AP® English Language Free-Response Questions (FRQs)
The AP® English Language and Composition exam consists of two sections: multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and free-response questions (FRQs). In this guide, we will look at the exam's FRQ section.
We will start by examining the format of the AP English Language exam’s writing section and giving tips for scoring well on the FRQs. In the following sections, we have also included a few examples of AP Language FRQ writing prompts used on the exam. By the end of this article, you will know how to prepare for the essay portion of the AP Lang exam.
Format of the AP English Language FRQ Section
Students often ask, "How many FRQs are on the AP Lang exam?" Well, there are three FRQs on the AP Language exam. You'll encounter a synthesis question, a rhetorical analysis question, and an argument question.
You have 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete all three questions, giving you approximately 40 minutes for each essay. However, you can use more or less time for each one. For the synthesis essay, you have 15 minutes specifically designated for reading the documents, but you are free to commence writing at any point during that time.
Evaluators rate each essay on a scale from 0 to 6 points. The entire FRQ section contributes 55% to the exam score, with each essay carrying equal weight.
How to Answer AP English Language FRQs
Here are some general tips for approaching the FRQ section of the AP Language and Composition exam:
Before you get started, look over all the prompts and begin with the one that seems the easiest.
Starting with the most straightforward question can boost your confidence to succeed in this section. For some students, the synthesis question is the easiest because it allows you to write about an issue for which you have evidence. The argument question is the easiest for other students because they can choose their position and evidence. Many students answer the rhetorical analysis question last because they prefer to quickly write the easier essays to have more time for the harder ones.
State your thesis in the introduction.
Your thesis should encompass a defensible position or a defensible analysis of the writer's rhetorical choices, avoiding a mere summary or restatement of the prompt. A defensible position denotes a clear statement of your stance on the issue presented in the prompt. Although you can place the thesis anywhere in your response, the introduction proves to be the most effective location. However, remember not to spend excessive time on your introduction; two or three sentences will suffice. If you find yourself running out of time, include at least a thesis for all essays, as you will receive at least one point for it.
Use evidence to support your position or analysis.
To score well on the FRQs, include quoted or paraphrased proof of your ideas in your essays. Focus on specific words and details from the text that support what you have to say. For the argument essay, include specific references to people, events, and situations to support your ideas. Be sure to explain how the evidence illustrates your concept. Two pieces of evidence for each of your points are sufficient; don’t include lists of quotes without describing how they support your position or analysis.
You do not need a conclusion to earn a high score.
However, if you have time to write a sentence that pulls your ideas together at the end to make your essay sound finished, you should write one.
Don’t worry about making spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes.
AP English Language FRQ Examples
Here are some examples of AP English Lang FRQs from past exams to illustrate the kinds of questions you will see on the exam. The following sample questions come directly from the College Board® course and exam description guide and are an excellent source to practice with.
The synthesis question includes six to seven references organized around a specific topic. Two sources are visual, such as charts, graphs, photographs, or political cartoons. The remaining sources are excerpts from articles containing about 500 words per source. You must write an essay synthesizing material from at least three of the provided sources and developing your position on the topic.
If you’re wondering how to write a good response for the Synthesis question, here are some tips to keep in mind and help you do well with this kind of FRQ:
- This essay will use a topic that does not have a clear yes/no or good/bad opinion on it. It will have complexity; everybody’s perspective will have something positive and negative about it. While acknowledging the opposing viewpoint is essential, you should write more strongly in favor of one side than the other. Do not write an essay that equally explores an issue’s various sides without clarifying your position.
- Pick two pieces of evidence to support your argument and one from the opposition to use as a concession or to refute. By doing so, you earn points for using three pieces of evidence, enabling you to write two good body paragraphs that recognize the issue’s complexity.
FRQ Example Passage 1
As the Internet age changes what and how people read, there has been considerable debate about the future of public libraries. While some commentators question whether libraries can stay relevant, others see new possibilities for libraries in the changing dynamics of today’s society
Carefully read the six sources, found on the AP English Language and Composition Classroom Resources Page, including the introductory information for each source. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the role, if any, that public libraries should serve in the future.
- Source A (Kranich)
- Source B (calendar)
- Source C (Shank)
- Source D (charts)
- Source E (Siegler)
- Source F (ALA)
In your response, you should do the following:
- Respond to the prompt with a thesis that may establish a line of reasoning.
- Provide evidence from at least three of the provided sources to support your thesis. Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the description in parentheses.
- Explain the relationship between the evidence and your thesis
- Demonstrate an understanding of the rhetorical situation.
- Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.
Source: College Board
How can I practice AP English Language free-response questions?
The best way to practice for AP English Lang FRQs is to use released questions from the College Board’s previous exams.
If you are enrolled in the AP English Lang class, your teacher will guide you in developing effective responses and provide feedback on your writing throughout the year. However, if you are self-studying, refer to the released questions, sample student responses, and score explanations on the College Board website. You can adopt similar strategies by researching the qualities that make high-scoring essays successful. Ensure you are well-acquainted with the rubrics used by the graders to score each essay, as they outline the required information you should include in your responses.
Practice writing essays at a slower pace to learn how to express your ideas skillfully. Gradually reduce your time on each practice essay until you can write a good essay in 40 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
There are three FRQs on the AP English Language exam: Synthesis, Rhetorical Analysis, and Argument. They always appear in this order.
Students have two hours and 15 minutes to complete FRQs on the AP English Lang exam, which equals 40 minutes per essay with 15 minutes to read. However, students can spend more or less time on each essay.
You can find released questions from past exams on the AP Central website.