What is AP English?

AP English is a course available for those seniors who want to challenge themselves the most before entering college. As the title implies, the course focuses on developing skills in both the careful reading of literature and the composition of college-level essays. Students experience the rigors of college-level expecations in regards to the amount and quality of coursework. One of the most important skills developed in AP English is the ability to write in-class analytical essays. In fact, writing focused essays under time constraints is often cited as the single most important skill students learn as a result of this course, since it extends to all future college course. Whether a student majors in business, math, history, psychology (or maybe even English), most college examinations require that students can express their ideas on in-class essays.

What is the AP English Literature Test Like?

Like many AP tests, the exam for AP English Literature and Composition takes 3 hours to complete. It is divided into two sections: part one consists a one-hour multiple choice test and part two involves two hour of essay writing.

During the multiple choice component of the exam, students are presented with between 4-6 excerpts from literature. These passages will come from different genres (both poetry and prose) and from different literary time periods (from the Renaissance up to Post-Modernism.) Students will then have to answer a variety of questions on each passage that will , among other things, demonstrate their ability to make inferences, recognize stylistic techniques, identify tone, decode non-literal language, identify purpose, and develop a supportable interpretation. Generally, there are between 50-60 multiple choice questions. This portion of the test counts for 45% of the overall exam score.

For the essay section, students have 2hours to write 3 complete essays, with the recommendation to spend approximately 40 minutes on each essay. Each essay presents students with a different challenge. The first essay presents students with either a single poem or two poems and a prompt that directs them to analyze how the author's use of language creates a specific interpretation. Students must provide textual evidence to support their interpretation. The second essay is similar in nature, but presents students with an excerpt from a prose passage which they then must analyze. Finally, the third essay provides students with a general statement about literature and students must then select a novel or play of literary merit that they have previously studied that supports this idea. They must then analyze the importance that this topic plays in developing the meaning of that literary work. The essay component counts for 55% of a student's total score.

For an example of last year's essay topics, please click here.

For additional sample essay topics, please click here.
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