For general AP English scoring and feedback recommendations, see Grading AP English assignments
The essay discusses how rhetorical choices and background elements interact to create purpose:
- Rhetorical Choices: devices/specific choice such as appeals (logical, emotional, ethical), word choice, repetition, the use of juxtaposition or description of hypotheticals
- Background Elements: the relationship between audience and speaker, the audience’s identity, the occasion of the speech or publication
- Connection: How do the author’s rhetorical choices, in light of the specific background elements, further the author’s message/purpose?
It is important to note that, while the Rhetorical Analysis prompt used to focus on rhetorical devices, the prompt now asks students to discuss rhetorical choices. This allows students to be more creative in their identification and analysis of the ways in which the author chooses to convey their message! The student is not required to explicitly name the rhetorical choice that they are discussing, and they are not required to discuss only traditional rhetorical devices -- rather than discussing an appeal to logos, for example, they could discuss how the author consistently uses hypothetical scenarios to illustrate why his approach to a problem is the optimal one.
Additionally, be on the lookout for students who misinterpret the text that they read! An accurate understanding of the setting, audience, and purpose of the text is crucial for writing a successful rhetorical analysis essay. If a student states an incorrect purpose and audience for the text, for example, their argument and evidence will likely not address the prompt. Both superficial sophistication and textual misinterpretation should result in lower-range scores, particularly within the Evidence and Commentary scoring category.
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):
- 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. 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 misinterpret any of the background elements or the purpose of the text?
- Are they missing any aspect of analysis: rhetorical devices, advanced elements, or connection?
- Is the student’s commentary generalized/assumptions-based, or does it engage with specific details of the text and explain how they support the thesis?
- Sometimes students try to predict audience responses as part of an explanation instead of framing it in terms of author’s purpose. When this discussion of audience response is an extension of solid analysis of a specific rhetorical choice, this is effective. However, watch out for essays that attempt to use prediction of audience response in place of evidence/analysis!
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?