AP English Literature Test & Study Guide

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Use this article to learn about the format and contents of the AP English Literature and Composition Exam. You can also find out how to pick the right study guide to help you prepare for this test.

AP English Literature and Composition Exam Structure

The AP English Literature and Composition Exam has been designed to test your reading comprehension and writing skills. The exam consists of a section with 55 multiple-choice questions and a free-response section with three essay questions. You'll have an hour for the multiple-choice section and two hours for the free-response portion of the test.

The multiple-choice questions require you to read a passage and then answer questions that deal with what you have read. These passages may be excerpts from pieces of literature that you read over the course of your AP English Literature and Composition class. You can expect to answer questions regarding the passage's structure, style and content.

The free-response questions typically require you to read a short passage and then analyze what you have read. Make sure you fully read the directions for this section, as you may be required to write about a specific character, a scene, or the literary devices present in the passage. You may also be asked to analyze a novel or play of your choice or from a provided list. Questions require you to consider themes, style or structure as they relate to the play or novel. The AP exam determines your skills in writing critically, including your mastery in clear rhetoric, appropriate vocabulary, audience awareness and formal grammar and mechanics.

Study Guides for the AP English Literature and Composition Exam

There are many study options to prepare you for the AP English Literature and Composition test; it all depends on how you learn, and what can help you best retain the information you'll need for the exam.

  • Study Books: You could purchase physical books specifically designed for the AP English Literature and Composition exam that can help you go over the concepts you'll encounter. Some of the most helpful would be those that offer practice tests and focus on both reading and writing skills.
  • Practice Tests: College Board, the organization that develops AP exams, publishes previous years' exams on their website, so you can see what has been on the exam. Several websites offer free and inexpensive practice exams that you can take online or order and take at your convenience.
  • Online Test Prep: If you want a little more of a learning experience than just answering practice questions, online study guides, like the AP English Literature Exam Prep Study Guide, are designed to help you sharpen your essay writing and literary analysis skills. This course features easy-to-follow lessons about different literary periods and devices, and each lesson includes a short quiz for quick self-assessment. You can improve your understanding of the kinds of poetry and prose you'll encounter on the exam. You'll also be able to go over the rules of English grammar. It's completely mobile-friendly, so you can work on this course whenever and wherever you'd like, and the interactive quizzes and tests make it easy for you to gauge your readiness for the exam. You can even reach out to English experts if you have a question about anything you study.

If you're taking any other AP exams, you can also find study guides for those. Check out all AP Prep Courses for self-paced, engaging study options that can help with any of these tests.

Test Schedule & Scoring

The AP English Literature and Composition test is offered two times in the first two weeks of May. Depending on whether you're taking the course at your school, a neighboring school or at home, you'll need to find out from your course coordinator where and when to take the exam. If you're unable to test on the regular dates, there is one late testing date, usually later in May.

The multiple-choice questions on the test are scored automatically, and correct answers get one point. This makes up 45% of the total test score. The essay portion is reviewed manually by a trained reviewer, who's usually an AP teacher or college professor. Each essay is scored on a 9-point scale, combined with the multiple-choice score and converted into a final score. Scores are available through your College Board login in July.

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