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Exploring the Satirical Prompt

Yes, satire can be tough to analyze! Let’s take a look at a previous AP Language and Composition Exam prompt which challenged the test-takers to do exactly that:

• Review Question 2 from the 2005 AP Language and Composition Exam. (
You may wish to print out the question and annotate it as you read. Consider how you might approach this question were you to receive it on the exam.
• Finally, review the student responses. (
• And the scoring commentary. (Below the assignment)
Your Assignment
Respond to the following questions after you have read the student responses and the scoring commentary:
1. What elements of satire did you notice the first time you read the article?
2. What rhetorical strategies contribute to the satire? How are they effectively used?
3. What are the key differences between student response 2A and student response 2B?
4. Explain the score received by the writer of student response 2C. Where do you think this writer might have missed an opportunity to craft a much stronger essay? Where are the opportunities for improvement?
5. Based on your evaluation of the question, responses, and scoring commentary, what advice would you give to your classmates for approaching a question that requires an insightful analysis of satire?

Scoring Commentary
Sample: 2A
Score: 6
The essay clearly identifies the satirical purpose of The Onion article and directs its analysis to the rhetorical strategies that develop that satire rather than merely focusing on the strategies of marketing. The essay provides a mature and effective analysis of not only how the article mocks real advertisements, but also the article’s use of diction as a strategy (“occident,” “mocking buzzwords,” “raise the dead.”) This nuance illustrates the student’s ability to place the object of this satire in a broader tradition of false advertising. The student also earns the extra point for sophistication as the essay displays a particularly impressive control of language.
Evidence and Commentary—4
Sample: 2B
Score: 4
This adequate analysis of the article’s satirical strategies identifies specific examples of puns, jargon, and appeals to authority through quotations and testimonials. It gives clear, well-organized explanations of how these elements develop the article’s satire, but does so with a diction and sentence structure that is simple rather than particularly sophisticated. Use of phrases such as “tiny jokes” and “pokes fun” are adequate to convey the essay’s ideas, but they don’t provide the conciseness or insight that would warrant the highest score in evidence and commentary. The essay is well-developed but not as fully developed as essays that receive scores at the highest levels.
Evidence and Commentary—3
Sample: 2C
Score: 3
This essay is inadequate in its response to the prompt. Although it correctly recognizes the satirical intent of the article, its attempt to analyze the strategies lacks the insight needed to make it more than moderately successful. The introduction paragraph displays misuse and vagueness of diction a number of times: “degrading,” “overexaggeration,” and the phrase “thorough [sic] persuasive writing skills.” Although the essay correctly identifies some strategies and overall has a unified focus, it contains imprecise analysis and under-developed support.
Evidence and Commentary—2