Personal Narrative: My Experience in AP US History

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“Your final exam will be in three parts: multiple choice, primary source analysis, and three major essays. I won’t be allowed within 2 miles of you when you take the exam.” The words of Mr. F, my AP US History teacher, reverberated between my ear drums. He either didn’t notice or didn’t seem to care: “The AP US History exam will be on a Saturday in mid May. It’s graded on a scale of 0 to 5. Zero being the lowest possible score, 5 being the highest.” A student in the front row raises her hand, interrupting our baptism by fire. Mr. F motions for her to speak.

“Are you related to Stephen King?” I didn’t realize it at the time (because let’s face it, I didn’t voluntarily read anything that wasn’t a motorcycle magazine until my senior year
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In short, this was the “correct” form one should use in writing an academic essay.

The irony is that the people who taught me this magical formula for essay writing, my English teachers, encouraged me to play with and alter the form . . . not completely, but to experiment with it. While other academic disciplines, most notably History but also others, strongly discouraged any deviation from the template. Two of the most hotly contested cardinal rules of the standard formal essay are 1) don’t - DO NOT - use contractions and 2) never speak in the first person. I never liked nor fully understood those rules, but they have been so deeply ingrained into my own writing process over the years that, to this day, I actually find myself asking professors in graduate classes whether contractions or the first person are acceptable in formal writing for their courses.

Mr. F gave us some sample Multiple Choice questions on that first day of class, as a part of his lecture, just to prove to us that he wasn’t kidding when he said the 5th choice was a doozy (cardinal rule number 3: slang terms shall not be used unless specifically quoting another source). Of the 5 possible answers, I was sure only one was

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