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AP English Literature Essay Prompts

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian is a 3D printing and digital design entrepreneur with over five years of professional experience. After six years of aircrew service in the Air Force, he earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix following a BS from the University of Maryland. He is also a real estate investor, board gamer and homebrewer.

Practice in writing AP Test questions in the classroom is an effective way of preparing for the test itself. This collection of essay prompts will give an expectation of the test structure and inspiration for the creation of additional prompts.

Practice Essays

The AP English Literature and Composition Exam includes three free-response essay questions that together account for 55% of a student's total score. The best way to prepare for test day is to practice writing essays that are similar to those found on the exam. Although students will have no way of knowing the exact questions ahead of time, the College Board makes questions from previous years available so that test-takers can get an idea of how their knowledge and composition skills will be assessed.

The best way to practice is to write AP test style questions under similar conditions. Test-takers will have two hours to answer all three questions, with a suggested 40 minutes for each essay. Students could start with one essay at a time and work their way up to writing three essays in a single two-hour sitting. On the actual tests students will be given a complete passage to read, but for these questions students will need to be provided with the text separately.

Literary Analysis of a Poem

  • Carefully read John Keats' poem ''Ode on a Grecian Urn.'' Analyze how Keats understands the nature of truth, beauty, and eternity based on the imagery of the urn.
  • Carefully read Percy Blythe Shelley's poem ''Ozymandias.'' Analyze how Shelley describes the King in comparison with the description of the desert. Consider how Shelley's use of literary techniques emphasize each.
  • Carefully read Shakespeare's ''Sonnet 12.'' Write an analysis of how Shakespeare uses language to describe a pessimistic view of the passage of time.

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