How to Study: AP Lang

Not all subjects require the same preparation. In fact, certain study methods will work amazingly for one school subject and absolutely crash for another. This course specific study series (in partnership with our Study Methods series) aims to help students find the perfect methods for individual study in every subject.


AP Lang: The Breakdown

Of the two AP English courses, AP Lang focuses far more on Rhetorical Analysis (and if you’re interested in knowing more about the difference between the two courses, you can check out our previous blog here). Students spend most of their time learning various rhetorical devices and forms and then applying them to real world speeches, analyzing how the speaker has made their point, and why.

Of course, there are numerous ways to prep for the exam itself, from tutoring with us to textbooks full of multiple choice and essay drills. However, we’re going to look today at a few more free form study methods: ways to fill your weeks of class before the exam is even on the horizon, so that you have not only your best chance at the exam, but also at the class.


AP Lang Study Strategies:

1 Memorize those rhetorical devices. If you can’t tell the difference between inductive reasoning and a logical fallacy, you’re going to have a long class ahead of you. Flashcards are generally the best accepted method for rote memorization, but some students also choose methods like writing out the definition ten times or intensely studying one term per day. To get the most of your memorization time table, check out our blog on spaced repetition here.

2 Rhetorically analyze a wide variety of speeches. Start small and easy. Pick speeches you can watch on topics and by people that you have a genuine interest in (TedTalks are great for this). For each speech, you’ll want to identify the rhetorical situation by asking yourself the following questions- the SOAPSTone technique:

  • Who is the Speaker?

  • What is the Occasion?

  • Who is the Audience?

  • What is the Purpose?

  • What is the Subject?

  • What is the Tone?

Once you feel comfortable doing this, you’ll want to branch out into topics and media that are more difficult for you. Your end goal is to be able to easily decipher the Rhetorical Situation of advanced pieces like speeches by the founding fathers and persuasive arguments from characters written by the likes of Dickens, Shelley, and Shakespeare.

3 Practice your essays. This is perhaps the most straightforward piece of advice. The only way to get good at essay writing, especially timed essay writing, is practical experience. There are a great many prompts online from previous AP Lang exams, but you can also make up your own prompts for speeches and literature you prefer. You could even do a prompt and essay swap with a study partner.

4 Review your Grammar and Style. As of last year, the AP Lang exam added a writing component to its format. If you are studying for either the ACT or SAT then you’re fairly covered for the grammar and punctuation portion of the exam. If not you’ll want to look into practice exercises for that. The best way to brush up on Style is exposure to a wide array of well respected speech givers and writers. If you’ve taken our advice on number 2 then you are well on your way!


We hope this helps you self study in between classes and tutoring!

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