How can I score a 5 on the AP English Language exam?
By Barbara Swovelin
This is indeed The Big Question!
Let’s first look at the more elemental question, namely,
“What does it take for anyone to get a 5 on the exam?”
After that, we can talk about what it is that you need to do.
Here’s a very rough estimate of what it takes to score a 5
on the overall exam: Multiple-Choice scores of at least 83%
(or higher), plus essay scores in the 8-9 range, although if
one of your three essays gets a score of 7, it’s likely that
you’ll still be OK . These percentages are just ball-park estimates,
and the actual numbers vary from year-to-year, but this info gives
you a feel for what it takes.
Maybe a score of 4? That comes from Multiple-Choice scores
roughly in the 73—83% range and essay scores in the 6-7 range,
although one 5 won’t kill your score.
How about a score of 3? Get Multiple-Choice scores approximately
in the 60—70% range and get 5’s on your essays.
Remember that a 5 on the overall score is equivalent to getting an
A in a college freshman English class, a score of 4 = a B in that
same class, and a 3 = a C.
Now, how do you score a 5?
Of course you already know the answer: practice, practice, practice!
But be sure to practice intelligently.
Track your Multiple-Choice scores as you prepare, getting a
feel for your average percentages. If it turns out that you’re
one of those lucky devils who can score 90%+ consistently, you
should be very happy! But if you’re getting scores in the mid 70%
range, you’ll need to focus on which questions you’re getting wrong.
Look for trends in the questions you miss: Did you work too fast
and miss a key word? Did you misread some of the passage? Did your
answer choice not really answer the specific question? Did you not
know some of the terms that were used in the question and/or answers?
After you spot whatever it is that you’re doing wrong, you can fix it
and get higher scores.
You also need to focus on your essays, of course, since they account
for 55% of your overall score. Practice reading the prompt very carefully,
planning your essays quickly, finishing your essay, and saving time to proofread.
Remember that the scoring guides basically break down into four key points:
(1) write on topic! (2) organize your essay well, (3) develop your ideas
thoroughly, and (4) use sophisticated language and style.
When you concentrate on practicing these skills, you’re on the right road to a better score!
Barbara Swovelin is the author of CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition with CD-ROM, 4th Edition and
CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition 4th Edition.
She currently teaches AP and Honors English at Torrey Pines High School in Del Mar, California.
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