Free-Response Sample Essays for AP English Literature (page 3)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Final Comments

Warning! Although the free-response essay may appear to be the easiest and most accessible on the exam, it is fraught with danger. The worst danger is relying on vague references and general statements that are not supported by specific details or lines. In addition, you have to develop the organizational pattern of the essay and control its progression. All too often the essays read like capsule summaries of the plots.

Your lifesaver in this essay situation is preparation. We say this again because it bears repeating:

  • Review full-length works you've read during the year.
  • Choose a minimum of five works you've connected with.
  • Classify the five works to ensure a broad spectrum of types, literary movements, and themes.
  • Isolate several pivotal scenes, moments, or episodes from each of the five works and examine the suitability of those scenes for a variety of questions.
  • Select quotations and details from these pivotal scenes.
  • If necessary, reread only the pivotal scenes before you take the exam.


  • Remember the pitfalls of the free-response essay: vagueness and plot summary.
  • Choose AP-level full-length novels or plays that you thoroughly recall and understand.
  • Generally, use this year's material.
  • Familiarize yourself with sample free-response prompts.
  • Anticipate free-response prompts.
  • Develop specific review materials for several full-length works.
  • Practice applying your knowledge to a variety of prompts.
  • Highlight the prompt to make certain you are addressing the requirements of the question.
  • Do not waste time looking at the suggested works. Choose from your own memory bank.
  • Plan the essay thoroughly before you begin writing.
  • Briefly chart your response. Fill in with concrete details and quotes, if possible.
  • Write an engaging opening paragraph that reflects the question's requirements.
  • Stay on topic.
  • Avoid plot summary.
  • Include transitions and echo words.
  • Review our models and rubrics for self-evaluation.
  • Share your ideas with others.
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