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 must use evidence and commentary to support a claim:
- Evidence: May come from personal anecdotes, historical events, or literature, and should support the claim
- Commentary: Should 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. If there are examples given, they are irrelevant to the purpose of the essay.
- Score of 1: Provides evidence/examples that are relevant to the subject of the prompt, but provides little or no explanation of this evidence.
- Score of 2: Provides evidence/examples relevant to the subject of the prompt, and begins to explain this evidence. However, this commentary is repetitive and often misinterprets or oversimplifies the evidence. Evidence is not used in support of the thesis.
- Score of 3: Provides evidence relevant to the thesis, and begins to explain how this evidence supports the thesis. However, the commentary might be less well-developed in some areas, or the link between evidence and the thesis might be strained at times.
- Score of 4: Provides evidence relevant to the thesis, and consistently and explicitly explains how this evidence supports the thesis. Evidence is specific and purposeful, and is smoothly integrated throughout the response.
- 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:
- Are there any lapses in position or fence-riding (not committing to one side of the argument)?
- Could the student’s evidence be stronger or more specific?
- Does the student consistently explain their evidence, or do they sometimes expect the reader to automatically agree with them?
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 counterarguments;
- 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?