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. Both are taught by schools and students should take one during junior year and the other during senior year.
A literature course is compulsory and all students need to pass the exam to graduate from high school. Scoring an A in an AP version of this course could exempt you from taking composition or rhetorical analysis in college.
Skills You’ll Learn
You’ll learn how to closely analyze one literary sample at a time, which means that you’ll spend a couple of days reading and writing commentary. You are going to be asked to assess poetry and dramas from different time periods & cultures.
Ultimately, this means the course is designed to make you write essays where you express and support your analysis of everything you’ll be reading. You can also read our guide on how to write an AP English essay.
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 prep you for college.
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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As a student, the best thing you could do is prep for the course beforehand, that way there won’t be any surprises and you’ll have some guidance through the units.
Know that the Advanced Placement Program is going to prep you for college and even give you an advantage. So the better you use these resources now, the better you’ll do in the future. Make sure to check the course guidelines during your free time and find any questions you have so that you can clear them with your teacher as soon as possible.
Until then, here are the topics of each unit:
Unit 1: Short Fiction I
At the beginning of class, you’ll be learning how to properly read, analyze, and interpret prose. It might sound simple but there are multiple elements to consider. As a student, you’ll work to identify and interpret the role of characters, settings, narrator perspective, and overall the basics of literary analysis.
Unit 2: Poetry I
In this unit, you’ll apply the above to a wide variety of poems. You’ll work to identify characters but also learn about similes, metaphors, contrast, and alliterations. You’ll be provided with guidelines to help you find the meaning of poetic structure.
If this sounds like a lot already don’t worry, there are certain distributions in place to help keep up, just remember that if you practice, read a lot and study the exam will be a piece of cake.
Unit 3: Longer Fiction or Drama I
As you progress in the course you’ll see that the things you’ve learned in earlier units are applied in many others too. In this portion of the class, you’ll be working on identifying character development and interaction in a narrative.
This means you’ll be asked to understand a character, their evolution, conflicts, and role in the plot. Symbolism is a big part of this unit, as well as finding evidence and you’ll be asked to explain literary arguments too.
Unit 4: Short Fiction II
In this unit, you’ll go deeper into conflict and character roles. Some of the topics include understanding who are the protagonists and antagonists, their relationships, conflicts, and responses.
Make sure you read every literary work assigned, this will help you score a higher grade.
Unit 5: Poetry II
You’ll get to learn and practice some more about the structure of a poem and your previous knowledge will be put to a test as you’ll revisit and expand on that work. The topics of study are the structure, techniques of hyperbole, imagery, personification, allusion, and metaphors.
Remember you’ll have multiple opportunities to prep for the exam before May, it’ll be your choice whether you study hard, or if scoring a high grade is not of your interest, then pass on practice and score a low grade.
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Unit 6: Longer Fiction or Drama II
In this unit, you’ll be required to analyze longer and denser literary works. Once again, character analysis will be important as you see their response to different situations in the plot. Some of the topics include identifying motives, flashbacks, foreshadowing, symbols, metaphors, archetypes, and their distributions.
They’ll test your ability to answer a prompt that asks for multiple literary devices. As a student, you’ll also start to develop literary arguments based on different and wider works, which you’ll use once you start to form essays.
Unit 7: Short Fiction III
At this point of the course, you’ll be taught to look further away from the literary sample and more into the world and life of the author. The focus is going to turn to look at the commentary and evidence the author leaves about their own experience, better, find if there is a critique to society.
Unit 8: Poetry III
This unit is destined to understand the different layers a piece of poetic writing has. You’ll learn how ambiguous language and certain techniques add value to a poem. The topics of this unit are, understanding patterns in punctuation and structure, learn about juxtaposition, paradox, and irony, identifying symbols & allusions, and proper citation.
Unit 9: Longer Fiction or Drama III
In this unit, you’ll have a look at longer narratives and apply the skills learned prior to providing proper responses with nuanced commentary and a complex level of analysis. You’ll learn about suspense, resolution, and plot development. And finally, you’ll have lessons dedicated to learning how to find inconsistencies and opposite perspectives in a narrative.
If you are looking for a complete guide on all AP English classes, check out our AP English guide.
Students will be required to take a final exam where they’ll show everything they’ve learned, read, and mastered during each lesson. Be sure to check out the guidelines for the test during your free time to make sure you know what is expected of you.
The test has a duration of 3 hours, and there’ll be many questions designed to test your knowledge. There are two sections you’ll have to complete, multiple-choice and free-response.
Section 1: Multiple choice
This section counts with 55 questions and accounts for 45% of your score and you’ll have one hour to complete every question.
The multiple-choice will work as follows:
- The section is divided into 5 sets, each with 8 - 13 questions.
- Each set will have a fiction, poetry, or drama sample
- Each sample will come with its own set of questions
- The literature will be:
- 2 prose passages (fiction or drama)
- 2 poetry passages
Section 2: Free response
You are going to have 2 hours to answer three questions and it counts for 55% of your score.
The possible questions include:
- Poetry analysis: You’ll have a poetry sample and your response has to be in essay form and it has to address a given prompt with a thesis to explain your interpretation. The use of evidence is important since it will help you explain your answer. Be sure to use the in-class resources you are given.
- Prose fiction analysis: You’ll be handed a passage of prose (fiction or drama) and you’ll come up with a response to the prompt in essay form. You’ll need a thesis (don’t forget to follow the writing guidelines) that shows proper interpretation accompanied by evidence.
- Literature analysis: You’ll have to choose between roughly 40 different literary pieces to analyze a literary concept or idea that you’ll be presented with. This prompt will also be answered in essay form. Your score highly depends on how well you use evidence and how able you are to cite the different literary pieces as you use them to contribute to your argument.
All of your responses will be graded according to the College Board guidelines. You can check our piece on tips to help you pass AP English.
Scoring an A will only depend on how hard you study for this English course and how well you prep for the exam. Be sure to practice prompt interpretation, essay writing, and to use all the resources you are given.
As you could see, this course is designed to teach you about literature analysis. The value of AP classes is that they provide you with tools that will come in handy for the rest of your student life, perhaps even after.
Scoring a high grade is going to look good in the eyes of the College Board, which will reflect in your application and could even exempt you from some classes in university.
Remember that you can always look for outside help. Maybe free resources at the library could come in handy or maybe hiring a private tutor to help you get ahead and beyond.
Find more information about AP English Language and Composition here.
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