AP English Language

Develop Strategies for Success


Introduction to the Analysis Essay

Other Types of Analysis Essays

Are There Other Types of Analysis Questions on the Exam?

You bet. Another analysis prompt you can expect on the exam asks the student to analyze the author’s intended effect on the reader and how the author re-creates an experience. Still another type is comparison and contrast. This prompt can be based on either a fiction or a nonfiction passage.

What Am I Expected to Do When Asked to Identify the Author’s Intended Effect on the Reader?

No one can ever know what an author intended, unless you could personally approach the writer and ask, “Tell me, just exactly what did you intend the effect to be on your reader when you wrote this passage?” And, we all know that this is not a possibility for 999 out of 1,000 authors. This said, keep the following in mind.


The AP Comp test makers obviously believe that there is a clear, definite effect on the reader; otherwise, they would not be asking you to identify it. When writing about effect, think about your personal reaction to the text. While reading it, or as a result of reading it, how do you feel(happy, sad, angry, amused, perplexed, uplifted, motivated, informed, inspired, “connected”—you get the idea)?

What Should I Try to Include in My Essay When I’m Asked to Analyze How an Author Re-creates an Experience?


Think about this. Have you ever tried to re-create your own personal experience for your friends, your family, or your teacher? Ask yourself what you did to ensure that your listeners would really feel as if they were actually there. Were you trying to be humorous or serious? You chose what you would say to introduce this experience, didn’t you? Did you set up the scene with descriptions of the setting, the people? Did you tell them why you were there? What kind of details did you choose to include? Why those, and not others? What kind of language did you use? (You were quite aware that your audience responds to certain kinds of language manipulation.) Did you center the tale on yourself, the action, a person, or group of people? Did you emphasize actions, reactions, dialog? Did you tell the story in chronological order, or did you move back and forth in time? Did you interject personal comments? Did you tell the story so that the listeners felt a part of the experience or set apart from it? Did you emote or try to remain aloof?

Get the picture? This is the type of questioning that should be part of your process of analysis when asked how an author re-creates an experience.

What Do I Do About the Comparison and Contrast Essay?


The comparison and contrast essay is not difficult, but it demands that you have organizational control over your material. First, carefully read the prompt and understand what you are being asked to compare and contrast. With this in mind, carefully read and annotate each of the given texts, looking for major points to support and illustrate your thesis. Next, decide on the structure you want to use to present your points:

• Point by point

• Subject by subject

• A combination of both of the preceding

“Working the Prompt”


As you did with the previous essay, the very first thing you must do is to read and deconstruct the prompt carefully. What follows is a sample prompt that you could find in the essay section of the exam.

• Plan to spend 1–3 minutes carefully reading the question.

• After this initial reading, highlight the essential terms and elements of the prompt.

Carefully read the following excerpt from Louisa May Alcott’s nonfiction narrative Hospital Sketches (1863). In a carefully constructed essay, identify the author’s intended effect on the reader and the ways in which the author recreates her experience as a nurse in a U.S. Army hospital during the Civil War. Consider such elements as pacing, diction, imagery, selection of detail, and tone.

Time yourself. How long did it take you?________
Compare your highlighting of the prompt with ours.

Carefully read the following excerpt from Louisa May Alcott’s nonfiction narrative Hospital Sketches (1863). In a carefully constructed essay, identify the author’s intended effect on the reader and the ways in which the author re-creates her experience as a nurse in a U.S. Army hospital during the Civil War. Consider such elements as pacing, diction, imagery, selection of detail, and tone.

As before, anything else you may have highlighted is extraneous. Notice that the prompt asks you to do TWO things. You must both identify the effect on the audience and analyze how the author re-creates her experience. If you address only one of these areas, your essay will be incomplete, no matter how well written it is.

Review terms and strategies related to purpose, effect, organization.

Follow the process for reading the passage we illustrated for you in the first section of this chapter. Remember, you are going to do a close reading that requires you to highlight and make marginal notes (glosses) that refer you to the section of the prompt that this citation illustrates.


Spend between 8 and 10 minutes “working the material.”

Do not skip this step. It is key to scoring well on the essay.

“Death of a Soldier”





The Opening Paragraph


Remember, your opening paragraph is going to set the subject and tone of your entire essay. Make certain that your reader knows precisely where you intend to take him or her. This clarity of purpose will give your reader confidence in what you have to present. Some of the questions you should ask yourself about your opening paragraph include.

• Have you cited the author and title?

• Have you identified the author’s intended effect on the reader?

• Have you specifically mentioned which strategies, devices, or elements you will consider in your analysis of Alcott’s re-creation of her experience?

Remember, this information can be provided to your reader in may different ways.

You can be direct or inventive. Whatever you choose to do, be confident and clear.

Below are four sample opening paragraphs that address the prompt for the Louisa May Alcott analysis essay.

We recognized many areas we could develop in this analysis essay. Pacing is obvious in this brief narrative. Alcott tells of her experience in chronological order and uses a combination of short, direct sentences to balance longer, figurative ones. We could have just concentrated on dialog, but we chose to include it with our discussion of selection of detail, diction, imagery, and tone.

Sample A

In Hospital Sketches, Louisa May Alcott presents a sentimental retelling of an episode she experienced as a Civil War nurse. As she tells of her encounter with a dying soldier, Alcott uses details, imagery, and diction to make her reader emotionally identify with her and her subject. These strategies and devices evoke a sentimental and sorrowful response in the reader.

Sample B

“John was dying.” Such a direct statement for such a tragic and moving event. But, Louisa May Alcott does more than just objectively present a medical report of the death of a Civil War soldier in Hospital Sketches. Rather, through diction, selection of details, imagery, and tone, Alcott emotionally involves her reader in this sentimental re-creation of one young blacksmith’s death.

Sample C

War is hell. But, occasionally an angel of mercy on a mission braves the horror to save a lost soul. Louisa May Alcott, a Civil War nurse, was such an angel—and perhaps her presence helped the troubled soul of a dying blacksmith reach the rewards of heaven he so deserved. Through imagery, diction, selection of detail, and tone, Alcott allows her readers to join her in this sentimental and awe-inspiring narrative from Hospital Sketches.

Sample D

My only previous connection with Louisa May Alcott was with Little Women. What a very different scene she presents in her story from Hospital Sketches. The reader is made to come face to face with the death of a wounded Civil War soldier as he is tended by a most caring nurse. This moving and sentimental narrative is developed through imagery, diction, selection of detail, and tone.

Although each of these opening paragraphs is different, each does the expected job of an introductory AP Comp analysis essay.

• Each cites the author and title.

• Each identifies the author’s intended effect on the reader.

• Each states which strategies/devices will be discussed in the analysis of Alcott’s narrative.

Let’s take a look at what is different about each of these introductory paragraphs.

• Sample A restates the prompt directly. It is to the point without elaboration, but it enables the reader to immediately know the focus of the essay.

• Sample B uses a direct quotation from the text to grab the reader’s attention. It is obvious that this is a writer who understands how language operates.

• Sample C imposes a personal viewpoint immediately and establishes a metaphor that will most likely be the unifying structure of the essay.

• Sample D makes reference to one of Alcott’s other works as the scene is being set. The writer does not spend any additional time referring to the other work. It merely provides a kind of “stepping-stone” for both the writer and the reader.

Into which of the above samples could your opening paragraph be classified?