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Lesson Plan: AP Government: Argumentative Essay Practice

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The Federalist Papers

Boston College professor Mary Sarah Bilder gives a brief overview backgrounding the Federalist Papers


This is intended as an end-of-course review activity for practice with the argumentative essay format included on the AP United States Government and Politics exam since the 2018 redesign. Eleven practice prompts are provided, reflecting content from Units 1-3.


  • Review the provided Argumentative Essay Prompts in either an individual or jigsaw format.
  • Write a thesis statement for your selected prompt(s) and identify the selection you would make from the provided list and the second piece of evidence you would choose.
  • If there are prompts for which you struggle to develop a thesis, or items on the bulleted lists with which you are not conversant, use the hyperlinked C-SPAN Classroom resources to extend your understanding of the required founding documents and SCOTUS cases that you found challenging.


  • Chose one or more of the provided Argumentative Essay Prompts , as assigned, and use the planning and exploration you did above to write a full essay in response to your designated prompt(s) in 25 or fewer minutes , since that's the time limit you'll face on the AP Exam!
  • Exchange essays with a classmate and evaluate each others' work.
  • 1st Amendment
  • Branches Of Government
  • Constitution
  • House Of Representatives
  • Separation Of Powers
  • Supreme Court

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How to Write the AP Lang Argument Essay + Examples

What’s covered:, what is the ap language argument essay, tips for writing the ap language argument essay, ap english language argument essay examples, how will ap scores impact my college chances.

In 2023, over 550,148 students across the U.S. took the AP English Language and Composition Exam, and 65.2% scored higher than a 3. The AP English Language Exam tests your ability to analyze a piece of writing, synthesize information, write a rhetorical essay, and create a cohesive argument. In this post, we’ll be discussing the best way to approach the argumentative essay section of the test, and we’ll give you tips and tricks so you can write a great essay.

The AP English Language Exam as of 2023 is structured as follows:

Section 1: 45 multiple choice questions to be completed in an hour. This portion counts for 45% of your score. This section requires students to analyze a piece of literature. The questions ask about its content and/or what could be edited within the passage.

Section 2: Three free response questions to be completed in the remaining two hours and 15 minutes. This section counts for 55% of your score. These essay questions include the synthesis essay, the rhetorical essay, and the argumentative essay.

  • Synthesis essay: Read 6-7 sources and create an argument using at least three of the sources.
  • Rhetorical analysis essay: Describe how a piece of writing evokes meaning and symbolism.
  • Argumentative essay: Pick a side of a debate and create an argument based on evidence. In this essay, you should develop a logical argument in support of or against the given statement and provide ample evidence that supports your conclusion. Typically, a five paragraph format is great for this type of writing. This essay is scored holistically from 1 to 9 points.

Do you want more information on the structure of the full exam? Take a look at our in-depth overview of the AP Language and Composition Exam .

Although the AP Language Argument may seem daunting at first, once you understand how the essay should be structured, it will be a lot easier to create cohesive arguments.

Below are some tips to help you as you write the essay.

1. Organize your essay before writing

Instead of jumping right into your essay, plan out what you will say beforehand. It’s easiest to make a list of your arguments and write out what facts or evidence you will use to support each argument. In your outline, you can determine the best order for your arguments, especially if they build on each other or are chronological. Having a well-organized essay is crucial for success.

2. Pick one side of the argument, but acknowledge the other side

When you write the essay, it’s best if you pick one side of the debate and stick with it for the entire essay. All your evidence should be in support of that one side. However, in your introductory paragraph, as you introduce the debate, be sure to mention any merit the arguments of the other side has. This can make the essay a bit more nuanced and show that you did consider both sides before determining which one was better. Often, acknowledging another viewpoint then refuting it can make your essay stronger.

3. Provide evidence to support your claims

The AP readers will be looking for examples and evidence to support your argument. This doesn’t mean that you need to memorize a bunch of random facts before the exam. This just means that you should be able to provide concrete examples in support of your argument.

For example, if the essay topic is about whether the role of the media in society has been detrimental or not, and you argue that it has been, you may talk about the phenomenon of “fake news” during the 2016 presidential election.

AP readers are not looking for perfect examples, but they are looking to see if you can provide enough evidence to back your claim and make it easily understood.

4. Create a strong thesis statement

The thesis statement will set up your entire essay, so it’s important that it is focused and specific, and that it allows for the reader to understand your body paragraphs. Make sure your thesis statement is the very last sentence of your introductory paragraph. In this sentence, list out the key points you will be making in the essay in the same order that you will be writing them. Each new point you mention in your thesis should start a paragraph in your essay.

Below is a prompt and sample student essay from the May 2019 exam . We’ll look at what the student did well in their writing and where they could improve.

Prompt: “The term “overrated” is often used to diminish concepts, places, roles, etc. that the speaker believes do not deserve the prestige they commonly enjoy; for example, many writers have argued that success is overrated, a character in a novel by Anthony Burgess famously describes Rome as a “vastly overrated city,” and Queen Rania of Jordan herself has asserted that “[b]eing queen is overrated.”

Select a concept, place, role, etc. to which you believe that the term “overrated” should be applied. Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment. Use appropriate evidence from your reading, experience, or observations to support your argument.

Sample Student Essay #1:

[1] Competition is “overrated.” The notion of motivation between peers has evolved into a source of unnecessary stress and even lack of morals. Whether it be in an academic environment or in the industry, this new idea of competition is harmful to those competing and those around them.

[2] Back in elementary school, competition was rather friendly. It could have been who could do the most pushups or who could get the most imaginary points in a classroom for a prize. If you couldn’t do the most pushups or win that smelly sticker, you would go home and improve yourself – there would be no strong feelings towards anyone, you would just focus on making yourself a better version of yourself. Then as high school rolled around, suddenly applying for college doesn’t seem so far away –GPA seems to be that one stat that defines you – extracurriculars seem to shape you – test scores seem to categorize you. Sleepless nights, studying for the next day’s exam, seem to become more and more frequent. Floating duck syndrome seems to surround you (FDS is where a competitive student pretends to not work hard but is furiously studying beneath the surface just like how a duck furiously kicks to stay afloat). All of your competitors appear to hope you fail – but in the end what do you and your competitor’s gain? Getting one extra point on the test? Does that self-satisfaction compensate for the tremendous amounts of acquired stress? This new type of “competition” is overrated – it serves nothing except a never-ending source of anxiety and seeks to weaken friendships and solidarity as a whole in the school setting.

[3] A similar idea of “competition” can be applied to business. On the most fundamental level, competition serves to be a beneficial regulator of prices and business models for both the business themselves and consumers. However, as businesses grew increasingly greedy and desperate, companies resorted to immoral tactics that only hurt their reputations and consumers as a whole. Whether it be McDonald’s coupons that force you to buy more food or tech companies like Apple intentionally slowing down your iPhone after 3 years to force you to upgrade to the newest device, consumers suffer and in turn speak down upon these companies. Similar to the evolved form of competition in school, this overrated form causes pain for all parties and has since diverged from the encouraging nature that the principle of competition was “founded” on.

The AP score for this essay was a 4/6, meaning that it captured the main purpose of the essay but there were still substantial parts missing. In this essay, the writer did a good job organizing the sections and making sure that their writing was in order according to the thesis statement. The essay first discusses how competition is harmful in elementary school and then discusses this topic in the context of business. This follows the chronological order of somebody’s life and flows nicely.

The arguments in this essay are problematic, as they do not provide enough examples of how exactly competition is overrated. The essay discusses the context in which competition is overrated but does not go far enough in explaining how this connects to the prompt.

In the first example, school stress is used to explain how competition manifests. This is a good starting point, but it does not talk about why competition is overrated; it simply mentions that competition can be unhealthy. The last sentence of that paragraph is the main point of the argument and should be expanded to discuss how the anxiety of school is overrated later on in life. 

In the second example, the writer discusses how competition can lead to harmful business practices, but again, this doesn’t reflect the reason this would be overrated. Is competition really overrated because Apple and McDonald’s force you to buy new products? This example could’ve been taken one step farther. Instead of explaining why business structures—such as monopolies—harm competition, the author should discuss how those particular structures are overrated.

Additionally, the examples the writer used lack detail. A stronger essay would’ve provided more in-depth examples. This essay seemed to mention examples only in passing without using them to defend the argument.

It should also be noted that the structure of the essay is incomplete. The introduction only has a thesis statement and no additional context. Also, there is no conclusion paragraph that sums up the essay. These missing components result in a 4/6.

Now let’s go through the prompt for a sample essay from the May 2022 exam . The prompt is as follows:

Colin Powell, a four-star general and former United States Secretary of State, wrote in his 1995 autobiography: “[W]e do not have the luxury of collecting information indefinitely. At some point, before we can have every possible fact in hand, we have to decide. The key is not to make quick decisions, but to make timely decisions.”

Write an essay that argues your position on the extent to which Powell’s claim about making decisions is valid. 

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position. 
  • Provide evidence to support your line of reasoning. 
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning. 
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

Sample Student Essay #2:

Colin Powell, who was a four star general and a former United States Secretary of State. He wrote an autobiography and had made a claim about making decisions. In my personal opinion, Powell’s claim is true to full extent and shows an extremely valuable piece of advice that we do not consider when we make decisions.

Powell stated, “before we can have every possible fact in hand we have to decide…. but to make it a timely decision” (1995). With this statement Powell is telling the audience of his autobiography that it does not necessarily matter how many facts you have, and how many things you know. Being able to have access to everything possible takes a great amount of time and we don’t always have all of the time in the world. A decision has to be made with what you know, waiting for something else to come in while trying to make a decision whether that other fact is good or bad you already have a good amount of things that you know. Everyone’s time is valuable, including yours. At the end of the day the decision will have to be made and that is why it should be made in a “timely” manner.

This response was graded for a score of 2/6. Let’s break down the score to smaller points that signify where the student fell short.

The thesis in this essay is clearly outlined at the end of the first paragraph. The student states their agreement with Powell’s claim and frames the rest of their essay around this stance. The success in scoring here lies in the clear communication of the thesis and the direction the argument will take. It’s important to make the thesis statement concise, specific, and arguable, which the student has successfully done.

While the student did attempt to provide evidence to support their thesis, it’s clear that their explanation lacks specific detail and substance. They referenced Powell’s statement, but did not delve into how this statement has proven true in specific instances, and did not provide examples that could bring the argument to life.

Commentary is an essential part of this section’s score. It means explaining the significance of the evidence and connecting it back to the thesis. Unfortunately, the student’s commentary here is too vague and does not effectively elaborate on how the evidence supports their argument.

To improve, the student could use more concrete examples to demonstrate their point and discuss how each piece of evidence supports their thesis. For instance, they could discuss specific moments in Powell’s career where making a timely decision was more valuable than waiting for all possible facts. This would help illustrate the argument in a more engaging, understandable way.

A high score in the “sophistication” category of the grading rubric is given for demonstrating a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation (purpose, audience, context, etc.), making effective rhetorical choices, or establishing a line of reasoning. Here, the student’s response lacks complexity and sophistication. They’ve simply agreed with Powell’s claim and made a few general statements without providing a deeper analysis or effectively considering the rhetorical situation.

To increase sophistication, the student could explore possible counterarguments or complexities within Powell’s claim. They could discuss potential drawbacks of making decisions without all possible facts, or examine situations where timely decisions might not yield the best results. By acknowledging and refuting these potential counterarguments, they could add more depth to their analysis and showcase their understanding of the complexities involved in decision-making.

The student could also analyze why Powell, given his background and experiences, might have come to such a conclusion, thus providing more context and showing an understanding of the rhetorical situation.

Remember, sophistication in argumentation isn’t about using fancy words or complicated sentences. It’s about showing that you understand the complexity of the issue at hand and that you’re able to make thoughtful, nuanced arguments. Sophistication shows that you can think critically about the topic and make connections that aren’t immediately obvious.

Now that you’ve looked at an example essay and some tips for the argumentative essay, you know how to better prepare for the AP English Language and Composition Exam.

While your AP scores don’t usually impact your admissions chances , colleges do care a lot about your course rigor. So, taking as many APs as you can will certainly boost your chances! AP scores can be a way for high-performing students to set themselves apart, particularly when applying to prestigious universities. Through the process of self-reporting scores , you can show your hard work and intelligence to admissions counselors.

That said, the main benefit of scoring high on AP exams comes once you land at your dream school, as high scores can allow you to “test out” of entry-level requirements, often called GE requirements or distribution requirements. This will save you time and money.

To understand how your course rigor stacks up, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine . This resource takes your course rigor, test scores, extracurriculars, and more, to determine your chances of getting into over 1600 colleges across the country!

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How to Write the AP Lang Argument Essay (With Example)

December 14, 2023

ap lang argument essay example

We’d like to let you in on a little secret: no one, including us, enjoys writing timed essays. But a little practice goes a long way. If you want to head into your AP English Exam with a cool head, you’ll want to know what you’re getting into ahead of time. We can’t promise the AP Lang Argument Essay will ever feel like an island vacation, but we do have tons of hand tips and tricks (plus a sample essay!) below to help you do your best. This article will cover: 1) What is the AP Lang Argumentative Essay? 2) AP Lang Argument Rubric 3) AP Lang Argument Sample Prompt 4) AP Lang Argument Essay Example 5) AP Lang Argument Essay Example: Answer Breakdown.

What is the AP Lang Argument Essay?

The AP Lang Argument Essay is one of three essays included in the written portion of the AP English Exam. The full AP English Exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long, with the first 60 minutes dedicated to multiple-choice questions. Once you complete the multiple-choice section, you move on to three equally weighted essays that ask you to synthesize, analyze, and interpret texts and develop well-reasoned arguments. The three essays include:

Synthesis essay: You’ll review various pieces of evidence and then write an essay that synthesizes (aka combines and interprets) the evidence and presents a clear argument. Read our write-up on How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay here.

Argumentative essay: You’ll take a stance on a specific topic and argue your case.

Rhetorical essay: You’ll read a provided passage, then analyze the author’s rhetorical choices and develop an argument that explains why the author made those rhetorical choices. Read our write-up on How to Write the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay here.

AP Lang Argument Essay Rubric

The AP Lang Argument Essay is graded on 3 rubric categories : Thesis, Evidence and Commentary, and Sophistication . How can you make sure you cover all three bases in your essay? We’ll break down each rubric category with dos and don’ts below:

  • Thesis (0-1 point)

When it comes to grading your thesis, AP Exam graders are checking off a box: you either have a clear thesis or you don’t. So, what crucial components of a thesis will get you your check mark?

  • Make sure your thesis argues something . To satisfy your graders, your thesis needs to take a clear stance on the issue at hand.
  • Include your thesis statement in your intro paragraph. The AP Lang Argumentative essay is just that: an essay that makes an argument, so make sure you present your argument right away at the end of your first paragraph.
  • A good test to see if you have a thesis that makes an argument for your AP Lang Argumentative Essay: In your head, add the phrase “I agree/disagree that…” to the beginning of your thesis. If what follows doesn’t logically flow after that phrase (aka if what follows isn’t an agreement or disagreement), it’s likely you’re not making an argument.
  • In your thesis, outline the evidence you’ll cover in your body paragraphs.

AP Lang Argument Essay Rubric (Continued)

  • Avoid a thesis that merely restates the prompt.
  • Avoid a thesis that summarizes the text but does not make an argument.
  • Avoid a thesis that weighs the pros and cons of an issue. Your job in your thesis is to pick a side and stick with it.
  • Evidence and Commentary (0-4 points)

This rubric category is graded on a scale of 0-4 where 4 is the highest grade. Unlike the rhetorical and synthesis essays, the evidence you need to write your AP Lang Argument Essay is not provided to you. Rather, you’ll need to generate your own evidence and comment upon it.

What counts as evidence?

Typically, the AP Lang Argument Essay prompt asks you to reflect on a broad cultural, moral, or social issue that is open to debate. For evidence, you won’t be asked to memorize and cite statistics or facts. Rather, you’ll want to bring in real-world examples of:

  • Historical events
  • Current-day events from the news
  • Personal anecdotes

For this essay, your graders know that you’re not able to do research to find the perfect evidence. What’s most important is that you find evidence that logically supports your argument.

What is commentary?

In this essay, it’s important to do more than just provide examples relevant evidence. After each piece of evidence you include, you’ll need to explain why it’s significant and how it connects to your main argument. The analysis you include after your evidence is commentary .

  • Take a minute to brainstorm evidence that logically supports your argument. If you have to go out of your way to find the connection, it’s better to think of different evidence.
  • Include multiple pieces of evidence. There is no magic number, but do make sure you incorporate more than a couple pieces of evidence that support your argument.
  • Make sure you include more than one example of evidence, too. Let’s say you’re working on an essay that argues that people are always stronger together than apart. You’ve already included an example from history: during the civil rights era, protestors staged group sit-ins as a powerful form of peaceful protest. That’s just one example, and it’s hard to make a credible argument with just one piece of evidence. To fix that issue, think of additional examples from history, current events, or personal experience that are not related to the civil rights era.
  • After you include each piece of evidence, explain why it’s significant and how it connects to your main argument.
  • Don’t summarize or speak generally about the topic. Everything you write must be backed up with specific and relevant evidence and examples.
  • Don’t let quotes speak for themselves. After every piece of evidence you include, make sure to explain and connect the evidence to your overarching argument.

AP Lang Argument Essay (Continued)

  • Sophistication (0-1 point)

According to the College Board , one point can be awarded to AP Lang Argument essays that achieve a high level of sophistication. You can accomplish that in four ways:

  • Crafting a nuanced argument by consistently identifying and exploring complexities or tensions.
  • Articulating the implications or limitations of an argument by situating it within a broader context.
  • Making effective rhetorical choices that consistently strengthen the force and impact of the student’s argument.
  • Employing a style that is consistently vivid and persuasive.

In sum, this means you can earn an additional point for going above and beyond in depth, complexity of thought, or by writing an especially persuasive, clear, and well-structured essay. In order to earn this point, you’ll first need to do a good job with the fundamentals: your thesis, evidence, and commentary. Then, to earn your sophistication point, follow these tips:

  • Outline your essay before you begin to ensure it flows in a clear and cohesive way.
  • Include well-rounded evidence. Don’t rely entirely on personal anecdotes, for example. Incorporate examples from current events or history, as well.
  • Thoroughly explain how each piece of evidence connects to your thesis in order to fully develop your argument.
  • Explore broader implications. If what you’re arguing is true, what does that mean to us today? Who is impacted by this issue? What real-world issues are relevant to this core issue?
  • Briefly explore the other side of the issue. Are the instances where your argument might not be true? Acknowledge the other side, then return to proving your original argument.
  • Steer clear of generalizations (avoid words like “always” and “everyone”).
  • Don’t choose an argument you can’t back up with relevant examples.
  • Avoid complex sentences and fancy vocabulary words unless you use them often. Long, clunky sentences with imprecisely used words are hard to follow.

AP Lang Argument Sample Prompt

The sample prompt below is published online by the College Board and is a real example from the 2021 AP English Exam. The prompt provides background context, essay instructions, and the text you need to analyze.

Suggested time—40 minutes.

Many people spend long hours trying to achieve perfection in their personal or professional lives. Similarly, people often demand perfection from others, creating expectations that may be challenging to live up to. In contrast, some people think perfection is not attainable or desirable.

Write an essay that argues your position on the value of striving for perfection.

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position.
  • Provide evidence to support your line of reasoning.
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

AP Lang Argument Essay Example

As the old phrase says, “Practice makes perfect.” But is perfection something that is actually attainable? Sometimes, pushing for perfection helps us achieve great things, but most often, perfectionism puts too much pressure on us and prevents us from knowing when we have done the best we can. Striving for perfection can only lead us to shortchange ourselves. Instead, we should value learning, growth, and creativity and not worry whether we are first or fifth best.

Students often feel the need to be perfect in their classes, and this can cause students to struggle or stop making an effort in class. In elementary and middle school, for example, I was very nervous about public speaking. When I had to give a speech, my voice would shake, and I would turn very red. My teachers always told me “relax!” and I got Bs on Cs on my speeches. As a result, I put more pressure on myself to do well, spending extra time making my speeches perfect and rehearsing late at night at home. But this pressure only made me more nervous, and I started getting stomach aches before speaking in public.

Once I got to high school, however, I started doing YouTube make-up tutorials with a friend. We made videos just for fun, and laughed when we made mistakes or said something silly. Only then, when I wasn’t striving to be perfect, did I get more comfortable with public speaking.

AP Lang Argumentative Essay Example (Continued)

In the world of art and business and science, perfectionism can also limit what we are able to achieve. Artists, for example, have to take risks and leave room for creativity. If artists strive for perfection, then they won’t be willing to fail at new experiments and their work will be less innovative and interesting. In business and science, many products, like penicillin for example, were discovered by accident. If the scientist who discovered penicillin mold growing on his petri dishes had gotten angry at his mistake and thrown the dishes away, he would never have discovered a medicine that is vital to us today.

Some fields do need to value perfection. We wouldn’t like it, for example, if our surgeon wasn’t striving for perfection during our operation. However, for most of us, perfectionism can limit our potential for learning and growth. Instead of trying to be perfect, we should strive to learn, innovate, and do our personal best.

AP Lang Argument Essay Example: Answer Breakdown

The sample AP Lang Argumentative Essay above has some strengths and some weaknesses. Overall, we would give this essay a 3 or a 4. Let’s break down what’s working and what could be improved:

  • The essay offers a thesis that makes a clear argument that is relevant to the prompt: “Striving for perfection can only lead us to shortchange ourselves. Instead, we should value learning, growth, and creativity and not worry whether we are first or fifth best.”
  • The first body paragraph provides evidence that supports the essay’s thesis. This student’s personal anecdote offers an example of a time when perfectionism led them to shortchange themselves.
  • The second body paragraph provides additional evidence that supports the essay’s thesis. The example describing the discovery of penicillin offers another example of a situation in which perfectionism might have limited scientific progress.
  • The writer offers commentary explaining how her examples of public speaking and penicillin illustrate that we should “value learning, growth, and creativity” over perfectionism.
  • The essay follows one line of reasoning and does not stray into tangents.
  • The essay is organized well with intro, body, and concluding paragraphs. Overall, it is easy to read and is free of grammar errors.

What could be improved:

  • Although the second body paragraph provides one good specific example about the discovery of penicillin, the other examples it offers about art and business are only discussed generally and aren’t backed up with evidence. This paragraph would be stronger if it provided more examples. Or, if this writer couldn’t think of examples, they could have left out mentions of art and business altogether and included alternate evidence instead.
  • This writer would more thoroughly support their argument if they were able to offer one more example of evidence. They could provide another personal anecdote, an example from history, or an example from current events.
  • The writer briefly mentions the other side of the argument in their concluding paragraph: “Some fields do need to value perfection. We wouldn’t like it, for example, if our surgeon wasn’t striving for perfection during our operation.” Since it’s so brief a mention of the other side, it undermines the writer’s overall argument. This writer should either dedicate more time to reflecting on why even surgeons should “value learning, growth, and creativity” over perfectionism, or they should leave these sentences out.

AP Lang Argument Essay Example—More Resources

Looking for more tips to help you master your AP Lang Argumentative Essay? Brush up on 20 Rhetorical Devices High School Students Should Know and read our Tips for Improving Reading Comprehension .

If you’re ready to start studying for another part of the AP English Exam, find more expert tips in our How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis and How to Write the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay blog posts.

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Christina Wood

Christina Wood holds a BA in Literature & Writing from UC San Diego, an MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in English at the University of Georgia, where she teaches creative writing and first-year composition courses. Christina has published fiction and nonfiction in numerous publications, including The Paris Review , McSweeney’s , Granta , Virginia Quarterly Review , The Sewanee Review , Mississippi Review , and Puerto del Sol , among others. Her story “The Astronaut” won the 2018 Shirley Jackson Award for short fiction and received a “Distinguished Stories” mention in the 2019 Best American Short Stories anthology.

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2024 AP US Government & Politics Exam Guide

11 min read • july 12, 2023


Your Guide to the 2024 AP US Government & Politics Exam

We know that studying for your AP exams can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We created a study plan to help you crush your AP Government and Politics exam. This guide will continue to update with information about the 2024 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you do your best on test day. Unlock Cram Mode for access to our cram events—students who have successfully passed their AP exams will answer your questions and guide your last-minute studying LIVE! And don't miss out on unlimited access to our database of thousands of practice questions.

Format of the 2024 AP US Gov Exam

Going into test day, this is the format to expect:

📃 55 multiple-choice questions with 80 minutes to complete them.

There will be ~30 individual, stand-alone questions.

All the other questions will be put together into sets. You may be asked to complete a quantitative, qualitative, or visual analysis in these questions.

✍ 4 free-response questions with 100 minutes to complete them. You should devote ~20 minutes to each response.

Question 1 is always a concept application question.

Question 2 is a quantitative analysis question, where you will analyze data and come to a conclusion.

Question 3 is a Supreme Court case comparison essay. You will compare a required court case with a nonrequired one, explaining how they are related.

Lastly, question 4 is an argumentative essay .

👉 Check out the 2023 AP US Government and Politics Free-Response Section posted on the College Board site.

Scoring Rubric for the AP US Government Exam

View an example set of questions and the corresponding scoring guidelines (page 186) from the College Board to get an idea of what they look for in your responses! You can also focus in on the argumentative essay (free response #4) and take a look at that rubric here .

Check out our study plan below to find resources and tools to prepare for your AP US Government exam.

When is the 2024 AP Gov Exam and How do I Take it?

Tests will be taken in person at your school. Here is what we know from College Board so far:

The exam date will be in-person and on paper at your school on Monday, May 6, 2024 at 8 am, your local time.

You have 3 hours to take the exam. We will have more updates from College Board soon, but as of now, this is what we know!

How Should I Prepare for the AP Gov Exam?

First, you need to take stock of your progress in the course so far so that you can build your study plan according to your needs. Download the AP Government and Politics Cheatsheet PDF —a single sheet that covers everything you need to know—so that you can see a map of the entire course and quickly spot the weak areas that you need to focus on.

Then, create your study plan by focusing on your learning styles and areas to improve. Which types of questions do you need to practice more? We've put together the study plan found below to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam. Pay special attention to the units that you need the most improvement in.

Study, practice, and review for test day with other students during our live cram sessions via Cram Mode . Cram live streams will teach, review, and practice important topics from AP courses, college admission tests, and college admission topics. These streams are hosted by experienced students who know what you need to succeed.

Finally, build your study schedule in advance! We highly suggest making your study schedule ahead of time so that you can easily join interactive study sessions such as live streams, voice chats, and study groups.

Pre-Work: Set Up Your Study Environment

Before you begin studying, take some time to get organized.

🖥 Create a study space.

Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space. 

📚 Organize your study materials.

Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get yourself set up!

📅 Plan designated times for studying.

The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.

🏆 Decide on an accountability plan.

How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!

AP US Government & Politics 2024 Study Plan

🏛️ unit 1: foundations of american democracy, big takeaways:.

Unit 1 introduces the concept of democracy and its various forms. The documents that first started the United States are analyzed by looking at the challenges and promises associated with each. The division of power within our government: individual rights vs government authority and state vs federal government powers are at the heart of this unit and discussed within each founding document. 

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:

Intro to American Government, models of Representative Democracy : A full review of the types of democracy, the difference between government and politics as well as the functions of government are discussed. 

Foundational Documents Review : A deep dive into the foundational documents you need to know for the exam.

Ratification of the Constitution: Constitutional Convention : A review of the compromises leading to the ratification of the Constitution. 

📰 Check out these articles:

Unit 1 Overview: Foundations of American Democracy 

1.1 Ideals of Democracy  

1.2 Types of Democracy 

1.3 Federalist No. 10 & Brutus 1 Summary 

1.4 Challenges of the Articles of Confederation

1.5 Ratification of the US Constitution

1.6 Principles of American Government

1.7 Relationship Between States and the Federal Government

1.8 Constitutional Interpretations of Federalism

1.9 Federalism in Action 

1.10 Required Founding Documents

✍️ Practice:

Best Quizlet Deck: AP Gov Unit 1 by bryce_s

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

👻 Check out Too Late to Apologize: An Ode to the Declaration of Independence (YouTube)

Types of Federalism Part 1 - Dual vs Cooperative

Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland and US v. Lopez

The Powers - Expressed, Implied, Concurrent, Denied...

⚖️ Unit 2: Interactions Among Branches of Government

Unit 2 dives into the separation of powers between our three branches of government. It looks at the specific powers of each branch as outlined in the Constitution and how each branch has grown in power through the years. The system of checks and balances and the role each branch plays in holding the other accountable is analyzed. 

Legislative and Judicial Branch Review : This stream provides a review of the legislative and judicial branches including their powers and role within the federal government.

Powers of the Presidency : This stream provides a review of the executive branch including its powers and role within the federal government.

Separation of Powers/Checks and Balances : This video from Crash Course reviews the separation of powers between the three branches of government. It also looks at the ways each branch “checks” the other. 

Unit 2 Overview: Interactions Among Branches of Government

2.1 Congress : The Senate and the House of Representatives

2.2 Structures, Powers, and Functions of Congress

2.3 Congressional Behavior

2.4 Roles and Power of the President

2.5 Checks on the Presidency

2.6 Expansion of Presidential Power

2.7 Presidential Communication

2.8 The Judicial Branch

2.9 Legitimacy of the Judicial Branch

2.10 The Court in Action

2.11 Checks on the Judicial Branch

2.12 The Bureaucracy

2.13 Discretionary and Rule-Making Authority

2.14 Holding the Bureaucracy Accountable

2.15 Policy and the Branches of Government

Best Quizlet Deck: Unit 2 – AP Gov by k8te13

Bill to Law Process

Review and Application of Iron Triangles and Issue Networks

Selection and Nomination of Federal Judges

✊ Unit 3: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Unit 3 takes the principles of our government established in Units 1 and 2 to analyze maintaining those principles while balancing liberty and order. The role of the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment in guaranteeing civil rights and liberties for all citizens is at the heart of this unit.  

First and Second Amendments : This stream looks at what the first and second amendments say, how they have been interpreted and some of the major Supreme Court cases around them.

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights : This video from crash course provides a review of the civil liberties and civil rights guaranteed to US citizens. It also looks at the way the Bill of Rights has been interpreted since its inception in relation to liberties and rights.

The 14th Amendment : This stream breaks down the 14th amendment and many of the key terms associated with it: due process, equal protection, incorporation, citizenship, and privileges or immunities clause. 

Required Supreme Court Cases from 1st-10th Amendments : This stream reviews Supreme Court cases about the 1st-10th Amendments and how they protect civil liberties today!

Unit 3 Overview: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

3.1 The Bill of Rights

3.2 First Amendment: Freedom of Religion

3.3 First Amendment: Freedom of Speech

3.4 First Amendment: Freedom of the Press

3.5 Second Amendment: Rights to Bear Arms

3.6 Amendments: Balancing Individual Freedom with Public Order and Safety

3.7 Selective Incorporation & the 14th Amendment

3.8 Amendments: Due Process and the Rights of the Accused

3.9 Amendments: Due Process and the Right to Privacy

3.10 Social Movements and Equal Protection

3.11 Government Responses to Social Movements

3.12 Balancing Minority and Majority Rights

3.13 Affirmative Action

Best Quizlet Deck: AP Gov – Civil Liberties and Rights by Sandy_Midgley

📜 Check out Bill of Rights and Bill of Rights (YouTube)

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (Fiveable stream)

🐘Unit 4: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs

Unit 4 focuses on political ideology - the idea that there are different and consistent patterns of beliefs about political values and the role of government within the context that we live in. This unit will discuss the different American ideologies and how major parties influence them.

Political Socialization and Political Ideology : This stream discusses what influences people's political views and a few different dominant political ideologies.

Political Parties and Their Platforms : This stream dives into the major beliefs and ideologies of the Republican and Democratic party platforms, the history of political parties, their impact on voters and the government, and third parties were also discussed.

Economic Ideology - Keynesian vs Supply Side : In this stream we dived into fiscal economic theory and policy, looking at the liberal take on Keynesian theory and the conservative look at supply-side theory. 

Unit 4 Overview: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs

4.1 American Attitudes about Government and Politics

4.2 Political Socialization

4.4 Influence of Political Events on Ideology

4.5 Measuring Public Opinion

4.6 Evaluating Public Opinion Data

4.7 Ideologies of Political Parties

4.8 Ideology and Policy Making

4.9 Ideology and Economic Policy

4.10 Ideology and Social Policy

Best Quizlet Deck: AP GOV Unit 4 by MARGARET_CYLKOWSKI

A Review of Public Policy (Social Policy)

A Review of Public Policy (Economic Policy)

Social Security, Healthcare, and Education Policy

🗳Unit 5: Political Participation

This unit focuses on how we, citizens, can participate in politics as well as how the media, finance and other factors play a part in our government and policy-making. 

Voting and Voter Behavior : Who votes and why do they vote? This stream answers these questions and explains the process of voting in the US in this stream.

Campaign Finance : Campaign finance isn't as scary as you think! This stream looks at the Federal Elections Campaign Act, hard vs soft money, Buckley vs Valeo, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, Citizens United vs FEC, 501(c)s, and more!

Media Ownership and Bias :  This steam discusses the growing concentration of media companies and how bias in media affects both policy-making and public interest.

Critical Elections: Realignments and Dealignment : Often, students are confused on the differences between a party realignment and dealignment. This stream covers those around the five critical elections in US history. 

Unit 5 Overview: Political Participation

5.1 Voting Rights and Models of Voting Behaviour

5.2 Voter Turnout

5.3 Political Parties

5.4 How and Why Political Parties Change

5.5 Third-Party Politics

5.6 Interest Groups Influencing Policy Making

5.7 Groups Influencing Policy Outcomes

5.8 Electing a President

5.9 Congressional Elections

5.10 Modern Campaigns

5.11 Campaign Finance

5.12 The Media

5.13 Changing Media

Best Quizlet Deck: AP Government - Political Participation by Carpenter-Economics

🧐AP US Government - Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)

AP US Government Multiple Choice Questions

AP US Government Multiple Choice Help (MCQ)

🏛️AP US Government - Free Response Questions (FRQ)

Breaking Down the Supreme Court Case Comparison Essay : This stream discusses how exactly to write the Supreme Court Case Comparison Essay, FRQ #3, on the AP Gov exam! We talked about the elements of a good response, and wrote one ourselves!

Writing Workshop on the Argumentative Essay : This stream explores the Argumentative Essay, looking at the rubric and then using the remainder of the time to practice our skills. 

AP US Government Free Response Help - FRQs

FRQ: Conceptual Analysis

FRQ: SCOTUS Application

AP Gov FRQ: Argument Essay Review (2020)

AP Gov FRQ: Quantitative Analysis Review (2020)

AP Gov SAQ Practice Prompt Answers & Feedback

AP GoPo Free Response Questions (FRQ) – Past Prompts

AP Gov Federalism Practice Prompt Answers & Feedback


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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the complete guide to ap us government frqs.

Advanced Placement (AP)


Free-response questions, or FRQs, on the AP US Government exam are more straightforward than those on some other AP tests, but they can still be tough if you're not ready for them. In this guide, we will lay out a simple step-by-step method for answering AP Government FRQs , go through a real example, and tell you where you can find additional practice resources.

AP Government Free-Response Section Format

The free-response section lasts one hour and 40 minutes and consists of four questions , each of which is worth 12.5% of your total score. So as a whole, the free-response section accounts for half your total AP Gov score (the other 50% comes from the multiple-choice section). Each FRQ is worth 3-6 raw points.

Here are the four types of FRQs you'll get on the AP Government exam:

  • Concept Application (3 raw points)
  • Quantitative Analysis (4 raw points)
  • SCOTUS Comparison (4 raw points)
  • Argument Essay (6 raw points)

The free-response questions will ask you to integrate your knowledge of the various content areas covered by the course. This includes analyzing political events in the US, discussing examples, and demonstrating your understanding of general principles of US government and politics. You'll also be asked to examine data from charts, define key terms, and explain the roles that different parts of our government play in the political system.

The following chart shows specifically what you must do for each FRQ on the AP Government test. All info below comes from the 2020 AP US Government and Politics Course and Exam Description .

Looking for help studying for your AP exam? Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!

AP Government FRQs: 5-Step Solution Process

This section provides a step-by-step process for answering any question on the AP US Government exam. Here's a sample question from the 2020 AP Gov Course and Exam Description that I'll reference throughout so you can see how these steps might work in practice:


Step 1: Read the Introductory and Concluding Sentences

Free-response questions #1 and #3 will include passages, while question #2 will have an image or a chart with data. Skim the first and final sentences of the passage (or title of the graphic for #2) before you get to the tasks (labeled A-C or A-D). This will help you get a rough sense of what to expect in the rest of the question.

It's a good idea to read the intros and conclusions to all the FRQs before choosing which one to begin with. Doing this might help build up your confidence and improve your efficiency to start with a question that's easier for you.

In the sample question above, you would read the title of the graphic ("Public Education Spending: Amount Spent per Pupil by State in 2014") and then skim the image itself to get a sense of what it's asking you to analyze.


Step 2: Identify (and Underline, If You Want) the Command Verb

For each task in each FRQ, you're given specific instructions on the type of answer that is expected; these instructions include command verbs that tell you what to do. It's important to be aware of exactly what the question is asking so you can earn full points.

These command verbs are the first words you should zero in on as you approach a question. If you think it'll help keep you focused, you can underline these verbs .

Here are the most commonly used task verbs, as described in the AP Gov Exam Description :

Compare: Provide a description or explanation of similarities and/or differences.

Define: Provide a specific meaning for a word or concept.

Describe: Provide the relevant characteristics of a specified topic.

Develop an argument: Articulate a claim and support it with evidence.

Draw a conclusion: Use available information to formulate an accurate statement that demonstrates understanding based on evidence.

Explain: Provide information about how or why a relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome occurs, using evidence and/or reasoning. Explain "how" typically requires analyzing the relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome, whereas explain "why" typically requires analysis of motivations or reasons for the relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome.

Identify: Indicate or provide information about a specified topic, without elaboration or explanation.

In part A of the sample question, the command verb is "identify," indicating that you need to correctly interpret the data in the image. In part B, the command verb changes to "describe," which means you'll need to go one step further and interpret and analyze data in the graphic that you have found.

Part C starts with "draw a conclusion," meaning that you will need to tie together the evidence you found in part B to come up with a final (accurate) statement on what this means. Finally, part D begins with the task verb "explain," showing that you must make a clear connection between the data in this graphic as a whole and the principle of federalism.

Step 3: Know Where You'll Earn Your Raw Points

In general, each part in a question (A, B, C, and D) will correspond to 1 raw point , but not all questions are like this.

After finding the task verb in the part of the question you're answering, take note of how many examples or descriptions you need to provide , as each will likely correspond to a point in your raw score for the question. There might also be more than one task verb in a question, in which case you'll likely get at least 2 raw points for it.

As a reminder, here is the maximum number of raw points you can earn for each question (don't forget that each question is still worth the same percentage of your score: 12.5%):

Take care to answer the question thoroughly but directly , addressing all points in a way that will make it easy for graders to assess your response. Remember that you don't need to write an essay for the first three FRQs, so just go straight for the answer to avoid any ambiguity.

In the sample question, we know there will be 4 raw points you can earn. And since the tasks are divided into four parts (labeled A-D), we can assume that each part will be worth 1 raw point .

You can see more sample FRQs and how they're graded with the official scoring guidelines here .

Step 4: Reread Your Answer

Once you've come up with an answer, reread what you wrote to ensure it makes sense and addresses the question completely . Did you give the correct number of descriptions or examples asked of you? Does your answer directly respond to what the question is asking?

If you're satisfied, move on to the next part of the question and return to step 2!

Step 5: Pace Yourself

The final step is to keep track of time so you can be sure you're pacing yourself effectively and are not spending too much time on any one question. As a reminder, you'll have one hour and 40 minutes for the entire free-response section of the AP Government exam.

It's suggested that you spend the following amounts of time on each FRQ:

As you can see, you should spend about an equal amount of time on the first three FRQs and save most of your time for your essay , which will likely require the most effort of the four.


A Real AP Government FRQ Example + Analysis

Now, let's go through the answers to a real AP Government free-response question from the 2019 released questions to show you what your responses should look like. This question is an example of a Concept Application question on the exam, meaning it's worth 3 raw points (1 point each for parts A, B, and C).


This question is all about the Johnson Amendment, which does not allow religious organizations to engage in political activities and contribute money to political campaigns. As this passage explains, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious group, encourages pastors to challenge this law by participating in an annual event called Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

Below, we go through how to answer each of the three parts correctly using the scoring guidelines .

Part A—1 Point

Part A asks you to come up with an example of a specific action Congress could take to address the concerns of the Alliance Defending Freedom. In other words, what could Congress do to allow groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom to speak freely about political campaigns?

Note that the command verb used here is "describe," meaning you must "provide the relevant characteristics of a specified topic," or elaborate on what you're proposing and why it would work.

There are two possible answers you could put down here, according to the scoring guidelines:

  • Congress could pass a law that would reverse the Johnson Amendment.
  • Congress could pass a law to allow religious organizations to participate more directly in politics.

Part B—1 Point

Part B asks you to go into more detail about what you proposed in part A . You must talk about how partisan divisions (i.e., differences in political parties among politicians) could stop whatever you proposed in part A from going into effect (whether that's a new law altogether or a reversal of the original Johnson Amendment).

The task verb used here is "explain," so you must use evidence to show how the action you wrote down in part A could be blocked or reversed.

Here are two possible answers , according to the scoring guidelines:

  • Partisan divisions make it more difficult to pass a law because parties adhere to different ideological points of view.
  • If Congress and the president are from different political parties, the president might threaten to veto the legislation.

Part C—1 Point

The final part of this free-response question asks you to examine the scenario again, this time from the perspective of the Alliance Defending Freedom , or the religious group in question.

How might the Alliance argue that the Johnson Amendment, which prevents them from speaking on political issues and contributing money to political campaigns, is taking away their rights?

The key here is to first think about what rights these could be . Perhaps freedom of speech or freedom of religion? As you probably noticed, the task verb is "explain," so once again you must use plenty of evidence to show why this contentious relationship exists between the Alliance and the Johnson Amendment/the US government as a whole.

Here are examples of answers you could write, according to the official scoring guidelines:

  • The Alliance Defending Freedom and other religious groups might argue that their First Amendment rights are being violated.
  • The Alliance Defending Freedom and other religious groups might argue that their freedom of speech/religion is being violated.


Essential Resources for Practicing AP US Government FRQs

There are several resources you can use to hone your skills for answering AP Government FRQs.

Official College Board Resources

The College Board website hosts free-response questions from previous tests that you can use for practice. I recommend starting with the 2019 FRQs (unfortunately, they don't come with sample student responses), as these will look the most like the questions you'll get on test day.

Once you've used those, you can look at FRQs from the 2018 test and earlier; most of these come with sample student responses so you can see what a good response looks like.

If you're hoping to practice FRQs in the context of a full-length test, here are some links to past AP Government exams you can download (as always, prioritize the most recent tests):

  • 2018 Practice Test
  • 2013 Practice Test
  • 2012 Practice Test
  • 2009 Practice Test
  • 2005 Practice Test
  • 1999 Practice Test

These are by far the best sample AP US Government free-response questions you can get because they most accurately represent what you'll see on the real test.

AP Government Review Books

AP Government review books are also solid resources for free-response practice, though they vary a lot in quality.

The Princeton Review's prep book for AP Gov includes five full-length practice tests , so there should be tons of free-response questions you can use to hone your skills. Barron's AP US Gov review book also has some useful practice tests and free-response questions.

If you use these unofficial free-response questions for practice, just be sure to intersperse them with official questions from the College Board so that you maintain an accurate sense of what to expect on the real test.


Recap: Everything to Know About AP US Government FRQs

The four free-response questions on the AP US Government and Politics exam can be approached methodically to earn the maximum number of points.

Read the intro and conclusion to the question first so you can get your bearings. Then, for each of the separate parts, identify the task verb, figure out where you'll earn your raw points, and double-check your answer for any missing pieces or careless errors.

You should also pace yourself so that you're spending no more than 20 minutes each on the first three questions and 40 minutes on the essay.

I suggest practicing at least a few free-response questions before heading into the AP exam. The best resource to use is the College Board website, which contains an archive of past questions accompanied by scoring guidelines and sample student responses. These questions are pretty simple compared to the free-response questions on other AP tests once you get the hang of them!

What's Next?

Not sure where to begin in your AP prep? Our five-step plan will prepare you to take on any AP test .

If you're missing some of your notes that you need to study for AP Gov, check out this article with links to all the content you need to know for the test . You can also learn about the test as a whole with our comprehensive AP Government and Politics review guide .

Do you have a target score in mind for this exam? Learn more about what it takes to earn a 5 on an AP test and whether you should aim for one yourself.

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Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

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AP® English Language

How to get a 6 on the argument frq in ap® english language.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: March 1, 2022

How to Get a 6 on the Argument FRQ in AP® English Language

What We Review

Introduction: How to Get a 6 on the Argument FRQ in AP® English Language

Wondering how to get a 6 on the argumentative essay in AP® English Language? 

To score an 5 on the AP® English Argument FRQ question, the CollegeBoard scoring guidelines outline that students need to write an essay that effectively argues a position, uses appropriate and convincing evidence, and showcases a wide range of the elements of writing. Essays that score a 6 do all of that and, additionally, demonstrate sophistication in their argument.

An essay that does all of that is an incredibly well-constructed essay. Such an essay needs a solid framework and excellent support. To do this, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are being asked, to not waffle, to spend time and care with your thesis and outline, and to support every claim you make.

We know the best way to write an AP® English FRQ that does everything right is to understand what you are going to see on the AP® English Language test. Read on to prepare yourself for exam day and earn that 6!

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions

The AP® English argument FRQ is the most straightforward of the AP® English FRQs because it is the most similar to the essays you’re already used to writing. It’s exciting to have free reign and make your own argument, unrestrained from rhetorical analysis devices or documents. But, like most AP® writing, it also can be a little overwhelming.

There’s nothing to read and analyze to provide evidence or help you form an argument. Whether you’re feeling excited or overwhelmed by the AP® writing argument FRQ, consider the rhetorical situation. Be strategic about forming your thesis, craft a strong, chronological argument, and utilize good, supportive evidence to earn a better overall essay response.

Determine the question.

The first question to ask yourself is what am I being asked to do ? This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how tricky it can be to figure out. Look for keywords and phrases that will answer that question.

Here’s an example from the 2019 AP® English Language argumentative essay.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Determine the Question

Though there are just two short paragraphs, there is a lot of room for confusion here. In this case, “Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment.” is the key sentence you are looking for. In 2019, AP® English Language test takers were asked to select a concept, place, role, etc. that they believed was “overrated,” and explain why.

If you cannot determine what the question is, go back and reread the prompt. Focus on the last few sentences, as that’s where you’ll usually find it.

Knowing the question you are answering is the most important part of AP® writing. You will not be able to answer the question effectively if you aren’t certain what the question is. Pick out a specific sentence or two to determine the question, and thereby ensure that you aren’t just writing an essay that responds to the general sense of the argument essay prompts

Pick an opinion and stick to it.

The next step is both simple and difficult. Identify your own opinion on the subject.

But remember — the AP® argumentative essay exam format is designed to test how well you can craft an argument. Questions like the 2019 question seem so daunting, because claiming anything to be “overrated” is such a broad topic. It is a bigger question than students are used to encountering on an AP® test.

But, always remember, there is no right or wrong answer for this AP® English FRQ. And whatever argument you choose will not come back later in the exam or in your final grade in the class. This is not to say that you shouldn’t believe in what you are writing. Only that you should remember that both sides are arguable, pick one, and stick to it. Don’t waffle.

Below we break down two sample student answers from this same 2019 prompt. 

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - PIck an opinion negative example

In this AP® Lang argument essay example, the student jumps from describing places, to people, to outfits. The prompts asked for only one example and the student gives three.  By doing this, it shows they were not only unable to grasp what the prompt was asking, but that they couldn’t stick to their opinion.  Instead of deeply strengthening one choice, the student gives vague, half-reasons for too many choices. When writing your FRQs, choose just one concept and stick to it.

The following example demonstrates a strong student response:

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Pick an opinion strong example

This student picks one clear concept, capitalism, and clearly outlines their support for it.  They write with clear language that opens the door for the deeper analysis coming later in the essay.

Like this student, choose just one clear argument to delve into when writing your FRQ.

Craft a thesis statement.

The thesis statement should be both simple and elegant. Students often find it one of the more difficult writing skills to master, but we’re here to help. Just remember that it should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence.  So, for the 2019 argument FRQ :

Good thesis: While capitalism undeniably has its upsides, it has many downsides that are rarely recognized. When considering the downsides, capitalism is clearly overrated as it commodifies humanity and uplifts a minority at the expense of the majority.

This thesis breaks down a) that the author clearly states his claim that capitalism is overrated, b) that the author will support that claim with examples on how it commodifies humanity and how it hurts the majority in favor of the minority.

Good thesis: While the Electoral College was created in the name of equality for smaller states, it is ultimately overrated because it undercuts the popular vote, it is an archaic practice that is unsuitable for the modern era.

This thesis claims the Electoral College is overrated by claiming it doesn’t do what it was created to do in the first place- support equality.  It also introduces two supporting examples for the rest of the essay- it undercuts the popular vote and it doesn’t work in the modern era.

Not a good thesis: Kicking a ball in a net and scoring, is not as important as saving lives. Soccer to me would be considered overrated.

This thesis doesn’t give clear direction for the rest of the essay.  The author claims soccer is overrated, but doesn’t tell us why. The example that “it’s not as important as saving lives” is unrelated and also not touched on again later in the essay. This thesis isn’t specific and doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the author will be saying next.

Not a good thesis: The term “overrated” has been used in conversation to diminish the value of roles. In unusual circumstances the term “overrated” should be applied to the idea of freedom in regards to social change, but overall it should not be applied in regards to global devastation and cruel treatment.

This thesis does not directly answer the question.  Is the author arguing that freedom is overrated? They also claim that the term overrated doesn’t apply to global devastation and cruel treatment. This second claim is both unrelated to the first and doesn’t work to answer the initial prompt.

Looking at these four examples, can you see the difference between a strong and weak thesis?

After you’ve determined your thesis, use it as a jumping point to sketch a quick outline. Then, follow your outline, bringing in your own concrete examples and evidence. Doing so will improve your AP® writing.

Return to the Table of Contents

Craft a chronological argument.

A good argument builds as you move through the essay. It does not simply repeat the same points. Instead, the different points of the argument build off one another and work together to advance the author’s point.

Let’s look at the 2018 AP® English argument FRQ for an example.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Craft a chronological argument

In this case, students are being asked to argue a position on the value of choosing the unknown. 

All students are likely to have their own definitions of what “choosing the unknown” might mean. You first want to consider what this phrase means to you, and how it applies to the real world.  Could it mean breaking out of your comfort zone in daily routines, or could it mean going to theater school to follow your dreams?  There’s no wrong answers, but try to pin down one. Consider Lindbergh’s quote the prompt gives you, and how shock, disappointment, and enrichment play into choosing the unknown.

Once you’ve nailed down your definition, you can begin to form your arguments. A chronological argument builds off itself. So, in this question’s case, an outline would look something like this:

  • Choosing the unknown is necessary for the development of the human race.
  • Scientific advancements cannot be made without testing the boundaries of the unknown.
  • Cultural and artistic growth can only occur through exploring the unknown.

First, a student must define what choosing the unknown means, and what makes it difficult. Next the student argues for the value of choosing the unknown, in that the human race could never develop without it.  Finally, the student will argue for the invaluable scientific and cultural/artistic advances made throughout history by breaking known boundaries.

When you sketch your outline, quickly ask yourself if the outline would make just as much sense if you rearranged it. If the answer is no, start writing your essay. If the answer is yes, try to structure your argument so that your points build off one another.

Support your claims.

All arguments need evidence. This is the proof you need to support your thesis. And in the case of the AP® English argument FRQ, the evidence all comes from you. What exactly that evidence is will vary from question to question and from student to student. But make sure that every point you make is supported by evidence.

Here’s some good news — you already know quite a bit about effective evidence from what you have learned in AP® English about rhetorical devices. Your main purpose in this essay is to persuade. What have you learned in class about effective ways to persuade? What rhetorical devices can you utilize? Try to pick the best devices to support your argument that you can.

Here are some examples of supportive and non-supportive evidence that students could use to support their claims.

What to Expect from the AP® English Language Argument Free Response Questions - Support your claims

The 2017 AP® English language argument FRQ asked students to argue a position if the most essential skill is artifice. The example student answers given below are from here .

Supportive evidence:   “Throughout history, rulers have utilized countless different methods of achieving power, however none have been so successful as mastering the art of lying.

In his advice to future rulers, Niccolo Machiavelli encouraged them to lie and maintain the illusion of sympathy to the common struggles in order to retain power. He asserts that it is imperative for a ruler to appear caring and sympathetic even if he has no objective but power.

Machiavelli argues that to be sincere and honest is akin to being vulnerable. A ruler must be skilled in the art of deception if he is not to fall prey to usurpers. Thus, it is essential that he appear humble and morally upright to his constituents as he is to appear idealistic, despite his nature being identical to his citizens.”

In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in politics. The student claims that mastering lying is essential to achieving political power. The student uses Machiavelli’s leadership and beliefs as specific examples to support this, by analyzing and connecting each point back to his/her claim.

Non-supportive evidence: “Another example would be actors on red carpets or at interviews they sound generous and relatable, but in reality they could be selfish people who don’t care about anyone. To the public they act charming, honest, and sincere. They do this so they can get famous and rich. They do this so they will never get ignored.”

In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in the culture of entertainment and celebrities. However, the student does not utilize supportive evidence to do so. The paragraph is full of claims about how actors lie, but does not provide a concrete example to anchor the claims. The student provides a lot of very vague generalizations, but no clear evidence or examples of specific celebrities and how they used artifice to succeed.

There is so much variance in prompts and students’ prior knowledge; it’s impossible to provide a checklist of what makes evidence supportive. But a good trick to decide if you’ve supported your claims well enough is to talk to yourself. No really, it’s a good idea.

Picture yourself discussing your essay with someone. Imagine that this person disagrees with everything that you say. Every time you make a claim, like that it’s important to be polite in an email, your imaginary person shakes their head and tells you no. How would you try to convince them? What examples would you use? Make sure that for each opinion you put forward; you have provided an answer to someone who would disagree with you.

The evidence is an important part of your essay. If your outline and your argument are a framework, your evidence is the brick and mortar. A house without brick and mortar won’t fall, but it won’t be a very nice house to inhabit. Tie every claim you make to a piece of evidence to ensure the best essay possible.

Wrapping Things Up: Scoring a 6 on the Argument FRQ for AP® English Language

The AP® English argument FRQ varies quite a bit. But it is ultimately about how well you can put forth an argument. So, don’t be afraid to spend some time crafting that argument. We’ve covered a lot in this article- here are the main points to remember:

  • Determine the question. Figure out what the prompt is asking you to do.
  • Pick an opinion and stick to it. Choose one side of the argument and one clear claim to support all the way through.
  • Craft a thesis statement. Your thesis should be clear, concise, and introduce the content of your essay.
  • Craft a chronological argument. Make an argument that builds on its prior points.
  • Support your claims. Support yourself with concrete, specific evidence and examples. 

But most of all, have fun. This essay is the one you should be looking forward to, where you have the freest rein. Enjoy it and earn yourself a 6.

Do the examples shown make sense to you? Can you picture yourself moving through the AP® writing argument FRQ with ease now?

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8 thoughts on “how to get a 6 on the argument frq in ap® english language”.

Thank you for explaining this so eloquently. Excellent post, I will keep this handy and refer to it often from now on. It’s so educative. Great post!

Sure, glad it helped.

I’m an AP® Language teacher and the title of your article caught my eye because the essays aren’t scored on a 0-9 scale anymore. The max score for an essay now is a 6. Essays are now scored in 3 categories: Thesis: 0 or 1 point Evidence and commentary: 0-4 points Sophistication: 0 or 1 point I just wanted to let you know! I saw this was last updated in 2020 and just thought it should reflect the current AP® exam.

Thank you for the heads up! This is an older blog post that must have had something else updated to it this year. We’ve gone ahead and revised the post.

Hi, my AP® Language teacher emphasized on a counterargument at the end of the supporting paragraphs. Could you elaborate on it? Also, how exactly do we get the sophistication point?

Hi Stephanie, thanks for reaching out! Making a solid counter-argument is definitely one way to make sure that you earn the Sophistication point. We recommend having a look at our AP® English Language Review Guide for 2021 for more tips! The College Board’s Free-Response Question and Scoring Information Archive also provides authentic examples of student writing — many of which successfully make counterarguments and rebuttals to earn the Sophistication point.

Hi can I get a 6?

Hi Roy, we certainly believe that earning a 6 on your FRQs is possible with practice and dedication! I’d recommend having a look at our AP® English Language Review Guide for tips and tricks, and you can also browse our AP® English Language and Composition Resource Page and Free Response practice questions for targeted practice.

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