Some Basics - Introduction to the Analysis Essay - Develop Strategies for Success - AP English Language

AP English Language

Develop Strategies for Success


Introduction to the Analysis Essay


Summary: Complete explanation of the analysis essay and its purpose as it is presented on the AP English Language exam.


Key Ideas

image Learn the types of analysis prompts you might encounter on the AP English Language exam.

image Learn about the rubrics and rating of the AP English Language essay.

image Learn the basics of reading and notating a given passage.

image Learn the basics of constructing your response to the prompt.

image Examine student models that respond to the diagnostic exam’s analysis essay prompt.

image Learn how the rubrics were used to rate the student sample essays.

After your brief break, you will be given a packet that contains all three essay prompts and several texts that are specifically related to the synthesis essay. You will have 15 minutes to read the prompts and the texts. During this time period, the essay test booklet must remain sealed. After the initial 15 minutes have elapsed, you will be directed to open the test booklet and begin to write your three essays. You will have 2 hours to write your essays.

On the cover of the booklet you will find the breakdown of the three essays and the time suggested for each.

Section II

Total Time—2¼ hours

Number of questions—3

Percent of total grade—55

Each question counts one-third of the total section score.

Note: You will have a total of 2 hours to write, which you may divide any way you choose. However, each essay carries the same weight, so do NOT spend an inappropriate amount of time on any one question.

The next step is to quickly turn the pages of the packet and skim the given selections. This should take you less than a minute.

Some Basics

Just What Is an AP English Language Analysis Essay?

Generally, the student is presented with a prose passage that can be drawn from various genres and time periods. Although the specific tasks asked of the student may vary from year to year, they almost always involve the analysis of language, including rhetorical strategies and stylistic elements. (If you are in doubt about the meaning of the underlined terms, make certain to refer to the Glossary and the Comprehensive Review section.)


You may be extremely lucky and find a familiar piece by a familiar author. This certainly can enhance your comfort level. But, don’t try to plug into the question everything you know about that author or selection if it does not exactly fit the prompt. Likewise, do not be rattled if you are unfamiliar with the work. You will be familiar with the approaches necessary to analyze it. Remember, this exam reaches thousands of students, many of whom will be in a similar situation and equally anxious. Be confident that you are thoroughly prepared to tackle these tasks and have fun doing so.

What Is the Purpose of the Analysis Essay?

The College Board wants to determine your facility with reading, understanding, and analyzing challenging texts. They also want to assess how well you manipulate language to communicate your written analysis of a specific topic to a mature audience. The level of your writing should be a direct reflection of your critical thinking.

“Doing close readings of editorial columns in newspapers and magazines is a real help to my students as they prepare to attack both multiple-choice questions and analysis essays.”

— Chris S., AP teacher

AP is looking for connections between analysis and the passage. For example, when you find an image, identify it and connect it to the prompt. Don’t just list items as you locate them.