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.

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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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Don’t worry about making spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes.

    The graders understand that you are writing under time pressure, and your essay is more like a rough draft. If you make a mistake or change your mind, simply draw a line through it and keep going.

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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.

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.

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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.

The FRQs are graded by high school AP Lang teachers and college professors who teach freshman-level English courses. The College Board provides rubrics that tell graders what to look for in successful essays. Essays are primarily graded on the quality of their ideas and not on grammar, punctuation, or spelling accuracy. Handwriting is not factored into the score, and specially designated readers are available to help read and score essays with unusually bad handwriting.

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.

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