Agonizing Essays

Essay by gboboUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2014

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AP students agonize over essay writing, knowing that their essays account for a major portion of their score on the exam. Understandably, there is concern. They want to do well. I wish there were a magic formula to essay success, but there isn't. I have tried to come up with a essay planner that works, but the trouble with something like that is that it cannot possibly account for all the variables that exist when a particular student reads and responds to a passage. Therefore, this little essay is an attempt to steer my AP students towards a philosophy of essay writing instead of trying to have an approach or a system.

Where to begin? A few thoughts on beginning any essay


Before all else, as writers we must have something to say. And if it's not important or significant, then it is not generally worth saying. From what I can tell, all passages used on AP tests have something to reveal to readers.

Before we write one single word about imagery or diction, we MUST figure out what that something is. What does this author have to say to us about being human, about our shared experiences, about our fears, our sorrows, our victories? Find this and you will have something to say. This something is what I call the "So What" and without it, your essay will be meaningless.

So, if there is a step one, it is this: read and understand the passage given. This understanding of the meaningful, of the So What, is what will allow you to write an insightful essay. When you have something to say, your voice will be heard in your writing and you will have a place to go. When you have something to say, all else...