AP English Literature Question Types

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Find out what types of questions you'll face on the AP English Literature and Composition exam with this article. Go over strategies for answering these questions and learn how you can study for the exam.

Question Types on the AP English Literature Exam

The AP English Literature and Composition exam includes a multiple-choice section and a section of free-response questions. These sections each represent approximately half of your final grade. (The free-response questions are worth slightly more.)


You will need to complete 55 multiple-choice questions in an hour when you take the AP English Literature and Composition exam. You'll be required to read excerpts from a series of texts and then correctly answer the sets of questions that follow.

Reading passages can include several paragraphs from a novel or play as well as a complete poem. After reading a selected work, you might be asked to draw inferences from selected lines, identify the effects of literary devices like satire or repetition, and interpret the author's use of imagery.

Wrong answers are not penalized in this section, so make sure you complete every single question, even if you have to guess.


There are 3 free-response questions on this exam. You have up to 120 minutes to complete them by writing responses in which you analyze a poem, an excerpt from a work of fiction, and a literary work you select.

The College Board recommends spending 40 minutes on each prompt. You should try to plan your writing strategy before you begin answering these questions, and make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete each response. If you do a perfect job on one essay, but neglect the other two, your score will suffer for it.

Each of your responses will receive up to 9 points, depending on the complexity and persuasiveness of your argument as well as your ability to support it with specific references to the text. High-scoring essays also have very few grammatical errors.

Study Resources for the AP English Literature Exam

Keep in mind that AP exams are usually offered in the beginning of May, and that you will need a significant amount of time to prepare. Don't wait for the night before the exam to get ready. Instead, check out available test prep resources early so that when test day rolls around you're prepared to get the best score possible.

These include sample multiple-choice questions listed on the College Board website (www.apcentral.collegeboard.com). You can also find examples of the free-response questions used in previous years in addition to sample essay responses that provide you with detailed explanations of the scoring decisions for each one. Checking these samples out can give you a better idea as to the difficulty of each question type.

Online study courses are available as well. Access this AP English Literature Exam Prep course to get ready for your test. This study guide can help you review different types of poetry and prose and provide you with tips for analyzing a work of literature. You'll also find chapters that deal specifically with getting ready to write a great essay. All of this information is covered in short, interesting video lessons. You'll also have access to quizzes and tests that can get you used to answering multiple-choice questions similar to those found on the exam.

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