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Ap English Rhetorical Analysis Outline For Essay

To score an 8 on the AP English Argument FRQ question, the CollegeBoard outlines 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 9 do all of that and, additionally, demonstrate sophistication in their argument.

An essay that does all of that is an essay that is well constructed. Such an essay needs a solid framework and excellent support. To construct an essay like that, 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.

The best way to write an AP English FRQ that does all of that is to understand what you are going to see on the AP English Language test.

What You are Going to See on the AP English Argument FRQ

The AP English argument FRQ is the most straightforward of the AP English FRQs because it is the most like essays you are 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 to provide evidence for you or to help you form an argument. Whether you’re feeling excited or overwhelmed by the AP writing argument FRQ, being strategic about forming your thesis, crafting a strong, chronological argument, and utilizing good, supportive evidence will lead to a better overall essay response.

Determine the Question

The first question to ask yourself is what am I being asked to do? Look for keywords and phrases that will answer that question.

Here’s an example from the 2016 AP English Language argument FRQ.

Though there are just two short paragraphs, there is a lot of room for confusion here. In this case, “Write an essay that argues your position on the extent to which Wilde’s claims are valid” is the key sentence you are looking for. In 2016, AP English Language test takers were asked to argue either for, or against, the idea that disobedience is the virtue through which progress is possible.

If you cannot determine what the question is, go back and reread the prompt. 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 prompt.

Pick an Opinion and Stick to it

The next step is both simple and difficult. Identify your own opinion on the subject.

But remember — the AP argument FRQ is designed to test how well you can craft an argument. Questions like the 2016 question seem so daunting, because how one feels about disobedience has ramifications. It is a bigger question than students are used to encountering on an AP test.

But 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.

Craft a Thesis Statement

The thesis statement should be both simple and elegant. It should encompass your entire essay in just one sentence. So, for the 2016 argument FRQ:

Good thesis: As Wilde claims, disobedience is a valuable human trait without which progress could not be made because, in situations like the American Revolution, it is only deviance from the norm that can change the norm.

This thesis breaks down a) that the author is claiming to agree with Wilde, b) that the author will support that claim with examples from the American Revolution, and c) that the author will continually return to the idea that only deviance from the norm can change the norm.

Not a Good thesis: Disobedience is a good trait for humans, because historically, disobedient men and women made history.

This thesis doesn’t really answer the question. It says that disobedience is good but doesn’t mention Wilde. It alludes to the idea that disobedient men and women made history but doesn’t mention progress. Plenty of people, like Franz Ferdinand, made history without progressing the human race. This thesis isn’t specific and doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the author will be saying next.

See the difference?

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.

Craft a Chronological Argument

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 2014 AP English argument FRQ for an example.

In this case, students are being asked to both define creativity and to argue for, or against, the creation of a class in creativity.

All students are likely to have their own definitions of creativity and their own opinions about a creativity class. For the purposes of example, let’s use Steve Jobs’ definition of creativity and quickly outline an argument for the creation of a class in creativity.

Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” Jobs sees creativity not as the art of making something completely new from scratch, but instead the art of connecting dots differently.

A chronological argument builds off itself. So, in this question’s case, an outline would look something like this:

  1. Creativity is best thought of as making connections.
  2. Making connections is a type of thinking that can be taught.
  3. Making connections is best taught in school, as opposed to outside of it.

First, a student would have to argue why creativity is best thought of as making connections. The second point, that making connections is a type of thinking that can be taught, cannot be proven until the first point has been sufficiently supported. And the final point, that this is a skill that is best taught in school, cannot be made without the other two. The points of the argument cannot be moved around, changed, or removed. This shows the argument is chronological and has built on itself.

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.

Support Your Claims

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 2015 AP English language argument FRQ asked students to argue what the function of polite speech in a culture they are familiar with.

Supportive evidence: Polite speech is useful for conveying tone, especially in the world of the Internet. A great example of this need is email. Because emails are virtual communications, they are completely stripped of the context that non-verbal cues, like body language, eye contact, and physical touch, can provide. Polite, formal speech conveys that the sender of the email respects the receiver. Phrases like “How are you?” help convey friendliness between e-mailers. Taking the time to ensure an email sounds friendly can, for example, help ease the sting of a virtual scolding from a boss to a subordinate. As more communication becomes virtual, polite speech is more important than ever to provide context.

In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of polite speech in the culture of the Internet. The student claims that polite speech is necessary to convey tone in communication without context and uses emails as a frame. The student uses examples of situations where email and polite speech are directly involved to support her claims. Every one of the claims is followed up with an example.

Non-supportive evidence: Polite speech is useful for conveying tone, especially in the world of the Internet. In forums, people are never polite, and it is bad for discourse, which is bad for democracy. The world would be a much better place if when people online disagreed with one another, they were polite instead of angry and ready to form a new subreddit at any time. When people on the Internet aren’t polite, they don’t worry about their tone at all, and it offends people. The lack of polite speech makes the Internet a hostile place.

In this paragraph, the student chooses to discuss the role of polite speech in the culture of the Internet. However, the student does not utilize supportive evidence to do so. The paragraph is full of claims, like that the world would be better if people on the Internet were polite, but does not provide a concrete example to anchor the claim. Additionally, the paragraph does not support the idea that polite speech conveys tone on the Internet because it primarily focuses on the lack of polite speech on some parts of the Internet.

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 tell 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.

To Sum up

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. Pick a clear position that can offer no confusion, write a clear and direct thesis statement, and make an argument that has to be in the order you write it. Support yourself with concrete, specific evidence and examples. 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 9.

Do the examples shown make sense to you? Can you picture yourself moving through the AP writing argument FRQ with ease now?

Test yourself and write a practice essay response. Here are tips on how to score your own AP English Practice Essay.

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Many high school students will ambitiously decide to take AP English as their main language elective. Assuming they have made this decision, it is almost a definite fact that most of the students will take the AP English exam. When writing the exam, the test will require you to write three unique types of essays.

From the three possible essay styles, one of them is the rhetorical analysis essay. If you have ever seen the movie Inception, be prepared to experience a similar type of mind-boggling. There is a high percentage chance that you have never worked with this type of essay before. No worries, Our essay service will teach you everything you need to know about writing a stellar rhetorical analysis!

Table Of Contents

What Is A Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Remember I mentioned the movie Inception? Well, the concept of “a dream within a dream” is mimicked here, just with a slight alteration. Essentially, a rhetorical analysis is a type of essay that requires you to “write about the writing”.

If you have a question mark looming over your head, do not worry as this will all make sense with a little bit of reading. In this type of analysis, in order to uncover the strategies and persuasive styles that they are using to get some reaction from a crowd. Most of the time, the example topics are speeches given by influential figures. In other words, when given an essay prompt on the exam, the instructor is asking you to analyze the text and explain how all the “written parts” work together.

Preparation Strategy

Since the AP exam is a time-limited task, swift and effective preparation is key to creating a powerful piece of academic writing! Considering the fact that your allotted time has to be broken down into reading, analyzing and writing, multi-tasking with reading and analyzing is a must. As you begin reading the introductory information, start taking notes of important information that will simplify the analysis process.

  • Who is the author?
  • What is their intended target audience?
  • What is their purpose for writing this speech/document?
  • In what setting are they located while giving the speech? Why specifically this setting?

Having these questions in mind and uncovering their answers will simplify the process of analyzing their strategies. At the very least it gives you something to work off, and having this information allows you to understand their methods of persuasion and how it affects the ethos, pathos, and logos.

The ingredients for persuasion, as Aristotle called them, can be broken down into three categories. There are the ethos, pathos, and logos. The ethos appeals to ethics, and this is all about providing traits and reasons as to why the speaker is a credible source of information. The pathos appeals to emotions and is a sneaky way of convincing an audience by creating an emotional response. Last but not least, we have the logos (my personal favorite) which appeals to logical and rational thinking and tries to persuade the audience through reasoning.

  • “Doctors all over the world recommend this type of treatment!”
  • “You’ll make the right decision because you have something that not many people do: you have the heart."
  • “Thousand of years of history has taught us that war never changes”

In every AP English exam, the literary prompt will contain examples of at least one of the three persuasive methods. After using the background info to help guide you, it should not be too difficult to figure out which tactic the speaker uses. Obviously, one should practice writing rhetorical analysis essays before taking the exam!

Rhetorical Essay Outline

After reading, analyzing and jotting down supportive notes, the remaining time that you have is what will really earn you that 5 on the AP Exam! You have the figured out the strategies thanks to your meticulous note taking, and now it is all about putting pen to paper.

Following the proper structuring is the most reliable method of satisfying the professor's requests, so using the 5-6 paragraph style is your best bet. Depending on the amount of solid strategies you have found, the body paragraphs you will have to create should equal the same amount. Regardless, the intro-body-conclusion format of the paper outline remains the same!


As most of your time will be devoted to creating informative body paragraphs, the introductory paragraph should be short and sweet. To start it out briefly, summarize the main argument of the speaker. Afterward, reference “what is said” and “how it is said” to develop your own crafted opinion a.k.a thesis statement. This will explain the tone and mood as well as intrigue the reader about the rhetorical strategies you shall explain later in the text. Last but not least, put together an enlightening thesis that explains the persuasive styles used by the speaker, and their overall effect.

Body Paragraphs

As the part of the essay that will have the most content, the body paragraphs have a lot of questions that need to be answered. In this part of the essay, you are explaining how the speaker develops his thesis and which devices and strategies he applies. Based on the amount of different strategies he uses, a paragraph should be devoted per strategy.

When finding a piece of evidence (quote) that matches up to the criteria of a literary device, then craft one paragraph specifically around that quote. Explain the persuasive strategy used and how the quote shows this. Your explanation should generally answer one of these four questions:

    Some other things that should be taken note of within the body paragraphs are shifts in tone and diction and the varying length of sentences. Though these are smaller and do not impact your understanding of the concept of rhetorical analysis as much, knowing them shows your instructor that you have a strong grasp of style. Lastly, do not forget to make proper citations!


    After fully supporting and developing your various arguments, it is time to wrap up the essay with a strong conclusion. First of all, explain how this work affected the audience and the essay as a whole. In other words, show the result that came from this impact speech!
    Afterward, fully conclude your argument on each individual rhetorical device, and link them as a whole to show their significance as a unit! As a final sentence, provide an impactful overall concluding statement that showed the importance of this speech and its strategies that helped to shape history!

    Overall Writing Tips

    Phew, you are finally finished writing this super intense and strenuous essay with only five minutes left. Time to sit back and relax as you are finally done this section….. OR you could use this last few minutes to make your writing as flawless as possible! The second option sounds better? I agree, so let us talk about a five-step checklist that will immensely impact the quality of your essay!

    • Grammar: Though this may sound like some captain obvious info, nobody likes to read a work that has punctuational errors and sentence structure problems! Keep a fair mix of short and long sentences and make sure to avoid abbreviations. This is Formal Writing remember!?
    • Vocabulary: Having a wide range of vocabulary is a sure-fire way to gain some style points from the instructor. It shows that you are multidimensional and can write in a diverse number of ways. Have a quick glance at a thesaurus beforehand to keep that mental space occupied!
    • Coherency: The smoother your essay sounds while it is being read, the better the content will seem. Having strong and appropriate transitions keep the essay from getting cluttered as well as using a wide range of punctuations. Do not just jump from point to point; rather, ease the reader into your next thought with smooth language!
    • Use Present Tense: When writing formally or for any academic essay, make sure to use present tense writing. It helps to avoid confusion and keeps things straightforward, as well as the fact that writing should feel “at the moment”
    • Respond To The Text: This can not be stressed enough. If you have ever heard your teacher say “guys, do not write a plot summary” then you already know where this is going. Avoid listing the literary devices and providing quotes along. Explain the IMPACT of each literary device and SHOW how the quote supports it specifically!
    • Name Your Essay Right: It is crucially important to give your essay a suitable title as it is the first thing your reader will see. Moreover, after reading the title of your essay, they will decide whether or not it is worth their attention.

    Rhetorical Analysis Example

    To gain a better understanding of this writing stye, it would be useful to learn from an example.

    Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

    Joe Baker, from EssayPro

    If you are taking an AP class and you have to do a rhetorical analysis essay, then a good rule of thumb is to use a mnemonic device called DIDLES. DIDLES is an acronym for Diction, Imagery, Details, Language, and Sentence Structure. As soon as you sit down to annotate your text for rhetoric, keep note of the terms above. Diction will help you understand the syntax and tone of the piece. Imagery will point you to the specific places that the author chose to show rather than tell; details will demonstrate what exactly the author wanted you to pay attention to. Language is a good signifier of what mood and voice the author have, and sentence structure will help you notice whether the writing style of the author better.

    While you read, don’t forget to annotate and ask yourself questions such as: is the language colloquial or professional? What does the author want to show me with this description? Why does the author include these specific facts/details? And more importantly, how does DIDLES (the bigger picture) evoke ethos, logos, and pathos from the reader. Write down everything that goes through your mind while you read and your rhetoric should be top notch.

    Still Struggling to Grasp the Concept?

    We get it, rhetorical essay writing is probably a new and confusing option in your writing arsenal. This is definitely one of those essays that require hours of practice to master. Luckily for you, EssayPro, top-notch paper writing service, has a team of professional paper writers that have been writing rhetorical analysis essays for several years. They too have dealt with the confusion of finding these hidden persuasive strategies, so the tips and tricks that they carry are priceless for our students. Chat with the writer and get qualified paper writing help! Whatever questions you may have, EssayPro is ready to help!

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