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How To Write A Good Thesis Statement For An A.P.Essay

As we approach AP exam time, you’ll want to explore how to best prepare yourself for the AP English Literature free-response section of the exam. Free-response makes up 55% of your test score. In this section, you will write three essays regarding prompts from poetry, a selected passage, and a work of literary fiction you select.

Only 7.6% of AP English Literature students scored a 5, in 2016. Follow this AP English Literature study plan to improve your chances of a possible 5 on this year’s test. Included herein are best practices for studying, practice exams, and tips on writing extraordinary essays.

What is the format of AP English Literature?

The goal of the AP English Literature course is to familiarize students with complex literary works of fiction. Through analytical reading and a careful attention to detail, students learn critical analysis of creative writing. Writing is an integral part of the course and exam. Essay assignments focus on the critical analysis of provided literary works and can be expository, analytical or argumentative.

The exam takes 3 hours. It is comprised of three free-response essays and 55 multiple-choice questions. The free-response section accounts to 55% of your score.

You will be given two hours to complete three free-response essays. The first will be corresponding to a given poem. The second will be regarding an excerpt from prose fiction or drama. The third is centered around a literary work chosen by you, from a specified category.

Why is the AP English Literature Free-Response Important?

Scoring guidelines for the AP English Literature Exam show that essays are assigned grades from 1-9. A 9 is the best score possible. Each of your scores is then multiplied by 3.0556. This weighted score is added to your multiple-choice totals, and the sum is your score. Overall scores ranging 114-150 are required for a 5 on the AP English Literature Exam.

If you score a perfect 68 on the multiple-choice portion, you would need three solid 5’s on your essays to earn a 5, on your overall exam. Since, it’s unlikely for anyone to achieve a perfect multiple-choice score, you should aim higher on the free-response questions.

A reasonable goal to strive for, would be earning 7’s on your essays. This would allow you to earn a 5 for your overall score by answering 40 MCQs correctly.

What Content is Covered in the Free-Response Section of AP English Literature?

For the AP English Literature Free-response section you are required to write three essays. They may be argumentative, analytical or expository depending on instructions. This section tests your ability to read and interpret various literary works, as well as your ability to communicate your ideas in a stylized, coherent response.

The test questions and subject matter change yearly, however, the structure remains the same. There will be one poem, one passage from prose fiction (or drama), and one work that you choose from a given category. Each fictional work will be accompanied by a question that you must answer in your essay. These range from specific interpretation of a given line or literary device used, to overall understanding of a writer’s purpose, theme or style.

Literature represented may span the 18th to 20th centuries. Poets such as John Keats, Walt Whitman, and Gwendolyn Brooks are possible examples. In drama, you may see the likes of Samuel Beckett, Sophocles, or Tennessee Williams. And, in expository prose, you’ll find authors such as Gloria Anzaldua, George Orwell, or Edward Said.

How to Prepare for AP English Literature Free-Response

Managing your time, as the AP exams grow closer, is imperative if you want a perfect score. There are many resources available online to help get the most from your AP English Literature study plan, both on and CollegeBoard. Whether you’re natural at writing and comprehending literature, or not, you’ll want to prepare for the coming exam. Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of study sessions.

Practice Makes Perfect

You can find released exams and sample essays from previous years, on CollegeBoard. On there are a multitude of helpful study resources including 15 Must Know Rhetorical Terms For AP English Literature, AP English Literature; 5 Essential Reads, and practice free-response essays for various works. If you’d like to follow a specific route the One Month AP English Literature Study Guide is helpful and comprehensive.

Focus on Critical Reading

Critical reading is essential for any AP English Literature review. It’s important to never skim through passages while studying. You will miss underlying themes and subtext which are important for answering the AP English Literature practice questions.

Always read at a normal pace in practice and during your exam. Repeat or elaborate passages to ensure you’ve understood them. Consider the following question as you read, “What is the meaning of this sentence, paragraph, stanza, or chapter?”

Utilize Your Syllabus

At the beginning of the year, collect as many of the books, poems and other works assigned for your AP English Literature course as you can. This will allow you to read at your own pace and save valuable time looking for assigned texts as they come up.

Take Notes as You Read

When reviewing any book, poem, essay or other literary work take careful notes which, can be used later. Include the exact title, author’s name and a paraphrasing of the preface or introduction. Also note important themes, styles, and content. When recording specific ideas related to a particular part include page, paragraph, and line number for easy re-examination at a later date.

Carefully Consider Principal Ideas

Take into account the key concepts in any reading assignment. What evidence or support does the author show? In the writings of journalists, identifying these ideas and reinforcing materials is easy. However, accomplishing the same task for a more subtle work, such as that of Sylvia Plath or F. Scott Fitzgerald, may prove challenging.

Explore the Context

Spending a short amount of time researching the context surrounding an author or their work can expand your understanding of issues they tried to address and how well they succeeded. For example, researching Berlin in 1935 will give you insight to better understand the motivations of Vladimir Nabokov, when he wrote The Gift.

Read out Loud

When reading complex passages or poetry it is helpful to read aloud. Often, this approach slows your reading and aids in your comprehension of underlying tones and themes.

Reread when Necessary

It is regularly advised to read a literary work more than once to fully understand complex issues and sophisticated expressions.

Consult Your Dictionary, Thesaurus or Encyclopedia

Take advantage of these invaluable resources at your local library or online to expand your knowledge of words and content that you are reading. Remember that many English and American texts require familiarity with the major themes of Judaic and Christian religious traditions and with Greek and Roman mythology.

Write, Review, and Rewrite Regularly

Writing quality essays takes practice. It’s not an innate ability we are born with. Proper use of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax are just as important as understanding the literature you’re analyzing. Refer to How To Score Your Own AP English Literature Practice Essay to review and improve your writing. For an in depth review of free-response strategies turn to 3 Ways to Tackle AP English Literature Prompts. Use of the AP English Literature free-response practice questions will be invaluable to your study plan.

How to Answer AP English Literature Free-Response Questions?

Here are some basic guidelines for writing a cohesive free-response essay. For more specific details on writing an exemplary response, check out How to Score Your Own AP English Language Practice Essay. Also, head over to 11 AP English Literature Test Taking Strategies for exam insight.

Understand the Subject Matter

Before you begin formulating your answer, read the prompt and any corresponding passage thoroughly. Ensure you fully comprehend what is being asked of you.

Outline Your Essay

Begin answering any free-response question with a quick outline of your planned essay. An effective introduction will include a thesis statement. Your thesis statement and supporting ideas should be clear and well thought out. Remember to structure your points and end with a conclusion which summarizes your answer.

Write Clearly and Eloquently

As you craft your response pay special attention to structure, vocabulary, and grammar. A well written essay is essential. Be certain to answer the presented question fully with supporting evidence from the passage provided. Ensure that your tenses are in line, pronoun use is not messy, and read your essay for fluidity as you go. Conclude by restating your thesis and summarizing your argument.

What are AP English Literature Free-Response Questions Like?

The following are actual free-response questions from AP English Literature Exams of the past years. You can find many more released questions and responses on CollegeBoard, for reference.

Example One is from the 2016 exam.

“In this excerpt from Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Michael Henchard and his daughter Elizabeth-Jane are reunited after years of estrangement. During this separation, Henchard has risen from poor seasonal farm worker to wealthy mayor of a small country town, while Elizabeth has supported herself by waiting tables at a tavern.

Read the passage carefully. Paying particular attention to tone, word choice, and selection of detail, compose a well-written essay in which you analyze Hardy’s portrayal of the complex relationship between the two characters.”

When reading the passage, pay special attention to the relationship between the two characters. Note specific lines which give particular insight. Formulate your opinion and structure your essay to support it. A well-written response for this prompt would understand the many nuisances seen in this excerpt. Notable points to mention in an effective essay include the underlying hypocrisy of Henchard, the unhealthy relationship between the characters and the paradox wherein Elizabeth-Jane tries in vain to relate to her father, causing her own pain.

Take a look at some past responses for this prompt and the scores on CollegeBoard’s 2016 Scoring Guidelines.

Example two is from the 2015 exam.

“In literary works, cruelty often functions as a crucial motivation or a major social or political factor. Select a novel, play, or epic poem in which acts of cruelty are important to the theme. Then write a well-developed essay analyzing how cruelty functions in the work as a whole and what the cruelty reveals about the perpetrator and/or victim.

You may select a work from the list below or another work of equal literary merit. Do not merely summarize the plot.”

Some of the choices given included Beloved, Oliver Twist, The Scarlet Letter, and The Crucible.

Select one of the given options or your own, based on your confidence that you remember and understand the plot, characters and details well enough to write a convincing and sophisticated essay. Examine how cruelty plays a role in the story, what that means for the victim and/or perpetrator, and any underlying themes which relate to cruelty. Use specific examples from the piece and support your argument clearly.

Take a look at a few past responses from this prompt and the scores on CollegeBoard’s 2015 Scoring Guidelines.

How can I practice AP English Literature Free-Response?

As you continue to prepare yourself for the AP English Literature free-response portion of the exam, take advantage of the many resources cited herein. Also, look on for helpful AP English Literature practice questions, study tips and essay guides.

Don’t forget to check the quality of your writing as you practice by self-scoring your practice responses. Check out How to Score Your Own AP English Literature Essay for help.

Looking for AP English Literature practice?

Kickstart your AP English Literature prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.

Presentation on theme: "How To Write an APUSH Thesis Statement & How to Tackle the Long Essay"— Presentation transcript:

1 How To Write an APUSH Thesis Statement & How to Tackle the Long Essay

2 How the Long Essay is Evaluated

3 The Long Essay Question
The AP U.S. History exam gives students a choice between two long-essay questions that focus on the same thinking skill but may apply to different time periods and thematic learning objectives.You will have 35 minutes to answer the one question you select.

4 Criteria A. Argumentation B. Use of Evidence
Develop a thesis or relevant argument that addresses all parts of the question.B. Use of EvidenceSupport the thesis using specific evidence, clearly linked to the thesis.C. Targeted Historical Thinking SkillEach question will also assess an additional thinking skill, such as causation, comparison, continuity and change over time, or periodization.D. SynthesisWritten answers need to synthesize the argument, evidence, and context in a coherent and persuasive essay.

5 Development of Essay Writing Skills
You will most benefit from starting the practice of writing AP history essays as early as possible.Instead of writing and rewriting complete essays until all elements are mastered, break down the skills needed to write an effective AP history essay into sequential steps.

6 Long Essay Steps 1. Analyze the Question 2. Organize the Evidence
3. Develop the Thesis4. Write the Introductory Paragraph5. Write the Supporting Paragraphs and Conclusion6. Evaluate Your Essay

7 1. Analyze the questionTaking the time to consider what the question really asks is often overlooked in the rush to start writing.Stop and ask yourself, "What is the targeted historical thinking skill in the question? Causation? Comparison? Continuity and change over time? Periodization?"You might try reading over the question or prompt three times. What is the key word(s) or phrase in the question? CIRCLE it. It could be verbs such as "analyze,“ "explain" or "support," "modify," or "refute."All questions have one thing in common: They demand the use of historical thinking skills and analysis of the evidence.A long-essay answer will not receive full credit by simply reporting information. Therefore, be on your guard for questions that start out with the verbs "identify" or "describe."Such a question is usually followed by "analyze“ or some other more demanding thinking skill.

8 Example 1Consider TWO of the following and analyze the ways in which each of the two has affected the identity of women in American society since 1940:Changing economic conditionsRebirth of an organized women's movementTraditional definitions of women's rolesFor this essay, it is not enough simply to describe changing economic conditions, women's organizations, and so on. You must also analyze the effects that two factors had on the identity of women. Here is a reliable guideline for any AP essay question: If you think that you can write an essay without making some judgment that results in a thesis statement, you have not understood the question.

9 Example 2 Evaluate the relative importance of domestic and foreign
Sometimes, two, three, or more aspects of a question may be embedded in one sentence, as in the following example.1.) What verb is used to assess your understanding of the topic?2.) What does the verb mean?3.) What aspects of American politics are you being asked to evaluate?4.) Upon which time period does the question ask you to focus?Evaluate the relative importance of domestic and foreignaffairs in shaping American politics in the 1790s.This question asks the student to deal with BOTH domestic AND foreign affairs. Failing to deal with both parts of the question will result in a lower grade.

10 Break it down like so: Circle the task at hand
(analyze, assess, compare, etc.)Underline the historical subject/contentBox out the time period given, or assign one

11 Try it with this example!
“The South never had a chance to win the Civil War.” Support, modify, or refute this statement?Discuss the political, economic and social reforms introduced in the South between 1864 and To what extent did these reforms survive the Compromise of 1877?Antebellum South

12 2.) Organize the Evidence
Many students start writing their answers to an essay question without first thinking through what they know, and they often write themselves into the proverbial corner.Directions for the AP History exam advise students to spend some time planning before starting to write an essay.1.) Identify what you know about the question and organize your information by making a brief outline of what you know.2.) Write your outline in the test booklet.3.) List facts pertaining to the question to help organize your thoughts4.) Ask yourself, do I have enough evidence to support my thesis? It is obviously not very productive to select an essay or take a position that you cannot support.

13 ExampleQuestion: Evaluate the relative importance of domestic and foreign affairs in shaping American politics in the 1790s.Domestic AffairsForeign AffairsPolitics-Hamilton's financialplan: national debt, tariff, excise tax,-Bank of the U.S.-Constitution:loose vs. strictinterpretation-Whiskey Rebellion-Alien and SeditionActs-French Revolution-British vs. French-Proc. of Neutrality-Citizen Genet-Jay Treaty-Pinckney Treaty-Washington's FarewellAddress-XYZ Affair-Convention of 1800-President WashingtonJefferson vs. Hamilton-Two-party system-Election of 1796-Revolution of 1800

14 3. Develop a ThesisA strong thesis is necessary in every APUSH essay answer.You must take a position on the question being asked!Feel free to disagree. Go in the direction where the majority of the evidence takes you.Avoid just restating the question.Focus on the appropriate historical thinking skills.Don’t be afraid of making a mistake!Certainty is not as common in history as it is in math or the physical sciences.Disagreement over the interpretation of the historical evidence develops because of the limitations of the evidence available and the differing perspectives of both participants and historians.As a result, AP readers are looking not for the “single right answer" but for a writer's ability to interpret the evidence and marshal historical support for that interpretation.The direction for the long-essay may give clear directions on the formation of the thesis, such as "support, modify, or refute" an interpretation.

15 Weak Thesis Examples Simple Thesis: Complex-simple thesis:
Use this checklist:Does the thesis take a position or does it “fence-sit”?Does the thesis offer an interpretation of the question?Does the thesis offer specific organizing or controlling ideas for an essay?Simple Thesis:“Domestic and foreign affairs shaped American politics.”Complex-simple thesis:“In some respects, foreign affairs shaped American politics more than domestic affairs during the 1790s.”Simple-split thesis:“In some respects, foreign affairs shaped American politics more than domestic affairs during the 1790s. A number of issues from wars overseas to relations with other countries caused this.”

16 Complex-split thesis:
Although some historians may argue that domestic issues shaped American politics during the 1790s, foreign affairs contributed more to shaping American politics than domestic issues because these issues seemed to dominate American electoral debates in this time period. While the young nation struggled with questions about powers in the new Constitution, ideological conflicts over the French Revolution, foreign policy divisions created by the Napoleonic Wars, and our relations with Great Britain did more to divide Americans and promote the formation of two political parties during the 1790s.1.) Acknowledges the other side / prepares a counter-argument.2.) Sets the historical time and place3.) Takes a position by making a judgment or argument (“Evaluate”).4.) Uses a “because” clause to give a reason for the position and sets the historical context.5.) Explains the “because” portion with an analytical interpretation & subtopics. This interpretation provided the organizing arguments that guided the development of the essay.

17 A good thesis may acknowledge the opposing argument
A good thesis allows the writer to show understanding of the complexity of the issue and knowledge of information on both sides of the issue. Most of the essay questions allow for an opinion on either side of the question. By acknowledging another view in the thesis, it becomes possible to add relevant information on that side of the issue.

18 Want a formula?Although………, however…………… because…………………….

19 “Thomas Jefferson is often thought of as an idealist, but as president, he demonstrated his conviction as a pragmatist.” Support, modify, or refute this statement.Although Jefferson was idealistic in his insistence on an embargo that cut off trade to Europe, he showed himself to be predominantly a pragmatist in the way he handled the Louisiana Purchase, the issue of the constitutionality of the National Bank, and Federalist appointees.Despite his pragmatic decision to purchase Louisiana, Jefferson proved himself to be primarily an idealist through his handling of the Embargo Act and the national debt.

20 4. Write the introductory paragraph
AP guidelines are reluctant to recommend a specific structure for the introductory paragraph for a history essay, lest they limit a student's creativity.However, many students suffer from poorly organized essays with no thesis statements or an argument so embedded in the essay that it might take several readings to find it.Therefore, you can probably improve your essay by using some organizing principles for writing an introductory paragraph.

21 Sample Organization for a Long Essay

22 Effective Intro Paragraph
An effective introductory paragraph usually contains three elements:1.) establishes the setting time and place by providing the background or historical context for the question or your thesis,2.) the thesis statement, and3.) a “blueprint” or “controlling ideas” to the main arguments of the essay to be developed in the body or supporting paragraphs.

23 Writing the supporting paragraphs and conclusion
The number and length of the supporting paragraphs forming the body of the essay should vary depending on the thesis (not necessarily 5 paragraphs!), the main points of your argument, and the amount of historical evidence.To receive the highest possible AP score, you must explain how specific historical evidence is linked to your thesis.Each essay will also have a targeted historical thinking skill, which should shape one argumentation and choice of evidence.

24 Historical Thinking Skills & the Long Essay
CausationDescribes and analyzes causes and/or effects of a historical development, illustrated with specific examples.ComparisonDescribes and analyzes reasons for similarities and/or differences in historical developments with specific examples.Continuity and Change over TimeDescribes and analyzes historical continuity and change with specific examples.PeriodizationAnalyzes the extent to which the historical development specified in the prompt (often a date) was of higher or lesser value than a different event, again with specific examples to illustrate the analysis.

25 Synthesis & the Long Essay
Synthesis involves:organizing relevant historical evidence in a coherent and persuasive argument.Explains the historical context of the question.The historical context of the French Revolution is essential to analyzing the foreign policy debate in the United States electoral politics during the 1790s.While length is no guarantee of a top grade, the longer essay often receives a higher grade because of its depth of analysis and factual support.DO NOT just try to fill up a specific number of pages but, instead write an insightful, persuasive and well-supported essay.DO NOT just list a few generalities or a "laundry list" of facts.DO NOT write in the narrative style by telling “stories,” but rather your goal should be to write analytically and support your argument with specific knowledge.DO NOT use fillers and flowery language in an attempt to impress the reader. Write a a concise, coherent essay in which every word has a purpose. Don’t waste time!

26 Tips for the Long EssayWrite essays in the third person, not 1st person ("I," "we").Use the active voice (e.g. “Edison created”) b/c it denotes cause and effect.Use specific words.Clearly identify persons, factors, and judgments. Avoid vague verbs such as "felt" and "says," and vague references, such as "they" and "others." Avoid absolutes, such as "all" and "none." Rarely in history is the evidence so absolutely conclusive that you can prove that there were no exceptions.Define or explain key terms.If the question deals with terms (such as "liberal,“ "conservative," "sectionalism," or "manifest destiny"), an essential part of your analysis should include an explanation of these terms.Communicate awareness of the complexity of history.Distinguishing between primary and secondary causes and effects, between the significant and the less important. Use verbs that communicate judgment and analysis (e.g., "reveal," "exemplify," "demonstrate," "imply,“ "symbolize").

27 Tips for the Long Essay Anticipate counterarguments. Remain objective.
Consider arguments that are against your thesis, not to prove them, but to show that you are aware of opposing points of view. The strongest essays confront conflicting evidence.Remain objective.Avoid rhetoric, especially on social issues. The AP test is not the place to argue that a group was racists or that some were the "good guys" while others were the "bad guys." Do not use slang terms!Communicate the organization and logical development of your argument.Each paragraph should develop a main point that is clearly stated in the topic sentence. Provide a few words or a phrase of transition to connect one paragraph to another.Focus on the thesis in the conclusion.Restate the thesis in a fresh and interesting manner or explain its significance. The conclusion should not try to summarize all the data or introduce new evidence. No conclusion is better than a meaningless effort. If you are running out of time, but have written a well-organized essay with a clear thesis that is restated in the supporting paragraphs, you should receive little or no penalty for not having a conclusion.

28 6. Evaluate your EssayMore essay writing does not necessarily produce better essays.Breaking down the process into manageable and sequential steps is one key for improvement.Peer evaluation and self-evaluation both help students to internalize the elements of an effective essay and learn ways to improve.Self-evaluation vs. peer evaluation vs. teacher evaluation

29 Checklist 1. Introductory Paragraph 2. Thesis 3. Analysis 4. Evidence
Underline the thesis and circle the structural elements identified in the introduction. How effectively does the introductory paragraph prepare the reader for the balance of the essay? How could the introductory paragraph be improved?2. ThesisHow well does thesis deal with all parts of the question? Does the thesis acknowledge the complexity of the question? How could the thesis be improved?3. AnalysisDoes the body of the essay provide analysis of the question or does it primarily describe? Does it acknowledge opposing points of view on the questions? How could the analysis be improved?4. EvidenceIs the thesis supported with substantial, relevant information? Is the evidence clearly linked to the thesis? What significant additional information could have been used for support?5. ErrorsWhat minor or major errors in fact or analysis does the essay include?6. PresentationHow well-organized and persuasive is the essay? Do the paragraph composition, sentence structure, word choice, and spelling detract from the essays? Do any specific areas need improvement?

30 Practice Scoring Guide