Ap free Response Questions

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The Argumentative Essay

  • ARG
  • A Breath of
  • Fresh Argument

AP Free Response Questions

    • Analyze how an author achieves his purpose in a passage
    • Defend, qualify, or refute a claim.
      • cf. Hamlet essay
    • Take a position on an issue, incorporating material from a set of 5-8 sources
      • cf. Saint or Ain’t, CARP, graded discussions

The Argumentative Essay

  • Presents an opinion/question and asks you to:
    • Argue for, (support, defend, etc.)
      • “YES”
    • Qualify/Modify
      • “YES, BUT”
    • Argue against (deny, refute, etc.)
      • “NO”
  • Support with your reading, observation, or experience

The Art of Persuasion in Action

  • Everything we have studied about rhetoric comes into play here.
  • Rhetorical strategies
    • Any strategy that can be analyzed in other essays can be employed here
      • 3 Appeals (Pathos, Logos, Ethos)
      • Details/facts, examples, analogy, personal experience
      • Patterns of development can be employed within or among paragraphs to enhance point
      • Style: diction, tone, syntax

The Format for Your Essay

  • Present a context for your claim.
  • State your claim.
  • Support your claim.
  • Acknowledge/Refute opposition.
  • Summarize and conclude.
  • Not a be-all, end-all formula. You may interpolate counterarguments, sequence your support toward a climactic revelation of your position, or something else entirely.

As You Plan, Consider…

  • Implications/Consequences
    • If this happens, what might follow?
  • The Big Picture
    • Who/what else might be affected?
  • Counter-Arguments
    • What are the downsides to my proposal?
  • Grouping/Structure
    • What ties my points together?
    • Context!—more on that in a minute

Argumentative Contexts

  • Context: a unified angle or domain of support
    • Is there a _________ argument to be made about this issue?
    • You can argue a position from a number of contexts
    • Your support need not all fall under one context, but frame it in terms of an overarching one
    • Cultural
  • Academic
  • Health & Safety
  • Political
  • Gender
  • Historical
  • Generational
  • Medical
  • Moral
  • Religious
  • Environmental
  • Social
  • Economic
  • Aesthetic
  • Self-Expression
  • Legal

e.g. “Cars Should Be Banned.”

  • SIDE
  • YES
  • Health/Safety
  • Fewer accidents, more exercise, less smog
  • YES
  • Aesthetic
  • YES, BUT
  • Generational
  • Only ban gas-guzzlers; prior ages got along without them! Youngsters must learn frugality.
  • NO
  • Cultural
  • Modern car an American invention; ban robs us of a cultural institution
  • NO
  • Economic
  • Lose 1,000s of jobs, exports

As You Write…

  • Consider organizing by context, by chronology, by importance, or by scale (small picturebig picture)
  • Avoid fallacies, especially generalizations & overstatements
  • Avoid lazy/meaningless statements
    • Nature or nurture? “It’s mostly based on what you do as a person.”
    • You can’t BS your way through this. You must show an ability to think maturely about an issue.

The “Theoretical” Prompt

  • Sometimes the prompt won’t present an “issue,” but a provocative quote.
    • It’s been said that “good can come from evil.” Write a well-organized essay that affirms, denies, or modifies this statement. Support your position using material from your reading, observation, or experience.
    • “Reading, observation, experience”  LIME!
  • Literature, Imagination, Memories, Events


  • Write in the third-person as much as possible, although first-person is okay for this essay.
  • Write in the present tense.
  • Integrate at least 2-3 unique types of evidence; if you use one example from personal experience, try to use another from literature or history.
  • Avoid fallacies and generalizations!
  • Be sure to address opposite side.


  • 40 minutes
  • Read/think about the prompt (2-3 minutes)
  • Plan for/organize the essay; generate ideas for evidence (10 minutes)
  • Write the essay (25 minutes)
  • Re-read your work, if possible (2-3 minutes)

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