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AP Language and Composition Prompts (1981 to 2010)

YEAR Question 1 Question 2 Question 3

1981 The Rattler”- analyze effect on reader – George Bernard Shaw letter – describe Thomas Szasz – argue for or against his
consider organization, point of view, language, writer’s attitude toward mother & her position on the struggle for definition. Use
detail. cremation – diction and detail readings, study, or experience.
1982 A reading on happiness – summarize his Analyze the strategies or devices Describe a place, conveying feeling through
reasons for his opinion and explain why you (organization, diction, tone, detail) that make concrete and specific detail.
agree or not with his opinion Gov. Stevenson’s Cat Veto argument
1983 A quote on change - Select a change for the Excerpt from Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Agree or disagree with the position in the
better that has occurred or that you want to Present – define Carlyle’s attitude toward passage on living in an era of language
occur; analyze its desirable and undesirable work and analyze how he uses language to inflation by considering the ethical and social
effects convince…. consequences of language inflation.
1984 Explain the nature and importance of two or Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Milton – two A passage on a boxing match between Benny
three means by which you keep track of time very short quotes on freedom – describe the Paret, a Cuban, and Emile Griffith – Analyze
and discuss how these means reveal your concept of freedom in each; discuss the how diction, syntax, imagery, and tome
person. (Hint given about “inner clocks.”) differences. produce an effect on the reader.
1985 Contrast stylistic and rhetorical differences Discuss the probable reasons for an Defend a position or one or more issues raised
between two passages on the Soviet Launch of anonymous writer’s additions and deletions in the passage about the state of television in
the first space satellite and the ways in which those revisions change the United States.
the effect of the paragraph. Two drafts that
record the writer’s thoughts on how the
experience of war affected his attitude toward
1986 Explain how two passages by N. Scott Choose one or more pairs of words from a list Evaluate the truth of the assertion in the
Momaday and Dee Brown, which describe and discuss and elaborate on the distinctions quotation that human nature wants patterns,
similar landscapes, reveal the differences in the between the paired words. Consider how, standards, and structures of behavior.
authors’ purposes. Consider diction, syntax, when, why, and by whom each word might be
imagery, and tone. used.
1987 Agree or disagree with E. M. Forster’s view Analyze how Zora Neale Hurston enriches Describe some major features of the language
that personal relations are more important than our sense of her childhood world through her used in one specific group – occupational,
causes or patriotism. diction and manipulation of point of view. ethnic, social, or age, etc. Indicate the purpose
these features serve or what influences they
1988 Evaluate Alexis De Tocqueville’s assertions Analyze Frederick Douglass’ language, Pretend to contribute to a magazine or
about democracy and aristocracy and his especially the figures of speech and syntax, to newspaper; write an article describing a place
assertion that democracy “throws [man] back convey his states of mind upon escaping you know well that might be of interest to
forever upon himself alone.” slavery and arriving in New York in 1838. readers. Define the significance, use
descriptive detail to make attitude clear.
1989 Argue for or against the validity of the implied Describe the rhetorical purpose of Martin Missing
criticism of a church bulletin [text given] Luther King’s Why We Can’t Wait. Analyze
reprinted without other comment in a magazine its stylistic, narrative, and persuasive devices.
under the heading “The Religious Life.”
1990 From an autobiography of a professional Analyze stylistic and rhetorical differences Vividly and concretely describe one person
woman pilot in Africa, analyze how the between two nineteenth century descriptions seen at two different times or in two different
author’s juxtaposition of ideas, choice of of the Galapagos Islands situations so readers understand the difference
details, and other aspects of style reveal her in your attitude, thus proving perceptions of
personality. people differ according to people’s attitudes
and circumstances
1991 Analyze the language and rhetorical devices Analyze how Richard Rodriquez’s Write a persuasive essay that defends,
Igor Stravinsky uses to convey his point of presentation of the events in the passage challenges, or qualifies the assertion that “For
view about orchestra conductors. suggests his attitude toward his family and in much wisdom is much grief, and increase
himself. Consider narrative structure, detail, of knowledge is increase of sorrow”
manipulation of language, and tone. (Ecclesiastes).
1992 Analyze Queen Elizabeth I’s diction, imagery, Using your observation, experience, or Considering the choice of the word “cripple”
and sentence structure to achieve her purpose reading, defend, challenge, or qualify Joseph and other rhetorical features, such as tone,
in her speech to her troops at Tilbury, 1588. Addison’s assertion that men use ridicule to word choice, and rhetorical structure, analyze
“laugh men out of virtue and good sense.” how Nancy Mairs, who has multiple sclerosis,
presents herself.
1993 Compare the rhetorical strategies – such as Defend, challenge, or qualify H. L. Read the paragraph for E. M. Forster’s 1936
arguments, assumptions, attitudes, diction – Mencken’s views about the artist’s relation to essay “My Wood.” Define E. M. Forster’s
used by characters from Jane Austen (1813) society. Refer to particular writers, attitude toward the experience of owning
and Charles Dickens (1865). Comment on both composers, or other artists. property and analyze that attitude; consider
intended and probable effects of the proposals Forster’s word choice, manipulation of
on the women being addressed sentences, and use of Biblical Allusions
1994 From an excerpt of Sir George Savile’s essay Defend, challenge, or qualify Barbara Characterize and analyze Joan Didion’s view
about King Charles II (1630 – 1685), define Tuchman’s claim that “wooden- headedness of the Santa Ana winds. Consider her stylistic
the attitude Savile would like us to adopt about plays a remarkably large role … in human elements, such as diction, imagery, syntax,
Charles II and analyze the rhetorical strategies affairs.” Use evidence and/or your structure, tone, and selection of detail.
employed to promote that attitude. observations. (From The March of Folly)
1995 In 1860, John Ruskin argued for giving Analyze the rhetorical techniques Ellen After reading his paragraph, defend,
precedence to the soldier rather than to the Goodman uses to convey her attitude toward challenge, or qualify James Baldwin’s ideas
merchant or manufacturer. Evaluate his Phil, the subject of her piece, “The Company about the importance of language as a “key to
argument. (Excerpt included) Man.” identity” and social acceptance. Use your
observation, experience, or readings.
1996 Read the passage from Lady Mary Wortley Read the passage from A Summer Life and Using your own knowledge and experience,
Montague’s letter to her daughter. Analyze analyze some of the ways in which Gary Soto defend, challenge, or qualify Lewis Lapham’s
how Lady Mary (1689 – 1762) uses rhetorical recreates the experience of his guilty six-year view of “the American faith in money” from
strategies and stylistic devices to convey her old self. Consider such devices as contrast, Money and Class in America. (25 line excerpt
views about the role knowledge played in the reputation, pacing, diction, and imagery. included.)
lives of women of her time.
1997 Read the passage from Meena Alexander’s Read the passage from the 1845 Narrative of Using your own critical understanding of
Fault Lines and analyze how Alexander uses the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American contemporary society, agree or disagree with
language to explore and represent her fractured Slave, noting such elements as syntax, Neil Postman’s assertion that Aldous
identity. figurative language, and selection of detail. Huxley’s vision of society in Brave New
Write an essay in which you identify stylistic World is more relevant today than is George
elements that distinguish third paragraph from Orwell’s in 1984.
the rest of the passage and discuss how that
difference is significant
1998 Paying particular attention to tone, analyze the From Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a After reading the two letters between an
techniques Charles Lamb uses to decline Lady, read the conversation between Madame executive of the Coca-Cola company and a
William Wordsworth’s invitation to visit him Merle and Isabel Archer, noting their representative of Grove Press, analyze the
in the country. conflicting views about what constitutes the rhetorical strategies each writer uses to
self. In a persuasive essay, demonstrate which achieve his purpose and explain which letter
of the two conceptions of the self has greater offers the more persuasive case.
validity. Use specific evidence from your
observation, experience or reading.
1999 After reading two passages about Florida’s After reading the [3 columns long] opening After thinking about the implications of the
Okefenokee Swamp, analyze how the from Jamaica Kincaid’s essay, “On Seeing excerpt from Antigone, explore the validity of
distinctive style of each reveals the purpose of England for the First Time,” analyze the the assertion that “The only / Crime is pride.”
its writer. rhetorical strategies Kincaid employs to Use examples from your reading, observation,
convey her attitude toward England. or experience.
2000 Eudora Welty recalls reading and books that George Mohandas Orwell uses Gandhi to Paraphrase King Lear’s comment that wealth
influenced her craft as a writer. Analyze how argue for choosing human imperfection over covers sin and injustice. Defend, challenge, or
Welty’s language conveys intensity and value sainthood. Analyze how Orwell criticizes qualify his view of the relationship between
of reading. Gandhi’s position & how Orwell develops his wealth and justice.
own position.
2001 George Eliot’s letter to an American woman Analyze how Mary Oliver’s style about owls Support, refute, qualify Susan Sontag’s claim
M. F. Peirce. Analyze the rhetorical strategies conveys the complexity of her response to that photography limits understanding of the
Eliot uses to establish her position about the nature. world. Use appropriate evidence.
development of a writer.
2002 Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was a Analyze how Virginia Woolf uses language to Support, refute, or qualify Czech writer Milan
short speech in which he contemplated the convey the lasting significance of moments Kundera’s claims as expressed in an excerpt
effects of the Civil War and offered his vision she recalls from her childhood spent in a from Testaments Betrayed. Use appropriate
for the future. Analyze the rhetorical strategies seaside village in Cornwall, England. evidence.
Lincoln used to achieve his purpose.
2003 Defend, challenge, qualify Neal Gabler’s Analyze the methods of Alfred Green’s 1861 Compare and contrast how John James
assertion that entertainment has the capacity to speech to persuade his fellow African Audubon and Annie Dillard each describe a
ruin society. Americans to join the Union forces. flock of birds in flight and how they convey
the birds’ effect on the writer as observer.
2004 Analyze how the rhetorical strategies used by Choose a controversial local, national, or Analyze how Richard Rodriguez uses
Lord Chesterfield in his letter to his son revel global issue with which you are familiar and contrasts between central Mexico and
his own values. use appropriate evidence I an essay that California to convey and explore his
carefully considers the opposing positions on conflicting feelings in an excerpt from Days of
this controversy ad proposes a solution or Obligation.
2005 Passage from “Training for Statesmanship” by A mock press release from The Onion. Peter Singer argues that prosperous people
George Kennan. Select his most compelling Analyze the strategies used in the article to should donate to overseas aid organizations all
observation and consider the extent to which satirize how products are marketed to money not needed for the basic requirements
that observation holds true. consumers. of life. Evaluate the pros and cons of his
argument and indicate which position you find
more persuasive.
2005 Lecture delivered in Boston in 1832 by Maria John Barry describes the complex mechanics Passage from The Medusa and the Snail by
Form Stewart, African American educator and of the Missippppi River in Rising Tide: Te Lewis Thomas. Drawing on your own reading
B writer. Analyze the rhetorical strategies Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It and experience, write an essay that defends,
Stewart uses to convey her position. Changed America. Analyze how Barry challenges, or qualifies Thomas’s claims.
communications his fascination with the river
to his readers.
2006 Jennifer Price’s essay examines the popularity William Hazlitt’s “On the Want of Money.” From talk radio to television w, to popular
of the pink plastic flamingo in the 1950s. Analyze the rhetorical strategies he uses to magazines to Web blogs ordinary citizens,
Analyze how Price crafts the text to reveal her develop his position about money. political figures, and entertainers express their
view of U. S. culture. opinions on a wide range of topics. Take a
position on the value of such public
statements of opinion.
2006 In a well-written essay that draws upon your Passage from George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Passage by philosopher Arthur Shopenhauer.
Form reading, experience, or observations for Joan. Analyze the rhetorical strategies the Write an essay that defends, challenges, or
B support, take position on the issue of Inquisitor uses to argue his case against Joan. qualifies one of Shopenhauer’s claims.
compulsory voting.
2007 First Synthesis – based on six sources, all In Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless Develop a position on the ethics of offering
about advertising. Develop a position on the World, Scott Russell Sanders responds to an incentives for charitable acts and support your
effects of advertising and synthesize at least essay by Salman Rushdie, both of which position with evidence from your reading,
three of the sources for support. discuss the effect of mass migrations. Analyze observation, and/or experience.
the strategies Sanders uses to develop his
perspective about moving.
2007 Based on six sources concerning museum In the Introduction to Poison Penmanship: Speech delivered by Wendell Phillips, a
Form artifacts and decisions made to include a The Gentle Art of Muckraking, Jessica prominent white American abolitionist,
B particular piece of art or an artifact. Develop a Mitford says that it is an honor to be praising Toussaint Louverture, Haitian
position on the most important considerations considered a muckraker. Do you agree or do liberator. Analyze the strategies the speaker
facing the person responsible for securing a you think that journalists who search out and uses to praise his subject and move his
new work of art or an artifact for a museum. expose real or apparent misconduct go too far audience.
Synthesize at least three of the sources for in the pursuit of their stories. Explain your
support. position.
2008 Based on seven sources concerning the Passage from John M. Barry’s The Great Some people argue that corporate partnerships
elimination of the penny as the smallest Influenza. Analyze how Barry uses rhetorical are a necessity for cash-strapped schools.
American denomination. Develop a position on strategies to characterize scientific research. Others argue that schools should provide an
whether or not the penny should be eliminated environment free from ads and corporate
and synthesize at least three of the sources for influence. Using appropriate evidence, write
support. an essay in which you evaluate the pros and
cons of corporate sponsorship fro schools and
indicate why you find one position more
persuasive than the other.
2008 Based on six sources concerning a defined Passage from “America Needs Its Nerds” by Read an excerpt from The Decline of
Form national school curriculum. Develop a position Leonid Fridman. Analyze how Fridman Radicalism by Daniel Boorstin and consider
B on whether or not there should be specific texts develops his argument. the implications of the distinction Boorstin
that all students of high school English should makes between dissent and disagreement.
read. Synthesize at least three of the sources Defend, challenge, or qualify Boosrtin’s
for support. distinction.
2009 Based on eight sources concerning space Two passages from Edwin Wilson’s The Write an essay that defends, challenges, or
exploration. Develop a position about what Future of Life satirizing the language of two qualifies Horace’s assertion that the role of
issues should be considered most important in groups that hold opposing attitudes about adversity (financial or political hardship,
making decisions about space exploration and environmentalism. Analyze how Wilson’s danger, misfortune, etc.) plays in developing a
synthesize at least three of the sources for satire illustrates the unproductive nature of person’s character. Support your argument
support. such discussions. with evidence from your reading, observation,
or experience
2009 Based on seven sources concerning public Passage from “The Indispensable Opposition” Passage from The Worst Years of Our Lives
Form education. Choose an issue related to the by Walter Lippman. Analyze the strategies by Barbara Ehrenreich, about life in the
B tension in schools between individuality and Lippman uses to develop his argument. 1980s. Support, refute, or qualify Ehrenreich’s
conformity. Write an essay in which you use assertions about television.
this issue to argue the extent to which schools
should support individuality or conformity.
Synthesize at least three of the sources for
2010 Based on six sources concerning information Excerpt from letter from Benjamin Banneker, In his 2004 book, Status Anxiety, Alain de
technology. Our daily lives seem to be former slave, to Thomas Jefferson (1791). Botton argues that the chief aim of humorists
saturated with television, computers, cell Write an essay that analyzes how Banneker is not merely to entertain but “to convey with
phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and uses rhetorical strategies to argue against impunity messages that might be dangerous or
MP3 players, etc. In an essay that synthesizes slavery. impossible to state directly.” Think about the
at least three of the sources for support, implications of de Botton’s view of the role of
evaluate the most important factors that a humorists (cartoonists, stand-up comics,
school should consider before using particular satirical writers, hosts of television programs,
technologies in curriculum and instruction. etc.). Then write an essay that defends,
challenges, or qualifies de Botton’s claim.
2010 Based on six sources concerning daylight Passage from The Horizontal World, Debra The first Buy Nothing Day—a day on which
Form savings time. Synthesize at least three of the Marquart’s 2006 memoir about growing up in people are urged to purchase no goods—was
B sources into an essay that evaluates daylight North Dakota. Analyze the strategies organized in Canada in 1992 as a way to
saving time and offers a recommendation Marquart uses to characterize the upper increase awareness of excessive consumerism.
about its continued use. Midwest. Consider the implications of a day on which
no goods are purchased. Then write an essay
in which you develop a position on the
establishment of an annual Buy Nothing Day.