Have you ever heard someone say: “Sorry I did not have time to write you a shorter letter?” This seemingly ironic saying aims to teach us the lesson that concise, effective language and composition requires more time and effort than sloppy, long-winded writing. Well, the good news is that while we have endless effort at our disposal, time must be managed carefully for the 3hrs 15mins-long AP English Language & Composition exam you will take in May. So, how can you use your months of classwork, years of writing, and strong effort to perform well on the exam?
Tip 1: #KnowtheGame (The Format)
Comprehending composition and writing essays under time pressure can be overwhelming. Knowing the game (the format) inside and out will help you. First, know the two sections: Multiple Choice and Free Response. Second, familiarize yourself with the exam format, both paper and online, by visiting and reviewing the official AP Exam Format and AP Exam Overview.
For example, on the AP English Language Digital Exam, the format for multiple choice questions is: Writing, Reading, Reading, Writing, Writing. Free Response, in turn, is: Argument, Synthesis, Rhetorical Analysis. This is important to note because this is different from the paper and pencil exams! Knowing this ahead of time, will keep you from being thrown on the day of the exam, especially if this is a different order than how you’ve been taking your practice tests!
Tip 2: Make a Plan
Now that you #KnowtheGame, it is time to make a study and practice plan. It is best to attack the section of the exam with which you are least comfortable. Don’t know? Take a practice exam and time yourself! Try this one.
You’ve now knocked out two birds with one stone. You have a whole practice exam under your belt. You also know which areas you need to target in your studying before the exam. Tripped up on poetry? No problem! Find poems, read them, and break them down: identify the meaning and find literary devices. Had a hard time with prose? No worries! Visit Google News and randomly select three articles everyday to read and comprehend.
Did you run out of time on one of the essays? That’s ok! Ensure you are comfortable with each question type, Synthesis; Rhetorical Analysis; and Argument by practicing them and timing yourself. Click this link to learn more about each question type. Make a plan to practice as many of the past questions from exams made available here.
Tip 3: Empower Yourself with Rhetorical Devices
It is super helpful to study all the literary devices not only to answer multiple-choice questions well, but also to feel more confident on the essays. That is, if you have 5-10 rhetorical devices that you know inside and out, you can feel ready to use them in your analysis needed for the essays.
Check out this list of rhetorical devices. It may be too short or too long, but it is a strong start! Now, let’s select 5 rhetorical devices we know are comfortable to use. Mine are anaphora, imagery, syntax, tone, and voice. I know that no matter how tricky or surprising an essay prompt may appear, I am empowered with my 5 devices that I am ready, willing, and able to employ!
Tip 4: Brush up On Grammar
Check out the College Board’s Grammar Web Guide. The guide is full of helpful resources to brush up on your grammar before the exam. The graders of the exam want you to “use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.” By brushing up on your grammar, you are helping yourself avoid silly mistakes when you are under the time constraints of the exam. Hopefully, you can brush up so well that you won’t even have to think of the comma rules or about parallelism. Your strong grammatical foundation will boost your confidence and impress the graders!
A Few More Words
Strong writing is a lifelong skill. You will need it forever. So, have fun and know that you are building a toolbox of language and composition that you can use in almost every realm of your life!