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The free-response section is scored individually by hundreds of educators each June.Each essay is assigned a score from 0-9, 9 being high.The Free-Response section of the test consists of three prompts, each of a different type: synthesis, passage analysis, and argument. With the introduction of the synthesis essay in 2007, the College Board allotted 15 additional minutes to the free-response exam portion to allow students to read and annotate the three prompts, as well as the passages and sources provided.
The questions typically focus on identifying rhetorical devices and structures from the passages, as well as their general functions, purposes in a passage, the relationships between the devices, and the formal features of the text.
In 2007, questions were added that ask about citation information included in the passages.
These citation questions are not designed to test knowledge about MLA, APA, Chicago Style, or any other particular citation format, but instead focus on how the citations reference and enhance information from the passage.
Students have 60 minutes to answer all 55 questions, and the section accounts for 45% of the students score.
The argument prompt typically gives a position in the form of an assertion from a documented source.
Students are asked to consider the assertion, and then form an argument that defends, challenges, or qualifies the assertion using supporting evidence from their own knowledge or reading. Formerly, the test was scored by awarding 1 point for correct answers, while taking off a 1/4 point for incorrect answers. However, the College Board discontinued the policy for all AP Exams in 2011; now they only award 1 point for each correct answer, with no 1/4 point deductions.
The techniques differ from prompt to prompt, but may ask about strategies, argumentative techniques, motivations, or other rhetorical elements of the passage, and how such techniques effectively contribute to the overall purpose of the passage.
The prompt may mention specific techniques or purposes, but some leeway of discussion is left to the student.
Questions began to be included about documentation and citation.
These questions are based on at least one passage which is a published work, including footnotes or a bibliography.