finn may not realize it, the Mississippi River serves as a symbol of freedom between the lands of chaos, hypocrisy, and destruction.)

  15. AP LIT QUESTION 2: OUTLINING, GENERATING A THESIS, and ...

    Today I look at how to quickly outline your question 2 response, produce a well-developed thesis statement, and use templates to create strong topic sentence...

  16. How to Write the AP Lit Poetry Essay

    2. Craft a Compelling Thesis No matter the prompt, you will always need to respond with a substantive thesis. A meaty thesis contains complexity rather than broad generalizations, and points to specifics in the poem. By examining the colloquial language in Gwendolyn Brooks's poem, "We Real Cool", we can see the tension of choosing to be "cool".

  17. How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay + Example

    Step 1: Analyze the Prompt As soon as the clock starts, carefully read and analyze what the prompt asks from you. It might be helpful to markup the text to identify the most critical details.

  18. PDF AP English Literature FRQ 3 (open/theme analysis essay) Outline Paragraph 1

    AP English Literature FRQ 3 (open/theme analysis essay) Outline Paragraph 1 THESIS: analytical statement that addresses all requirements of the prompt and notes text's complexity In (1) title, (2) author employs or examines (3) character(s) OR relationship(s) OR scene(s) OR device(s) to

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  20. Introductions & Thesis Statements

    A good AP Lit thesis… tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion. When dealing with AP Literature, a good thesis might follow a basic formula of: "In the [story, novel, poem, excerpt, etc.] the author utilizes [probably some literary devices] to show the reader _____."

  21. How to Get a 6 on Argument FRQ in AP® English Language

    Pick an opinion and stick to it. Choose one side of the argument and one clear claim to support all the way through. Craft a thesis statement. Your thesis should be clear, concise, and introduce the content of your essay. Craft a chronological argument. Make an argument that builds on its prior points.

  22. How to Write a Perfect Synthesis Essay for the AP Language Exam

    The first of the three essays you'll have to write on the AP Language exam is called the "synthesis essay." If you want to earn full points on this portion of the AP Lang Exam, you need to know what a synthesis essay is and what skills are assessed by the AP Lang synthesis essay.

  23. thesis examples

    The thesis may focus on an analysis of one of the elements of fiction, drama, poetry or nonfiction as expressed in the work: character, plot, structure, idea, theme, symbol, style, imagery, tone, etc. Example: