Skip Navigation

AP English Language and Composition

Open to: Grades 10 - 12
Prerequisites: See below

Challenge Level: college undergraduate
Course Format: Web-based
Recommended School Credit: One academic year
Course Length: Session Based: 30 weeks (Fall), 12 weeks (spring and summer intensive); Session Dates
Course Code: APWR

Course Description

While preparing students to take the Advanced Placement Test in English Language and Composition, this course provides training in analysis of literary nonfiction as well as analytical and persuasive writing. In addition to practicing essay test-taking techniques, organization and time management, students study the interactions among subject, authorial purpose, audience needs, generic conventions, and the resources of the English language.

Assignments include a directed narrative, analyses of test questions, analyses of rhetorical strategies, and persuasive essays. Students will also practice taking multiple choice tests which mirror those found in the exam. This course has been reviewed and approved by the College Board to use the "AP" designation.

Course Text Book

CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition, 4th Edition - ISBN 9781118128022
See more at:

If not in stock locally, compare prices here: ISBN: 9781118128022.

Order it now, as future lessons will use this material.


Qualifying verbal/reading score

and either

completion of grade 10 English and
submission of a satisfactory writing sample
(see details below)
        or     completion of one course below:
     CTY Online Programs Writing Analysis and Persuasion
     CTY Summer Programs The Critical Essay


Writing Sample Instructions

To complete the writing sample, follow this link and perform the Sample 1st Assignment - Email & Web-based formats found on the ‘demo’ tab. Submit the writing sample as an attachment to Put your full name and CTY Student ID # at the beginning of the file and in the body of your email message. Please be sure to also attach a copy of a year-end report card showing completion of 10th grade English.

Questions? Phone 410-735-6140 or email

Detailed Course Information

Course Details

Course Description

This web-based distance writing AP English Language and Composition course spans seven months, ending in April just before the exam is administered, and consists of fourteen lessons – completed every two weeks, the majority culminating in a formal essay – along with accompanying readings, discussions and writing workshops. The course is also offered in a 12 week intensive summer session.

In response to student essays, instructors comment on form, style, and content, generally holding students’ work to college-level standards. Critiques explain successes and delineate problems needing further work. Along with instructor feedback, each student receives at least one workshop critique from his or her peers in the class, and completes one comprehensive revision based upon comments. A process letter for each lesson gives students a chance to reflect upon the effectiveness of their prewriting strategies, to score their essays based upon given rubrics, and to share ideas for revision. At this level, the instructor assumes that students already command Standard English grammar and are ready to delve into more sophisticated issues. 

While preparing students to take the Advanced Placement Test in English Language and Composition, this course provides training in prose analysis as well as descriptive, analytical and persuasive writing. In addition to practicing essay test-taking techniques, organization and time management, students use a variety of posted readings and discussion questions to explore the interactions among subject, authorial purpose, audience needs, generic conventions, and the resources of the English language. Exposure to classical rhetoric, including a study of schemes and tropes and the use of the Aristotelian appeals, increases understanding of and access to critical reading and writing skills. Most lessons focus on an examination of past AP testing prompts, responses and scoring guides, and composition of persuasive arguments and rhetorical analyses similar to those found on the exam and in college classrooms. Guidance in the evaluation, use and proper citation of both written and visual sources prepares students to write a synthesis essay and a researched argument. Finally, in addition to work on essays, students practice and analyze the multiple-choice portion of the exam.

Texts Used

For most lessons students use the CliffsAP English Language and Composition preparation guide (Swovelin, Barbara. 3rd ed. New Jersey:  Wiley Publishing, Inc. 2006.). Using this guide, they analyze rubrics and model student essays as well as writing their own essays in response to specific prompts. Online class discussions are often based upon posted readings covering a variety of rhetorical genres, from such writers as Annie Dillard, W.E.B. Du Bois, George Orwell and Thomas Jefferson.

List of Additional Course Readings

Aristotle. Rhetoric.
Adams, John. Letter to Thomas Jefferson. (1813)
Bush, George W. Inaugural Address. (2004)
Corbett, Edward P.J. and Robert J. Connors. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student.
Dillard, Annie. The Writing Life. Harper & Row. New York. 1989. 3-7.
DuBois, W.E.B. "Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others." The Souls of Black Folk. 1903.
Irving, John. from “The Imaginary Girlfriend.” Trying to Save Piggy Sneed. Arcade Publishing. New York. 1996.
Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to John Adams. (1813)
Kennedy, John F. Inaugural Address. (1961)
Lincoln, Abraham. Inaugural Address. (1865)
Orwell, George. “Shooting an Elephant.”
Swift, Jonathan. “A Modest Proposal.” (1729)
Washington, Booker T. “The Atlanta Exposition Address.” Up From Slavery. 1901.

Process Letters

The process letter accompanying each lesson is an informal self-assessment of about a page in length, in which students are invited to explain and evaluate their process, from planning through drafting and proofreading/revision. They discuss what worked best for them in the planning stage, how they budgeted their time, what rhetorical and stylistic elements worked best within their essays, and what they would do differently for a better result. Students often use rubrics to score their own AP practice essays, in addition to comparing their work to the high- and middle-scoring essays included in their CliffsAP book. Process letters help students to plan revisions, as well as to gain comfort and confidence with the process of self-evaluation.

Overview of Discussions

Discussions are roughly the equivalent of homework in a school-based AP English class. Students enter the web-based classroom several times over the course of each lesson’s two-week time frame, reading posted thematically linked texts and responding to discussion questions along with each other’s comments. For example, in one discussion students read Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Address” and W.E.B.DuBois’ “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,” and answer questions about each author’s purpose and audience as well as the influence of his background upon the position he takes. Students are required to post at least three thoughtful, substantive comments of at least half to three quarters of a page for each discussion. At times discussion takes the form of a writing exercise designed to increase skills in a certain area, such as citation, thesis revision, and analysis of visual texts. Discussion is also the place for workshops of student writing, and conversations about process, test-taking strategies, current events, and favorite writers.


Lessons are worth 70% of the final grade, with the process letter accounting for about 20% of the lesson grade. Each final essay is given a score of between 1 and 9 based as closely as possible upon a given rubric, so that students may get a sense of how they are likely to do on the exam. Although essays are also awarded letter grades, critiques emphasize encouragement and concrete suggestions for ways to improve. Effort, and improvement over time, are considered in the assignment of a grade, especially as the course progresses. Process letters are graded based upon the amount of time and effort they reflect. 

Discussions, worth 30% of the final grade, are evaluated based upon the depth, insight and thoughtfulness of each posted comment. Students are expected to respond to one another as well as to the readings, so that the virtual classroom may generate a rich, complex and interesting exchange of ideas.

Lessons and Concurrent Discussions

Unless otherwise indicated, all final writing assignments are essays written from past AP prompts found in the 3rd Edition of Barbara Swovelin’s CliffsAP English Language and Composition preparation guide.

Lesson 1 – Untimed Free Response

This lesson introduces the basics of the course and exam, describing rhetorical analysis, persuasive and synthesis essays. Students read about the importance of memory and observation as sources of evidence for persuasive essays, and are reminded to be specific and support their opinions. The lesson’s written component asks students to defend, based upon opposing philosophical statements by Immanuel Kant and Jean-Paul Sarte, their own definition of what makes a person “good.”

In Discussion 1’s posted readings, Annie Dillard and John Irving describe aspects of their process as writers; students respond to the readings while talking about their own writing process.

Lesson 2 – Untimed Rhetorical Analysis

In addition to reviewing with plenty of examples such literary terms as diction, connotation, denotation, syntax, parallelism, metaphor, structure and tone, this lesson explains the process of making inferences and collecting evidence from a text. Students read and evaluate sample essays based upon an AP prompt analyzing Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crevecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer (Swovelin 48). Their response to these essays is included in their process letter. After making a brief chart of evidence, students then write rhetorical analysis essays comparing two passages by Virginia Woolf (97).

Discussion 2 is a writing workshop. With a focus on providing specific, constructive suggestions for revision, each student writes extensive comments for several anonymously posted Lesson 1 essays.

Lesson 3 – Planning

In this lesson students practice different forms of planning, including detailed outlines and quick “plans of attack” designed to help organize thoughts quickly for a timed essay. After reading examples of each approach, students first disassemble a previously written essay, using either a formal outline or a blueprint structure to identify main ideas, supporting ideas and details. Then they write “quick plans” in response to three separate prompts in a practice test, focusing on developing a working thesis and identifying main areas of support within a ten-minute timeframe. Finally, they develop detailed outlines for the essays based upon these plans. The process letter encourages them to think about the extent to which both quick plans and more detailed outlines may be used in organizing their thoughts before drafting.

Discussion 3 introduces Aristotelian Appeals. Students identify ethos, logos and pathos in magazine, web and television advertisements, analyzing their purpose, their effect, and the insight they give into cultural values and assumptions. Knowledge of persuasive appeals will help them evaluate sources for Lesson 4’s synthesis essay, as well as helping them to construct their own arguments.

Lesson 4 – Synthesis Essay

A comprehensive lecture on source evaluation precedes this introduction to the synthesis essay (90-96).

Discussion 4 reviews MLA citation format, directing students to college websites containing plenty of models for parenthetical documentation and Works Cited. Students use their CliffsAP textbook, their student handbook, the introductory letter for the course and other sources to create a synthesis paragraph providing information about the AP exam. The Instructor grades the paragraph, paying special attention to citation format and the fluid incorporation of source material, before students embark upon the synthesis essay.

Lesson 5 – Timed Persuasive Essay

The goal of this lesson is to create focused, arguable, complex and elegant thesis statements that answer all parts of a posed question. Students look at the successful use of concessions and qualifications in a strong thesis, along with the analysis and revision of several weak thesis statements. The final writing assignment is a persuasive prompt responding to a passage by Ralph Waldo Emerson (98).

Discussion 5 asks students to analyze, revise and justify their revision of five thesis statements, each taken from a Lesson 1 or Lesson 2 student essay.

Lesson 6 – Three Timed Essays

This lesson replicates the essay portion of the AP exam, giving students the opportunity to reflect upon their time management skills, how well they are able to organize their thoughts into “quick plans of attack” before drafting, and generally giving them a sense of what they need to work on in the coming months. In preparation, they are encouraged to look back at all their instructor critiques to date and make a list of aspects of their writing that most need work. This reflection prepares them for the comprehensive revision they will do in Lesson 8.

Discussion 6 is a writing workshop for Lesson 5 essays.

Lesson 7 – Introduction to Multiple-Choice

Students study literary terms (65-73) from CliffsAP and look at sample types of questions before completing a timed multiple-choice section of a past exam (79-89). The process letter for this lesson is more comprehensive than usual, including not only a self-evaluation of test taking strategies and time management, but also a list of all the questions they got wrong, including a brief analysis of their error and any questions they may still have after reading the CliffsAP explanations.

Discussion 7 takes a close look at research-based multiple-choice questions, including an overview of footnotes.

Lesson 8 – Revision, Part I

This lesson asks students to revise either their Lesson 1 or their Lesson 5 essay – whichever one was workshopped. First they are asked to carefully review all student and instructor suggestions for revision, paraphrasing them and grouping them into categories:  issues of organization, of development, of grammar, and so on. Next, they revise their essay based upon the comments. Finally, they write a detailed explanation of how their revision resolves the issue pointed out in the comment. For example, if a classmate found a thesis confusing, the student would explain how and why the revised thesis is clearer. If the student decides not to follow a suggestion, he or she must explain why, and figure out another way to resolve the problem pointed out by the suggestion. By the end of this lengthy process, students have deeply and carefully studied comments that might otherwise have been ignored or only briefly considered. Their revisions must be quite comprehensive, showing evidence of careful thought and planning, to earn a high grade.

Discussion 8 returns to the question of purpose and audience, asking that students read the writing of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois and explain how each writer’s background, as well as the history of his time, may have influenced his decisions about why and to whom he wrote. Students discuss, as well, which writer they are more inclined to agree with, and why.

Lesson 9 – Revision, Part II

This lesson, also known as “Punch up to ‘5’,” focuses on the identification and effective employment of schemes and tropes within writing. Students read a lengthy excerpt from Corbett and Connors’ Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, studying schemes and tropes including parallelism, antithesis, anastrophe, apposition, chiasmus, and many others. After familiarizing themselves with the uses and effects of these literary devices, students revise the introduction and the conclusion for each essay they wrote for Lesson 6 – a total of six paragraphs. Each revision must not only respond to instructor suggestions, but also make use of at least one scheme and one trope. The trick is to add energy and elegance to the writing without obscuring meaning or resorting to cliché.

Discussion 9 invites all students to post their revised introductions from Lesson 8, gathering praise as well as constructive criticism. In addition, students are introduced to Lesson 13, the Researched Argument. This assignment will not be due for another two months, but now is the time to take a look at the prompt, and to begin conducting the research that will help them to take a position on the issue presented. The distance nature of this course requires that instructors make sure all students (even those taking the course from France or Belgium, our out of reach of a library) have access to sufficient sources. For this reason, students will be provided with about ten to fifteen excerpted writings, newspaper and magazine articles, and visuals from which to assemble the sources for their essay.

Lesson 10 – Timed Rhetorical Analysis/Evaluative Thesis

This essay, a comparison of two letters, offers a great opportunity for studying satire. Thus, students complete the discussion before turning to the essay.

Discussion 10 reviews the definition of satire, in addition to caricature, parody, hyperbole, litotes and burlesque; examples are given of each. Students then read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and view a clip from Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” analyzing the rhetorical strategies, elements of satire, and ultimate purpose of each. Finally, students find an example of satire to share and discuss with the group.

Lesson 11 – Using and Analyzing Metaphor

Many students appreciate this opportunity for creative expression amidst the rigors of formal analysis. The lesson first explains the purpose and function of metaphor, directing students to a passage by John Updike (229) as an example of what metaphor can accomplish. Next students write a piece in which they use metaphor to convey their attitude toward an idea, event or experience (without resorting to cliché!). Finally, each student writes an essay formally analyzing the rhetorical elements employed in his or her own creative work. Often they are astonished to discover effects they weren’t aware of creating.

Discussion 11 provides a practical guide for when and how to quote and paraphrase sources, including advice on how to avoid plagiarism. Students post a working thesis statement for their Researched Argument, along with an outline and Works Cited list; instructors quickly return detailed feedback and suggestions for revision. Thesis and outline may go through numerous revisions before the instructor gives a student the green light for beginning to draft her essay.

Lesson 12 – Comparison of Inaugurals

Students begin by reading John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech and discussing within their process letter the moments in which Kennedy most effectively reaches his audience, what he wants people to believe about his leadership, and how he uses schemes and tropes to achieve his goals. Next they read and write a response to Corbett and Connors’ detailed analysis of Kennedy’s speech in Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. The necessity of understanding context is stressed as they prepare their writing assignment – a comparison of Abraham Lincoln’s and George W. Bush’s second inaugural addresses. As part of their comparison students must consider context, purpose and audience as well as rhetorical devices, and end with an evaluative thesis declaring one or the other more successful in presenting his message.

Discussion 12 presents readings from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Orwell on the subject of colonialism. Students debate the similarities and differences in purpose, background and style amongst the three authors.

Lesson 13 – Researched Argument

This is a 4-5 page research paper defending a position on an issue presented back in Discussion 9. At least 5 sources must be employed as evidence to support the student’s position, properly cited using MLA-style parenthetical documentation, and listed in a Works Cited page. 

Discussion 13 is an informal sharing of thesis statements, success stories, breakthroughs, frustrations and other aspects of the research assignment, including thoughts on what worked well and what people wish they had done differently.

Lesson 14 – Practice Exam

Students complete an entire practice exam (253-273) from CliffsAP. Instructors return comments quickly, including general advice on how to approach the exam.

Discussion 14 is a final goodbye and advice swap. The exam is in two weeks!

Time Required

Spring and summer intensive sessions require 5 hours per week for 12 weeks.

Academic year session requires 2 hours per week for 30 weeks, with breaks for holidays.

Summer Session Daily Calendar

Summer Schedule

Intensive Summer June 5 – August 25, 2017 (12 weeks)




  • Work is due by end of the day, not start of the day. Students use the due day to complete work due that night.
  • Discussions are required and begin the day after the previous discussion ends.
  • Textbook purchase is necessary.

Monday, June 5

Course begins:

Friday, June 9

Assignment 1 due

Friday, June 16

Assignment 2 due

Thursday, June 22

Assignment 3 due

Wednesday, June 28

Assignment 4 due

Tuesday, July 4

Assignment 5 due

Monday, July 10

Assignment 6 due

Saturday, July 15

Assignment 7 due

Friday, July 21

Assignment 8 due

Thursday, July 27

Assignment 9 due

Wednesday, August 2

Assignment 10 due

Tuesday, August 8

Assignment 11 due

Monday, August 14

Assignment 12 due

Saturday, August 19

Assignment 13 due

Friday, August 25

Assignment 14 due

AP Composition ends :(

No work accepted after today.

4 to 6 weeks after the course ends, students receive
  • Certificate of Participation
  • Detailed, one-page final evaluation of progress
  • Course description

Please update contact information through MyCTY if your address changes.

Sample First Assignment 


Persuasive Argument with Kant and Sartre

Welcome! The AP English Language and Composition Exam is designed to allow students to demonstrate that they can write well enough to submit college-level work. Students who score 3 or higher (out of 5) on the exam are often exempted from either a semester or a year of freshman composition courses, depending on the college or university. Competitive colleges often use these scores as part of their admissions criteria.

This course aims to help students better prepare for the test by acquainting them with the test format, helping them understand how answers are evaluated, and providing the necessary practice for success. Moreover, we want you grow as a writer. What you accomplish should help you enter the test and your future college courses with the confidence that comes from knowing that you can express and support your opinions clearly and solidly.

This course uses the CliffsAP English Language and Composition, 4th edition, ISBN:  9781118128022 est preparation guide. If not in stock locally, compare prices here. Order it now, as future lessons will use this material.

Why CliffsAP?

While teachers and serious literature students frown (and even glower) at the idea of substituting a reader's guide for the actual READING of a novel, the same company that prints CliffsNotes publishes a series of comprehensive AP Study Guides. Most AP teachers on the College Board's AP English email list endorse the use of a study guide. We've chosen this affordable guide because it includes a clear view of the overall test and numerous practice tests based on actual past exams. More impressively, it includes not only the answers to the multiple choice section but also explanations of the answers, and for the essays, it supplies the rubric (scoring guide) used for evaluating the essays, examples of student essays, and analyses of these essays.

We will use this resource as often as possible, often using the supplied test questions. For that reason, although you can peruse the rest of the book as soon as you get it, please refrain from reading any of the five practice tests until you are instructed by your instructor. I know that request immediately makes you want to read the tests, but don't look at the test questions if you want your practice essays to mimic accurately the experience you'll have in the actual exam.

Reflecting on Your Work

Part of your preparation for the test and your growth as a writer will come from practice and the feedback you receive from your instructor, but we also hope you will become more conscious of your writing processes and more analytical about what makes your writing successful. To that end, we require that most assignments include a "process letter" from you. Though each assignment may include specific questions you should ask yourself about your composing process, this letter is generally an opportunity for you to reflect on how you accomplished the assignment, to analyze what worked or didn't work, and to ask any questions that occurred to you about the reading or your writing. Assignments may be considered incomplete if submitted without this component.

Discussion Board

As a part of each lesson, you'll participate in a reading discussion or writer's workshop. These may relate directly to the preceding assignment, may involve a writer's workshop, or may introduce ideas you'll draw on later. Please consider these discussions an essential aspect of the course.

Abstract of Assignment

For Lesson 1, you will write a carefully reasoned, persuasive essay that considers an opinion from both sides and comes to a conclusion. You are to use evidence from your observation, experience, or reading to develop your position. (This is an untimed essay, so it's okay, if you can't stand the suspense, read the actual assignment on the last page.)

Why this Assignment

On pages 67-72 of the Cliffs guide, you can read summaries of all the essay questions given on the exam since 1980! When you see these, you'll notice that in the last five years, Cliffs labels all these questions as either "Style Analysis" or "Free Response/Persuasive." We'll begin with the latter because you've already practiced this type in Level 3 and Level 4 CTY courses. The first assignment is untimed, because we want to see an example of your best persuasive writing, uninhibited by strict time restraints.

Overview of Question Types

If an essay requires "style analysis," which we'll discuss in detail in another lesson, then a passage is supplied, and you are expected to analyze the writing itself (the choices the writer made when composing it). For example, if the passage were from the Declaration of Independence, you might be asked to discuss how the tone is created by the diction and syntax, and how it works to move the reader. Your essay would have a thesis to argue, but your point would be about Jefferson's writing style.

On the other hand, a "persuasive" question (all AP essay questions are technically called "prompts") would ask you to take issue with his argument. Your essay would defend, challenge, or qualify his points, frequently summarizing or quoting Jefferson's logic and evidence, but supporting your thesis with other sources. By "take issue," we mean that you might choose to defend, qualify, or challenge Jefferson's ideas with examples from your own reading and experience, or if the question allows, you might redefine his premises, move the argument to a different context, or discuss the causes or effects of his ideas. For example, you might discuss the meaning of "the pursuit of happiness" in suburban schools. Most successful essays would paraphrase or reflect the prompt, define any terms that need defining (such as "pursuit" and "happiness"), and then issue an opinion on the subject and support the opinion with other sources.

Some persuasive/free-response questions are more "free" than others, so it's important to read directions carefully. You might be asked to take both sides before issuing an opinion, or you might be directed toward a particular topic in the prompt.

If the essay can be categorized as "free response," then the question may use a brief passage or aphorism, such as asking you to discuss the meaning of "the pursuit of happiness." You usually paraphrase or reflect the prompt, define any terms that need defining (such as "pursuit" and "happiness"), and then issue an opinion on the subject and support the opinion with other sources.

What Are "Other Sources"?

A question that supplies a lengthy passage requires that the student demonstrate comprehension, but having less to stimulate your thoughts poses its own challenges. Successful essays don't just rant and rave with (hopefully) eloquently phrased opinions. They must provide evidence. Sources for this evidence can be roughly divided into two categories:

  • what you've read
  • what you've observed

and these categories can be further divided.

Although you won't have outside texts with you during testing, you can impress your graders with your ability to recall examples from books you've read that support your ideas. Can you think of any characters from literature that chose to "pursue happiness" and thus can illustrate either the necessity or the danger of adhering to this "right"? Rich, complex texts that have stood the test of time often make good sources because they touch on important themes. However, though your graders are primarily English teachers who might be fond of people who know important authors, don't restrict yourself to literary material. The breadth of your reading might also include popular, historical, scientific, or philosophical material, and this is equally impressive if it supports your argument well. You aren't expected to be able to quote extensively, but you can quickly introduce the source by summarizing it and then draw out the specific actions/outcomes that illustrate the point being made.

Besides your reading you can also use your own observations. These can include not only the news of the world around you, but also your own personal experience. Are you aware of a country that oppresses the "pursuit of happiness"? What consequences have you observed? In your own family, school, or other peer group, have you ever seen the right to pursue happiness abused or misused in a way that changed or strengthened your opinion? Your own experience can often be a valid way of interpreting a general truth!


  • Make sure you understand the prompt. Make sure you include a summary or paraphrase that shows that you fully "get" what the prompt suggests. If you agree with the author, your paraphrase may stand as your thesis.
  • Make sure you understand and answer the question. "Free Response" does not entitle you to rant about whatever bothers you. In fact, graders are held to a scoring guide that looks for answers to the specific question asked. If the question contains two parts, don't neglect one part of it. If it asks you to prove that the right to pursue happiness is essential to the American way of life, don't discuss whether other rights are necessary or whether capitalism is good or bad. An understanding of these issues might enrich your essay, but don't get distracted by some issue that doesn't both support your point and answer the question!
  • It is equally appropriate to make use of several kinds of evidence OR to extensively discuss just one in your essay -- as long as you provide an adequate amount of detailed support.
  • Recall what you learned in Level 3 (or its equivalent CTY Summer Programs course): if you want to use a personal experience to make a point, include enough specific, evocative detail to help your reader identify with you or the character you discuss.
  • Recall what you learned in Level 4 (or its equivalent CTY Summer Programs course): Your main point should be clearly articulated in an identifiable thesis. Your supporting paragraphs should progress logically, each substantiated with adequate specific evidence, the relevance of which you explain clearly.
  • Note that even if your primary evidence isn't narrative, you might employ descriptive narratives to introduce a topic (remember Level 4's sub-culture analysis?)
  • Some literary sources, such as Romeo and Juliet, require little introduction, and the essay can jump right in to the specific illustrative act -- "When Romeo chooses to attend Capulet's party . . ." -- confident that readers know the characters and the plot. However, most require the essayist to at least say "In John Doe's novel X, in which [insert basic plot summary here] . . ." Be careful not to get lost in summary but to direct readers to sections of the text that support the essay's thesis!
  • To keep from getting lost in summary, make sure to use strong topic sentences and intermittent explanations that illuminate how you are using the texts you've chosen.
  • Recall what you know about good writing. Sentence length should vary; words should be well chosen. Use active voice as much as possible. Edit out distracting errors.
  • Please do not waste too much time counting words. Instead, cover the subject to the length that you feel is adequate, and then we can discuss whether you need more or less. However, since this essay is un-timed but should be roughly the length of a timed essay, you can either allow just 40 minutes to draft and let that dictate your length, or you can think in terms of a 500 word essay as a general guideline.

The Assignment

Part 1: Your Essay

Read the following opposing philosophical statements before answering the question that follows:

Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, nor even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a Good Will. Intelligence, wit, judgment, and the other talents of the mind, however they may be named, or courage, resolution, perseverance, as qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable in many respects; but these gifts of nature may also become extremely bad and mischievous if the will which is to make use of them, and which, therefore, constitutes what is called character, is not good.

--Immauel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1781)

. . . when we say, "You are nothing else than your life," that does not imply that the artist will be judged solely on the basis of his works of art; a thousand other things will contribute toward summing him up. What we mean is that a man is nothing else than a series of undertakings, that he is the sum, the organization, the ensemble of the relationships which make up these undertakings.

--Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (1943)

Considering both these philosophies, form a well-reasoned argument about what makes a person "good." Use evidence from your observations, experience, or reading to develop your position.

Part 2: Your Process Analysis

After you write your essay, you will compose a note that discusses the process of accomplishing this feat. Since this is an un-timed essay, you are free to look at the question, make some "first impression" notes, pre-write, discuss the topic with friends or family (a good dinner conversation?), draft, revise, and edit. Because future assignments will condense this process, be as analytical as you can about the time spent and its productivity.

***If you get your CliffsAP before you send this assignment, you should also look over Part 1: Introduction, p 3-9, and include as part of this lesson's letter any questions that arise. Is there anything you read or any advice for the test that surprises you? If you don't get your guide before the assignment due date, post these responses and any other questions when you do.


  • Your essay (pre-writing and drafts not needed)
  • Your process letter

Write well :-)

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.

Most course lectures may be viewed on mobile devices, but in some cases assignments and quizzes must be completed on a desktop or laptop computer.



"I had a terrific time in this course, and learned a lot from the instructor and my classmates."

"Fantastic course! Certainly a summer well spent! Thanks CTY!"