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 poem, but again fail to make a claim on it. If they do comment on the poem, it is in a generalized way that doesn’t respond to the prompt, such as by simply describing features of the poem.
- Score of 1: Responds to the prompt and provides a specific interpretation, rather than simply restating or rephrasing the prompt. 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: Often does not address the prompt, or might simply restate their opinion or thesis, if present. If there are examples from the poem given, they are irrelevant to the purpose of the essay.
- Score of 1: Might summarize or restate ideas from the poem, but does not connect these ideas to a thesis. References to the text are present, but they are highly non-specific and often not fully relevant to the thesis. Predominantly restatements of ideas from the text, rather than analysis. Lots of summary.
- Score of 2: Textual references are specific (quotes or paraphrases) and relevant to the thesis; commentary is present. However, this commentary might show a misunderstanding of the passage or the poetic elements discussed, or it might be unconvincing -- the student makes assumptions that aren’t actually supported by the poem.
- Score of 3: Textual references are specific and relevant to the thesis; commentary links and explains the relationship between each piece of evidence and the thesis. However, there might be minor inaccuracies, or some evidence will be more fully explained while discussion of other evidence lapses into description rather than analysis. The reader might be expected to just assume the importance of some examples, in the absence of explanation.
- Score of 4: Textual references specific and relevant to the thesis; commentary consistently and explicitly explains the relationship between evidence and the thesis. Textual evidence is smoothly integrated throughout the essay, and always clearly supports the thesis. Engages easily with poetic elements to support their interpretation of the prompt/poem.
- 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 provide a clear interpretation of the poem?
- Are they missing any aspect of analysis: poetic elements, textual evidence, how these contribute to the interpretation they described?
- Does the student’s commentary make assumptions, or expect you to accept the significance of an example without actually explaining that example?
- Does the student explicitly explain how each of their examples supports their thesis and contributes to their interpretation of the poem?
- Do they oversimplify examples, or dismiss contradictions?
- Sometimes students try to substitute their own reaction to the poem as part of an explanation instead of discussing how the parts of the poem themselves contribute to the idea queried in the prompt. This is not an effective substitute for poetic 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?
- Does the intended thesis provide more than just summary of the prompt/background information?
- 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 include textual support?
- 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?