What is a frq essay?
Wondering how to get a 6 on the argumentative essay in AP® English Language?
To score an 5 on the AP® English Argument FRQ question, the CollegeBoard scoring guidelines outline that students need to write an essay that effectively argues a position, uses appropriate and convincing evidence, and showcases a wide range of the elements of writing. Essays that score a 6 do all of that and, additionally, demonstrate sophistication in their argument.
An essay that does all of that is an incredibly well-constructed essay. Such an essay needs a solid framework and excellent support. To do this, it is important to have a clear idea of what you are being asked, to not waffle, to spend time and care with your thesis and outline, and to support every claim you make.
We know the best way to write an AP® English FRQ that does everything right is to understand what you are going to see on the AP® English Language test. Read on to prepare yourself for exam day and earn that 6!
The AP® English argument FRQ is the most straightforward of the AP® English FRQs because it is the most similar to the essays you’re already used to writing. It’s exciting to have free reign and make your own argument, unrestrained from rhetorical analysis devices or documents. But, like most AP® writing, it also can be a little overwhelming.
There’s nothing to read and analyze to provide evidence or help you form an argument. Whether you’re feeling excited or overwhelmed by the AP® writing argument FRQ, consider the rhetorical situation. Be strategic about forming your thesis, craft a strong, chronological argument, and utilize good, supportive evidence to earn a better overall essay response.
The first question to ask yourself is what am I being asked to do? This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how tricky it can be to figure out. Look for keywords and phrases that will answer that question.
Here’s an example from the 2019 AP® English Language argumentative essay.
Though there are just two short paragraphs, there is a lot of room for confusion here. In this case, “Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment.” is the key sentence you are looking for. In 2019, AP® English Language test takers were asked to select a concept, place, role, etc. that they believed was “overrated,” and explain why.
If you cannot determine what the question is, go back and reread the prompt. Focus on the last few sentences, as that’s where you’ll usually find it.
Knowing the question you are answering is the most important part of AP® writing. You will not be able to answer the question effectively if you aren’t certain what the question is. Pick out a specific sentence or two to determine the question, and thereby ensure that you aren’t just writing an essay that responds to the general sense of the argument essay prompts
The next step is both simple and difficult. Identify your own opinion on the subject.
But remember — the AP® argumentative essay exam format is designed to test how well you can craft an argument. Questions like the 2019 question seem so daunting, because claiming anything to be “overrated” is such a broad topic. It is a bigger question than students are used to encountering on an AP® test.
But, always remember, there is no right or wrong answer for this AP® English FRQ. And whatever argument you choose will not come back later in the exam or in your final grade in the class. This is not to say that you shouldn’t believe in what you are writing. Only that you should remember that both sides are arguable, pick one, and stick to it. Don’t waffle.
Below we break down two sample student answers from this same 2019 prompt.
In this AP® Lang argument essay example, the student jumps from describing places, to people, to outfits. The prompts asked for only one example and the student gives three. By doing this, it shows they were not only unable to grasp what the prompt was asking, but that they couldn’t stick to their opinion. Instead of deeply strengthening one choice, the student gives vague, half-reasons for too many choices.When writing your FRQs, choose just one concept and stick to it.
The following example demonstrates a strong student response:
This student picks one clear concept, capitalism, and clearly outlines their support for it. They write with clear language that opens the door for the deeper analysis coming later in the essay.
Like this student, choose just one clear argument to delve into when writing your FRQ.
The thesis statement should be both simple and elegant. Students often find it one of the more difficult writing skills to master, but we’re here to help. Just remember that it should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence. So, for the 2019 argument FRQ:
Good thesis: While capitalism undeniably has its upsides, it has many downsides that are rarely recognized. When considering the downsides, capitalism is clearly overrated as it commodifies humanity and uplifts a minority at the expense of the majority.
This thesis breaks down a) that the author clearly states his claim that capitalism is overrated, b) that the author will support that claim with examples on how it commodifies humanity and how it hurts the majority in favor of the minority.
Good thesis: While the Electoral College was created in the name of equality for smaller states, it is ultimately overrated because it undercuts the popular vote, it is an archaic practice that is unsuitable for the modern era.
This thesis claims the Electoral College is overrated by claiming it doesn’t do what it was created to do in the first place- support equality. It also introduces two supporting examples for the rest of the essay- it undercuts the popular vote and it doesn’t work in the modern era.
Not a good thesis: Kicking a ball in a net and scoring, is not as important as saving lives. Soccer to me would be considered overrated.
This thesis doesn’t give clear direction for the rest of the essay. The author claims soccer is overrated, but doesn’t tell us why. The example that “it’s not as important as saving lives” is unrelated and also not touched on again later in the essay. This thesis isn’t specific and doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the author will be saying next.
Not a good thesis: The term “overrated” has been used in conversation to diminish the value of roles. In unusual circumstances the term “overrated” should be applied to the idea of freedom in regards to social change, but overall it should not be applied in regards to global devastation and cruel treatment.
This thesis does not directly answer the question. Is the author arguing that freedom is overrated? They also claim that the term overrated doesn’t apply to global devastation and cruel treatment. This second claim is both unrelated to the first and doesn’t work to answer the initial prompt.
Looking at these four examples, can you see the difference between a strong and weak thesis?
After you’ve determined your thesis, use it as a jumping point to sketch a quick outline. Then, follow your outline, bringing in your own concrete examples and evidence. Doing so will improve your AP® writing.
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A good argument builds as you move through the essay. It does not simply repeat the same points. Instead, the different points of the argument build off one another and work together to advance the author’s point.
Let’s look at the 2018 AP® English argument FRQ for an example.
In this case, students are being asked to argue a position on the value of choosing the unknown.
All students are likely to have their own definitions of what “choosing the unknown” might mean. You first want to consider what this phrase means to you, and how it applies to the real world. Could it mean breaking out of your comfort zone in daily routines, or could it mean going to theater school to follow your dreams? There’s no wrong answers, but try to pin down one. Consider Lindbergh’s quote the prompt gives you, and how shock, disappointment, and enrichment play into choosing the unknown.
Once you’ve nailed down your definition, you can begin to form your arguments.A chronological argument builds off itself. So, in this question’s case, an outline would look something like this:
First, a student must define what choosing the unknown means, and what makes it difficult. Next the student argues for the value of choosing the unknown, in that the human race could never develop without it. Finally, the student will argue for the invaluable scientific and cultural/artistic advances made throughout history by breaking known boundaries.
When you sketch your outline, quickly ask yourself if the outline would make just as much sense if you rearranged it. If the answer is no, start writing your essay. If the answer is yes, try to structure your argument so that your points build off one another.
All arguments need evidence. This is the proof you need to support your thesis. And in the case of the AP® English argument FRQ, the evidence all comes from you. What exactly that evidence is will vary from question to question and from student to student. But make sure that every point you make is supported by evidence.
Here’s some good news — you already know quite a bit about effective evidence from what you have learned in AP® English about rhetorical devices. Your main purpose in this essay is to persuade. What have you learned in class about effective ways to persuade? What rhetorical devices can you utilize? Try to pick the best devices to support your argument that you can.
Here are some examples of supportive and non-supportive evidence that students could use to support their claims.
The 2017 AP® English language argument FRQ asked students to argue a position if the most essential skill is artifice. The example student answers given below are from here.
Supportive evidence: “Throughout history, rulers have utilized countless different methods of achieving power, however none have been so successful as mastering the art of lying.
In his advice to future rulers, Niccolo Machiavelli encouraged them to lie and maintain the illusion of sympathy to the common struggles in order to retain power. He asserts that it is imperative for a ruler to appear caring and sympathetic even if he has no objective but power.
Machiavelli argues that to be sincere and honest is akin to being vulnerable. A ruler must be skilled in the art of deception if he is not to fall prey to usurpers. Thus, it is essential that he appear humble and morally upright to his constituents as he is to appear idealistic, despite his nature being identical to his citizens.”
In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in politics. The student claims that mastering lying is essential to achieving political power. The student uses Machiavelli’s leadership and beliefs as specific examples to support this, by analyzing and connecting each point back to his/her claim.
Non-supportive evidence: “Another example would be actors on red carpets or at interviews they sound generous and relatable, but in reality they could be selfish people who don’t care about anyone. To the public they act charming, honest, and sincere. They do this so they can get famous and rich. They do this so they will never get ignored.”
In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of artifice in the culture of entertainment and celebrities. However, the student does not utilize supportive evidence to do so. The paragraph is full of claims about how actors lie, but does not provide a concrete example to anchor the claims. The student provides a lot of very vague generalizations, but no clear evidence or examples of specific celebrities and how they used artifice to succeed.
There is so much variance in prompts and students’ prior knowledge; it’s impossible to provide a checklist of what makes evidence supportive. But a good trick to decide if you’ve supported your claims well enough is to talk to yourself. No really, it’s a good idea.
Picture yourself discussing your essay with someone. Imagine that this person disagrees with everything that you say. Every time you make a claim, like that it’s important to be polite in an email, your imaginary person shakes their head and tells you no. How would you try to convince them? What examples would you use? Make sure that for each opinion you put forward; you have provided an answer to someone who would disagree with you.
The evidence is an important part of your essay. If your outline and your argument are a framework, your evidence is the brick and mortar. A house without brick and mortar won’t fall, but it won’t be a very nice house to inhabit. Tie every claim you make to a piece of evidence to ensure the best essay possible.
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The AP® English argument FRQ varies quite a bit. But it is ultimately about how well you can put forth an argument. So, don’t be afraid to spend some time crafting that argument. We’ve covered a lot in this article- here are the main points to remember:
But most of all, have fun. This essay is the one you should be looking forward to, where you have the freest rein. Enjoy it and earn yourself a 6.
Free response questions or essay questions are a type of open-ended question commonly used in schools to test students' learning, as well as in entrance exams and sometimes as part of job application or screening processes.
- Practice. Answering essay questions generally requires a good deal of training and practice.
- Examine the question.
- Determine what's required to answer the question.
- Choose your evidence.
- Develop a thesis.
- Support your thesis.
- Get examples from past exams.
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