Each of the three essays within the AP English Language and Composition exam equals one-third of the total essay score, and the entire essay (free-response) section equals 55% of the total exam score.
Each exam essay is read by experienced, well-trained high school AP teachers or college professors. The essay is given a holistic score from 1 to 9. (A score of 0 is recorded for a student who writes completely off the topic — for example, "Why I think this test is a waste of money." A student who doesn't even attempt an essay, who leaves a blank page, will receive the equivalent of a 0 score, but it is noted as a dash [—] on the reader's scoring sheet.)
The reader assigns a score based on the essay's merits as a whole, on what the essay does well; the readers don't simply count errors. Although each essay topic has its own scoring rubric (or guide) based on that topic's specific information, essay-scoring guides generally encompass four essential points. AP readers want your essay to be (1) on topic, (2) well organized, (3) thoroughly developed, and (4) correct in mechanics and sophisticated in style.
High Score (8-9)
High-scoring essays thoroughly address all the tasks of the essay prompt in well-organized responses. The writing demonstrates stylistic sophistication and control over the elements of effective writing, although it is not necessarily faultless. Overall, high-scoring essays present thoroughly developed, intelligent ideas; sound and logical organization; strong evidence; and articulate diction.
Medium-High Score (6-7)
Medium-scoring essays complete the tasks of the essay topic well — they show some insight but usually with less precision and clarity than high-scoring essays. There may be lapses in correct diction or sophisticated language, but the essay is generally well written.
Medium Score (5)
Essays that earn a medium score complete the essay task, but with no special insights; the analysis lacks depth and merely states the obvious. Frequently, the ideas are predictable and the paragraph development weak. Although the writing conveys the writer's ideas, they are presented simplistically and often contain lapses in diction or syntax.
Medium-Low Score (3-4)
These essays are weaker than the 5 score because the writer overlooks or perhaps misreads important ideas in the passage. The student may summarize the passage's ideas instead of analyzing them. Although the writer's ideas are generally understandable, the control of language is often immature.
Low Score (1-2)
These essays demonstrate minimal understanding of the topic or the passage. Perhaps unfinished, these essays offer no analysis of the passage and little or no evidence for the student's ideas. Incorrect assertions may be made about the passage. Stylistically, these essays may show consistent grammatical problems, and sentence structure is usually simple and unimaginative.