How to Write the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay (2023)

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(Video) How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay | AP Lang Q2 | Coach Hall Writes

What’s Covered:

  • What is the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay?
  • Tips for Writing the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay
  • AP Lang Rhetorical Essay Example
  • How Will AP Scores Affect College Chances?

The AP English Language Exam is one of the most common AP exams you can take. However, the average score on the exam in 2020 was a 2.96 out of 5. While this may seem a bit low, it is important to note that over 550,000 students take the exam annually. With some preparation and knowing how to study, it is totally possible to do well on this AP exam.

What is the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay?

The AP Lang Rhetorical Essay is one section of the AP English Language Exam. The exam itself is 3 hours and 15 minutes long, and is broken into two sections. The first part of the exam is a 60 minute, 45-question multiple-choice section. The questions on this part of the exam will test your ability to read a passage and then interpret its meaning, style, and overall themes. After the multiple-choice section, there is a section lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes with three “free response” essays. This includes the synthesis essay, the rhetorical analysis essay, and the argument essay.

  • In the synthesis essay, you will have to develop an argument using pieces of evidence provided to you.
  • The argumentative essay will have you pick a side in a debate and argue for or against it.
  • The rhetorical essay requires that you discuss how an author’s written passage contributes to a greater meaning or theme.

The rhetorical essay is perhaps the most unique of all AP Lang exam essays because it requires the test taker to analyze and interpret the deeper meanings of the passage and connect them to the author’s writing style and writing syntax in only 40 minutes. This essay can be the trickiest because it requires you to have knowledge of rhetorical strategies and then apply them to a passage you’ve never seen before.

Tips for Writing the AP Lang Rhetorical Essay

1. Outline Your Essay Before Writing

One of the most important parts of the AP Lang essays is structuring your essay so that it makes sense to the reader. This is just as important as having good content. For this essay in particular, you’ll want to read the passage first and write a brief outline of your points before you begin the essay. This is because you will want to write the essay using the passage chronologically, which will be discussed in detail below.

2. Understand Rhetorical Strategies

If you feel like you don’t know where to start as you prepare to study for the rhetorical essay portion of the exam, you aren’t alone. It is imperative that you have a grasp on what rhetorical strategies are and how you can use them in your essay. One definition of rhetoric is “language carefully chosen and arranged for maximum effect.” This can include types of figurative language (metaphor, simile, personification, pun, irony, etc.) elements of syntax (parallelism, juxtaposition, anthesis, anaphora, etc), logical fallacies, or persuasive appeals. Overall, there are many elements that you can analyze in an essay and having a good grasp on them through practice and memorization is important.

3. Keep the Essay Well Structured

Even if you understand the various rhetorical strategies you can use, where do you begin? First of all, you’ll want to write a strong introduction that outlines the purpose of the piece. At the end of this introduction, you will write a thesis statement that encapsulates all the rhetorical strategies you discuss. Perhaps these are style elements, tone, or syntax. Be sure to be specific as you list these.

Next, you will create your body paragraphs. As you discuss the rhetorical elements in the piece and tie them back to the work’s meanings, be sure to discuss the points in chronological order. You don’t have to discuss every single strategy, but just pick the ones that are most important. Be sure to cite the line where you found the example. At the end of the essay, write a short conclusion that summarizes the major points above.

(Video) 5 Quick Tips to Improve Your Rhetorical Analysis Essay | AP Lang Q2 | Coach Hall Writes

4. Be Sure to Explain Your Examples

As you write the essay, don’t just list out your examples and say something like “this is an example of ethos, logos, pathos.” Instead, analyze how the example shows that rhetoric device and how it helps the author further their argument. As you write the rhetorical essay, you’ll want to be as specific and detail-focused as possible.

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

Below is a prompt and example for a rhetorical essay, along with its score and what the writer did well and could have improved:

The passage below is an excerpt from “On the Want of Money,” an essay written by nineteenth-century author William Hazlitt. Read the passage carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze the rhetorical strategies Hazlitt uses to develop his position about money.

Student essay example:

In his essay, Hazlitt develops his position on money through careful use of adjectives and verbs, hypothetical situations, and images. His examples serve to impress upon the reader the highly negative consequences of being in “want of money.”

(Video) How to Write a Body Paragraph for a Rhetorical Analysis Essay | AP Lang | Coach Hall Writes

Hazlitt’s word choice in his opening phrase provides an example of his technique in the rest of the essay. It is not necessary to follow “literally” with “truly” yet his repetition of the same ideas emphasizes his point. In his next sentence, one that lasts forty-six lines, Hazlitt condignly repeats similar ideas, beating into his audience the necessity of having money in this world. The parallelism throughout that one long sentence, “it is not to be sent for to court, or asked out to dinner…it is not to have your own opinion consulted or sees rejected with contempt..” ties the many different situations Haziltt gives together. What could have become a tedious spiel instead becomes a melodious recitation, each example reminding you of one before it, either because of the similarities in structure or content. Hazlitt addresses many different negative effects of not having money but manages to tie them together with his rhetorical strategies.

The diction of the passage fully relays Hazlitt’s position about money. In every example he gives a negative situation but in most emphasizes the terrible circumstance with strong negative adjectives or verbs. “Rejected,” “contempt,” “disparaged,” “scrutinized,” “irksome,” “deprived,” “assailed” “chagrin;” the endless repetition of such discouragement shows how empathetically Hazlitt believes money is a requisite for a happy life. Even the irony of the last sentences is negative, conveying the utter hopelessness of one without money. Through one may have none in life, pitiless men will proceed to mock one’s circumstances, “at a considerable expense” after death!

In having as the body of his essay one long sentence, Hazlitt creates a flow that speeds the passage along, hardly giving the reader time to absorb one idea before another is thrown at him. The unceasing flow is synonymous with Hazlitt’s view of the life of a person without money: he will be “jostled” through life, unable to stop and appreciate the beauty around him or to take time for his own leisure.

The score on this essay was a 6 out of 6. This essay started out very strong as the student had a concrete thesis statement explaining the strategies that Hazlitt used to develop his position on money as well as Hazlitt’s belief on the topic. In the thesis statement, the student points out that adjectives, verbs, hypothetical situations, and images help prove Hazlitt’s point that wanting money can be problematic.

Next, the student broke down their points into three main subsections related to their thesis. More specifically, the student first discusses word choice of repetition and parallelism. When the student discusses these strategies, they list evidence in the paragraph that can be found chronologically in Hazlitt’s essay. The next paragraph is about diction, and the student used specific adjectives and verbs that support this idea. In the last paragraph, the student emphasized how the speed and flow of the essay helped describe Hazlitt’s viewpoint on life. This last concluding sentence is particularly thoughtful, as it goes beyond the explicit points made in the essay and discusses the style and tone of the writing.

It is important to remember that in some ways, the rhetorical essay is also an argumentative essay, as the student must prove how certain rhetorical strategies are used and their significance in the essay. The student even discussed the irony of the paragraph, which is not explicit in the passage.

Overall, this student did an excellent job organizing and structuring the essay and did a nice job using evidence to prove their points.

(Video) AP English Rhetorical Analysis Essay Overview

How Will AP Scores Affect College Chances?

Now that you’ve learned about the AP Lang rhetorical essay, you may be wondering how your AP scores impact your chances of admission. In fact, your AP scores have relatively little impact on your admissions decision, and your course rigor has much more weight in the application process.

If you’d like to know your chances of admission, be sure to check out our chancing calculator! This tool takes into account your classes, extracurriculars, demographic information, and test scores to understand your chances at admission at over 600 schools. Best of all, it is completely free!


How to do well on rhetorical analysis essays? ›

In writing an effective rhetorical analysis, you should discuss the goal or purpose of the piece; the appeals, evidence, and techniques used and why; examples of those appeals, evidence, and techniques; and your explanation of why they did or didn't work.

What is the fastest way to write a rhetorical analysis essay? ›

Follow these steps when writing your rhetorical analysis essay:
  1. Gather information. ...
  2. Examine the appeals. ...
  3. Identify style choices and details. ...
  4. Build an analysis. ...
  5. Write the introduction. ...
  6. Write your thesis. ...
  7. Write your body text. ...
  8. Write your conclusion.
Nov 12, 2020

How do you get a 9 on AP Lang essay? ›

The key to getting a 9 on an AP English essay is coming up with plenty of evidence.
  1. If the prompt provides you with a passage to analyze, underline quotes that will support your thesis. ...
  2. Having a list of evidence to choose from as you go makes writing your essay that much faster.

How hard is it to get a 5 on AP Lang? ›

The overall pass rate of all AP courses was 71.13% in May 2020, with 19.57% of those test-takers receiving a perfect score of 5.
The Pass Rate.
AP Class/ExamPass Rate (3 or Higher)Perfect Score (5)
AP English Language and Composition62.1%12.6%
All AP Classes71.13%19.57%
Mar 3, 2022

What percentage of people get a 4 on AP Lang? ›

18% 23%

What are the 3 main rhetorical strategies? ›

Aristotle taught that a speaker's ability to persuade an audience is based on how well the speaker appeals to that audience in three different areas: logos, ethos, and pathos. Considered together, these appeals form what later rhetoricians have called the rhetorical triangle.

What is the hardest part of rhetorical analysis? ›

Here's the hardest part for most writers of rhetorical analyses: whether you agree or disagree with an argument doesn't matter in a rhetorical analysis. You've got to stay out of the fray and pay attention only to how—and to how well—the argument works (E.A.A. 125).

How many paragraphs should a rhetorical analysis have AP Lang? ›

It's often divided into three paragraphs, although it may be more in a longer essay. Each paragraph should focus on a different element of the text, and they should all contribute to your overall argument for your thesis statement.

How long should an AP rhetorical analysis essay be? ›

According to the College Board:

“The rhetorical analysis free-response essay question presents students with a passage of nonfiction prose of approximately 600 to 800 words.

What are 4 rhetorical strategies? ›

Persuasive strategies authors use to support their claims or respond to arguments. The four rhetorical appeals are logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos.

What is a 75 in AP? ›

Here are the basics of the AP English exam: it has 55 multiple-choice questions, worth 45% of your score, and three essays, worth 55% of your score. Each essay is graded between 1 and 9.
Step 3: Use the Chart to Estimate Your Scaled Score.
Composite Score (0-100 or 0-150)Scaled Score (1-5)
2 more rows
Mar 21, 2020

What is the most difficult AP test? ›

United States History, Biology, English Literature, Calculus BC, Physics C, and Chemistry are often named as the hardest AP classes and tests.

What is the easiest AP class? ›

The 4 easiest AP exams to self-study are Psychology (3.4/10), Computer Science Principles (3.8 / 10), Microeconomics (3.9/10) and Environmental Science (3.9/10), as rated by over 2,900 real AP class alumnae reviewers who rated self-study difficulty from 1 (easiest to self-study) to 10 (hardest to self-study).

Is AP Lang harder than AP lit? ›

Since AP lit is based on fictional texts such as novels and poetry, you need more extensive reading than AP lang. AP Lang is more technical and nonfiction based, so it has shorter reading intensity.

Is the AP Lang exam curved? ›

Why are AP® English Language scores curved? The College Board curves AP® exams so that a consistent standard can be achieved every year, despite the different sample of test takers.

Does Harvard look at AP scores? ›

Harvard only accepts AP® scores of 5 for course credit. If you have 4 scores of 5, you can opt to obtain Advanced Standing. You can use AP® credits to opt-out of lower-level classes. Harvard has general academic requirements that all students must take.

What is the lowest 5 rate AP Exams? ›

AP Physics 1

Physics 1 has the lowest pass rate of any AP exam (42.1%) along with one of the lowest percentages of students scoring a 5 (just 6.9%).

How rare is a 5 on AP? ›

A 4 or a 5 is the AP score that will most likely earn you college AP credit.
2020 AP Score Distributions.
AP TestAP U.S. History
Average Score2.83
9 more columns

Is it hard to get an A in AP Lang? ›

AP English Language is considered moderate difficulty, with class alumnae rating it 5.2/10 for overall difficulty, making it the 16th-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed.

Is a 70% a 5 on the AP exam? ›

Usually, a 70 to 75 percent out of 100 translates to a 5. However, there are some exams that are exceptions to this rule of thumb. The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale: 5: Extremely well qualified.

What percent is a 5 on AP English? ›

AP Score Distributions
AP English Language and Composition10.4%29.8%
AP English Literature and Composition16.9%14.1%

Is a 3 on AP Lang passing? ›

An AP score of 3 or higher is considered passing.

How can I improve my rhetorical skills? ›

How To Improve Your Rhetorical Skills
  1. Practice. The only way to get better at rhetoric is to practice. ...
  2. Get feedback. Practice is good, but practice with feedback is even better. ...
  3. Take a class on rhetoric. A class of rhetoric can give you the opportunity to both practice and get feedback on your rhetoric.
Sep 25, 2022

What are some rhetorical strategies AP Lang? ›

Key Elements from The Rhetorical Framework
  • ethos: the character and credibility of the writer; the establishment of authority; the “why you should trust me” factor.
  • logos: logic; facts or objective information; appealing to one's intellect.
  • pathos: emotion; appealing to one's feelings.

What are all 5 elements in the rhetorical situation? ›

The rhetorical situation can be described in five parts: purpose, audience, topic, writer, and context.

What should be avoided in a rhetorical analysis? ›

Grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. The primary thing to avoid when writing a rhetorical analysis essay or any other academic paper is having minimal to no grammar or punctuation, or spelling mistakes.

What are the 7 rhetorical strategies? ›

Rhetorical Strategies
  • Analyzing cause and effect. Focusing on causes helps a writer think about why something happened; focusing on effects helps a writer think about what might or could happen. ...
  • Comparing and contrasting. ...
  • Classifying and dividing. ...
  • Defining. ...
  • Describing. ...
  • Explaining a process. ...
  • Narrating.

Is a 6 on AP Lang essay good? ›

Medium-High Score (6-7)

There may be lapses in correct diction or sophisticated language, but the essay is generally well written. Rhetorical analysis essays demonstrate sufficient examination of the author's point and the rhetorical strategies he uses to enhance the central idea.

How do you get a 5 on AP Lang essay? ›

5 Ways to Get a 5 on the AP English Language Exam
  1. Understand the format of the exam and study. ...
  2. Pay attention to everything your teacher says in class. ...
  3. Read literature beyond the scope of your class syllabus. ...
  4. Learn necessary literary vocabulary. ...
  5. Practice using both unofficial and official resources.
Dec 14, 2021

Can you get a 6 on the AP Lang exam? ›

The free response essays are each scored on a scale of 0–6, with 6 being the best score you can get and 0 being the worst. Combined, the raw points you get from both sections give you your composite score.

What is the best order to write AP Lang essays? ›

Start with the Synthesis Essay, followed by the Rhetoric Essay, and then the Argument Essay. Your process should look like this: during the 15 minute reading period, begin work on the Synthesis Essay by reading the question and texts and planning that essay.

How can I write faster in AP Lang? ›

AP English Language and Composition: Pace Your Essay Writing
  1. Read the topic's question carefully so that you know exactly what you're being asked to do.
  2. Read the passage carefully, noting what ideas, evidence, and rhetorical devices are relevant to the specific essay prompt.

How many paragraphs should an AP Lang synthesis essay be? ›

In addition to six to seven sources, the AP Lang exam provides a written prompt that consists of three paragraphs.

What are the 3 examples of rhetoric? ›

3 Types of Rhetoric
  • Logos: This argument appeals to logic and reason. ...
  • Ethos: This element of rhetoric relies on the reputation of the person delivering the message. ...
  • Pathos: This mode establishes an emotional connection with the audience.
Sep 28, 2022

Does a rhetorical question need an answer? ›

A rhetorical question is a question that is not meant to have or does not require an answer.

How much time do you get on AP Lang rhetorical analysis essay? ›

Timing ⏳ You have 40 minutes to complete the rhetorical analysis essay for AP Lang: 12 minutes: Read the text and plan out your essay.

How can I improve my AP Lang essay? ›

Tips for Writing the AP Language Argument Essay
  1. Organize your essay before writing. Instead of jumping right into your essay, plan out what you will say beforehand. ...
  2. Pick one side of the argument, but acknowledge the other side. ...
  3. Provide evidence to support your claims. ...
  4. Create a strong thesis statement.
Apr 28, 2021

Is AP Lit or language harder? ›

You can't say that AP lit is more complex than AP lang because both provide you with the same skills. And the difficulty level purely depends on your choice of interest. For example, it might be a good choice for someone who likes fiction, but AP lang is easy for nonfiction lovers.


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