The Atlantic Monthly Ap Essay Rubric


The Atlantic & College Board Writing Prize ("Contest") starts on Jan. 1, 2016. All entries must be received by Feb. 28, 2016.

By participating, each Student Sponsor (as defined below) and student (and his/her parent or legal guardian) agrees to abide by these Official Rules and decisions of the College Board (“Sponsor”) and judges, which shall be final and binding in all respects relating to this Contest.

CONTEST OVERVIEW: The contestant’s essay may be based on one of the following:        

  • One of the artworks in the provided list of works identified by AP Art History teachers as most likely to provoke interest and investigation in students
  • Another artwork of the student’s choosing; if students choose this option, the selected artwork:
    • may not be a work of the student’s own creation, and
    • must be approved by the teacher-sponsor, and
    • must be submitted as an electronic image along with the essay

The goals for this contest are to encourage meaningful student engagement with works of art, and to promote effective instruction by providing an opportunity and model for such engagement.

The Contest is open to students (including home-schooled students) 16–19 years of age. Students of immediate family (spouse and parents, children and siblings and their respective spouses, regardless of where they reside) and household members, whether or not related, of employees of the Sponsor, The Atlantic, and their respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, Contest judges, and advertising and promotion agencies are not eligible. Void where prohibited by law. Contest is subject to all applicable federal, provincial, state, and local laws.

Each student who submits an entry must have a teacher sponsor from his/her school (or, if home-schooled, a parent sponsor) (“Student Sponsor”), and all students who are participating must have their parent’s or legal guardian’s permission. Student Sponsors are responsible for complying with any and all school policies associated with participating in programs of this nature.


  • The contestant’s essay (“Essay”) may be based on one of the following:
    • One of the artworks in the provided list of works identified by AP Art History teachers as most likely to provoke interest and investigation in students
    • Another artwork of the student’s choosing; if students choose this option, the selected artwork:
      • may not be a work of the student’s own creation, and
      • must be approved by the teacher-sponsor, and
      • must be submitted as an electronic image (in PDF format) along with the essay
  • A successful Essay will:

a.    share the student-author’s unique perspective about the artwork
b.    engage the reader’s curiosity about, interest in, and understanding of the work of art
c.    closely examine how the form, function, context, and/or content of the artwork work together

  • The final draft of the essay must be typed and double-spaced with one-inch margins, and must be 1,000 to 1,500 words in length (excluding citations). The essay cannot include any information that identifies the student or the Student Sponsor. When the teacher-sponsor submits the essay to the contest, he or she will be directed to provide contact information for himself or herself as well as for the student-author. Each submission will be assigned an identification number, and that number will be tagged to the teacher and student’s contact information. ESSAYS SUBMITTED WITH IDENTIFYING INFORMATION WILL BE DISQUALIFIED FROM THE CONTEST.

Sponsor reserves the right to allow for minor deviations of these requirements based on the student’s clear intent to comply with these Official Rules, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion.

Essay must (i) be the student’s own original work, (ii) be in English, (iii) not be previously published or submitted in connection with any other contest, (iv) be in keeping with the Sponsor’s image, and (v) not be offensive or inappropriate, as determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion, nor can it defame or invade publicity rights or privacy of any person, living or deceased, or otherwise infringe upon any person’s personal or property rights or any other third-party rights.

Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any Essay that it determines, in its sole discretion, is offensive or inappropriate, is not in keeping with Sponsor’s image, was not written by the student, or that is otherwise not in compliance with these Official Rules.

STUDENT SPONSOR REVIEW: The Student Sponsor should score the Final Essay using the rubric provided by Sponsor (and attached to these Official Rules as Exhibit A). Only Final Essays that receive a score of 10 (on a scale of 11) should be considered as eligible for submission to the contest.

HOW TO SUBMIT AN ESSAY: All essays and images must be submitted by the Student Sponsor at by following the directions provided. A copy of the student’s Essay must be submitted as a PDF file.

If the student chooses to write about an artwork other than the 21 works on the provided list, an image of the artwork which is the focus of the Essay should be submitted in the same PDF file. The following are the criteria for the image:

  • Images should be at least 72 ppi (pixels per inch).
  • Images in landscape orientation should be a minimum of 480 x 480 pixels (6.67 x 6.67 inches) and a maximum of 530 x 780 pixels (7.63 x 10.83 inches).
  • Images in portrait orientation should be a minimum of 480 x 480 pixels (6.67 x 6.67 inches) and a maximum of 780 x 530 pixels (10.83 x 7.36 inches).

Images must be accompanied by the following information:

  • the title of the artwork on which the Essay focuses
  • the name of the artist
  • the year of the artwork’s creation

THE PDF FILES SHOULD NOT BE CREATED BY SCANNING DOCUMENTS AND SAVING THEM IN PDF FORMAT; SCANNED PDF FILES WILL BE DISQUALIFIED FROM THE CONTEST. Instead, the PDF files should be converted from Word documents; the image should first be pasted into the Word document.

Essays must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 28, 2016, to be considered.

Student Sponsor must represent and warrant that he/she provided feedback to the student during the essay-writing process but did not write any portion of the Essay in any draft. As part of the submission process, Student Sponsor will also be required to verify the originality and authenticity of the student’s Essay.

Entries generated by script, macro, or other automated means, or by any means that subvert the entry process, are void. All entries become the sole property of the Sponsor and will not be returned.

By participating, each Student Sponsor and each student (and his/her parent or legal guardian) agree not to disclose any information on their own or through someone else regarding their participation in the Contest without the prior consent of the Sponsor, which it may withhold in its sole discretion.

INITIAL JUDGING: A panel of college composition and art history professors will review all eligible Essays. Judges will review the Essays by applying the contest rubric. Essays will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Relevance and articulation of the student author’s unique perspective on the artwork
  • Level of interest, understanding of the artwork, and/or emotional impact generated by the Essay
  • Accuracy of the analysis of the selected artwork’s form, function, context, and/or content
  • Effectiveness of the use of information from source materials and/or other artworks, if applicable

Each Essay will be reviewed and scored twice. Essays with discrepant scores will receive a third review, and the two scores in closest alignment (out of the three) will be used to determine the Essay’s final score. Using this method, the highest-scoring Essays will be identified as Finalists for the contest.

FINALIST JUDGING: The highest-scoring Essays will then be reviewed by an executive panel comprised of staff from The Atlantic and the College Board. The executive panel will provide editorial feedback to the authors of those Essays; the contestants will then have one week to revise their Essays and resubmit them. From these Essays, the executive panel will select the winner.

WINNER NOTIFICATION: Potential winners (and their parents or legal guardians) will be notified by telephone, mail, and/or email in May 2016 and may be required to execute and return an Affidavit (or, for submissions from outside the U.S., a Declaration) of Eligibility, Liability, and Publicity Release (unless prohibited by law), which must be returned within seven (7) days of the date appearing on the notification. Return of the notification as undeliverable, failure to sign and return requested documentation within the specified time period, the inability of Sponsor to contact a potential winner within a reasonable time period, or noncompliance with these Official Rules by any potential winner will result in disqualification and, at Sponsor’s sole discretion, a runner-up may be notified.

PRIZES: From all contest submissions, one winner will be selected. The author of the winning Essay will receive a $5,000 prize and will have his or her Essay published in the September 2016 edition of The Atlantic. The sponsor reserves the right to add additional prizes as needed. The sponsoring teacher for the winner will receive a one-year classroom subscription to The Atlantic. Winners may not substitute, assign, or transfer a prize or redeem a noncash prize for cash, but Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to substitute a prize (or portion thereof) with one of comparable or greater value. Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state, and local taxes. If, for whatever reason, Sponsor cannot provide the winner an opportunity to publish his or her Essay in The Atlantic, no compensation or substitution will be provided; however, the remainder of the prize package will be awarded and Sponsor will have no further obligation to the winner or runners-up (as applicable). All prize details are at Sponsor’s sole discretion.

USE OF ENTRIES: By submitting an Essay, to the extent permitted by law, each student (and his/her parent or legal guardian) grants Sponsor and its designees, assigns, licensees, and successors a perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license to exploit, edit, modify, and distribute the Essay, and all elements of such Essay, including the student’s first and last name and city and state of residence, for advertising, promotion, trade, and other purposes, in any and all media, now or hereafter devised (including publishing the Essay in The Atlantic), in any manner, in whole or in part, together with other materials, without additional compensation or notification to, or permission from, student, his/her parent or legal guardian, or any third party. If a contestant is from a jurisdiction outside the U.S. where this grant of rights is not enforceable, Sponsor shall have the right to modify this provision accordingly.

PUBLICITY GRANT: By participating, to the extent permitted by law, each Student Sponsor and each student (and his/her parent or legal guardian) agrees to the use by Sponsor and its designees of his/her name, city, and state of residence, photograph, and/or likeness for advertising, promotional, and other purposes in any and all media, now or hereafter known, worldwide and on the Internet, and in perpetuity, without compensation (unless prohibited by law) or additional consents from student, his/her parent or legal guardian, or any third party and without prior notice, approval, or inspection, and to execute specific consent to such use if asked to do so.

RELEASE OF LIABILITY: By participating, to the extent permitted by law, each Student Sponsor and each student (and his/her parent or legal guardian) agrees to release, discharge, and hold harmless Sponsor, The Atlantic, and their respective parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries, the Contest judges, and advertising and promotion agencies, and the respective officers, directors, shareholders, employees, agents, and representatives of the foregoing (collectively, “Released Parties”) from any and all injuries, liability, losses, and damages of any kind to persons, including death, or property resulting, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from student’s participation in the Contest or any Contest-related activity or the acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any awarded prize.

To the extent permitted by law, Released Parties are not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, damaged, inaccurate, illegible, stolen, delayed, misdirected, undelivered, or garbled Essays or mail; or for errors or difficulties of any kind, whether human, mechanical, electronic, computer, network, typographical, printing, or otherwise relating to or in connection with the Contest, including, without limitation, errors or difficulties that may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the processing or judging of Essays, the announcement of the prizes, or in any Contest-related materials. Persons who tamper with or abuse any aspect of the Contest, who act in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or who are in violation of these Official Rules, as solely determined by Sponsor, will be disqualified and all associated Essays will be void. Should any portion of the Contest be, in Sponsor’s sole opinion, compromised by nonauthorized human intervention or other causes that, in the sole opinion of the Sponsor, corrupt or impair the administration, security, fairness or proper play, or submission of Essays, Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion to suspend, modify, or terminate the Contest and, if terminated, at its discretion, award the prizes using the judging procedure outlined above or as otherwise deemed fair and appropriate by Sponsor. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE CONTEST MAY BE IN VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS, AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES AND OTHER REMEDIES (INCLUDING ATTORNEYS’ FEES) FROM ANY SUCH INDIVIDUAL TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW, INCLUDING CRIMINAL PROSECUTION.

REQUEST FOR WINNERS’ LIST: The winner will be announced in the September 2016 issue of The Atlantic and on the College Board website (

Sponsor: The College Board, 250 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10281.

A number of students weren’t in class yesterday to read "The Case Against High School Sports" by Amanda Ripley published in the Atlantic Monthly, so to get them caught up while still having the rest of the students engaged in meaningful activities, I will have the absent students read last night’s article and fill out their reading sheet while the rest of the class reads a rebuttal to the article called “High-School Sports Aren’t Killing Academics” by Daniel H. Bowen and Collin Hitt posted October 2, 2013 on Atlantic Monthly on-line.  While reading, they will annotate, noting rhetorical strategies, with their goal being to decide which article has the better rhetoric in presenting their argument.

By asking students to compare rhetorical impact, it forces them to interact with the piece differently—looking not only at the strategies the writer uses, but also to consider what isn’t there, how relevant the evidence is, how logical the arguments are, etc.  Recognizing what is not in the text as part of their analysis in particular is a new skill emphasized in the Common Core for eleventh and twelfth grade, so comparing texts is one way to teach students how to utilize this analysis strategy (since that is the essence of that skill--we compare what we are reading to other things we've read on the topic as well as our own knowledge of the topic; the trick is to make this process conscious).  Evaluating the texts at this level will also help them learn how to enter the conversation of academic discourse, a skill we will build toward this unit as part of the AP English Language and Composition requirements.  This rebuttal will be particularly helpful for looking at rhetorical strategies because most of the students were not in favor of Amanda Ripley's assertion that we should get rid of high school sports.  However, she makes a stronger logical argument than the rebuttal.

If there is time, I hope to spend a few minutes at the end of class addressing the original piece by sharing data from their reading sheets (I also want to model the rigor they should put into the reading sheets going forward).  I suspect that we’ll have 10 or 15 minutes to start this conversation, but this will likely be where we pick up in the next class.

Next Steps:   We will pick up with the reading sheets next class; we will jointly create a model of what a good analysis using this tool should look like.

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