This summer, I had the privilege of scoring Question 2 at the AP Literature Reading. I had not been to the reading in a few years, taking off the summer of 2021 and serving on the standard setting panel in 2022. I was reenergized by seeing all of our collective efforts in motion. After my hiatus, the noticeable improvement in essay organization was a welcome surprise. Our table got to score two non-operational forms, as well as the operational form, Brenda Peynado’s short story “The Rock Eaters.” While I cannot comment too much on the non-operational forms, each passage was a fair opportunity for students to show what they knew about prose analysis. Kudos to the test development committee for selecting passages with multiple access points and rich opportunities for discussion. 


We pivoted between the different prompts five times, and this experience provided me with the opportunity to see patterns across the passages I would love to share with you. For my own practice, I will be taking the following tips and strategies back to my students:


  • The most successful essays crafted a thesis with two defensible insights, and then organized their argument around those supporting claims.
  • Students need to be encouraged to work within the passage. Unrelated allusions were largely unsuccessful and distracting. (I think these students were trying to earn the sophistication point, but this approach often upended their line of reasoning.)
  • Essays that worked the passage by shift were often easier to track the student’s line of reasoning.
  • Shorter quotations, or “snatch quotes,”  helped maintain a paper’s rhythm.
  • While “complex” does not inherently mean “opposite,” students should consider the tensions within a character, between characters, or between the character and societal expectation.
  • Students need to consider the WHYS behind observable behavior and speech- What do the characters value? What motivates these actions? What personality traits are suggested by these choices? 
  • For the love of all things good and green, have your students clearly indent or at least indicate where they would indent. (While students can still score well without clear paragraphing, the papers with easily identifiable paragraphing made it easier to follow their line of reasoning.)


Our students have some impressive insights and continue to amaze me with their wisdom. With a few adjustments, many of the papers I read could have been even more successful. I personally love teaching Q2 as it is an opportunity to explore a facet of what it means to be human, to tap into another’s experience that may be like or unlike our own. I hope that these tips are helpful to you and your students as we return to the starting line, ready to equip our students to share their ideas. If you have your own reflections on prose analysis writing, please share them below!


For more about how to help students analyze the whys behind observable behavior check out my last post on Character Layers Analysis.