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1. An essay on a made-up book.
One of my teachers that is an APUSH grader posts Facebook statuses each day about the dumbest things she reads, so they are allowed to say. But my favorite story was from a teacher that did the AP Lit grading. The teachers are allowed to read the responses to open ended questions on books they haven’t read, but she says that if people aren’t too familiar with them they tend to pass it off to someone who has actually read it. One day she got a response on a book she had never heard of, so she tried to pass it on to someone else. But no one else at her table, or in her room, had heard of it either. Which in this case is strange, because this is a room full of English teachers, and all of the source works for that response are supposed to be of a certain academic caliber. After finally resorting to looking the book up online and calling around to a few bookstores, they determined the book did not exist. Someone had made up an entire plot-line, and then analyzed it and wrote an essay on it.
2. An illustration of College Board’s annihilation.
My comparative government teacher told me about the essay that contained no words — just a picture of Godzilla and King Kong attacking the College Board building.
3. At least he was an honest test-taker?
My stat teacher told us that all he saw on a FRQ was ” I know I failed this, but the teacher was a milf, so it was totally worth it.”
4. A pretty brief summary of the reformations in England and Germany.
Best story from my AP European History teacher, who was also an AP grader. An essay question one year asked to describe the similarities and differences between the protestant reformation in England and Germany. One student wrote, “In Germany, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. In England, Henry VIII nailed Anne Boleyn.”
5. This is what happens when you translate “laughter” in spanish to “crying”:
I took AP Spanish this year. I mistranslated the words for laughter and smile in my head as crying and sadness. I ended up writing 200+ words about the health benefits of being sad.
6. A slip-up on the AP Music Theory exam.
Friend of the family used to grade AP Music Theory exams. There’s a sight-singing section on the exam where, at least when I took it, you had to sing onto a tape that would be scored based on accuracy. He had to hear a TON of really horrible ones, but he told us one story that I remember.
The student’s recording began fine, and then the student made a mistake, yelled “Ahh FUCK!” and then proceeded to start singing “Tooty Fruity”.
7. An AP Euro student who evidently didn’t know one Enlightenment thinker.
My AP European history teacher told us that one year, the essay was on Enlightenment thinkers. One student wrote “The Enlightenment had many great thinkers, none of which come to mind currently.” and nothing else.
8. A kid who wrote a two-act play across two different AP tests.
When I was taking AP exams my senior year, one kid in my class wrote a two-act play about a couple trapped in zoo over night. While trapped there, a radioactive source causes the animals to mutate into human/animal hybrids and the human/animal hybrids chase the couple throughout the zoo, trying to eat them (the giraffe was named puzzles). The first act was in his AP English Lit exam; the second act was in his AP Euro exam.
9. A somewhat hostile illustration.
My English teacher told us that one of his favorite essays that he graded was actually not an essay at all, but a “perfectly drawn and shaded” picture of a middle finger.
Said he almost didn’t have the heart to give him that zero.
10. When in doubt: fake poor handwriting.
When I took AP US history I couldn’t remember which amendment abolished slavery, so I made the number look like really bad hand writing. I got a 5.
11. A student trying to make light of a bad situation.
My History teacher told us that one time there was a test where the student just traced an outline of their hand, with a small caption underneath that said “high five! :D.”
She gave the paper a high five, but still gave the student a zero.
12. An essay that never really got to the point, but was funny nonetheless.
My AP US History teacher grades the AP Exam ever year and his favorite was one sentence: “Booker T. was a guy who take a trip.” That was all that was on the essay. The question was about how W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington planned to improve the condition of blacks following the Civil War.
13. An essay about ice cream for the AP US History exam.
For US History, my teacher always showed us this one example of a DBQ essay that a kid wrote. It was about ice cream and he drew a stick figure and labeled it George Washington. The essay was supposed to be about slavery…
14. A very creative short story.
My AP Human Geography teacher told us about how he graded a paper where a kid wrote a 6-page short story about a rabbit and managed to incorporate the correct answer and got full credit. I called bullshit but he swore it was true.
15. A $5 bill taped to the exam.
I read AP exams in the past. Most memorable was an exam book with $5 taped to the page inside and the essay just said, “Please, have mercy.” But I also got an angry breakup letter, a drawing of some astronauts, all kinds of random stuff.
16. A very creative poem about Joseph Stalin.
A poem about Joseph Stalin. It was fucking amazing. The only line I really remember was ‘he had eyes made of death and a ‘stache of pig iron.’
17. A pretty glaring mistake on the AP US History exam.
One of my high school history teachers was one. He told us he once read an entire essay about a sex scandal between Betsy Ross and Thomas Jefferson.
18. The ol’ writing dirty jokes and then crossing them out trick.
When I took my test, I would put really irrelevant jokes/dirty jokes in the middle of my essays, then cross them out (because they can’t be graded) but sure as hell could be read.
19. A two-act play plus a review of it on an AP Physics exam.
One of my friends decided that a good use of his AP Physics-C exam was to write a 2-act play and then top it off by writing a review of it. If I remember correctly, he gave it 4/5 stars.
20. A student who couldn’t handle the elitist tone on his AP English exam.
When I took my AP English exam, the final of the three essays had a prompt that said “Pick a work from this list or one of similar literary quality and discuss character foils.”
Well, I got pissed off at the elitist tone of the “literary quality” bit, so I started my essay: “Literary quality is a very subjective thing. Nowhere are character foils more evident than in Dr. Seuss’s masterpiece, Go Dog Go.”
I then proceeded to write an entire essay on character foils in Go Dog Go, comparing the black dogs to the white dogs, the dogs over the house to the dogs under the house, etc.
21. An essay written backwards.
My Government teacher is a reader and told us of an essay they received one year that was written perfectly backwards. The grader had to hold it up to a mirror to decipher it.
22. This is what happens when you take an AP exam that you haven’t studied for.
When I took the AP World History exam, I had the option of taking the Comparative Politics exam for free. Sure, why not. I didn’t study for it at all. After answering a few of the essay questions, I got bored/stumped/wanted to leave because I had bronchitis and felt bad for the serious test takers who had to listen to me coughing…so I drew an elaborate picture of a dinosaur holding a sign that said “Sorry, I didn’t even take this class.” Got a 2!
23. A sympathetic letter to the grader.
I just took my AP Lit test today. I think they might get a bit of a chuckle out of my third essay. I didn’t intentionally do something funny, it just sucks so bad.
But relating to the question, my English teacher told my class of how she knew of one student who just didn’t write the final essay. Instead, they wrote a letter to the grader telling them to take a break and go get a cup of coffee. They went on to compare themselves to the grader, talking about how they were both confined in a room to do something that they didn’t want to do, yet they’re still doing it all the same. Somehow, they got a 2.
24. An essay that fully channeled Billy Madison.
On my AP Euro test a few years back there was an Essay about post WWII life and we hadn’t gotten that far in the class and I wasn’t sure of the answer. I wrote as much of an essay as I could but the majority of it was a detailed sketch of the entire bathtub scene from Billy Madison. Shampoo vs. Conditioner.
25. A pretty harsh “free response” essay.
Fun fact. The teachers of your AP classes get the free response parts back. I wrote awful things about my AP physics teacher on the exam (essays about how he didn’t teach), and the next school year he came and showed the booklet to me.
26. The entire lyrics to N.W.A’s “Fuck The Police.”
I took the AP Lit exam today. My friend, in order to increase the essay length, wrote out the entire lyrics to N.W.A’s “Fuck The Police” in the middle of his essay and proceeded to cross it out, which meant they can’t grade the test. As we were in the back of the room, I was able to be shown a glance of his test, and can confirm this.
27. A virus written on the AP Computer Science exam.
When I took the AP computer science exam, one of my classmates, frustrated with his inability to figure out what the hell they wanted versus his years of actual programming experience, wrote a virus.
28. When in doubt, go for panda facts.
One of my friends was taking the Lit one, but she totally blanked on one of the essay responses and just ended up writing every fact she knew about pandas. Got a 2.
29. A one-sentence essay.
I took my AP Lit test about three years ago and one of the prompts was about an incredibly dull poem called the “Century Quilt.” I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm, so with 10 minutes to go I wrote a grammatically correct 2-page single sentence essay.
My AP Lit teacher’s face turned purple when I told him- but I still got a 4!
30. A plea of sorts.
My AP US History teacher had a few funny stories. One kid wrote a rap about how his mother made him take the class and begged the reader to give him a 5. Her group also got a lot of bribes in the booklets. She said that they put it all together and bought lunch with it. Solid.
31. A scary-looking clown and Breaking Bad quotes.
I took an AP Chemistry exam and I had no idea what I was doing. So on one of the pages where I was supposed to be answering a question about batteries I put a very large, very menacing picture of an evil clown. Also, a bunch of “Breaking Bad” quotes.
Keep laughing: read our bestselling ebook Not a Match.
Practice makes perfect, which makes completing practice free response questions advantageous to the student. Figuring out how you did; however, is more difficult than it seems. As the writer, you have a certain bias that may make it more difficult to grade your own practice essay, but it can be done. If you remain impartial, follow the AP English Language free response question rubric, and apply the ideas in this guide.
How to Draft a Response
Before we talk about how to score your essay, we must discuss how to draft a response to the AP English Language free response questions. The first step is to understand your prompt and passage. Next, you must craft a thesis, or your argument. This is vital, because your entire essay should be based around the claim that you present in the thesis. The thesis should contain a roadmap to the rest of your essay, including your supporting details.
Once you have crafted your thesis, then write a short, quick introduction to that thesis, and insert your thesis after the introduction. This introduction must be concise and supplementary to your argument.
In the body paragraphs the thesis is supported. It is recommended that you do this in three body paragraphs at least. Great ways to do this is by citing proof from the passage or passages and inserting your own logical progression. By utilizing the text you allow yourself to gain credibility as a writer and impress your examiners.
The student will need to complete the three drafts in two hours and fifteen minutes; therefore, it is imperative that the student follows his or her argument and strongly supports it.
If you are practicing writing these free response questions on your own, then it is recommended that you write in a quiet environment that you cannot be disturbed in. This will allow you to focus on the paper as you would in the test location.
Remaining Impartial and Unbiased
When scoring your own AP English Language free response question essay (FRQ) it is important to be an impartial and unbiased as possible. Be sure to spend at least half an hour away from the essay. This will allow you to clear your mind and be able to see the various mistakes and improvements that can be made to your essay easier.
The best way to do this is by writing the response in the beginning of the week, and then setting it aside until the end of the week. Once you pick the essay back up at the end of the week, then you can read the free response as if you are an outsider scoring your paper. This simulates an examiner reading your paper as it will be done for the AP English Language scoring.
Be sure to remember that you should not be too easy on yourself. Growth is important with these practice free response questions, and that cannot be done if you deem your paper “perfect”.
Focusing on the AP English Language Free Response Question Rubric
The next step in scoring your own free response question is to have the AP English Language Argument Rubric in front of you as you read your essay. By doing this, you will not diverge from the given requirements of the College Board.
Ask yourself questions or make a checklist that contains all of the elements that you will need.
1. Is your grammar and mechanics confusing?
Always be sure to note this, because if your grammar and mechanics are too sloppy or confusing, then your score will fall to a 2. If your use of language is understood but contains major errors, then you will receive a 4 or 5. If your language is tolerable with minimal errors, then you could receive a 6, 7, 8, or 9 depending on the other elements of your essay.
2. How many supporting details do you have? Is your argument supported?
Your argument must be adequately supported. Do you do this in your essay? If there is no evidence of support, then give yourself a 1. Work on bringing in reasoning skills and pulling evidence from your passage.
If your essay reflects few supporting details, then give yourself a 5. This means that you have an argument and supported it, but there is more to be desired. The audience has not bought into your argument yet.
To be able to score yourself with a higher score, your support must be thorough. Citing from the text is extremely important as well as explaining why that quote supports your argument.
3. Is your evidence convincing?
Convincing evidence goes hand in hand with supporting details. Having convincing evidence means that you have utilized your supporting details and explained why they are important. Your purpose is to persuade, and having convincing evidence is vital. The examiner should not doubt the validity of your interpretation, because your evidence must convince the reader.
In order to get an 8 or 9 on the AP English Language free response questions, you must find textual evidence, use it, and elaborate on its significance to your argument. The last element is especially important as it is the core of your essay.
If you did not relay the significance of your evidence to the argument at all, then give yourself a 4. This means that you have an argument and you have support, but you have not connected the two yet.
If you did relay the significance to the argument somewhere in the essay, then give yourself 5 to a 7 depending on how often you did this.
4. Is your argument clear?
Clarity goes a long way on the AP English Language free response questions. Your argument must be elevated to the highest priority and explained. This allows the examiner to have no question of what you are claiming.
If you go back and read your essay to find that you are not sure what the argument is, then give yourself a 2. This means that your essay is unsure in your thesis.
To earn a higher score is to be clearer in your argument. Your thesis statement needs to provide a clear claim that you will see and understand every time you read the essay. An essay with a score of eight or nine is direct in its argument and is not subtle in sharing it with the reader. This is the most effective way of delivering the thesis.
5. Do you utilize your sources?
There is an essay called the synthesis essay which is within the free response question section of the AP English Language exam. The synthesis essay rubric dictates that you use at least three of the sources in your essay to get a high score.
If you are writing a synthesis essay and you did not include sources, then give yourself a 2. As you utilize sources proficiently your score will rise. It is recommended to use three or more sources; however, be cautious in using more than five. This will seem excessive and your credibility as a proficient analyst will suffer, because the essay will be predominantly the source material and not your own ideas.
6. Are you off topic?
Staying on topic is essential to the free response questions. Never stray from your argument for any reason, because if you are off topic, then your score will drop to a 3 or even may not be scored at all. If you remain on topic, then you have a chance at a much higher score, which will depend on your use of persuasion.
7. Is your writing effectively persuasive overall?
The purpose for writing the essays for the AP English Language free response questions is to persuade through argumentation and synthesis. Your use of the English language, however, also plays a role in the effectiveness of your response.
Using rhetorical devices and figurative language takes your essay to the next level, and an examiner may bump your score up a number if you are eloquent enough. Therefore, if your essay is especially convincing in its language usage, then take the overall score and raise it one point.
Tips to Remember
There are some elements to keep in mind when you are scoring your own paper. Remember that examiners love to reward students for what they do well. If you see a point that resonated, then keep that in mind as you score yourself.
It is also important to note that the AP English Language exam’s free response questions are a long and arduous task if you do not practice beforehand. Practice frequently throughout the year to gain the benefits you need and keep on scoring!
Photo by Popular Science Monthly [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By the way, you should check out Albert.io for your AP English Language review. We have hundreds of AP English Language practice questions written just for you!