Private Irvine AP Tutor Tips: “5 Ways to Improve AP Essays”

AP classes are well underway, and students are already practicing their essays that will be a make it or break it situation in May 2016. Unfortunately, some students wait until the very last minute to start practicing their essays, often resulting in a less than stellar score.  However, there are a few ways that students can start working on their AP essays now so that they can do well on their in-class assignments and exams as well as on the all-important AP exam.


1 – Start small, think big

AP students are encouraged to start small when it comes to their essay practice. Students who tried to write a four or five paragraph essay from start to finish and make it perfect the very first time, will often be left frustrated and disappointed. Teachers don’t expect perfection straight away, which is why they start out small and go from there. Students are encouraged to write one paragraph at a time, taking breaks in between, or write one or two paragraphs and show it to their teacher or tutor before moving on (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Grades and AP Classes”).

2 – Perfect the thesis

The most important part of any essay is the thesis, without that the essay only goes downhill from there. Students should practice working on the thesis, and only the thesis before moving on. They can get several prompts from the College Board AP website, from their tutor, or from a test prep booklet. Students are encouraged to write a few thesis statements and show them to their teacher. One prompt probably won’t give their teacher enough to go on, however,  writing 10 or 12 thesis statements, that may turn out to need improvement, can be overwhelming at the beginning of the year.

3 – Write an Intro and a Conclusion

Many students can write excellent body paragraphs but, for one reason or another, can’t write a cohesive intro and conclusion. Often the intro is decent and the conclusion is decent but they don’t fit together. To write an excellent AP quality essay, it’s important to master the art of the intro and conclusion first.  Students are encouraged to write an intro and conclusion but skip the body paragraphs when they are doing extra practice at home or with a tutor. This way they can look directly at both and see what fits together and what doesn’t. The first thing to look out for is if the conclusion offers any new information, which it shouldn’t (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Taking the AP Exam”).

4 – Get an AP Test Prep Book

The vast majority of AP students wait to get a test prep book until they’re a few weeks away from their final exam in May. This can cause students a lot of issues, especially concerning the essay portion. The test prep booklets offer excellent examples and prompts that enable students to practice above and beyond what is required in the classroom. Students who are currently enrolled in any AP course that requires essays is advised to order a test prep book ASAP.

5 – Write a Rough Draft and Go From There

Another thing that trips up many student writers is the pursuit of perfection. When students attempt to make their essay “perfect”, they often develop writer’s block and spend hours upon hours writing one essay that should only take 40 minutes. At this point in the year, students are encouraged to write a rough draft and then spend time editing, refining, and perfecting the essay later on. Part of being a great student writer is being an editor as well. Additionally, students can show the rough draft to their teacher or tutor and discover which areas they need improvement in. This can save them a lot of time and frustration in the long run (READ: “Ask A Nerd! I Bombed My AP Exam, What’s Next?”).

Taking AP classes this semester? Score high on your AP essays with the help of an Irvine AP tutor. Contact us today for details!

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