Attacking the AP Lit Open Prompt

Posted: November 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

Well, Ms. Vile, you did ask me what Disney movies I like . . .

A few reminders from class on the AP Open Prompt: remember to

  • articulate theme, not just subject
  • answer all parts of the prompt
  • SHOW more than tell
  • analyze, don’t summarize

Click the more tag for tips from AP readers and some sample themes

A few themes of the themes we explored in Hamlet:

Few people are who they seem to be.  Often it is only in emotionally heightened circumstances that we see who we truly are.

Corruption is rarely an isolated occurrence, but a weed that grows

Rash action and crippling inaction are both foolish so we have to find the intersection between the two: action may make us men, but thought makes us human.

Fear of death, paradoxically, often dictates how we act in life.



And a few themes from Bluest Eye:

Beauty and ugliness aren’t just physical traits, they’re actions too

White ideals of beauty further the racial divide in our society

Intra racial hatred can be just as destructive as inter racial hatred

Racial self-contempt is a dangerous sort of social psychosis


aaaaand some advice from AP readers . . .

What AP Readers long to see:

§         Read the prompt. It hurts to give a low score to someone who misread the prompt but wrote a good essay. While readers try to reward students or what they do well, the student must answer the prompt.

§         Do everything the prompt suggests.

§         Think before you write. Don’t limit yourself to the supplied suggestions. Plan your response. You needn’t outline extensively, but a little organization will help.

§         Make a strong first impression. Build your opening response artistically. Don’t parrot the prompt word for word.

§         Begin your response immediately. Don’t beat around the bush with generalizations such as: “There are a great many novels.” Here’s an example of a creative opening that immediately set up a central idea/thesis: “An illuminated photograph of a father who “fell in love with long distance” sits on the mantle of the Wingfield’s apartment in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.

§         Use clear transitions that help the reader follow the flow of your essay. Keep your paragraphs organized; don’t digress.

§         You are proving an assertion, not telling a story.

§         Don’t stick in a canned quote or a critic’s comment if it doesn’t fit.

§         Write to express, not impress. Keep vocabulary and syntax within your zone of competence. Students who inflate their writing often inadvertently entertain, but seldom explain.

§         Maintain a sense of simplicity. The best student writer sees much, but says it very succinctly.

§         Let your writing dance with ideas and insight. You can get a 6 or 7 with a lock step approach, but the essays that earn 8’s or 9’s expand to a wider perspective.

§         Avoid the trite. Reading 500 essays that begin with the same adage wears the reader down.


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