Published February 16, 2024

Everything You Need to get a 5 on AP English Language and Composition


Natasha Potter

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

In this article, I will present several techniques and AP English Language and Composition exam tips to help to achieve a score of 5. I will provide a detailed explanation of each method, equipping you with the necessary strategies, show you how to prepare for the AP English Language and Composition exam, and materials to excel in the examination. Rest assured, with the appropriate approach and available resources, you can certainly achieve outstanding results on the test.

Free AP English Language and Composition Resources

If you’re cramming last minute for AP English Language and Composition, don’t stress we’ve all been there! If you’re wondering how to pass the AP English Language and Composition exam on a time crunch, here are some of our student-made AP English resources for a last minute cram.

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

The multiple-choice section of the exam tests you on two main things. First, it assesses your ability to comprehend nonfiction passages and recognize the rhetorical devices and tools used in them. Second, it gauges your skills in thinking like a writer and making revisions to texts in composition questions.

You'll be given five passages, along with some brief context like "This passage is from a collection of essays on boating" or "This passage is from an essay written in 19th-century Haiti." After each passage, there will be a set of questions for you to answer.

In general, there are eight types of questions you can expect in the multiple-choice section. 

​​Type 1: Understanding the Passage

These questions are all about making sure you got the gist of what a specific part of the passage was saying, like the literal stuff. You'll know it's one of these questions when you see words like "according to" or "refers." To do well on these, just go back and read that part of the passage again super carefully.

Type 2: Reading Between the Lines

These questions go beyond just understanding the passage. They want to know what the author is hinting at without spelling it out. These questions have a right answer based on evidence from the passage. They'll use words like "best supported," "implies," "suggests," "inferred," and stuff like that. Look out for those clues to spot these kinds of questions.

Type 3: Big Picture and Author Questions

These questions are all about the whole shebang. They ask about the overall stuff in the passage or what the author is all about. They want to know the author's attitude, the purpose of the passage, the style it's written in, who the audience is, and things like that.

Type 4: Connecting the Dots

Now, these questions want you to figure out how different parts of the text are related to each other. It could be paragraphs or specific lines they're talking about. You'll know it's one of these questions because they'll straight up ask about the relationship between two parts of the text. Sometimes they'll be sneaky and ask about the relationship indirectly, like saying "compared to the rest of the passage."

Type 5: Figuring out the Figurative

Now we're getting into the fancy stuff. These questions want you to dig deeper and figure out the hidden meanings behind the author's use of figurative language or imagery. Basically, they're asking you why the author chose to use a specific simile or metaphor and what they're trying to achieve with it.

Type 6: What's the Point?

Now we're talking about questions that want to know why the author included a specific part of the text. They're asking you to figure out what purpose it serves in the author's overall argument. What's the author trying to achieve with that particular moment?

They might drop hints with words like "serves to" or "function." So keep an eye out for those clues to nail these kinds of questions.

Type 7: Tricks up Their Sleeve

Okay, these questions want you to catch the author's sneaky moves. They'll ask you to spot a rhetorical strategy used by the author. They might straight-up say "rhetorical strategy" or you can find them by checking out the answer choices, which give you different possible tricks the author might be using.

Type 8: Playing the Writer

Alright, this one's the newest addition, showed up around 2019/2020. Brace yourself to put on your writer hat! These questions want you to step into the shoes of the author and think about the decisions they have to make when writing or revising a text.

You'll be faced with choices like reordering sentences or paragraphs, adding or cutting info to make the argument stronger or clearer, making changes to grab the reader's attention, and other writing-related choices.

What is on the AP English Language and Composition Exam?

Hey, listen up! The College Board has a whole set of requirements for your AP English Language & Composition course. They're super specific about what your teacher should cover. But here's the scoop on the exam itself and a few AP English Language and Composition exam tips.

The test is all about testing your mad skills in understanding how authors use fancy rhetoric and language to get their point across. And guess what? You're not just a passive reader. Nope! You're expected to use those techniques in your own writing and research projects. Here are a few tips for AP English Language and Composition exam and how to put those skills to work!

Now, let's break down the major skills they're gonna test you on:

  1. Nailing the author's purpose and figuring out who they're trying to reach.

  2. Spotting all those rhetorical devices and strategies the author sneaks into their work.

  3. Rocking the citations game in your research papers. They want you to show you understand that stuff.

  4. Applying all those cool skills and techniques you learn to your own writing. Show 'em what you got!

  5. Building a killer argument with evidence and reasoning. It's all about being persuasive, my friend.

  6. Planning, writing, and revising essays like a boss. They want 'em cogent and well-written.

So, get ready to unleash your rhetorical superpowers and conquer that AP English Language & Composition exam utilizing these AP English Language and Composition test tips

AP English Language and Composition Exam Format

AP Language and Composition Exam in a Nutshell!

Listen up, folks! The AP Language and Composition exam is all about flexing your rhetorical skills. It's split into two sections, so let's break it down.

Section one is a wild hour-long ride with 45 multiple-choice questions. They'll throw all sorts of tricky stuff at you, testing your knowledge of rhetorical techniques and composition choices.

Now, section two is where the real fun begins. It's a two-hour free-for-all with three essay questions. But hold up, there's a 15-minute reading period to kick things off. In the first essay, you gotta synthesize sources and come up with an original argument. Then, in the second essay, it's all about dissecting a passage and analyzing its rhetoric. And finally, the third essay demands a totally original argument about an issue, with no sources given. 

Now, let's talk scoring. For every right answer in the multiple-choice section, you'll snag a sweet point. That section accounts for 45% of your overall score. The free-response section carries the weight of the remaining 55%. Each free-response question gets scored from 0-6 based on a fancy rubric. They'll tally up your raw score and convert it into a scaled score from 1-5.

What does the AP English and Composition MCQ look like?

Alright, let's dive into Section I of the AP English Language and Composition test, also known as the multiple-choice section. 

In this section, you'll come face to face with 45 questions that test your skills in reading and understanding nonfiction passages, all with their fancy rhetoric. It's all about analyzing how those writers use language to make their point.

Now, these questions are split into two categories: Reading questions and Writing questions. According to the College Board, you can expect around 23–25 Reading questions and 20–22 Writing questions. They'll mix it up to keep you on your toes.

Here's the deal: they'll present the questions in five sets, each attached to what they call a "stimulus passage." Fancy name, huh? At the beginning of each passage, they'll throw you a bone with a bit of info like "this essay was a big deal in a national newspaper back in the 1980s." Each passage will have around 7-10 questions related to it.

AP English Language and Composition Skill

% Exam Weighting 

Rhetorical Situation (reading)


Rhetorical Situation (writing)


Claims and evidence (reading)


Claims and evidence (writing)


Reasoning and organization (reading)


Reasoning and organization (writing)


Style (reading)


Style (writing)


What does the AP English Language and Composition FRQ look like?

The free response section is a bit of a marathon. You'll have 15 minutes just to read and prepare, followed by a whopping 120 minutes to write three separate essays, each with its own task.

Now, for that first essay, it's all about reading some sources. One of the AP English Language and composition exam tips is that they suggest you use the whole 15 minutes to read those sources and plan your essay. But hey, if you want to take a quick peek at the other questions, it might help spark some ideas while you're working on that first one.

Essay One: Let's Synthesize!

Okay, now we're diving into some synthesis action. They'll give you a heads-up on an issue, then throw six to seven sources at you with different viewpoints and info on that issue. Your job is to crank out an argumentative essay, using support from those documents.

If this feels like déjà vu from the DBQs on the history AP exams, you're spot on! But here's the twist: this essay is way more about persuading than just interpreting the documents.

Essay Two: Analyzing Rhetoric

In this second essay, you'll get a juicy excerpt from a nonfiction piece that's pushing an argument. Your mission? Analyze the rhetorical strategies used to build that argument. They'll even hook you up with some background info—where it came from, who wrote it, when it was published (if at all), and who the target audience was.

Essay Three: Time to Argue

Last but not least, we've got the third essay. They'll toss an issue your way and ask you to write a persuasive essay, taking a firm stance on that issue. You gotta back up your position with evidence from your "reading, experience, and observations."

When do AP English Language and Composition 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.

Should I Self Study AP English Language and Composition?

I wouldn’t recommend self studying AP English Language and Composition because the material can be very complex and it may be difficult to know how to study for the AP English Language and Composition exam. However, these are tips on how to study for the AP English Language and Composition exam that may help you prepare for test day!

Get Down and Dirty with the Text

When you're tackling those passages, whether it's in the multiple-choice section or the first two free-response questions, don't be a passive reader. Get in there and interact with the text! Mark it up with important stuff, notice the fancy devices, catch the author's argument—basically, highlight anything that seems crucial to how the text is put together. This will help you engage with the text and make it easier to answer questions or write an essay about it.

Unravel the Purpose and Argument

Every time you dive into a passage, make it your mission to uncover the author's overall purpose and argument. If you can confidently figure out what the author is trying to say, it'll be smoother sailing to see how all the other bits and pieces in the text contribute to the main point.

Plan Like a Pro

Listen up, this is the real deal: when it comes to the free-response section, taking a few minutes to plan and outline your essays is gold. Seriously, it's the most important thing you can do for yourself.

Unlike some other exams where content is king, the AP Language Exam values organization, a well-developed argument, and strong evidence. That's where your outline comes in clutch. It helps you ensure your argument makes sense, has solid evidence, and that your paragraphs flow smoothly and make sense. By utilizing these skills you can learn how to ace the AP English Language and Composition exam.

Be Ready for the Opposition

Want to give your free responses an extra punch? Here's a pro move: identify counterarguments to your position and tackle them head-on in your essay. This not only strengthens your own stance, but it also shows some serious skill in a timed essay, impressing those AP graders.

Is the AP English Language and Composition exam Hard?

Alright, let's talk about AP English Language and Composition. It's not a walk in the park, but it's not gonna make you pull your hair out either. We'd rate it around a 5.2 out of 10 on the difficulty scale, according to class alumnae. So, it's somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to challenging AP classes. 

Now, here's the deal with the pass rate. It's a bit lower compared to some other AP classes. Only about 56% of students manage to graduate with a 3 or higher. But hey, don't let that discourage you! With some hard work and dedication, you can definitely be part of that successful crew.

So, get ready to tackle AP English Language and Composition. It's gonna require some effort, but trust me, you've got what it takes to ace it!

Explaining the past AP English Language and Composition Scores

Alright, let's talk about those AP English Language scores. Now, since there's a fresh batch of test takers every year, the average score tends to change. But no worries, the College Board tries to keep things consistent across the board. 

Here's the deal: if you wanna get an idea of the average AP English Language score, it's best to look at a multi-year trend. So, if you take a peek at the AP Student Score Distributions released by the College Board, you'll see some numbers. Let's break it down:

In 2014, the mean AP English Language score was 2.79. Same score in 2015. In 2016, it bumped up a teeny bit to 2.82. Then in 2017, it dipped a bit to 2.77. But hey, it climbed back up to 2.83 in 2018. In 2019, it settled back down to 2.78. And finally, in 2020, it hit 2.96. 

Now, if you crunch all those numbers together and calculate the average, you'll get 2.82. That's the average AP English Language score based on those seven years.

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