AP English is a course that will not only test your reading and writing skills but is designed to teach students how to properly analyze, discuss, support, and draw conclusions of literary pieces. In this class, you will have to study hard and dedicate your time to learn how to properly write an essay during an exam.

Doing well in this class might exempt you from taking composition or rhetorical analysis in college. You can always get a head start and prepare yourself before class by following some tips on this course.

AP English is not only important because it helps you skip a class in college or become one of the best students in the school year, but it is important because good writing and reading skills are what many employers look for.

Data shows that learning how to use language properly will open doors in your future. If you are planning on pursuing a career that requires reading and comprehending lengthy text or writing a lot, like literature, creative writing, philosophy, even politics; then developing good writing skills during your school years is imperative for you. So, think about your future, and not only college.

We’ve created this article as a guide with tips that can help you do well and pass AP English with a good grade.

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Remember, this is a class designed to test your language composition skills so make sure you are practicing reading and writing. (Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash)

AP English Language and Composition

Advanced Placement (AP) English Language and Composition is one of the courses that are taught as part of the Advanced Placement Program. The other course in the AP English curriculum is Literature and Composition, which used to be taught as one with Language and Composition but they ultimately got separated.

This course is centered on rhetorical analysis and it is recommended for students with an aptitude to write analytic and persuasive writing. Although generally both (Language and Literature Composition) are taught by schools, students are to take one during junior year and the other during senior year or vice-versa. So, as a student, you are could take both during your school years.

In AP English Language and Composition, you are going to work on a syllabus designed to teach you how to master the English language. This means essay writing, reading comprehension, rhetorical analysis, argument construction, mastering answers for a prompt or question of a given passage, logical reasoning, and more.

According to the College Board site, by the end of the school year, you will have a new set of skills that are going to prepare you for college.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Writing an argument based on evidence
  • Gathering trustworthy information from different sources.
  • Evaluating sources of information
  • Reading comprehension: analysis and understanding
  • Drafting out correctly a piece of writing

This class is equivalent to a literary analysis college course and you won’t need any prerequisites to take it.

AP English Literature and Composition

Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature and Composition is one of the courses that are taught as part of the Advanced Placement Program. The other course in the AP English curriculum is Language and Composition, which used to be taught as one with Literature and Composition but they ultimately got separated.

AP English Literature and Composition is a course designed for students with an interest in classical and contemporary literature, and they’ll spend the school year analyzing, exploring, and interpreting literary themes and genres. Although generally both (Language and Literature Composition) are taught by schools, students are to take one during junior year and the other during senior year.

Skills You’ll Learn

You’ll learn how to closely analyze one literary sample at a time, which means that you’ll spend many days reading and writing commentary. You are going to be asked to assess poetry and dramas from different periods & cultures.

Ultimately, this means the course is designed to make you write essays where you support a thesis through literary analysis.

Some of the specific skills are:

  • Reading comprehension and drawing conclusions
  • Find techniques used by authors in the text and understand their effect
  • Interpretation of a text and putting it down in writing, supporting it with a coherent argument

In other words, as a student, you’ll learn how to make pertinent commentary on a given literary piece which will help you improve your English expression skills.

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Knowing how you’re going to be graded will empower you throughout the class content. (Photo by Eli Francis on Unsplash)

Exam Time

Students will be required to take a final exam where they will show everything they’ve learned, and mastered. There are going to be many specific points to consider before the test and keep in mind that even though the final exam for both classes has the same two sections (multiple choice and free response) the structure for both is different.

For Language and Composition, you’ll have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete both sections. In this multiple-choice section, you will have to answer 45 questions that account for 45% of your score and you’ll have one hour to complete it. For the second section (free response) you’ll answer 3 questions in 2 hours and 15 minutes and it accounts for 55% of your score.

On the other hand, you’ll have 3 hours to complete the Literature and Composition exam. The multiple-choice section has 55 questions and it accounts for 45% of your grade, you’ll have one hour to complete this part of your test. For the free-response section, you’ll have 2 hours to answer three questions that will make up 55% of your score.

For a more detailed description of each exam visit our articles on AP English Language and Composition and AP English Literature and Composition.

How To Score An A

Teachers have guidelines they have they follow to grade an essay. Don’t worry too much though, they are required to tell you how they will be doing it and the reasoning behind it.

The first thing you have to keep in mind is that teachers know that during an exam you’ve only had 40 minutes to read the literary sample and write a five-paragraph essay. This means they won’t be expecting perfection as they usually do with out-of-class assignments, they are just looking for appropriate reasoning and argument development. So, as long as you study hard and prep beforehand, you’ll do just fine.

These essays are graded over 10 points. Be sure to understand what will be required of you to aim for the highest score during the exam. Here are the guidelines:

  • 2 - 1 Little Success: Scoring 1 or 2 means that the student failed to understand what the prompt was asking about the given passage. In other words, you didn’t write about the topic you were asked to write about.
  • 4 - 3 Inadequate: Your writing fails to communicate effectively, the arguments aren’t coherent and the evidence is poorly used or unconvincing. Students score a 3 if the essay lacks “writing maturity” which means they haven’t learned how to properly communicate an idea through writing.
  • 6 - 5 Adequate: Your capacity to develop arguments is still good but you failed in syntaxis or weren’t very eloquent in your writing. Scoring a 5 means the student provided arguments that were inconsistent, unclear, and limited.
  • 8 - 7 Effective: The communication of ideas is done effectively in the exam. You can argue a convincing matter and provide evidence with coherent explanations. The essay is written in such a way that you showed the capacity to manage many variables like time constraints and more. Scoring 7 means that the essay is adequate, with the complete development of ideas.
  • 9 - To score a 9 out of 10, you will have to meet the criteria for effectiveness but also show a higher level and sophisticated writing style. A 9 means your use and control of language is “particularly impressive”.

We believe that knowing how you’re going to be graded will empower you to understand what it is teachers are looking for in your work or during the exam/ test. If you get started knowing how a 9 essay looks like and prepare yourself to meet the correct criteria, you can be almost certain that that’s the grade you’re going to get (as long as you practice a lot). You will have a lot of time to prepare, be sure to write your AP essay to the best of your abilities.

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To write a good thesis you first have to understand the prompt and decide how to approach it in the essay. (Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)

Essay Writing Tips

The thesis statement is one of the most important aspects of an AP English essay. The most important tip is that a strong thesis statement is going to put you on a path to develop a strong argumentative essay and score all the points on that portion of the exam.

To write a good thesis you first have to understand the prompt or question and decide how to approach it in the essay. Understanding the prompt or question can be the tricky part, but you can get good at it if you practice a lot.

Be sure to read some examples and see how the writer or author answers different prompts or questions. Know that this exam is designed to test your analytical capacities, a skill you develop by reading, a lot. If you are the kind of student that skips through the summer readings, or you never pick up a book, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

A strong thesis will directly answer the prompt or question with a disputable claim. Usually, they follow this format: your argument plus 3 reasons or examples. You might say something like: Argument is true because of reason 1, reason 2, and reason 3.

Keep in mind that the thesis usually goes at the end of the introduction paragraph, and even as the very last sentence.

You can find more tips on passing these AP classes by reading our blog on Tips for AP English.


Remember that there is no exact guide or book that tells you exactly how to pass an AP English class. You just need to do your best, follow the instructions correctly, and practice, practice, practice!

We created this guide to help you review the contents of the class, understand what is asked of you, and to give you an idea of where every point of your score comes from. But knowing all of this won’t be of any help if you don’t study hard for every specific topic. These are just tips that will guide and answer any questions you might have as you prep for the course.

Know that if you are in need of extra help you can always find a private tutor to help and guide you

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