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Advanced Placement

The Complete Guide to AP English Literature And Composition Exam [Updated for AP 2024 Exam]

Written by Apoorvaa Agarwal

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  • The AP English Literature and Composition exam course is organized into 9 topics Poetry, Fiction, Drama, Literary analysis, Rhetorical analysis, Historical context, Cultural context, Aesthetic theory, and Creative writing.
  • The AP  English Literature and Composition exam is divided into two sections: multiple-choice (55 questions, 1 hour) and free-response (3 essays, 2 hours).
  • The mean score for the AP English Literature and Composition exam in 2022 was 2.82 out of 5. This is slightly lower than the mean score for all AP subjects in 2022, which was 2.92.
  • The pass rate of the AP English Literature and Composition Exam for 2022 was 57.2%. This is slightly lower than the pass rate for AP overall, which was 60.2%.
  • With AP English Literature and Composition, some majors that you could choose include English, comparative literature, creative writing, and journalism. Some of the career pathways that you could pursue include teacher, writer, editor, literary critic, and librarian.

AP English Literature and Composition is one of the AP courses offered by the College Board. In 2022, over 339,400 students took the AP English Literature exam.

In this AP English Literature and Composition Guide, we will discuss the format of the AP English Literature and Composition exam, the topics covered, and effective ways to study for the exam. We will also provide some resources that can help you prepare for the exam. So, let’s get started!

What is on the AP English Literature and Composition exam?

The AP English Literature and Composition exam covers a wide range of literary works, including poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction

Students are expected to be familiar with the major authors and works of the Western canon, as well as the literary elements and techniques that are used to create meaning in these works.

The AP English Literature and Composition format includes two sections as below:

SectionNo. of questionsTime allocated to  each sectionWeightage
Multiple-choice  questions55 questions1 hour50%
Free response   questions3 questions 2 hour50% 
AP English Literature and Composition exam format

Now let’s understand everything about the AP English Literature and Composition exam like duration, structure, score distribution, etc.

How long is the AP English Literature and Composition exam?

The AP English Literature and Composition exam lasts for 3 hours and is divided into two sections: multiple-choice and free-response.

  • The first section consists of 55 multiple-choice questions and is 90 minutes long.
  • The second section is a free-response section with 3 questions.


In addition to the AP exam, students are also required to complete a portfolio of their work. The portfolio should include two essays, a close reading of a poem or passage of prose fiction, and a research paper.

How many questions does the AP English Literature and Composition exam have?

The AP English Literature and Composition exam has 58 questions in total divided into two major sections; 55 multiple-choice questions and 3 free-response questions.

Topics for AP English Literature and Composition Review

AP English Literature and Composition involves the study of the core literary principles, theories, and processes that govern literature and communication

Students will do hands-on reading and analysis work to investigate how literature is used to create meaning.

UnitWhat’s included
Unit 1: Short Fiction I
You will learn critical reading skills to help you critically read, interpret, and analyze prose.
-Interpreting the role of a character in fictionIdentifying and interpreting setting
-Understanding how a story’s structure affects interpretations
-Understanding and interpreting a narrator’s perspective
-Reading texts literally and figuratively
-The basics of literary analysis
Unit 2: Poetry IYou will continue your critical reading exploration in poetry and learn to analyze similar elements within a wide variety of poems.-Identifying characters in poetry
-Understanding and interpreting meaning in poetic structure
-Analyzing word choice to find meaning
-Identifying techniques like contrast, simile, metaphor, and alliteration
Unit 3: Longer Fiction or Drama I
You will observe how the literary techniques you’ve explored in prior units unfold over the course of longer works and analyze how characters develop and interact over the course of a narrative.
-Interpreting character description and perspective
-Character evolution throughout a narrative
-Conflict and plot development
-Interpreting symbolismIdentifying evidence and supporting literary arguments
Unit 4: Short Fiction II
You’ll delve deeper into the roles of character and conflict in fiction and explore how a narrator’s perspective can color storytelling.
-Protagonists, antagonists, character relationships, and conflict
-Character interactions with setting and its significance
-Archetypes in literature
-Types of narration like a stream of consciousness
-Narrative distance, tone, and perspective
Unit 5: Poetry II
You’ll study different forms of poetry and examine how structure and figurative language can create and impact meaning.
-Traits of closed and open structures in poetry
-Use of techniques like imagery and hyperbole
-Types of comparisons in poetry including personification and allusion
-Identifying and interpreting extended metaphors
Unit 6: Longer Fiction or Drama IIYou’ll analyze how various literary techniques play out and shift over the course of longer works, charting how characters change (or don’t) as they’re affected by developments in the plot.
-Interpreting foil characters
-Understanding and interpreting character motives
-Understanding nonlinear narrative structures like flashbacks and foreshadowing
-The effect of narrative tone and bias on reading
-Characters as symbols, metaphors, and archetypes
-Developing literary arguments within a broader context of works
Unit 7: Short Fiction III
You’ll examine how works of fiction interact with and comment on the world around them and the society their authors live or lived in.
-Sudden and more gradual change in characters
-Epiphany as a driver of the plot
-Relationships between characters and groups
-Character interactions with settings
-The significance of the pacing of a narrative
-Setting as a symbol
-Interpreting texts in their historical and societal contexts
Unit 8: Poetry III
You’ll develop your interpretation of poetry further by examining how contrasts, ambiguous language, and various other techniques can add layers of meaning to a poetic.
-Looking at punctuation and structural patterns
-Interpreting juxtaposition, paradox, and irony
-How ambiguity can allow for various interpretations
-Identifying symbols, conceits, and allusions
-Learning proper attribution and citation in literary analysis
Unit 9: Longer Fiction or Drama III
You will consider longer narratives in the context of the various techniques and interpretations you’ve learned in prior units and build a nuanced analysis of each complex work as a whole.
-Looking at a character’s response to the resolution of a narrative
-Suspense, resolution, and plot development
-Narrative inconsistencies and contrasting perspectives
AP English Literature and Composition Course Content

For additional course resources such as classroom resources, formulae and equation sheets and lab manuals refer to the College Board AP English Literature and Composition course page.

How is the AP English Literature and Composition exam scored?

The test is divided into two sections:

  • Section I: Consists of 55 multiple-choice questions.
  • Section II: Consists of 3 free-response questions. 

The multiple-choice section of the exam comprises 45% of your total exam score; the three essays, or the free-response section, comprise the other 55%. Each essay, then, is worth about 18% of your grade.

Multiple-Choice Scoring

For the multiple-choice section, you receive 1 point for each question you answer correctly. There’s no guessing penalty, it is recommended that you should answer every question.

Free-Response Scoring

Scoring for multiple choice is pretty straightforward; however, essay scoring is a little more complicated.

Each of your essays will receive a score from 0 to 6 based on the College Board rubric, which also includes question-specific rubrics. All the rubrics are very similar, with only minor differences between them.

Each essay rubric has three elements you’ll be graded on:

  • Thesis (0-1 points)
  • Evidence and Commentary (0-4 points)
  • Sophistication (0-1 points)

When is the AP English Literature and Composition exam in 2024?

The AP English Literature and Composition exam for 2024 will be held on Wednesday, May 08 2024 08:00 am local time. The 2024 AP Exams will be held over two weeks in May: May 6–10 and May 13–17. 

For the most recent information on exam dates and registration deadlines, students can check with their institution or the College Board website.

How to prepare for The AP English Literature and Composition exam?

  • Read critically: When reading literature, try to read critically and analyze the text. Look for themes, motifs, symbols, and other literary devices.
  • Practice writing essays: The free-response section of the AP English Literature and Composition exam requires you to write essays that analyze literary texts. Practice writing essays that analyze different texts and use literary devices.
  • Take practice tests: Practice tests can help you get familiar with the format of the exam and identify areas where you need improvement.
  • Pay attention to literary devices: The exam will test your knowledge of literary devices, such as symbolism, imagery, and foreshadowing. Take some time to learn about these devices and how they are used in literature.
  • Annotate your text: As you read, take some time to annotate your texts. This means marking up the text with your thoughts and observations. Annotating can help you to better understand the text and to identify important passages.

How can Wiingy help with AP English Literature and Composition exam prep?

In 2022, only 16.9% of the 339,400 students who took the AP English Literature and Composition exam scored a 5. While 3 is considered the unofficial passing rate, most elite universities, such as Harvard or Princeton, offer AP credit only if you score 5 or higher. 

Getting a 5 is possible if you have the right support in your high school, but that’s rarely the case.

Here at Wiingy, we work with vetted AP English Literature and Composition tutors with demonstrated expertise and experience in helping students score a 5 on AP exams

Unlike tutor marketplaces, every Wiingy tutor is screened individually and undergoes a comprehensive assessment. Less than 3% of applicants are selected to become tutors on Wiingy’s platform, ensuring tutors are highly qualified and experienced in teaching AP courses.

Our tutors will work with you 1-on-1 to master the content and skills you need to succeed. Experienced tutors can provide you with curriculum-specific guides and practice questions and familiarize you with the exam format to help you ace the test.

We know that sometimes you don’t want to pay for private tutoring because it is too expensive. It’s common to see tutoring costs between $100 to $150 per hour. Wiingy’s rates are very affordable, starting from just $28 per hour, much lower than the average AP tutoring offered by other platforms.

One more advantage of studying with us is that we don’t require you to sign up for any packages or yearly subscriptions. You can sign up for as little as a single lesson and add more lessons as per your requirements.

While we try to match you with the perfect tutor as per your needs, we know that sometimes even the best tutors might not be the right fit for you. That’s why we offer you the Perfect Match Guarantee, which means that if you are not satisfied with your tutor for any reason, you can request a free replacement at any time

Sign up with Wiingy AP English Literature and Composition Tutoring today and achieve your goal of scoring a 5 on your AP Test!

Why take AP English Literature?

  • College credit: Depending on your score and the policies of the college you plan to attend, a high AP score on the AP English Literature and Composition exam can earn you college credit. This can save you time and money on tuition costs, as you may be able to skip introductory English literature and Composition courses in college. You can major in English, comparative literature, creative writing, and journalism.
  • Advanced Placement: In addition to college credit, a high score on the AP English Literature and Composition exam can also earn you advanced placement in higher-level English literature courses in college. This can give you a head start and allow you to take more advanced courses earlier in your college career.
  • Career Prospect: Taking the AP English Literature and Composition exam and earning a high score demonstrates to colleges and future employers that you have mastered college-level English literature and Composition concepts and skills. This can be an impressive addition to your college application or resume if you are looking to make your career as a writer, editor, literary critic, or librarian.
  • Interest in English literature: Finally, taking the AP English Literature and Composition exam can be a way to pursue your interest in English literature and deepen your understanding of the world around you. By exploring advanced English literature and Composition concepts and practicing critical thinking skills, you can gain a greater appreciation for the power of literature to shape our understanding of ourselves and the world.

Conclusion

Students who are interested in majoring in English, literature, history, or the arts will find the skills learned in AP English Literature and Composition to be essential. Additionally, the skills learned in this course can be applied to a wide range of careers, such as teaching, publishing, law, and business.

The AP  English Literature and Composition exam is divided into two sections: multiple-choice (55 questions, 1 hour) and free-response (3 essays, 2 hours).

The mean score for the AP English Literature and Composition exam in 2022 was 2.70 out of 5 which is better than the Mean Score for all AP subjects for 2022 which is 2.92 and the passing rate of 54.3% in 2022, which was slightly lower than the pass rate for AP overall, which was 60.2%. 

AP English Literature and Composition exam challenge students to demonstrate their understanding of literary concepts and their ability to apply critical thinking and analytical skills. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the AP English Literature and Composition exam?

The AP English Literature and Composition exam is a college-level exam that tests students’ knowledge of literary works from a variety of periods and cultures.

The exam is divided into two sections: multiple-choice and free response. The multiple-choice section consists of 55 questions that test students’ understanding of literary elements, such as plot, character, setting, and theme. The free-response section consists of two essays: one on a prose passage and one on a poem.

What are some resources that can help me prepare for the AP English Literature exam?

There are a number of resources that can help you prepare for the AP English Literature and Composition exam. These include:
The College Board’s AP English Literature and Composition website: This website includes information about the exam, practice questions, and sample essays.
AP English Literature and Composition textbooks: There are a number of AP English Literature and Composition textbooks available. These textbooks can help you learn about the different literary elements and concepts that are covered on the exam.
Practice tests: There are a number of practice tests available online or in print. Taking practice tests will help you get familiar with the format of the exam and the types of questions that are asked.
Tutoring: If you need additional help preparing for the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you may want to consider getting a tutor. A tutor can help you review the material, practice answering questions, and write essays.

What are the most common mistakes students make on the AP English Literature and Composition exam?

Some of the most common mistakes students make on the AP English Literature and Composition exam include:
Not reading the passages carefully: The passages on the AP English Literature and Composition exam are often complex and challenging. It is important to read the passages carefully and to understand the main points before attempting to answer the questions.
Not understanding the literary terms: The AP English Literature and Composition exam includes a number of literary terms that students need to know in order to answer the questions. It is important to study the definitions of these terms and to be able to identify them in the passages.
Not writing clear and concise essays: The free-response essays on the AP English Literature and Composition exam are very important. It is important to write clear and concise essays that answer the questions and support your arguments with evidence from the passages.

Reviewed by

Priyanshi Agrawal

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