Q3: The Open-Ended Essay Question



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Q3: The Open-Ended Essay Question

  • AP Literature and Composition Exam Preparation

WHAT IS AN OPEN-ENDED ESSAY?

  • This essay is based on a provocative prompt that highlights specific insights applicable to a broad range of literary texts.
  • The question provides for varied personal interpretations and multiple approaches.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE OPEN-ENDED ESSAY?

  • The College Board wants to assess your ability to discuss a work of literature in a particular context. The illustrations you include in your essay will demonstrate your insights and critical thinking as well as your writing ability.

WHAT MAKES THE ESSAY “OPEN”?

  • Although the prompt is the same for all students, you have the freedom to choose the piece of literature to which you will refer.
  • Once chosen, you have total freedom to select the specifics that will support your thesis.
  • Unlike the other essays, which have rubrics based on certain concrete interpretations and directions of the text, your open-ended essay will be uniquely your own.

WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS OF THE OPEN-ENDED ESSAY?

WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS OF THE OPEN-ENDED ESSAY?

  • Depending on memory rather than on preparation
  • Rambling on in vague and unsupported generalities or providing incorrect information
  • Wasting too much time pondering on which work to use

WHAT WORK SHOULD I USE?

WHAT WORK SHOULD I USE?

  • Avoid trilogies or series (i.e. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Wheel of Time, Hunger Games, etc.)
  • You may not use the Bible.
  • It is recommended that you use a major work that you have read within the last year or so and know very well—especially ones that you have studied in AP Literature class.

WHAT WORK SHOULD I USE?

  • The College Board prefers works from the literary canon because they exhibit breadth and complexity. Don’t fight these requirements! You will do yourself a disservice trying to outwit or beat the system.

EXAMPLE PROMPT: 2004, Form B

  • The most important themes in literature are sometimes developed in scenes in which a death or deaths take place. Choose a novel or play and write a well-organized essay in which you show how a specific death scene helps to illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.

EXAMPLE PROMPT: 2004, Form B

  • What is the topic of the prompt?
  • What is the concrete task that you must accomplish?
  • What is the abstract component to address?


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