The two synthesis essay questions below are examples of the question type that has been one of the three free-response questions on the AP English Language and Composition Exam as of the May 2007 exam. The synthesis question asks students to synthesize information from a variety of sources to inform their own discussion of a topic. Students are given a 15-minute reading period to accommodate the additional reading required for the question.
Below is a sample synthesis essay question, sample scoring guidelines, comments from the Chief Reader about the sample student essays, seven sample student responses, and scoring commentary for each sample.
Approximately 300 AP English Language and Composition students from eight schools in New York, Maine, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, Florida, and New Mexico wrote responses to this synthesis topic. Students from these schools were given a 15-minute reading period followed by a 40-minute writing period in which to complete the sample synthesis assignment.
An additional sample synthesis essay question is provided here.
B 15 In her autobiography One Writer’s Beginnings, Eudora Welty remembers childhood experiences which shaped her into a person who loves books and enjoys writing. Her memories are retold in the image of her growing up among the books, her librarian and the lifestyle of her mother’s teachings. While comparing the two important figures in her life which lead her into love for reading and writing, Welty lists her impressions of early childhood which keep following her through an adulthood career. Welty begins the passage with a descriptive, yet afraid tone as she remembers “growing up in Jackson….being afraid of Mrs. Calloway”. The imagery of Mrs. Calloway having a “dragon eye” elucidates the fear young Eudora as well as the other kids visiting had towards the librarian. The word “SILENCE in big black letters” depicts a quiet atmosphere which brings upon the effect that if one disturbs it, the librarian would show anger. Furthermore, the image of a “normally commanding voice [which] could be heard all over the Library” associated with the libraries establishes her as an authoritative figure. The description of the librarian that she is a guardian and protector of the books and the peace that comes with reading and surrounding them. Furthermore, the detail about the “fan in the Library [that] stood on her desk, turned directly onto her streaming face” paints a picture of the librarian as a bit of a selfish person, one who uses the only fan for herself, but at the same time is portrays her as someone comfortable around the security of all the books, and this comfort embodies the idea of the library being a home to Mrs. Calloway.