How to write an AP Lang synthesis essay: the structure, guidelines & tips

how to write ap lang essay

Completing a synthesis essay requires more than merely delivering information; it demands a grasp of rhetorical strategies and skills to synthesize multiple sources into a cohesive argument. In this guide, you will learn the synthesis AP Lang definition, its format, and structure, as well as the essential tips about how to write an AP Lang synthesis essay. We will provide step-by-step strategies for organizing thoughts and developing strong arguments, empowering you to refine your ideas and craft persuasive papers. Thus, this article serves as a roadmap for success, offering tips and examples to unlock the secrets of essay writing.

What is an AP Lang synthesis essay? 

The first thing students have to do when taking the AP Lang exam is complete a synthesis essay that marks the beginning of the Free Response section. Before we dive into the details, let’s clarify the question, “What does AP Lang stand for?” 

The AP Language and Composition (AP Lang) exam is an advanced placement test administered by the College Board in the United States. In other words, it is designed to assess students' skills in critical reading, analytical writing, and rhetorical analysis. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and three free-response essays, one of which is the synthesis essay. In this writing, students get a prompt that presents a topic or issue along with multiple sources that provide different perspectives or viewpoints on that topic. Moreover, students are required to read the sources critically, analyze the arguments presented, and synthesize the information to develop their argument or stance on the issue.

The AP Lang exam is typically taken by high school students who have completed an AP Lang and Composition course, although some students may choose to self-study for the exam. No wonder colleges and universities widely use it in the admissions process to assess students’ readiness for college-level writing and their ability to analyze and interpret complex texts, construct coherent arguments, and communicate ideas effectively. Likewise, all these skills are required from learners when they need to write my assignment. Additionally, many high schools offer AP courses as a way for students to earn college credit while still in high school, and successful performance on the AP Lang exam can earn students college credit for introductory English courses.

Synthesis essay structure 

When examining synthesis papers, you will observe that their structure closely resembles a typical argumentative essay outline, comprising an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. However, the crucial distinction lies in the origin of your reasoning ─ it’s imperative not to embark on a mere rant. Thus the task mandates that you ground your supporting evidence in at least three sources, ensuring your study possesses sturdy foundations.

Here’s an outline of each section and several AP Lang argument essay examples:


  • Hook: Start with an attention-grabbing statement or question related to the topic.
    Example: “In today's interconnected world, where information is readily available at our fingertips, the debate over the impact of social media on society has intensified.”
  • Background information: Give context about the topic and the sources provided.
    Example: “With the rise of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, discussions about the influence of social media on individuals and communities have become increasingly prominent.”
  • Thesis statement: Clearly state your stance on the issue and preview the main points before explaining them in detail.
    Example: “While some argue that social media fosters meaningful connections and facilitates communication, a closer examination reveals its detrimental effects on mental health, privacy, and social interactions.”

Body paragraphs.

  • Topic sentence: Introduce the main point of the paragraph.
    Example: “Firstly, social media exacerbates mental health issues by promoting unrealistic standards and fostering comparison among users.”
  • Evidence from sources: Incorporate specific examples or quotes from the provided sources to bolster your argument.
    Example: “According to a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, frequent use of social media platforms is associated with increased feelings of depression and loneliness.”
  • Analysis: Explain in your discursive essay how the evidence supports your argument and relate it to your thesis.
    Example: “This suggests that the constant exposure to curated images and idealized lifestyles on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem among users, contributing to the decline in mental well-being.”
  • Transition: Connect the paragraph back to your thesis and preview the next point you will discuss in your synthesis essay outline AP Lang.
    Example: “Furthermore, social media platforms often compromise users' privacy, as evidenced by…”


  • Restate thesis: Summarize your understanding of the main argument and restate your thesis in different words.
    Example: “In conclusion, while proponents of social media tout its benefits, including improved connectivity and access to information, a closer examination reveals its detrimental effects on mental health, privacy, and social interactions.”
  • Final thoughts: Reflect on the broader implications of your argument or suggest possible solutions to the issue.
    Example: “As we navigate the digital landscape, it is essential to remain critical of the impact of social media on our lives and advocate for responsible use and greater awareness of its consequences.”
  • Call to action: Encourage readers to consider your argument and take action.
    Example: “By recognizing the drawbacks of social media and implementing measures to mitigate its negative effects, we can strive towards a healthier and more balanced relationship with technology.”

By following this outline and incorporating evidence from the provided sources, you can effectively structure your work and develop compelling arguments.

Writing a synthesis essay: 6 essential steps

Now that you understand the essay's particularities and structure, it’s time to consider how to write an AP Lang synthesis essay. To optimize time management during the test, it’s crucial to break down the writing process into six essential steps:

Step 1. Understand the prompt. 

Before starting an essay, carefully read the prompt to grasp the task at hand. Upon the clock’s start, analyze the prompt carefully, marking key details. Identify the central topic or issue and any specific instructions provided. Dedicate about 2 minutes for this to allow ample time for source reading and argument formulation. Avoid rushing to take a stance; read the sources first before committing to your argument. 

Step 2. Analyze the sources.

Even though you’re only required to utilize 3 out of 6-7 provided sources, ensure to read all of them. This comprehensive approach enhances topic understanding and aids in selecting the most relevant sources for your writing. Besides, due to the volume of sources, efficient reading is essential. 12-15 minutes will be enough for reading and jotting down notes. Annotation is also key during this reading phase. Note key reasoning, evidence, and rhetorical strategies employed by the authors. Lastly, consider the perspectives presented and how they relate to the overall topic.

Step 3. Formulate a thesis. 

Develop a clear and debatable thesis statement that presents your stance on the topic. You have three options for structuring your thesis statement in your sample synthesis essay AP Lang: defending, challenging, or qualifying the claim provided in the prompt.

  • Defending: Your task is to demonstrate the claim’s validity.
  • Challenging: Your task is to refute the claim’s validity.
  • Qualifying: Your task is to acknowledge some aspects of the claim while disputing others.

Your thesis should respond directly to the prompt, exhibit sophistication of thought, and preview the main points you will discuss in your writing.

Step 4. Plan your composition. 

Outline your text to organize your thoughts and ensure a coherent AP English essay format. Creating an outline may appear inefficient when time is limited, but investing 5-10 minutes in planning your work will ultimately prove more beneficial than immediately diving into the writing process. Consequently, your outline should feature your thesis statement and three supporting pieces of evidence for each body paragraph. Beneath each evidence point, include 2 or 3 details from the sources supporting your claim and explaining how the evidence reinforces your thesis. 

Step 5. Complete your text.

Allocate the remaining 30-35 minutes to compose the document. This task should be manageable if you’ve annotated your sources and crafted a detailed outline. For this purpose, pay particular attention to the commentary paragraphs of your supporting arguments. These sections are crucial for explaining how the evidence aligns with or counters the prompt’s claim.

When citing your sources, apply the same strategies as every annotated bibliography writer does. Thus, use in-text citations such as “Source 1,” “Source 2,” “Source 3,” etc. Ensure accuracy to avoid misattributions. Indeed, in-text citations contribute to your essay’s score and are vital to the process.

Step 6. Revise and edit. 

First, review your text for coherence, clarity, and accuracy. Second, check your AP Lang argument essay example for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Third, make revisions as needed to strengthen your argument and improve the overall quality of your work.

By following these basic steps, you can effectively write papers that demonstrate critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis of sources.

How to make a good essay: effective tips

Since the exam is timed, it’s crucial to strategically prioritize your focus within the limited writing time for the AP Language synthesis essay. Continue reading to discover the recommendations from our experienced thesis help providers on where to direct your attention during the exam.

  • Solid thesis statement: The study should present a clear and debatable thesis statement that articulates a specific position on the topic. This thesis should guide the entire investigation and provide a framework for the arguments presented.
  • Effective use of sources: A strong essay incorporates evidence from at least four sources to support the argument. The sources should be relevant, credible, and effectively integrated into writing. As a rule, you can cite sources even if you don't agree with them since utilizing a source to support a counterargument is still effective. Therefore, your work should demonstrate an understanding of the sources’ perspectives and effectively synthesize them to develop a nuanced argument.
  • Critical analysis: The essay should demonstrate critical thinking skills by analyzing and evaluating the arguments presented in the sources. This includes identifying rhetorical strategies, evaluating the credibility of sources, and considering the implications of the argumentative points presented.
  • Coherent organization: A well-organized paper follows a logical structure with clear transitions between paragraphs. Thus, each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of the argumentation and contribute to the overall coherence of the text.
  • Strong development of ideas: The writing should provide thorough development of ideas, including detailed explanations, examples, and analysis. Likewise, each argument should be fully developed and supported with evidence from the sources.
  • Command of language: The text should demonstrate a strong command of language, including varied sentence structure, precise vocabulary, sophistication of thoughts, and effective use of rhetorical devices. Certainly,  the writing should be clear, concise, and free from grammatical errors.
  • Engagement with complexity: A high-scoring science homework engages with the complexity of the topic and considers multiple perspectives. This includes acknowledging counterarguments and addressing potential objections to the thesis.
  • Originality and insight: Finally, a strong essay offers original insights or perspectives on the topic. While the text should be based on the sources provided, it should also demonstrate the student's critical thinking and analysis.

Overall, a high-scoring AP Language synthesis essay effectively synthesizes multiple sources to develop a nuanced argument that demonstrates critical thinking, coherence, and originality.

Final thoughts

Completing an AP Lang synthesis essay thesis is an achievable goal with the right guidance and resources. By utilizing the strategies considered in this article, you can navigate the complexities of this homework with confidence and skill. However, for additional support and assistance in refining your essays, EduBirdie stands out as the premier writing service. With our team of experienced writers and commitment to excellence, our platform provides students with the necessary support to excel in creating their AP Lang essay outline. So, as you embark on this writing endeavor, remember that EduBirdie is here to support you every step of the way, ensuring your success in mastering the art of essay writing!

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