AP English Language

STEP 3
Develop Strategies for Success

CHAPTER 5

Introduction to the Analysis Essay

Working the Prompt

For the purposes of this text, highlighting refers to any annotative technique, including underlining, circling, marginal notes, or using colored markers. The AP exam does NOT permit the use of highlighters, but this technique is valuable in other circumstances.

How Should I Go About Reading the Prompt?

To really bring the answer home to you, we are going to deconstruct a prompt for you right now. (This is the same question that is in the Diagnostic/Master exam you first saw in the introduction to this book.)

You should plan to spend 1–3 minutes carefully reading the question. This gives you time to really digest what the question is asking you to do.

Here’s the prompt:

The following paragraphs are from the opening of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. After carefully reading the excerpt, write a well-organized essay in which you characterize Capote’s view of Holcomb, Kansas, and analyze how Capote conveys this view. Your analysis may consider such stylistic elements as diction, imagery, syntax, structure, tone, and selection of detail.

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In the margin, note what time you should be finished with this essay. For example, the test starts at 1:00. You write 1:40 in the margin. Time to move on.

Here are three reasons why you do a 1–3-minute careful analysis of the prompt.

1. Once you know what is expected, you will read in a more directed manner.

2. Once you internalize the question, you will be sensitive to those details that will apply.

3. Once you know all the facets that must be addressed, you will be able to write a complete essay demonstrating adherence to the topic.

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TOPIC ADHERENCE, WHICH MEANS STICKING TO THE QUESTION, IS A KEY STRATEGY FOR ACHIEVING A HIGH SCORE.

DO THIS NOW.

Highlight, circle, or underline the essential terms and elements in the prompt.

(Time yourself) How long did it take you?________

(Don’t worry if it took you longer than 1–3 minutes with this first attempt. You will be practicing this technique throughout this review, and it will become almost second nature to you.)

Compare our highlighting of the prompt with yours.

The following paragraphs are from the opening of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. After carefully reading the excerpt, write a well-organized essay in which you characterize Capote’s view of Holcomb, Kansas, and analyze how Capote conveys this view. Your analysis may consider such stylistic elements as diction, imagery, syntax, structure, tone, and selection of detail.

In this prompt, anything else you may have highlighted is extraneous.

Note: When the question reads such as, you are not required to use only those ideas presented; you are free to use your own selection of techniques, strategies, and devices. Notice the prompt requires more than one element. You MUST use more than one. Sorry, one will not be enough. No matter how well-presented, your essay will be incomplete.

Review terms related to elements of style and techniques and methods of analysis.

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Sometimes the incidental data given in the prompt, such as the title of the work, the author, the date of publication, the genre, etc., can prove helpful.