AP English Language

Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High


Comprehensive Review—Analysis


Summary: Examine structure, purpose, and style as evidenced in the modes of discourse.


Key Ideas

image Learn the language of analysis and how to use it.

image Acquaint yourself with rhetorical strategies.

image Learn how selection of detail, subject matter, diction, and syntax contribute to style.

image Learn how topic adherence and connective tissue unify your essay.

image Understand the difference between active and passive voice.

Some Basics


For the AP English Language exam student, the definition of analysis is quite specific. It means that you are going to take apart a particular passage and divide it into its basic components for the purpose of examining how the writer develops his or her subject.

Are There Different Types of Analysis?

For the AP English Language exam, the different types of analysis include the analysis of structure, purpose, and style.


Discourse simply means “conversation.” For the writer, this “conversation” takes place between the text and the reader. To communicate with the reader, the writer uses a particular method or combination of methods to make his or her idea(s) clear to the reader.


Don’t let professional jargon throw you. Rhetoric is basically an umbrella term for all of the strategies, modes, and devices a writer can employ to allow the reader to easily accept and understand his or her point of view.


Here’s another piece of the lingo puzzle that you need not fear. Prose can be divided into FOUR primary categories. They are:

1. EXPOSITION: illustrates a point

2. NARRATION: tells a story

3. DESCRIPTION: creates a sensory image

4. ARGUMENTATION: takes a position on an issue and defends it

These are generally referred to as the modes of discourse. You should be able to distinguish among them but, do not become bogged down in worrying about these classes. They will be obvious to you. Being familiar with the professional terminology of this course is a way of beginning to develop a common vocabulary needed to discuss writing.


Rhetorical strategies include example, contrast and comparison, definition, cause and effect, process, analysis/division, and classification. The writer may also employ descriptive and narrative strategies. These are the basic approaches a writer uses to tell a story, explain a point, describe a situation, or argue a position. (Modes of discourse, for those in the know.)

What Is the Analysis of RHETORICAL STRUCTURE?

Regardless of the length of a passage, the writer will employ one or more strategies to develop the purpose of the piece. Your job is to:

• Carefully read the passage

• Recognize and identify strategies used in the passage

• Determine how these strategies are utilized in the development of the author’s purpose


After this, it is up to you to use your own rhetorical strategies to present the points you want to illustrate in your analysis. Remember, your primary purpose is to analyze the passage. In so doing, you will probably employ one or more of the rhetorical strategies, such as example, cause and effect, or contrast and comparison.

There Is So Much to Know, How Can I Prepare Myself for the Exam?

First, don’t panic. You’re in an AP English Language course, and you will have a year to become prepared. The work of this course centers on developing those analytical skills required by the AP English Language exam. In this chapter, we are going to provide you with a brief overview of the different rhetorical strategies. For each rhetorical strategy, we will do the following:

• define the term;

• cite examples;

• provide practice with analysis; and

• offer suggestions for writing your own AP essays using that strategy.