5 Steps to a 5: AP English language 2017 (2016)


Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High


Comprehensive Review—Argument


Summary: Experience why everything is an argument. Examine the process for presenting a position that others will understand and accept.


Key Ideas

Image Learn the format for the basic argumentative essay.

Image Learn the difference between deduction and induction.

Image Become familiar with logical fallacies.

Image Practice reading and evaluating an argument.

Some Basics


In its broadest sense, all writing is argument. It is the presentation and defense or support of a specific thesis, assertion, or claim. This thesis can be a strongly held belief, a critical view of an issue, a presentation of an insight, a search for the truth, or even a description of that mountain view that moved you to tears that you hope others will share. To convince the reader to accept the position, the writer provides support using objective facts or logical evidence, and sometimes, even emotional appeals.

You can find argument almost anywhere: from ads in your favorite magazine or on television to academic journals, from “Peanuts ” to political cartoons, from letters to the editor of Sports Illustrated to editorials in the New York Times , and from a plea to your parents to a President’s speech to the nation. Possibly the only writing that is not an argument is a piece that offers no support for a claim.

What Is the Difference Between Argument and Persuasion?

The intended results of each of these strategies is where the difference lies. ALL persuasion is a type of argument. The goal of an argument is to have you accept the writer’s thesis. However, with persuasion, after you’ve accepted the position of the writer, the goal is to have you get moving and do something . For example:

ARGUMENT: Walking is necessary for good health.

PERSUASION: I want you to walk every day for good health.

What Does the AP Expect Me to Be Able to Do with an Argumentative Essay?

Most frequently, the AP exam will present you with a prompt that could be:

• A brief excerpt

• A quotation

• A statement

• An anecdote

You will then be directed to defend (agree with), challenge (disagree with), or qualify (agree with some and disagree with other parts of the text) the:

• Author’s position

• Statement’s main idea

• Narrative’s main point

Other types of argumentative prompts will ask you to:

• Write an essay indicating which idea among a given set is more valid

• Explore the validity of an assertion

No matter which type of argumentation prompt is given, the AP expects you to be able to:

• Take a position on the issue or situation

• Support your position using your own experience, reading, and/or observations

How Do You Argue a Point or Position?


Basically, support for your position on an issue should be rational and logical, not emotional. It should be objective rather than biased (one-sided). This support can be developed using any of the rhetorical strategies and devices we’ve reviewed for you in Chapter 8 .

The classical formula for an argument is:

1 . Present the issue/situation/problem.

2 . State your (writer’s) assertion/claim/thesis.

3 . Support your claim.

4 . Acknowledge and respond to real or possible opposing views.

5 . Make your final comment or summary of the evidence.

The order of the presentation can be varied, and any of the rhetorical strategies can be employed. You must make certain that your support/evidence is appropriate and effective.

The Argument


Your argument can be:

Ethical –an appeal to the reader’s good sense, goodwill, and desire to “do the right thing”

Emotional –an appeal to the reader’s fear, patriotism, and so forth

Logical –an appeal to inductive and deductive reasoning

Induction : forming a generalization from a set of specific examples. (Example: Margo has 17 stuffed teddy bears, 3 stuffed cows, 11 monkeys, 4 camels, and 6 stuffed elephants. Margo loves to collect stuffed animals.)

Deduction : reaching a probable conclusion based on given premises. A premise is a proposition that is proven or taken for granted. (Example: All high school seniors at this high school must write a research paper. Sean is a senior at this high school. Therefore, Sean must write a research paper.)

Be aware that conclusions can be drawn from implicit premises. These can include:

• Universal truths

• Possibilities that the reader will readily accept

• Familiar sayings

• Facts that everyone, including the reader, knows

Deduction uses the syllogism. A syllogism is the format of a formal argument that consists of a


You could also say, “Because Leonard is a lion, he is a cat.” In this instance, you have suppressed one of the premises. However, you are confident that most people would agree that all lions are cats. Therefore, you would feel confident in leaving out that premise. But, you must be very careful, because you could end up with what we call a logical fallacy .

Logical fallacies are mistakes in reasoning and fall into several categories.

Non sequitur argument: This Latin phrase means “does not follow.” This is an argument with a conclusion that does not follow from the premise. (Example: Diane graduated from Vassar. She’ll make a great lawyer.)

Begging the question: Here is a mistake in which the writer assumes in his or her assertion/premise/thesis something that really remains to be proved. (Example: Taking geometry is a waste of time. High school students should not be required to take this course.)

Circular reasoning: This mistake in logic restates the premise rather than giving a reason for holding that premise. (Example: I like to eat out because I enjoy different foods and restaurants.)

Straw-man argument: Here is a technique we’ve all seen and heard used by politicians seeking election. The speaker/writer attributes false or exaggerated characteristics or behaviors to the opponent and attacks him on those falsehoods or exaggerations. (Example: You say you support allowing people under eighteen to drive alone. I’ll never be able to understand why weak-willed drivers like you are willing to risk your life and the lives of all other drivers with these crazy teenagers on the road.)

Ad hominem argument: This literally means to “argue against the man.” This technique attacks the person rather than dealing with the issue under discussion. (Example: We all know Sam has several speeding tickets on his record. How can we trust him to vote for us on the issue of a trade agreement with Europe?)

Hasty generalization: A person who makes a hasty generalization draws a conclusion about an entire group based on evidence that is too scant or insufficient. (Example: The veterinarian discovered a viral infection in five beagles. All beagles must be infected with it.)

Overgeneralization: This is what we call stereotyping in most cases. Here, the writer/speaker draws a conclusion about a large number of people, ideas, things, etc. based on very limited evidence. (Example: All members of group A are not to be trusted.) Words such as all , never , always , and every are usually indicative of overgeneralization. It’s best to use and to look for qualifiers (some , seem , often , perhaps , frequently , etc.) that indicate that the writer has an awareness of the complexities of the topic or group under discussion.

Post hoc argument: This fallacy cites an unrelated event that occurred earlier as the cause of a current situation. (Example: I saw a black cat run across the street in front of my car five minutes before I was hit by a foul ball at the ball park. Therefore, the black cat is the cause of my bruised arm.)

Either/or argument: With this fallacy, the writer asserts that there are only two possibilities, when, in reality, there are more. (Example: Tomorrow is April 15; therefore, I must mail in my tax return, or I will be arrested.)

There are several other categories of logical fallacies, but these are the most frequently encountered.


During the year, carefully read editorials or ads in the print media. Check to see if you can locate any logical fallacies. It might be beneficial to do this with your class or study group.

The following activities provide you with some practice with induction, deduction, and analogy.

Induction: If induction is the process that moves from a given series of specifics to a generalization, these are the possible problems:

• The generalization covers many unobserved persons, objects, etc.

• If the conclusion begins with ALL, any exception would invalidate the generalization.

• Cited facts are incorrect.

• Assumed connections are incorrect.

• Assumption is a conclusion NOT supported by the evidence.


A. Write a conclusion for the following:

1. Television network USBC’s drama series won this year’s Emmy for Best Dramatic Series.

2. USBC won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series.

3. USBC won the Emmy for Best Talk Show.

4. Therefore , ____________________________________________________________.

Are there any possible weaknesses in your conclusion?

B. Carefully read the following and briefly explain the possible error in the conclusion.

1. The 43rd U.S. President is a Yale graduate.

2. The 42nd U.S. President was a Yale Law School graduate.

3. The 41st U.S. President was a Yale graduate.

4. The last seven presidents were college graduates.

5. Therefore , the President of the U.S. must have a college degree.

Deduction: If deduction is the process of moving from a general rule to a specific example (A = B; C = B; Therefore, C = A.), these are the possible problems:

• Not all of the given A falls into the given B category. There are exceptions.

• The given category B is incorrect.

• The second statement is not true or is incorrect. Therefore, the conclusion is invalid.

• The truth of the third statement is in question.


A. Carefully read the following. Assume that statements 1 and 2 are true. Briefly state the possible error of the conclusion.

1. Some Japanese cars are made in the United States.

2. Toyota is a Japanese car.

3. Therefore , all Toyotas are made in the United States.

B. Carefully read the following. Assume that statements 1 and 2 are true. Briefly state the possible error of the conclusion.

1. No eagles are flamingos.

2. All flamingos are birds.

3. Therefore, no eagles are birds.

Analogy: If analogy is an argument based on similarities, these are the possible problems.

• Accepting the totality of the analogy by never questioning that there are differences between/among the items being compared that could invalidate the argument or conclusion.

• Exaggerating the similarities.


A. Briefly identify the analogy in the following:

Both the doctor and the teacher must have special knowledge. People select their own doctors; therefore, people should be allowed to pick their own teachers .

B. Briefly explain the mistake in the following:

Both 2-year-olds and 10-year-olds have two legs, two eyes, two ears, and two arms. Ten-year-olds can read and write. Therefore, 2-year-olds should be able to read and write .

Reading the Argument


In the multiple-choice section of the AP English Language exam, you are asked to read several selections, many of which are argumentative. Remember two very important points. No matter how brief or how lengthy the text is:

1. There is a rhetorical context with a

• writer

• occasion or situation

• audience

Any good argument will effectively utilize and address each of these elements.

2. Don’t make the mistake of evaluating an argument based simply on who wrote it. Don’t confuse the messenger with the message.

With this in mind, your task is to read the given text critically and to:

• Determine who the speaker is, what the situation is, and who the audience is.

• Identify the position of the speaker.

• Check off the points made in support of the assertion.

You can easily accomplish these three tasks by highlighting, underlining, checking, making marginal notes, or even outlining (if you have time). Once you have completed your initial reading, you need to ask yourself several questions. In the case of the actual AP English Language and Composition exam, your test makers will ask you the questions based on these points.

1 . Are there any judgments in the presentation?

— Evidence is needed to support judgments.

2 . Recognize that fact is not the same as interpretation.

— Fact: You know it with certainty and can verify it.

— Interpretation: An explanation of the meaning and/or importance of a specific item.

You must be able to distinguish between the two.

3 . Distinguish between literal and ironic statements. Recognizing the difference between these two terms can save you from misreading the text.

— Ironic: Saying the opposite from what you really mean, as in satire.

— Clues to be aware of: diction, subject, selection of detail.

— Literal: What you read is what is the reality.

4. Do not evaluate an argument based on its form. Look at the content. It’s easy to be misled by “fabulous” writing.


Below is a checklist that functions as a rubric for the evaluation of any rhetorical argument.

—— A clearly developed thesis is evident.

—— Facts are distinguished from opinions.

—— Opinions are supported and qualified.

—— The speaker develops a logical argument and avoids fallacies in reasoning.

—— Support for facts is tested, reliable, and authoritative.

—— The speaker does not confuse appeals to logic and emotion.

—— Opposing views are represented in a fair and undistorted way.

—— The argument reflects a sense of audience.

—— The argument reflects an identifiable voice and point of view.

—— The piece reflects the image of a speaker with identifiable qualities (honesty, sincerity, authority, intelligence, etc.).

As practice, read the following editorial, which appeared in a recent teachers’ newsletter.

Misters King and Prince could not have picked a more ironic day to have their anti-teacher tirade printed in Today’s News than on Tuesday, January 13. Here were Matt King, executive director of the conservative magazine The Right Position, and Ray Prince, the chief economist for the conservative Small Business Conference, showing their poisonous fangs in their hissy-fit against the state’s teachers’ union and the state’s education department .

Here were two cobras from the antiteacher snake pit posturing about the need to end tenure and to create charter schools. These, said the two vipers, are among the steps “needed to revitalize education in our area and across the state.” Later in their column, they continued with “declining student performance in recent years” is indicative of poor teaching quality .

May I direct King and Prince to pages A5 and A28 of this very same Today’s News edition. In this article were the names of 74 (4 of them from New High School) Intel competition semifinalists out of a total of 144 in our state. With about 50% of the state’s semifinalists, this and our neighboring county had MORE winning contestants and MORE participants than any other region in the country. This is MORE than half the national total of 300 … [and] “more than six times as many as the second-ranked state, which had 21 semifinalists and the third-ranked state, which had 19.”

Hmmm … now, let me think. Which speaks more loudly about teacher quality and student motivation: the negative nagging of King and Prince or the positive professionalism and performance represented by the Intel story? I daresay—no contest. And, this type of professional proficiency and dedication is part and parcel of the standards and goals of ALL our state teachers .

They would have to count the extraordinary number of national, state, and local awards our professionals and their pupils have earned. They would have to count the number of scholarships, volunteer hours, and AP courses our students have amassed. They would have to listen to a litany of academic awards, associations, and degrees with which our teachers are connected. They would have to read the hundreds of thank-you letters former students have written to their teachers .

They would have to acknowledge that their scaly agenda needs to be shed .

Rather than casting a “shadow over education” in this state, our teachers shine a bright light on the snake pits created by ignorance and negativity .

Let’s Use the Argument Checklist on This Editorial


1 . The thesis is that Mr. King and Mr. Prince are incorrect about their position to end tenure and create charter schools. These two are wrong when they say “our area needs to revitalize education.”

2 . Facts are distinguished from opinion . Facts include the number of Intel scholarships in paragraph 3; the comparison of the writer’s area with other school districts in paragraph 3, and the number of awards, etc. associated with the writer’s school. Opinion is obvious in the analogy established between Mr. King and Mr. Prince and snakes.

3 . Some opinions are supported and others are not . In some cases, numbers are cited, and in other cases, generalizations are used.

4 . The editorial avoids fallacies in most instances . However, the emotional appeal and arguing from analogy is present.

5 . The editorial is developed using induction . A possible fallacy here revolves around whether or not what is true about one school district may be true about all other school areas or for all teachers and students.

6 . The facts used come from current newspapers . The writer cites statistics and gives the source. The comparison between New High School and other schools and school districts is based on statistics and facts.

7 . The author uses both logic and emotion . The facts and statistics are given in separate paragraphs. Emotional and analogical aspects of the argument are in opinionated sections of the editorial.

8 . The opposing views of King and Prince are presented to illustrate the position of the columnists factually.

9 . The audience is obviously teachers and those involved in education.

10. The point of view of the writer is clearly negative toward King and Prince and positive toward the condition of education in the writer’s school district and state.

11. The editorial reflects a writer who is sincere, angry, confident, and willing to find support for the assertion.

Note : Each of these statements about the given editorial could also be turned into multiple-choice questions. Keep in mind that the writers of the AP English Language and Composition exam are aware of all of the preceding information and will base their questions on the assumption that you are also familiar with it and can recognize the elements of argument when you read them.

Writing the Argument


While the multiple-choice section of the exam will present you with specific questions about specific texts, the argumentative essay in the second section of the test requires that you compose your own argument based on a given excerpt, quotation, statement, or anecdote.

You will have to plan and write your argument knowing that the AP reader will be evaluating your presentation based on the major points we have just reviewed.

How Should I Go About Writing My Argument?

We invite you to compose an argumentative essay based on the following prompt. We will take you through the prewriting process.

In a recent USA Today op-ed piece, titled “Poor Suffer from Lack of Internet Access,” Julianne Malveaux stated, “While the Internet has hardly caused the gap between the [lower and higher rungs on the economic ladder], it is one of the many things that have made the gap greater.”

—(Julianne Malveaux, USA Today , June 22, 2001)

In an effective, well-organized essay, defend, challenge, or qualify Ms. Malveaux’s assertion.

The Planning/Prewriting Process

What follows is an example of the prewriting process that addresses the given prompt.

1 . Reread the prompt and highlight important terms, ideas, etc.

2 . Take a position . Defend “it is one of the many things that have made the gap greater.”

3 . My topic is: Internet is one cause of the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.

4 . My thesis statement is: I agree with Julianne Malveaux when she states that access to the Internet has widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

5 . I will develop my argument using:

— personal anecdote

— specific examples of the gap (at least three)

— statistics and facts that I can remember from the news, and other sources

6 . The specifics I will use to support my assertion are :

(Make certain examples are introduced, discussed, and linked to my thesis.)

7 . I will use the inductive technique to develop my argument.

8 . I will end my argument with the image of a single child with her nose against a window peering into a room filled with children using computers. The child outside is not alone. Behind her are many, many others, and they all look as if they are growing more and more anxious and angry at being left outside.

This planning took about 10 to 12 minutes to develop. Based on this planning, writing the essay is easy. As a class assignment or as personal practice, you would:

• Write your first draft

• Have the initial argument checklist completed by one of your peers

• Complete your second draft

• Complete the revision activity either by yourself or with a member of your peer reading group

If you have practiced this process throughout the year or semester, when the AP English Language exam rolls around, you will find this kind of writing second nature to you.

Rapid Review

• Argument can be ethical, emotional, or logical.

• Inductive reasoning forms generalizations.

• Deductive reasoning reaches conclusions based on given premises.

• A premise is a proven proposition or one that is taken for granted.

• A syllogism is the format of a formal argument:

— All A is C.

— B is A.

— Therefore, B is C.

• Logical fallacies are intended or unintended errors in reasoning.

• Rhetorical fallacies are used to manipulate the audience.

• Read editorials and ads to try to locate any fallacies that may be present.

• Do practice exercises with induction and deduction and analogy.

• All argument has a rhetorical context: the writer, the occasion, and the audience.

• When reading arguments, locate judgments and find supporting evidence.

• Be certain to recognize and to separate fact from interpretation.

• Evaluate the argument according to the given rubrics.

• When writing an argument, make certain to:

— address the prompt

— take a position

— state your thesis

— develop your position with evidence