AP Prep

Published February 16, 2024

Everything You Need to get a 5 English Literature and Composition

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Natasha Potter

MSU Alumni, Creative Advertising Major, Marketing Associate at Knowt 😃

Hey there! This article is all about our tips for how to study for the AP English Literature and Composition exam to get a solid 5. I'll break down the tricks, so with the right strategies and resources, nailing the exam is totally doable!

Free AP English Literature and Composition Resources

Hey, no worries if you're in a last-minute cramming session for AP English Literature! We totally get it, and trust me, we've all been there too! So, if you're wondering how to ace the AP English Literature and Composition exam when you're running out of time, here are some awesome resources and AP English Literature exam tips created by fellow students that will help you cram like a boss.

What Do I Need to Memorize for the AP English Literature and Composition Exam?

AP Lit Exam in a Nutshell:

So, the AP Lit exam is a 3-hour ride. You've got an hour for the multiple-choice part, tackling five prose and poetry pieces with 55 questions. Then, the free-response section takes up two hours, featuring three essays – one on poetry, one on prose, and a wildcard where you choose the work.

Now, the deets: multiple-choice is 45% of your score, and the free-response is the other 55%. They rate your essays on a 0-6 scale, and your raw scores get a facelift into a final 1 to 5 score.

How to Prep Like a Pro:

  1. Read some books, know four to five works for the student-choice essays.

  2. Dive into poetry.

  3. Hone those close reading and analysis skills.

  4. Get cozy with common literary devices.

  5. Flex your essay-writing muscles.

  6. Pop quiz yourself!

On the big day, get up close and personal with those passages. Mark them up in a way that clicks for you – it'll pay off on both multiple-choice and free-response. Oh, and definitely sketch out your essays before you dive into writing. With these tips, you're on the fast track to AP Lit glory! 

AP English Literature and Composition Exam Format

The AP English Lit and Comp Exam sticks to the same types of questions, weightings, and scoring rules every year, so you and your students won't be caught off guard on exam day. The reading passages' difficulty stays within a consistent range from year to year too. Now, instead of the old holistic rubrics, the free-response questions get scored using analytic rubrics.

Section I: Multiple Choice

55 Questions | 1 Hour | 45% of Exam Score

First up is Section I, the Multiple Choice part. It's got 55 questions, lasts an hour, and makes up 45% of the total score. There are 5 sets of questions with 8–13 questions per set. Each set kicks off with a passage from prose fiction, drama, or poetry with varying difficulty. At least 2 prose fiction passages (maybe with drama) and 2 poetry passages are always in the mix.

Section II: Free Response

3 Questions | 2 Hours | 55% of Exam Score

Then, there's Section II, the Free Response part. Three questions, 2 hours, and it's worth 55% of the total score. Students write essays tackling 3 free-response prompts from these categories: a literary analysis of a given poem, a literary analysis of a given passage of prose fiction (which might include drama), and an analysis digging into a specific concept, issue, or element in a work they choose. For Question 3, students should pick a piece of fiction that fits the bill—something of similar quality to what they've read in their AP class(es).

How should I study for the MCQ AP English Literature and Composition Exam?

  1. Reading Comprehension:

These questions gauge your ability to grasp the passage on a fundamental level without requiring intricate interpretation. Your success hinges on reading the text attentively. Sometimes, you might need to backtrack and review sections to ensure a clear understanding.

  1. Inference:

These questions prompt you to infer something—like a character's viewpoint or an author's intention—based on the passage. The answer won't be explicitly stated but can be assumed from what's clearly written. Don't let the idea of making inferences trip you up; there's a best-supported answer rooted in the passage. In many ways, inference questions resemble second-level reading comprehension—knowing not just what a passage says, but what it means.

  1. Identifying and Interpreting Figurative Language:

These questions task you with recognizing figurative language or interpreting the meaning of a figurative phrase. They're identifiable when mentioning figurative language explicitly or including a figurative phrase in the question itself. Understanding the meaning of figurative phrases usually involves considering the phrase's context in the passage—what surrounds it and what it refers to.

  1. Literary Technique:

These questions revolve around why an author employs certain techniques, from specific phrasing to repetitive words. Identify them through words/phrases like "serves chiefly to," "effect," "evoke," and "in order to." Ask yourself: Why did the author use these words or this structure?

  1. Character Analysis:

These questions prompt you to describe aspects of a character, referring to attitudes, opinions, beliefs, or relationships with other characters. It's a specialized inference question, inferring the broader personality of a character from passage evidence, more common in prose passages than poetry.

  1. Overall Passage Questions:

Certain questions ask you to identify or describe elements of the passage or poem as a whole, such as its purpose, tone, or genre. Look for phrases like "in the passage" and "as a whole." Answering requires a bird's-eye view, considering the overall picture created by the details.

  1. Structure:

Some questions focus on specific structural elements like shifts in tone, digressions, or the form of a poem. They might pinpoint a part of the passage/poem, asking what it accomplishes. Identifying and understanding shifts—structural, tonal, or in genre—is crucial for these questions.

  1. Grammar/Nuts & Bolts:

Occasionally, you might encounter specific grammar questions or super-specific inquiries like the meter of a poem. These questions delve into the technical aspects of having a strong command of the English language, less about literary artistry and more about linguistic precision.

How should I study for the FRQ AP English Literature and Composition Exam?

Essay 1 and 2

Alright, so the first couple of essays are all about diving into literary analysis. You'll get a passage to check out—one from a poem and the other from some prose. Your mission? Break down that excerpt and analyze it for a specific theme, device, or development. They'll throw in some info like who wrote it, when it was roughly penned, and some context to point you in the right direction.

Now, for the grand finale essay, it's all in your hands. You get to pick a work and analyze a theme of your choice. It's your time to shine, the spotlight's on you!

Essay 3

Now, let's talk about the last essay. It's all about chatting up a specific theme in a work that you pick. They'll toss you a list of cool works that hit the theme, but you're also free to go rogue and pick any "work of literary merit."

When do AP English Literature scores come out?

Scores will typically come out in July every year, but you can also refer to the official CollegeBoard Annual calendar to monitor any chances.

Is AP English Literature and Composition Hard? (Previous Scores)

Nailing a 5 on the AP English Literature and Composition exam might sound like a tough nut to crack. Just check out the 2020 stats – only 12.5% of students snagged that coveted 5. But, hey, don't let the numbers spook you! While it might make you want to throw in the towel, acing this exam is totally doable with some good old hard work, prep, and a sprinkle of determination. In this post, we're dishing out a bunch of AP English Literature tips to help you own your exam.

The AP English Lit and Comp exam are all about flexing those critical thinking muscles and diving deep into literary excerpts. It's a three-hour journey with a multiple-choice section (45% of your grade) and a free-response section (the big 55%).

The secret sauce to that sweet 5? Practice. Yep, you heard it right – practice till you drop. And guess what? We've got your back. Check out the ultimate list below – AP English Lit practice tests, study guides, real-deal prose essay examples, killer test-taking strategies, and more. Think of this page as your one-stop-shop for the ultimate AP English Literature review.

Explaining the AP English Literature and Composition Exam Scores

Alright, let's break down the exam scoring in a chill way. The multiple-choice part rocks 45% of your overall score, and the three essays, aka the free-response gig, take up the other 55%. So, each essay is worth around 18% of your total grade.

Now, on to the 1-5 score system – you don't need to nail every point to snag a 5. In 2022, about 16.9% of AP English Lit test-takers rocked that sweet 5. Not too shabby, right? It was the 14th highest 5 score out of the 38 AP exams floating around.

Multiple-Choice Scoring

Easy peasy – you get 1 point for every correct answer. No penalty for guessing, so take a shot at every question. But, only guess if you can kick out the answers you know are wrong and up your chances of nailing the right one.

Free-Response Scoring

This one's a bit more intricate. Each essay gets a score from 0 to 6 based on the College Board rubric. And this rubric has your back, including question-specific rubrics that are pretty darn similar with just tiny tweaks.

They'll grade you on three things:

  1. Thesis (0-1 points)

  2. Evidence and Commentary (0-4 points)

  3. Sophistication (0-1 points)

So, that's the lowdown on how they tally up your genius essay skills. Keep it cool and aim for those points! 

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