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How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay + Example
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What is the ap lit prose essay, how will ap scores affect my college chances.
AP Literature and Composition (AP Lit), not to be confused with AP English Language and Composition (AP Lang), teaches students how to develop the ability to critically read and analyze literary texts. These texts include poetry, prose, and drama. Analysis is an essential component of this course and critical for the educational development of all students when it comes to college preparation. In this course, you can expect to see an added difficulty of texts and concepts, similar to the material one would see in a college literature course.
While not as popular as AP Lang, over 380,136 students took the class in 2019. However, the course is significantly more challenging, with only 49.7% of students receiving a score of three or higher on the exam. A staggeringly low 6.2% of students received a five on the exam.
The AP Lit exam is similar to the AP Lang exam in format, but covers different subject areas. The first section is multiple-choice questions based on five short passages. There are 55 questions to be answered in 1 hour. The passages will include at least two prose fiction passages and two poetry passages and will account for 45% of your total score. All possible answer choices can be found within the text, so you don’t need to come into the exam with prior knowledge of the passages to understand the work.
The second section contains three free-response essays to be finished in under two hours. This section accounts for 55% of the final score and includes three essay questions: the poetry analysis essay, the prose analysis essay, and the thematic analysis essay. Typically, a five-paragraph format will suffice for this type of writing. These essays are scored holistically from one to six points.
Today we will take a look at the AP Lit prose essay and discuss tips and tricks to master this section of the exam. We will also provide an example of a well-written essay for review.
The AP Lit prose essay is the second of the three essays included in the free-response section of the AP Lit exam, lasting around 40 minutes in total. A prose passage of approximately 500 to 700 words and a prompt will be given to guide your analytical essay. Worth about 18% of your total grade, the essay will be graded out of six points depending on the quality of your thesis (0-1 points), evidence and commentary (0-4 points), and sophistication (0-1 points).
While this exam seems extremely overwhelming, considering there are a total of three free-response essays to complete, with proper time management and practiced skills, this essay is manageable and straightforward. In order to enhance the time management aspect of the test to the best of your ability, it is essential to understand the following six key concepts.
1. Have a Clear Understanding of the Prompt and the Passage
Since the prose essay is testing your ability to analyze literature and construct an evidence-based argument, the most important thing you can do is make sure you understand the passage. That being said, you only have about 40 minutes for the whole essay so you can’t spend too much time reading the passage. Allot yourself 5-7 minutes to read the prompt and the passage and then another 3-5 minutes to plan your response.
As you read through the prompt and text, highlight, circle, and markup anything that stands out to you. Specifically, try to find lines in the passage that could bolster your argument since you will need to include in-text citations from the passage in your essay. Even if you don’t know exactly what your argument might be, it’s still helpful to have a variety of quotes to use depending on what direction you take your essay, so take note of whatever strikes you as important. Taking the time to annotate as you read will save you a lot of time later on because you won’t need to reread the passage to find examples when you are in the middle of writing.
Once you have a good grasp on the passage and a solid array of quotes to choose from, you should develop a rough outline of your essay. The prompt will provide 4-5 bullets that remind you of what to include in your essay, so you can use these to structure your outline. Start with a thesis, come up with 2-3 concrete claims to support your thesis, back up each claim with 1-2 pieces of evidence from the text, and write a brief explanation of how the evidence supports the claim.
2. Start with a Brief Introduction that Includes a Clear Thesis Statement
Having a strong thesis can help you stay focused and avoid tangents while writing. By deciding the relevant information you want to hit upon in your essay up front, you can prevent wasting precious time later on. Clear theses are also important for the reader because they direct their focus to your essential arguments.
In other words, it’s important to make the introduction brief and compact so your thesis statement shines through. The introduction should include details from the passage, like the author and title, but don’t waste too much time with extraneous details. Get to the heart of your essay as quick as possible.
3. Use Clear Examples to Support Your Argument
One of the requirements AP Lit readers are looking for is your use of evidence. In order to satisfy this aspect of the rubric, you should make sure each body paragraph has at least 1-2 pieces of evidence, directly from the text, that relate to the claim that paragraph is making. Since the prose essay tests your ability to recognize and analyze literary elements and techniques, it’s often better to include smaller quotes. For example, when writing about the author’s use of imagery or diction you might pick out specific words and quote each word separately rather than quoting a large block of text. Smaller quotes clarify exactly what stood out to you so your reader can better understand what are you saying.
Including smaller quotes also allows you to include more evidence in your essay. Be careful though—having more quotes is not necessarily better! You will showcase your strength as a writer not by the number of quotes you manage to jam into a paragraph, but by the relevance of the quotes to your argument and explanation you provide. If the details don’t connect, they are merely just strings of details.
4. Discussion is Crucial to Connect Your Evidence to Your Argument
As the previous tip explained, citing phrases and words from the passage won’t get you anywhere if you don’t provide an explanation as to how your examples support the claim you are making. After each new piece of evidence is introduced, you should have a sentence or two that explains the significance of this quote to the piece as a whole.
This part of the paragraph is the “So what?” You’ve already stated the point you are trying to get across in the topic sentence and shared the examples from the text, so now show the reader why or how this quote demonstrates an effective use of a literary technique by the author. Sometimes students can get bogged down by the discussion and lose sight of the point they are trying to make. If this happens to you while writing, take a step back and ask yourself “Why did I include this quote? What does it contribute to the piece as a whole?” Write down your answer and you will be good to go.
5. Write a Brief Conclusion
While the critical part of the essay is to provide a substantive, organized, and clear argument throughout the body paragraphs, a conclusion provides a satisfying ending to the essay and the last opportunity to drive home your argument. If you run out of time for a conclusion because of extra time spent in the preceding paragraphs, do not worry, as that is not fatal to your score.
Without repeating your thesis statement word for word, find a way to return to the thesis statement by summing up your main points. This recap reinforces the arguments stated in the previous paragraphs, while all of the preceding paragraphs successfully proved the thesis statement.
6. Don’t Forget About Your Grammar
Though you will undoubtedly be pressed for time, it’s still important your essay is well-written with correct punctuating and spelling. Many students are able to write a strong thesis and include good evidence and commentary, but the final point on the rubric is for sophistication. This criteria is more holistic than the former ones which means you should have elevated thoughts and writing—no grammatical errors. While a lack of grammatical mistakes alone won’t earn you the sophistication point, it will leave the reader with a more favorable impression of you.
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Here are Nine Must-have Tips and Tricks to Get a Good Score on the Prose Essay:
- Carefully read, review, and underline key instruction s in the prompt.
- Briefly outlin e what you want to cover in your essay.
- Be sure to have a clear thesis that includes the terms mentioned in the instructions, literary devices, tone, and meaning.
- Include the author’s name and title in your introduction. Refer to characters by name.
- Quality over quantity when it comes to picking quotes! Better to have a smaller number of more detailed quotes than a large amount of vague ones.
- Fully explain how each piece of evidence supports your thesis .
- Focus on the literary techniques in the passage and avoid summarizing the plot.
- Use transitions to connect sentences and paragraphs.
- Keep your introduction and conclusion short, and don’t repeat your thesis verbatim in your conclusion.
Here is an example essay from 2020 that received a perfect 6:
 In this passage from a 1912 novel, the narrator wistfully details his childhood crush on a girl violinist. Through a motif of the allure of musical instruments, and abundant sensory details that summon a vivid image of the event of their meeting, the reader can infer that the narrator was utterly enraptured by his obsession in the moment, and upon later reflection cannot help but feel a combination of amusement and a resummoning of the moment’s passion.
 The overwhelming abundance of hyper-specific sensory details reveals to the reader that meeting his crush must have been an intensely powerful experience to create such a vivid memory. The narrator can picture the “half-dim church”, can hear the “clear wail” of the girl’s violin, can see “her eyes almost closing”, can smell a “faint but distinct fragrance.” Clearly, this moment of discovery was very impactful on the boy, because even later he can remember the experience in minute detail. However, these details may also not be entirely faithful to the original experience; they all possess a somewhat mysterious quality that shows how the narrator may be employing hyperbole to accentuate the girl’s allure. The church is “half-dim”, the eyes “almost closing” – all the details are held within an ethereal state of halfway, which also serves to emphasize that this is all told through memory. The first paragraph also introduces the central conciet of music. The narrator was drawn to the “tones she called forth” from her violin and wanted desperately to play her “accompaniment.” This serves the double role of sensory imagery (with the added effect of music being a powerful aural image) and metaphor, as the accompaniment stands in for the narrator’s true desire to be coupled with his newfound crush. The musical juxtaposition between the “heaving tremor of the organ” and the “clear wail” of her violin serves to further accentuate how the narrator percieved the girl as above all other things, as high as an angel. Clearly, the memory of his meeting his crush is a powerful one that left an indelible impact on the narrator.
 Upon reflecting on this memory and the period of obsession that followed, the narrator cannot help but feel amused at the lengths to which his younger self would go; this is communicated to the reader with some playful irony and bemused yet earnest tone. The narrator claims to have made his “first and last attempts at poetry” in devotion to his crush, and jokes that he did not know to be “ashamed” at the quality of his poetry. This playful tone pokes fun at his childhood self for being an inexperienced poet, yet also acknowledges the very real passion that the poetry stemmed from. The narrator goes on to mention his “successful” endeavor to conceal his crush from his friends and the girl; this holds an ironic tone because the narrator immediately admits that his attempts to hide it were ill-fated and all parties were very aware of his feelings. The narrator also recalls his younger self jumping to hyperbolic extremes when imagining what he would do if betrayed by his love, calling her a “heartless jade” to ironically play along with the memory. Despite all this irony, the narrator does also truly comprehend the depths of his past self’s infatuation and finds it moving. The narrator begins the second paragraph with a sentence that moves urgently, emphasizing the myriad ways the boy was obsessed. He also remarks, somewhat wistfully, that the experience of having this crush “moved [him] to a degree which now [he] can hardly think of as possible.” Clearly, upon reflection the narrator feels a combination of amusement at the silliness of his former self and wistful respect for the emotion that the crush stirred within him.
 In this passage, the narrator has a multifaceted emotional response while remembering an experience that was very impactful on him. The meaning of the work is that when we look back on our memories (especially those of intense passion), added perspective can modify or augment how those experiences make us feel
More essay examples, score sheets, and commentaries can be found at College Board .
While AP Scores help to boost your weighted GPA, or give you the option to get college credit, AP Scores don’t have a strong effect on your admissions chances . However, colleges can still see your self-reported scores, so you might not want to automatically send scores to colleges if they are lower than a 3. That being said, admissions officers care far more about your grade in an AP class than your score on the exam.
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FRQ 2: Prose Analysis
6 min read • november 18, 2021
AP Lit: Prose Analysis
There are three types of free-response questions on the AP Literature exam . You will be given 120 minutes to read two pieces of text and write all three essays, so you should take approximately 40 minutes to write each one. The entire free-response section is worth 55% of your total exam score.
Question 2 of the FRQ section will be a prose analysis prompt. You will need to read a given prose passage of 500 to 700 words and a prompt to guide your analytical essay about the passage. The prompt will help you figure out what to look for as you read the passage.
So we’re all on the same page, here is the most important definition you need to know that is commonly found in the essay prompts .
Analyze : examine the passage closely for details that help you interpret and explain the question topic (i.e. showing how a passage develops a character)
According to the AP English Literature and Composition Course and Exam Description, all prose analysis prompts will follow the same structure shown here:
The following excerpt is from [ text and author, date of publication ]. In this passage, [ comment on what is being addressed in the passage ]. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze how [ author ] uses literary elements and techniques to [ convey/portray/develop a thematic, topical, or structural aspect of the passage that is complex and specific to the passage provided ].
Note: If you look for past FRQs, you will find specific literary devices that are given in older prompts that you might use to practice and guide your essay. These will not be given in 2020 and beyond.
Example: Reading the Passage
From the AP English Literature and Composition Course and Exam Description
The following excerpt is from an 1852 novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In this passage, two characters who have been living on the Blithedale farm—a community designed to promote an ideal of equality achieved through communal rural living—are about to part ways. Read the passage carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze how Hawthorne uses literary elements and techniques to portray the narrator’s complex attitude towards Zenobia.
See how the prompt asks about the “complex attitude towards Zenobia”? This helps you to know how to approach the passage and how to annotate it as you read it.
It is helpful to underline or circle literary elements to prepare you to read the excerpt. The prompt will always tell you to look for the literary devices or elements that the author uses to create the thematic/topical/ structural aspect of the story.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, read the passage. As you read, annotate for elements of the abstract topic that the author has created. Make sure that you are also making connections between the topic and the literary devices.
In this prompt, you are directed toward Hawthorne’s use of characterization and can determine that he is delivering a message about it through his complex attitude, so as you read, you would annotate for not only the characterization of Zenobia but words showing how Hawthorne feels about Zenobia as well.
shifts in tone, meaning or language
structure and form
diction and syntax that connect to the topic
dialogue revealing something about the characters
When you have read through the passage (twice if possible!), you will have an idea of what you want to write about. Then it is time to write your thesis .
Not to alarm you, but your thesis is the most important part of your essay. It establishes what you’re going to say, and whether or not you’re going to be able to back it up with textual evidence . It should be about a sentence long (it could be a couple, but no more), and clearly state:
the claim you’re making about the passage
that is directly about the abstract topic given
that can be supported by the literary devices in the text
your original interpretation of the passage that is not a summary
In the previous prompt, your thesis would clearly state your interpretation of the characterization and the complexity of the author’s attitude (or, why is it confusing/complex?), and probably the literary elements that created this complexity and understanding.
As you may know, the rubric for AP Lit essays has changed from a 9-point holistic rubric to a 6-point analytical rubric . A perfect score is broken down as follows:
1 point for your thesis
4 points for your evidence and commentary
1 point for sophistication
The rubric that College Board AP exam readers will use is one whole page per category, so that will be posted further down. For now, let’s dive into what each category means.
Thesis (1 Point)
You cannot earn a partial point for your thesis -- you either earn a point or you do not. If you write a thesis statement that interprets the passage according to the prompt in a way that is defensible according to the passage: 1 point. In other words, you write a claim that can be defended by the passage.
If your thesis is too general, summarizes or describes the passage, or restates the prompt only , that will not earn a point.
Evidence and Commentary (4 Points)
You can earn up to 4 points for evidence and commentary . All of your evidence needs to be integrated and relevant, and all of your commentaries should connect your evidence to your prompt-based thesis.
If you write paragraphs that are unrelated to the prompt and/or the passage, you will earn a 0 in this category.
If you summarize the passage or describe its content, you will earn 1 point. You will also earn one point if you refer to the literary techniques (that you found in your annotation) but do not explain them or connect them to the passage and your claim/thesis.
If you have some relevant evidence, connected weakly to some explanation and argument, you will earn 2 points. This includes inaccurate commentary or misinterpreted evidence. 😕
You will earn 3 points for a solid job of selecting evidence and connecting it to your claim. This means your line of reasoning is supported, and your evidence contains literary elements that you connect succinctly to the abstract topic you were given.
For consistent, persuasive support of your claim that uses significant and specific evidence, you will earn the full 4 points! You would have examined more than one literary device/technique’s use throughout the passage, and organized your essay in order to best defend your claim. (Pro tip: Try NOT to organize your essays with a paragraph per device, but instead write from the beginning of the passage to the end or some other way that emphasizes the structure of the passage. Each passage will have a different approach of attack!)
Sophistication (1 Point)
This point is new and very hard to pin down. It is only one point, which means you earn it or you don’t. But your sophistication in your essay can be found in your writing style, your claim and/or your support of your claim. Earning this point means that your argument was complex and nuanced as well as responded appropriately to the complexity of the passage. For example, you could show alternate interpretations or connect the prompt to a wider theme.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, expert's guide to the ap literature exam.
Advanced Placement (AP)
If you're planning to take the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you'll need to get familiar with what to expect on the test. Whether the 2023 test date of Wednesday, May 3, is near or far, I'm here to help you get serious about preparing for the exam.
In this guide, I'll go over the test's format and question types, how it's graded, best practices for preparation, and test-day tips. You'll be on your way to AP English Lit success in no time!
AP English Literature: Exam Format and Question Types
The AP Literature Exam is a three-hour exam that contains two sections in this order:
- An hour-long, 55-question multiple-choice section
- A two-hour, three-question free-response section
The exam tests your ability to analyze works and excerpts of literature and cogently communicate that analysis in essay form.
Read on for a breakdown of the two different sections and their question types.
Section I: Multiple Choice
The multiple-choice section, or Section I of the AP Literature exam, is 60 minutes long and has 55 questions. It counts for 45% of your overall exam grade .
You can expect to see five excerpts of prose and poetry. You will always get at least two prose passages (fiction or drama) and two poetry passages. In general, you will not be given the author, date, or title for these works, though occasionally the title of a poem will be given. Unusual words are also sometimes defined for you.
The date ranges of these works could fall from the 16th to the 21st century. Most works will be originally written in English, but you might occasionally see a passage in translation.
There are, generally speaking, eight kinds of questions you can expect to see on the AP English Literature and Composition exam. I'll break each of them down here and give you tips on how to identify and approach them.
"Pretty flowers carried by ladies" is not one of the question types.
The 8 Multiple-Choice Question Types on the AP Literature Exam
Without further delay, here are the eight question types you can expect to see on the AP Lit exam. All questions are taken from the sample questions on the AP Course and Exam Description .
#1: Reading Comprehension
These questions test your ability to understand what the passage is saying on a pretty basic level . They don't require you to do a lot of interpretation—you just need to know what's going on.
You can identify this question type from words and phrases such as "according to," "mentioned," "asserting," and so on. You'll succeed on these questions as long as you carefully read the text . Note that you might have to go back and reread parts to make sure you understand what the passage is saying.
These questions ask you to infer something—a character or narrator's opinion, an author's intention, etc.—based on what is said in the passage . It will be something that isn't stated directly or concretely but that you can assume based on what's clearly written in the passage. You can identify these questions from words such as "infer" and "imply."
The key to these questions is to not get tripped up by the fact that you are making an inference—there will be a best answer, and it will be the choice that is best supported by what is actually found in the passage .
In many ways, inference questions are like second-level reading comprehension questions: you need to know not just what a passage says, but also what it means.
#3: Identifying and Interpreting Figurative Language
These are questions for which you have to either identify what word or phrase is figurative language or provide the meaning of a figurative phrase . You can identify these as they will either explicitly mention figurative language (or a figurative device, such as a simile or metaphor ) or include a figurative phrase in the question itself.
The meaning of figurative phrases can normally be determined by that phrase's context in the passage—what is said around it? What is the phrase referring to?
Example 1: Identifying
Example 2: Interpreting
#4: Literary Technique
These questions involve identifying why an author does what they do , from using a particular phrase to repeating certain words. Basically, what techniques is the author using to construct the passage/poem, and to what effect?
You can identify these questions by words/phrases such as "serves chiefly to," "effect," "evoke," and "in order to." A good way to approach these questions is to ask yourself: so what? Why did the author use these particular words or this particular structure?
#5: Character Analysis
These questions ask you to describe something about a character . You can spot them because they will refer directly to characters' attitudes, opinions, beliefs, or relationships with other characters .
This is, in many ways, a special kind of inference question , since you are inferring the broader personality of the character based on the evidence in a passage. Also, these crop up much more commonly for prose passages than they do for poetry ones.
#6: Overall Passage Questions
Some questions ask you to identify or describe something about the passage or poem as a whole : its purpose, tone, genre, etc. You can identify these by phrases such as "in the passage" and "as a whole."
To answer these questions, you need to think about the excerpt with a bird's-eye view . What is the overall picture created by all the tiny details?
Some AP Lit questions will ask you about specific structural elements of the passage: a shift in tone, a digression, the specific form of a poem, etc . Often these questions will specify a part of the passage/poem and ask you to identify what that part is accomplishing.
Being able to identify and understand the significance of any shifts —structural, tonal, in genre, and so on—will be of key importance for these questions.
#8: Grammar/Nuts & Bolts
Very occasionally you will be asked a specific grammar question , such as what word an adjective is modifying. I'd also include in this category super-specific questions such as those that ask about the meter of a poem (e.g., iambic pentameter).
These questions are less about literary artistry and more about the fairly dry technique involved in having a fluent command of the English language .
That covers the eight question types on the multiple-choice section. Now, let's take a look at the free-response section of the AP Literature exam.
Keep track of the nuts and bolts of grammar.
Section II: Free Response
The AP Literature Free Response section is two hours long and involves three free-response essay questions , so you'll have about 40 minutes per essay. That's not a lot of time considering this section of the test counts for 55% of your overall exam grade !
Note, though, that no one will prompt you to move from essay to essay, so you can theoretically divide up the time however you want. Just be sure to leave enough time for each essay! Skipping an essay, or running out of time so you have to rush through one, can really impact your final test score.
The first two essays are literary analysis essays of specific passages, with one poem and one prose excerpt. The final essay is an analysis of a given theme in a work selected by you , the student.
Essays 1 & 2: Literary Passage Analysis
For the first two essays, you'll be presented with an excerpt and directed to analyze the excerpt for a given theme, device, or development . One of the passages will be poetry, and one will be prose. You will be provided with the author of the work, the approximate date, and some orienting information (i.e., the plot context of an excerpt from a novel).
Below are some sample questions from the 2022 Free Response Questions .
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Essay 3: Thematic Analysis
For the third and final essay, you'll be asked to discuss a particular theme in a work that you select . You will be provided with a list of notable works that address the given theme below the prompt, but you can also choose to discuss any "work of literary merit."
So while you do have the power to choose which work you wish to write an essay about , the key words here are "literary merit." That means no genre fiction! Stick to safe bets like authors in the list on pages 10-11 of the old 2014 AP Lit Course Description .
(I know, I know—lots of genre fiction works do have literary merit and Shakespeare actually began as low culture, and so on and so forth. Indeed, you might find academic designations of "literary merit" elitist and problematic, but the time to rage against the literary establishment is not your AP Lit test! Save it for a really, really good college admissions essay instead .)
Here's a sample question from 2022:
As you can see, the list of works provided spans many time periods and countries : there are ancient Greek plays ( Antigone ), modern literary works (such as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale ), Shakespeare plays ( The Tempest ), 19th-century English plays ( The Importance of Being Earnest ), etc. So you have a lot to work with!
Also note that you can choose a work of "comparable literary merit." That means you can select a work not on this list as long as it's as difficult and meaningful as the example titles you've been given. So for example, Jane Eyre or East of Eden would be great choices, but Twilight or The Hunger Games would not.
Our advice? If you're not sure what a work of "comparable literary merit" is, stick to the titles on the provided list .
You might even see something by this guy.
How Is the AP Literature Test Graded?
The multiple-choice section of the exam comprises 45% of your total exam score; the three essays, or free-response section, comprise the other 55%. Each essay, then, is worth about 18% of your grade.
As on other AP exams, your raw score will be converted to a score from 1-5 . You don't have to get every point possible to get a 5 by any means. In 2022, 16.9% of students received 5s on the AP English Literature test, the 14th highest 5 score out of the 38 different AP exams.
So, how do you calculate your raw scores?
For the multiple-choice section, you receive 1 point for each question you answer correctly . There's no guessing penalty, so you should answer every question—but guess only after you're able to eliminate any answer you know is wrong to up your chances of choosing the right one.
Scoring for multiple choice is pretty straightforward; however, essay scoring is a little more complicated.
Each of your essays will receive a score from 0 to 6 based on the College Board rubric , which also includes question-specific rubrics. All the rubrics are very similar, with only minor differences between them.
Each essay rubric has three elements you'll be graded on:
- Thesis (0-1 points)
- Evidence and Commentary (0-4 points)
- Sophistication (0-1 points)
We'll be looking at the current rubric for the AP Lit exam , which was released in September 2019, and what every score means for each of the three elements above:
To get a high-scoring essay in the 5-6 point range, you'll need to not only come up with an original and intriguing argument that you thoroughly support with textual evidence, but you’ll also need to stay focused, organized, and clear. And all in just 40 minutes per essay!
If getting a high score on this section sounds like a tall order, that's because it is.
Practice makes perfect!
Skill-Building for Success on the AP Literature Exam
There are several things you can do to hone your skills and best prepare for the AP Lit exam.
Read Some Books, Maybe More Than Once
One of the most important steps you can take to prepare for the AP Literature and Composition exam is to read a lot and read well . You'll be reading a wide variety of notable literary works in your AP English Literature course, but additional reading will help you further develop your analytical reading skills .
I suggest checking out this list of notable authors in the 2014 AP Lit Course Description (pages 10-11).
In addition to reading broadly, you'll want to become especially familiar with the details of four to five books with different themes so you'll be prepared to write a strong student-choice essay. You should know the plot, themes, characters, and structural details of these books inside and out.
See my AP English Literature Reading List for more guidance.
Read (and Interpret) Poetry
One thing students might not do very much on their own time but that will help a lot with AP Lit exam prep is to read poetry. Try to read poems from a lot of eras and authors to get familiar with the language.
We know that poetry can be intimidating. That's why we've put together a bunch of guides to help you crack the poetry code (so to speak). You can learn more about poetic devices —like imagery and i ambic pentameter —in our comprehensive guide. Then you can see those analytical skills in action in our expert analysis of " Do not go gentle into that good night " by Dylan Thomas.
When you think you have a grip on basic comprehension, you can then move on to close reading (see below).
Hone Your Close Reading and Analysis Skills
Your AP class will likely focus heavily on close reading and analysis of prose and poetry, but extra practice won't hurt you. Close reading is the ability to identify which techniques the author is using and why. You'll need to be able to do this both to gather evidence for original arguments on the free-response questions and to answer analytical multiple-choice questions.
Here are some helpful close reading resources for prose :
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center's guide to close reading
- Harvard College Writing Center's close reading guide
- Purdue OWL's article on steering clear of close reading "pitfalls"
And here are some for poetry :
- University of Wisconsin-Madison's poetry-reading guide
- This guide to reading poetry at Poets.org (complete with two poetry close readings)
- Our own expert analyses of famous poems, such as " Ozymandias ", and the 10 famous sonnets you should know
Learn Literary and Poetic Devices
You'll want to be familiar with literary terms so that any test questions that ask about them will make sense to you. Again, you'll probably learn most of these in class, but it doesn't hurt to brush up on them.
Here are some comprehensive lists of literary terms with definitions :
- The 31 Literary Devices You Must Know
- The 20 Poetic Devices You Must Know
- The 9 Literary Elements You'll Find In Every Story
- What Is Imagery?
- Understanding Assonance
- What Is Iambic Pentameter in Poetry?
- Simile vs Metaphor: The 1 Big Difference
- 10 Personification Examples in Poetry, Literature, and More
Practice Writing Essays
The majority of your grade on the AP English Lit exam comes from essays, so it's critical that you practice your timed essay-writing skills . You of course should use the College Board's released free-response questions to practice writing complete timed essays of each type, but you can also practice quickly outlining thorough essays that are well supported with textual evidence.
Take Practice Tests
Taking practice tests is a great way to prepare for the exam. It will help you get familiar with the exam format and overall experience . You can get sample questions from the Course and Exam Description , the College Board website , and our guide to AP English Lit practice test resources .
Be aware that the released exams don't have complete slates of free-response questions, so you might need to supplement these with released free-response questions .
Since there are three complete released exams, you can take one toward the beginning of your prep time to get familiar with the exam and set a benchmark, and one toward the end to make sure the experience is fresh in your mind and to check your progress.
Don't wander like a lonely cloud through your AP Lit prep.
AP Literature: 6 Critical Test-Day Tips
Before we wrap up, here are my six top tips for AP Lit test day:
- #1: On the multiple-choice section, it's to your advantage to answer every question. If you eliminate all the answers you know are wrong before guessing, you'll raise your chances of guessing the correct one.
- #2: Don't rely on your memory of the passage when answering multiple-choice questions (or when writing essays, for that matter). Look back at the passage!
- #3: Interact with the text : circle, mark, underline, make notes—whatever floats your boat. This will help you retain information and actively engage with the passage.
- #4: This was mentioned above, but it's critical that you know four to five books well for the student-choice essay . You'll want to know all the characters, the plot, the themes, and any major devices or motifs the author uses throughout.
- #5: Be sure to plan out your essays! Organization and focus are critical for high-scoring AP Literature essays. An outline will take you a few minutes, but it will help your writing process go much faster.
- #6: Manage your time on essays closely. One strategy is to start with the essay you think will be the easiest to write. This way you'll be able to get through it while thinking about the other two essays.
And don't forget to eat breakfast! Apron optional.
AP Literature Exam: Key Takeaways
The AP Literature exam is a three-hour test that includes an hour-long multiple-choice section based on five prose and poetry passages and with 55 questions, and a two-hour free-response section with three essays : one analyzing a poetry passage, one analyzing a prose passage, and one analyzing a work chosen by you, the student.
The multiple-choice section is worth 45% of your total score , and the free-response section is worth 55% . The three essays are each scored on a rubric of 0-6, and raw scores are converted to a final scaled score from 1 to 5.
Here are some things you can do to prepare for the exam:
- Read books and be particularly familiar with four to five works for the student-choice essays
- Read poetry
- Work on your close reading and analysis skills
- Learn common literary devices
- Practice writing essays
- Take practice tests!
On test day, be sure to really look closely at all the passages and really interact with them by marking the text in a way that makes sense to you. This will help on both multiple-choice questions and the free-response essays. You should also outline your essays before you write them.
With all this in mind, you're well on your way to AP Lit success!
If you're taking other AP exams this year, you might be interested in our other AP resources: from the Ultimate Guide to the US History Exam , to the Ultimate AP Chemistry Study Guide , to the Best AP Psychology Study Guide , we have tons of articles on AP courses and exams for you !
Looking for practice exams? Here are some tips on how to find the best AP practice tests . We've also got comprehensive lists of practice tests for AP Psychology , AP Biology , AP Chemistry , and AP US History .
Deciding which APs to take? Take a look through the complete list of AP courses and tests , read our analysis of which AP classes are the hardest and easiest , and learn how many AP classes you should take .
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AP® English Literature
How to get a 9 on prose analysis frq in ap® english literature.
- The Albert Team
- Last Updated On: March 1, 2022
When it’s time to take the AP® English Literature and Composition exam, will you be ready? If you’re aiming high, you’ll want to know the best route to a five on the AP® exam. You know the exam is going to be tough, so how do prepare for success? To do well on the AP® English Literature and Composition exam, you’ll need to score high on the essays. For that, you’ll need to write a competent, efficient essay that argues an accurate interpretation of the work under examination in the Free Response Question section.
The AP® English Literature and Composition exam consists of two sections, the first being a 55-question multiple choice portion worth 45% of the total test grade. This section tests your ability to read drama, verse, or prose fiction excerpts and answer questions about them. The second section, worth 55% of the total score, requires essay responses to three questions demonstrating your ability to analyze literary works. You’ll have to discuss a poem analysis, a prose fiction passage analysis, and a concept, issue, or element analysis of a literary work–in two hours.
Before the exam, you should know how to construct a clear, organized essay that defends a focused claim about the work under analysis. You must write a brief introduction that includes the thesis statement, followed by body paragraphs that further the thesis statement with detailed, thorough support, and a short concluding paragraph that reiterates and reinforces the thesis statement without repeating it. Clear organization, specific support, and full explanations or discussions are three critical components of high-scoring essays.
General Tips to Bettering Your Odds at a Nine on the AP® English Literature Prose FRQ
You may know already how to approach the prose analysis, but don’t forget to keep the following in mind coming into the exam:
- Carefully read, review, and underline key to-do’s in the prompt.
- Briefly outline where you’re going to hit each prompt item — in other words, pencil out a specific order.
- Be sure you have a clear thesis that includes the terms mentioned in the instructions, literary devices, tone, and meaning.
- Include the author’s name and title of the prose selection in your thesis statement. Refer to characters by name.
- Use quotes — lots of them — to exemplify the elements and your argument points throughout the essay.
- Fully explain or discuss how your examples support your thesis. A deeper, fuller, and more focused explanation of fewer elements is better than a shallow discussion of more elements (shotgun approach).
- Avoid vague, general statements or merely summarizing the plot instead of clearly focusing on the prose passage itself.
- Use transitions to connect sentences and paragraphs.
- Write in the present tense with generally good grammar.
- Keep your introduction and conclusion short, and don’t repeat your thesis verbatim in your conclusion.
The newly-released 2016 sample AP® English Literature and Composition exam questions, sample responses, and grading rubrics provide a valuable opportunity to analyze how to achieve high scores on each of the three Section II FRQ responses. However, for purposes of this examination, the Prose Analysis FRQ strategies will be the focus. The prose selection for analysis in last year’s exam was Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge , a 19th-century novel. Exam takers had to respond to the following instructions:
- Analyze the complex relationship between the two characters Hardy portrays in the passage.
- Pay attention to tone, word choice, and detail selection.
- Write a well-written essay.
For a clear understanding of the components of a model essay, you’ll find it helpful to analyze and compare all three sample answers provided by the CollegeBoard: the high scoring (A) essay, the mid-range scoring (B) essay, and the low scoring (C) essay. All three provide a lesson for you: to achieve a nine on the prose analysis essay, model the ‘A’ essay’s strengths and avoid the weaknesses of the other two.
Start with a Succinct Introduction that Includes Your Thesis Statement
The first sample essay (A) begins with a packed first sentence: the title of the work, author, named characters, and the subject alluded to in the prompt that will form the foundation of the upcoming argument — the strained relationship between father and daughter. Then, after summarizing the context of the passage — that tense relationship — the student quotes relevant phrases (“lower-class”, “verbal aggressions”) that depict the behavior and character of each.
By packing each sentence efficiently with details (“uncultivated”, “hypocritical”) on the way to the thesis statement, the writer controls the argument by folding in only the relevant details that support the claim at the end of the introduction: though reunited physically, father and daughter remain separated emotionally. The writer wastes no words and quickly directs the reader’s focus to the characters’ words and actions that define their estranged relationship. From the facts cited, the writer’s claim or thesis is logical.
The mid-range B essay introduction also mentions the title, author, and relationship (“strange relationship”) that the instructions direct the writer to examine. However, the student neither names the characters nor identifies what’s “strange” about the relationship. The essay needs more specific details to clarify the complexity in the relationship. Instead, the writer merely hints at that complexity by stating father and daughter “try to become closer to each other’s expectations”. There’s no immediately clear correlation between the “reunification” and the expectations. Finally, the student wastes time and space in the first two sentences with a vague platitude for an “ice breaker” to start the essay. It serves no other function.
The third sample lacks cohesiveness, focus, and a clear thesis statement. The first paragraph introduces the writer’s feelings about the characters and how the elements in the story helped the student analyze, both irrelevant to the call of the instructions. The introduction gives no details of the passage: no name, title, characters, or relationship. The thesis statement is shallow–the daughter was better off before she reunited with her father–as it doesn’t even hint at the complexity of the relationship. The writer merely parrots the prompt instructions about “complex relationship” and “speaker’s tone, word choice, and selection of detail”.
In sum, make introductions brief and compact. Use specific details from the passage that support a logical thesis statement which clearly directs the argument and addresses the instructions’ requirements. Succinct writing helps. Pack your introduction with specific excerpt details, and don’t waste time on sentences that don’t do the work ahead for you. Be sure the thesis statement covers all of the relevant facts of the passage for a cohesive argument.
Use Clear Examples to Support Your Argument Points
The A answer supports the thesis by qualifying the relationship as unhealthy in the first sentence. Then the writer includes the quoted examples that contrast what one would expect characterizes a father-daughter relationship — joyous, blessing, support, praise — against the reality of Henchard and Elizabeth’s relationship: “enigma”, “coldness”, and “open chiding”.
These and other details in the thorough first body paragraph leave nothing for the reader to misunderstand. The essayist proves the paragraph’s main idea with numerous examples. The author controls the first argument point that the relationship is unhealthy by citing excerpted words and actions of the two characters demonstrating the father’s aggressive disapproval and the daughter’s earnestness and shame.
The second and third body paragraphs not only add more proof of the strained relationship in the well-chosen example of the handwriting incident but also explore the underlying motives of the father. In suggesting the father has good intentions despite his outward hostility, the writer proposes that Henchard wants to elevate his long-lost daughter. Henchard’s declaration that handwriting “with bristling characters” defines refinement in a woman both diminishes Elizabeth and reveals his silent hope for her, according to the essayist. This contradiction clearly proves the relationship is “complex”.
The mid-range sample also cites specific details: the words Elizabeth changes (“fay” for “succeed”) for her father. These details are supposed to support the point that class difference causes conflict between the two. However, the writer leaves it to the reader to make the connection between class, expectations, and word choices. The example of the words Elizabeth eliminates from her vocabulary does not illustrate the writer’s point of class conflict. In fact, the class difference as the cause of their difficulties is never explicitly stated. Instead, the writer makes general, unsupported statements about Hardy’s focus on the language difference without saying why Hardy does that.
Like the A essay, sample C also alludes to the handwriting incident but only to note that the description of Henchard turning red is something the reader can imagine. In fact, the writer gives other examples of sensitive and serious tones in the passage but then doesn’t completely explain them. None of the details noted refer to a particular point that supports a focused paragraph. The details don’t connect. They’re merely a string of details.
Discussion is Crucial to Connect Your Quotes and Examples to Your Argument Points
Rather than merely citing phrases and lines without explanation, as the C sample does, the A response spends time thoroughly discussing the meaning of the quoted words, phrases, and sentences used to exemplify their assertions. For example, the third paragraph begins with the point that Henchard’s attempts to elevate Elizabeth in order to better integrate her into the mayor’s “lifestyle” actually do her a disservice. The student then quotes descriptive phrases that characterize Elizabeth as “considerate”, notes her successfully fulfilling her father’s expectations of her as a woman, and concludes that success leads to her failure to get them closer — to un-estrange him.
The A sample writer follows the same pattern throughout the essay: assertion, example, explanation of how the example and assertion cohere, tying both into the thesis statement. Weaving the well-chosen details into the discussion to make reasonable conclusions about what they prove is the formula for an orderly, coherent argument. The writer starts each paragraph with a topic sentence that supports the thesis statement, followed by a sentence that explains and supports the topic sentence in furtherance of the argument.
On the other hand, the B response begins the second paragraph with a general topic sentence: Hardy focuses on the differences between the daughter’s behavior and the father’s expectations. The next sentence follows up with examples of the words Elizabeth changes, leading to the broad conclusion that class difference causes clashes. They give no explanation to connect the behavior — changing her words — with how the diction reveals class differences exists. Nor does the writer explain the motivations of the characters to demonstrate the role of class distinction and expectations. The student forces the reader to make the connections.
Similarly, in the second example of the handwriting incident, the student sets out to prove Elizabeth’s independence and conformity conflict. However, the writer spends too much time re-telling the writing episode — who said what — only to vaguely conclude that 19th-century gender roles dictated the dominant and submissive roles of father and daughter, resulting in the loss of Elizabeth’s independence. The writer doesn’t make those connections between gender roles, dominance, handwriting, and lost freedom. The cause and effect of the handwriting humiliation to the loss of independence are never made.
Write a Brief Conclusion
While it’s more important to provide a substantive, organized, and clear argument throughout the body paragraphs than it is to conclude, a conclusion provides a satisfying rounding out of the essay and last opportunity to hammer home the content of the preceding paragraphs. If you run out of time for a conclusion because of the thorough preceding paragraphs, that is not as fatal to your score as not concluding or not concluding as robustly as the A essay sample.
The A response not only provides another example of the father-daughter inverse relationship — the more he helps her fit in, the more estranged they become — but also ends where the writer began: though they’re physically reunited, they’re still emotionally separated. Without repeating it verbatim, the student returns to the thesis statement at the end. This return and recap reinforce the focus and control of the argument when all of the preceding paragraphs successfully proved the thesis statement.
The B response nicely ties up the points necessary to satisfy the prompt had the writer made them clearly. The parting remarks about the inverse relationship building up and breaking down to characterize the complex relationship between father and daughter are intriguing but not well-supported by all that came before them.
Write in Complete Sentences with Proper Punctuation and Compositional Skills
Though pressed for time, it’s important to write an essay with crisp, correctly punctuated sentences and properly spelled words. Strong compositional skills create a favorable impression to the reader, like using appropriate transitions or signals (however, therefore) to tie sentences and paragraphs together, and making the relationships between sentences clear (“also” — adding information, “however” — contrasting an idea in the preceding sentence).
Starting each paragraph with a clear, focused topic sentence that previews the main idea or focus of the paragraph helps you the writer and the reader keep track of each part of your argument. Each section furthers your points on the way to convincing your reader of your argument. If one point is unclear, unfocused, or grammatically unintelligible, like a house of cards, the entire argument crumbles. Excellent compositional skills help you lay it all out neatly, clearly, and fully.
For example, the A response begins the essay with “In this passage from Thomas Hardy”. The second sentence follows with “Throughout the passage” to tie the two sentences together. There’s no question that the two thoughts link by the transitional phrases that repeat and reinforce one another as well as direct the reader’s attention. The B response, however, uses transitions less frequently, confuses the names of the characters, and switches verb tenses in the essay. It’s harder to follow.
So by the time the conclusion takes the reader home, the high-scoring writer has done all of the following:
- followed the prompt
- followed the propounded thesis statement and returned to it in the end
- provided a full discussion with examples
- included quotes proving each assertion
- used clear, grammatically correct sentences
- wrote paragraphs ordered by a thesis statement
- created topic sentences for each paragraph
- ensured each topic sentence furthered the ideas presented in the thesis statement
Have a Plan and Follow it
To get a nine on the prose analysis FRQ essay in the AP® Literature and Composition exam, you should practice timed essays. Write as many practice essays as you can. Follow the same procedure each time. After reading the prompt, map out your thesis statement, paragraph topic sentences, and supporting details and quotes in the order of their presentation. Then follow your plan faithfully.
Be sure to leave time for a brief review to catch mechanical errors, missing words, or clarifications of an unclear thought. With time, an organized approach, and plenty of practice, earning a nine on the poetry analysis is manageable. Be sure to ask your teacher or consult other resources, like albert.io’s Prose Analysis practice essays, for questions and more practice opportunities.
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AP Lit Essay Examples 2021 With Test Format and Writing Guide
If you are about to write your AP world history essay, then this article is what you will need. This article gives you a complete guide to writing your essay as well as providing you with an AP lit essay example.
AP Litterature Essay
Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition (or AP English Literature and Composition, AP Lit and Comp, Senior AP English, AP Lit, or AP English IV) is a course and examination offered by the College Board as part of the Advanced Placement Program .
When AP exams were first implemented, English Language and English Literature were initially combined. The course advances this understanding through a combination of selective factual knowledge and appropriate analytical skills. Students used to study all prehistory and history, especially from 8000 BC to the present day.
However, it was announced in July 2018 that the test would be changed to an AP World History: Modern exam that only contains content since 1200 AD, starting in the 2019-2020 school year, with plans for a new course with the time before that called AP World History: Ancient.
The AP World History exam was first administered in 2002. Students in the United States usually take the course in their second year of high school, although they are not generally required to do so.
The first section of the AP World History exam consists of 55 multiple choice questions with a 55-minute time limit. The questions are not divided up evenly between the 9 units.
Guide to Writing Ap World Essay
below are some necessary steps you need to follow if you are to complete the AP world essay .
Step 1: Analyze the Prompt
First, read the prompt itself. You’ll need to develop an argument using the skill of causation: how did empire-building processes affect political structures in the years from 1500 to 1900? The prompt uses the verb to evaluate, so you will need to make a claim about the effects on political structures.
Spend the 15-minute reading period analyzing the documents themselves, thinking for each document about its authorship/historical situation, the main idea, and why it was written.
Begin grouping the documents into categories that you can use to help organize your essay . A sample high-scoring writer’s notes on the documents appear below:
- King of Kongo asks the king of Portugal for help because Portuguese trade is upsetting the vassal system
- Cortes uses weapons and allies to kill Mexican
- Puerto Rico population trends: native population ↓, European ↑, mixed ↑
- French letter describes Mughal use of rajah system in India
- British governor in India’s letter to East India Company says British policies better for economy
- Churchill describes the effectiveness of guns in Sudan
- Japanese cartoon describes Russian expansion as “black octopus” during the time of Russo-Japanese War over territory
Groups of empire-building processes:
- Military: 2, 6, 7
- Colonization: 3
- Economic: 1, 4, 5
Step 2: Plan Your Response
Next, take time to plan your response. Focus on formulating a strong thesis, and check your plan against the six DBQ requirements. See the sample plan that a high-scoring writer might make.
Scoring requirements are written in bold for reference; note that the writer includes six of the seven documents and plans to meet the requirement for describing at least three documents’ sourcing by noting the viewpoints of two documents and the purpose of one document.
Since the prompt asks for how empire-building affected political structures, the writer will organize the essay by explaining multiple causes (processes) that impacted political structures.
- Context: Native American governments (villages and empires)
- military and colonization destroyed political structures in the Americas where disease played a role
- combination of processes allowed infiltration of political structures in Asia and Africa
- ( complex understanding: multiple causes)
Cause 1: military conquest → destruction
- Spanish advantages: horses, guns, local support
- Sourcing 1: viewpoint: Cortes justifies actions by attributing the victory to God
- Additional evidence: Pizarro defeat of Inca; Spanish set up viceroys and social hierarchy
- Sourcing 2: viewpoint: perhaps exaggerated, but shows British expect weapons will win
Cause 2: colonization → replace native populations’ governments
- Stats of native peoples, Europeans
- An additional factor of disease
Cause 3: military + colonization + economic influence → gradual political power
- Describes political system of rajahs, hints at instability
- British merchants would gain power
- Br. didn’t have “fixed plan,” but “destroyed” native populations’ economic policies
- Br. Gov. made India a colony
- Port. merchants undermining the king’s power
- Sourcing 3: purpose: submission may not be genuine
Step 3: Plan Your Response
Use your plan to write out your response—if you’ve taken the time to plan effectively, everything you write should support your thesis.
Step 4: Proofread
Leave a minute in the end to complete a brisk proofread and double-check that you met each of the DBQ requirements.
AP Lit Essay Examples
Before the arrival of Europeans, Native American societies had established diverse political structures. The villages in the northeast of North America practiced a mixture of agriculture and hunter-gathering and sometimes formed alliances among tribes. The large-scale empires of the Mexica and Inca in Central and South America had centralized power in city-states and exacted tribute or labor from subjugated tribes. However, these societies would experience political upheavals when Europeans began their quest for territory in the 1500s. Empire- building typically involved a combination of the processes of military conquest, colonization, and economic influence. Where epidemic disease was also a factor, military and colonization strategies sometimes resulted in the total destruction of previous political structures in the Americas; a combination of the three processes permitted empire-builders to gradually infiltrate, then supersede, the political structures in Asia and Africa. continue reading… The extremes of military conquest sometimes resulted in the destruction of the native populations’ political structures. Document 2 references the Mexica people’s violent devastation at the hands of the Spanish, with a hundred falling “at each discharge of guns.” While Cortes attributes his victory to God’s favor due to fighting for his faith and king, tangible factors gave him the practical advantage: horses (which were not native to the Americas), guns, the Mexica’s unfamiliarity with such weapons, and the support of local allies. Cortes, perhaps seeking to impress the king, likely exaggerates in the claim that the victory was “without ourselves sustaining any injury”; still, the claim indicates both the strength of the Spanish military technology and their attitude of superiority that they used to justify their takeover of the existing Mexica government. Also using military technology and the support of other tribes, the Spanish under Pizarro took control of the Inca empire in the Andes. In both locations, the Spanish essentially destroyed the empires and installed their own political systems, with viceroys who served under the Spanish crown and a hierarchical class system that gave preference to those of European ancestry. continue reading… The effectiveness of military conquest for destroying political structures is also demonstrated in Document 6, an account of a battle in Sudan that demonstrates the awesome firepower of machine guns to leave the Sudanese fighters in “tangled heaps.” Although the document, written by the British Churchill, might provide a glorified account of the battle that exaggerates the British advantage, the fact that Churchill expected their weapon technology would automatically give victory is indicated in the disbelieving sentence: “ It appeared to our cavalry commander that the [Sudanese fighters] would actually succeed.” Countries sending large numbers of settlers was another effective method of empire-building. This process enabled European nations to replace native governments in the Americas. For instance, Document 3 indicates that from 1530 to 1795, the proportion of Native Americans in the population of the colony of Puerto Rico dropped dramatically from 36.4 percent of the population to just 2.5 percent. At the same time, Europeans as a share of the population rose from 10 percent to 51.5 percent by 1860. The increase in the proportion of Europeans and blacks corresponds with the Spanish overrunning the native populations and instituting plantations. The spread of diseases among the native populations made it easier for the Spanish to do away with long-standing native governments and establish their own political structures in the Americas. In India and Africa, Europeans utilized the old strategies of military force and colonization, but unlike in the Americas, newly introduced diseases did not have such a devastating effect on native populations. Thus, the process of empire-building also involved longer-term economic policies that caused a more gradual build-up of political power. continue reading…
European merchants gradually expanded their power in India, aided by the decline of the Mughal empire, as explained in Document 4. A French physician describes the emperor’s practice of “nourish[ing] jealousies” among the local rajahs, many of whom commanded armies larger than those of the emperor, to distract the rajahs from ever threatening his power. By describing this potential threat to the emperor, the document hints at the potential for outsiders to take advantage of the political instability, as indeed the British merchants extended their economic influence into political control. Indeed, in Document 5 a governor of the East India Company affirms that British control happened through “fortunate and unforeseen occurrences” rather than a “fixed plan.” He also confirms the power of economics in gaining political control, praising the economic policies of the British and celebrating the “destroyed” economic policies of the “natives.” Eventually, the British government would take over the East India Company’s holdings and rule India as a colony. Document 1 also affirms the potential of economics to provide inroads to political power: King Afonso I of Kongo in Africa appeals to the King of Portugal about the behavior of Portuguese merchants, who are undermining King Afonso’s power by enrich- ing his vassals, making them no longer “content and subjected under our control.” continue reading… King Afonso’s highly submissive tone (“I kiss your hand many times”) may indicate not genuine submission to the King of Portugal, but rather an understanding of the threat that economic power has on his political power. His letter could be part of a calculated approach to get help restoring his political power by appealing to the Europeans’ attitude of superiority. Overall, the empire-building processes of conquest, colonization, and economic influence allowed empire-builders to exert power over territories. When additional factors, such as epidemic disease, also played a role, as they did in the Americas, the empire-builders could sometimes briskly overthrow and replace the original political structures. In locations such as India, empire-building involved a more complex interplay of economics with the pre-existing political structures, though the Europeans were still able to eventually gain control.
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