For general AP English scoring and feedback recommendations, see Grading AP English assignments
How to Decide Between Point Levels
Let's dissect the detailed scoring guidelines from the College Board.
Note: The original rubric linked in your assignment documents section is a helpful resource to more easily view the "decision rules" and "scoring notes" provided by the College Board.
- Score of 0: Often only tangentially relevant to the prompt. Might restate the prompt instead of making a claim. Might address the topic of the prompt, but again fail to take a position on it. If they do take a position, it is indefensible in that it is a fact that is stated as a claim.
- Score of 1: Responds to the prompt and takes a clear position, rather than simply restating or rephrasing the prompt. Might or might not establish a line of reasoning that extends their claim. Thesis might be found anywhere throughout the essay, but is most frequently at the end of the introductory paragraph.
Evidence and Commentary (0-4):
Essays use evidence and commentary to support a claim:
- Evidence: Must use at least three cited sources to support the claim
- Commentary:: Must explain HOW evidence supports the claim
- Score of 0: Often does not address the prompt, or might simply restate their opinion or thesis, if present. Might not use information from any of the provided sources, or might reference only one source.
- Score of 1: Provides evidence that is relevant to the subject of the prompt, but doesn’t really explain this evidence. Most frequently, synthesis essays scoring a 1 in this category use only two of the provided sources, rather than the required three.
- Score of 2: Provides evidence (from at least three sources!) that is relevant to the subject of the prompt, and attempts to explain this evidence. However, this commentary often indicates a misunderstanding of some sources, or might oversimplify them. The response might summarize conflicting positions from the sources, but does not compare/contrast or reach a conclusion about them. May paraphrase content instead of explaining how evidence contributes to argument. Essay often organized by source.
- Score of 3: Provides evidence from at least three sources that is relevant to the thesis, and mostly explains the relationship between evidence and thesis. However, the student occasionally slips into paraphrase or description of sources rather than analysis. Link between some evidence and the thesis might be overstated or a bit of a stretch in places. Essay often organized by content/sub-point rather than by source.
- Score of 4: Provides evidence from at least three sources that is relevant to the thesis, and consistently and explicitly explains why their evidence supports their thesis. Uses specific details from the sources (does not generalize them), and incorporates these details throughout the entire essay (never organized by source). Explanations consider not only the content of each source, but advanced elements like author or audience’s identity, purpose of source, etc and explain how source contributes to claim.
- Score of 0: Starts to contextualize their argument, but make sweeping generalizations rather than discussing broader implications of the argument. Might suggest the existence of other arguments, but never addresses or explains these other arguments. Language might be complicated or complex, but actually obfuscates/doesn’t contribute to the argument.
- Score of 1: Shows a more thoughtful/complex understanding of the argument, often by discussing specific implications of their argument, or by engaging with a counter-argument. Thesis might be particularly nuanced and supported by insightful commentary, or the prose style might be especially vivid and persuasive.
If you’re on the fence about a specific point, consider:
- Does the student make their argument in their own words?
- Does the student misinterpret or misrepresent any of the sources?
- Is the explanation weak in certain places? Could it be advanced by including background elements?
- Does each paragraph establish a claim before including evidence? Is the evidence connected back to the overall claim?
AP English Grading Best Practices
For more grading and feedback tips (plus common mistakes to avoid), see Grading AP English assignments
Focus on the core questions. When you grade any essay type, you should focus on the following core questions about the student’s work:
AP English Grading Checklist
Thesis (0-1 points)
- Does the student attempt to establish a claim in response to the prompt?
- If so, does the intended thesis merely restate the prompt and summarize background information/sources?
- Is the intended thesis vague, or does it clearly state a position in response to the prompt?
Evidence and Commentary (0-4 points)
- Does the student’s response merely restate the thesis and/or background information, or does it include textual support?
- Are examples and references relevant to the thesis?
- Does the student’s commentary show a misunderstanding of the text or make assumptions that aren’t supported by the text?
- Does the student’s commentary consistently and clearly explain the relationship between chosen evidence and the thesis?
Sophistication (0-1 points)
- Does the student demonstrate a higher-level understanding of the rhetorical situation in ways such as:
- Proving an especially nuanced thesis;
- Recognizing the context and broader implications of the argument;
- Engaging with counter-arguments;
- Making effective rhetorical choices or using an especially vivid or persuasive prose style?
- Is this sophistication a part of the argument, or is it merely a phrase or reference?