AP English Language and Composition Exam Sample Essay Questions
August 1, 2021
After an hour of answering multiple-choice questions, you’ll have two hours to write three essays:
- A synthesis essay in which you use sources to argue your point of view on a given issue.
- An analytical essay that examines, interprets, and explains the meaning and structure of prose passage.
- An argumentative essay that supports, refutes, or qualifies an opinion expressed in a statement or brief passage.
Before you’re given the signal to begin writing your essays, you’ll have 15 minutes to read the questions and the sources for the synthesis essay. However, you don’t have to spend the whole time reading. During those 15 minutes you can plan your essay, underline noteworthy ideas, formulate a tentative thesis, or prepare a brief outline. You might even glance at the other essay questions. Essentially, the time is yours to fill as you wish but with one exception: you may not start writing your essay. That begins only after the proctor gives you the green light.
Write the essays in any order. The choice is yours. The suggested writing time for each essay is 40 minutes.
Sample Essay Questions
The following sample essay questions have been taken from previous AP English Language and Composition exams.
2014 AP English Language and Composition Essay Questions
- In recent years college graduates in great numbers have failed to find jobs for which their education has prepared them. As a result, many people, including high school students and their parents, question whether a college degree is worth the expense required to attain one. Others, however, argue that a college education is not meant solely to prepare students for a job or career. After reading six sources related to this issue, write an essay that discusses whether a college education is worth the cost. Synthesize information from at least three of the sources into your essay.
- In 1780, Abigail Adams wrote a letter of advice to her son John Quincy Adams, then traveling in Europe with his father, John Adams, the future second president of the United States. Read the letter carefully. Then, write an essay that analyzes the rhetorical strategies that Mrs. Adams uses to advise the young man.
- Research by experts in education reveals that the creativity of children from kindergarten through sixth grade has suffered in recent years. A decline in creativity is alarming, especially when present and future world problems related to climate, economics, war and peace, and much more will require increasingly creative solutions. One proposal to reverse the decline in creativity is to actively teach creative thinking in school. Opinion is divided on whether this approach is worthwhile. State your view on this issue by writing to your school board. Explain what you mean by creativity and argue for or against starting a course in creativity.
2015 AP English Language and Composition Essay Questions
- Many schools, colleges, and universities have instituted honor codes meant to discourage such practices as cheating, stealing, and plagiarizing. Students violating established codes are subject to a variety of punishments. After reading six sources related to the issue of honor codes, compose an essay that supports your position on whether your school should establish, maintain, revise, or eliminate an honor code or honor system. Your argument should incorporate ideas, quotations, paraphrases, or summaries found in at least three of the six sources that accompany this question.
- To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, labor union organizer and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez wrote an article that discusses nonviolent resistance as a means to achieve certain social goals. After reading Chavez’s words, write an essay that analyzes the rhetorical choices he uses to develop his argument.
- Friendly phrases such as “How’s it going?” and “Nice to meet you” are known as polite speech and are usually not taken literally. In an essay, develop your position on the value or function of polite speech in a culture or community with which you are familiar. To support your argument, use evidence drawn from your reading, experience, or observation.
2016 AP English Language and Composition Essay Questions
- With the spread of globalization in recent decades, English has become the primary language for communicating in international finance, science, and politics. As the use of English has spread, foreign language learning in English-speaking countries has declined, making the use of only one language—English—the norm. Carefully read the six sources accompanying this question and then write an essay that takes a position on the claim that people who speak only English and no other language are at a disadvantage in today’s world. In your discussion, synthesize appropriate quotations, ideas, paraphrases, or summaries found in at least three of the sources.
- In 2004, upon the death of former president Ronald Reagan, the ex–prime minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, who had worked closely with Reagan, delivered a eulogy to the American people honoring her former colleague and friend. Read the eulogy carefully, and then write an essay that analyzes the rhetoric Thatcher used to convey her thoughts and feelings.
- Back in the nineteenth century, the Irish author Oscar Wilde noted that “Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.” In an essay, argue your position on Wilde’s claim that disobedience and rebellion promote progress. Support your views with evidence drawn from your reading, studies, experience, or observation.
2017 AP English Language and Composition Essay Questions
- The growth of the Internet has, among other things, changed what and how people read and in so doing has generated controversy about the need for and future of traditional public libraries. Some observers question the relevance of today’s libraries, while others see opportunities for libraries to grow and thrive in new ways. After reading six sources related to the future of libraries, write an essay that discusses your position on the future role, if any, of public libraries. As you develop your argument, be sure to incorporate, or synthesize, material from at least three of the sources that accompany this assignment. Whether you quote directly from a source or put its ideas into your own words, clearly identify each source you use either in the text of your essay or in a footnote.
- At the beginning of a speech to the Women’s National Press Club in 1960, the American journalist and politician Clare Booth Luce expressed her objections to a tendency of the press corps to give readers sensationalist stories rather than maintain journalistic integrity by writing serious, consequential news stories. After carefully reading her opening remarks, write an essay that analyzes the rhetorical strategies Luce used to prepare the audience for the disapproval that was central to the remainder of her speech.
- In Empire of Illusion, the author Chris Hedges, referring to the world of politics and the consumer culture, argues that “the most essential skill . . . is artifice.” That is, as Hedges explains, successful politicians “no longer need to be competent, sincere, or honest. They need only to appear to have these qualities.” In other words, deception succeeds. After reading a short passage that develops Hedges’s views, write an essay stating your opinion on the issue. Use appropriate, specific evidence to develop and illustrate your position.
2018 AP English Language and Composition Essay Questions
- The power of a government to confiscate people’s private property for public use is known as eminent domain. Although eminent domain is centuries old, it remains a contentious issue throughout the world. Read the six sources on the following pages. Then, using at least three of the sources, write a coherent essay that supports, opposes, or qualifies the principle that the govern- mental right of eminent domain is useful and productive. When quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing material, be sure to identify each source in parentheses either with its letter (A, B, C, etc.) or with a description.
- In 1997, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered the commencement address at Mount Holyoke College, a women’s college in Massachusetts. After reading a given excerpt from the speech, write a well-developed essay that identifies and analyzes the rhetorical choices Albright made to help convey her message to the audience.
- In her book Gift from the Sea, the author and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906– 2001) reflects on how people make choices: “We tend not to choose the unknown which might be a shock or a disappointment or simply a little difficult to cope with. And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching.” After carefully considering Lindbergh’s position on choosing the unknown, write an essay that develops your own view on the value of exploring the unknown. Support your position with appropriate and specific evidence.
2019 AP English Language and Composition Essay Questions
- Our society’s increasing demand for energy has drawn attention of governments and consumers to large-scale wind power and away from traditional materials, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Yet, the creation of large commercial wind farms has created controversy for a variety of reasons. Carefully read the following six sources, including the introduction to each one, and then write an essay that develops your position on the most important factors that an individual or agency should take into account when determining whether to establish a wind farm. As you develop your position, synthesize material from at least three of the sources.
- In 1930 Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi led a nonviolent march in India protesting Britain’s colonial monopoly on the taxation of salt. The Salt March, as it was called, triggered a civil disobedience movement that won India independence from Britain in 1947. Just prior to the march Gandhi had written to Viceroy Lord Irwin, who represented the British crown in India. The passage that follows is the conclusion of that letter. Read it carefully and then write an essay that analyzes the rhetorical choices Gandhi made to present his case to Lord Irwin.
- The term “overrated” is commonly used to diminish concepts, geographic places, roles, books, movies, etc., that the speaker thinks fail to live up to their reputation. Choose something that in your judgment is overrated and then write a well-developed essay explaining your views. Use appropriate evidence from your reading, experience, or observation to support your argument.
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