AP English Language and Composition Sample
The format of this question is constant every year -- at least one of the essays in this AP test takes on this format: you read a quotation from a famous person, and you're asked to share your opinion on it, and then share your experiences that have brought you to that opinion.
Here's the question:
Read the following quotation. Indicate whether you agree, disagree, or qualify the statement. Use examples from what you have read, personal experiences, and personal knowledge to support your argument.
"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." (Voltaire)
How to Write the Answer:
With Catch-22 as your supporting text, it would be easiest, of course, to agree with this quotation. Time and time again, the authorities ask Yossarian to just go along with their schemes for carrying out the war. The problem is that Yossarian has come to believe that it is right to oppose the war, and he is courageous enough to protest, to the point where his squadron is disrupted. This brings him into danger.
Some examples of incidents from the story that would help you support agreement with this quotation:
- Yossarian's hazy memory of the threatening man who keeps saying he's got Yossarian's "pal."
- Yossarian's final negotiation with Colonels Cathcart and Korn, in which he gets offered a free trip home, with a parade, if he will simply just pretend to like the two of them.
- Doc Daneeka's official "death," and the tragic aftermath for him -- and for his wife.
- The brutality that Aarfy shows to the girl that he murdered -- and the fact that the MP's come and arrest Yossarian instead.
- The dangers of Milo's bombing of the squadron because he contracted the job out with the Germans as part of his syndicate.
The key in your writing is to show incidences of the government being wrong (morally or practically) in a situation, resulting in danger for those who have not embraced that wrong as of yet.
You also have to write about your own personal experience, and about other events to which you have been exposed. The more specific you can be, and the more closely you can relate to the idea of the dangers of dissidence, the better your essay will be.