AP English Literature Exam

Do you know how to conduct a close reading of prose and poetry? Can you write effectively under time constraints? The AP®  English Literature and Composition exam tests topics and skills discussed in your AP English Literature course. If you score high enough, your AP English score could earn you college credit!

Check out our AP English Literature Guide for what you need to know about the exam:

What’s on the AP English Literature & Composition Exam?

The AP English Literature & Composition exam takes 3 hours to complete and consists of two sections: a multiple choice section and a free response section.

Timing

Number of questions

% of Exam Score

Section 1

60 minutes

55 multiple-choice questions

45%

Section 2

120 minutes

3 free response questions

55%

AP English Literature & Composition Book List

There is no required reading or book list for the Ap English Literature exam, but the College Board provides a list of authors and poets with whom you should be familiar and whose work is of the caliber and density that you are expected to understand. These lists include:

  • Poetry: W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, William Blake, Anne Bradstreet, Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Browning, George Gordon/Lord Byron, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Geoffrey Chaucer, Lucille Clifton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Billy Collins, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Rita Dove, Paul Laurence Dunbar, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Joy Harjo, Seamus Heaney, George Herbert, Garrett Hongo, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Langston Hughes, Ben Jonson, John Keats, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Andrew Marvell, John Milton, Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander Pope, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, William Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Leslie Marmon Silko, Cathy Song, Wallace Stevens, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Derek Walcott, Walt Whitman, Richard Wilbur, William Carlos Williams, William Wordsworth, William Butler Yeats
  • Drama: Aeschylus, Edward Albee, Amiri Baraka, Samuel Beckett, Anton Chekhov, Caryl Churchill, William Congreve, Athol Fugard, Lorraine Hansberry, Lillian Hellman, David Henry Hwang, Henrik Ibsen, Ben Jonson, David Mamet, Arthur Miller, Molière, Marsha Norman, Sean O’Casey, Eugene O’Neill, Suzan-Lori Parks, Harold Pinter, Luigi Pirandello, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Sam Shepard, Sophocles, Tom Stoppard, Luis Valdez, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson
  • Fiction (Novel and Short Story): Chinua Achebe, Sherman Alexie, Isabel Allende, Rudolfo Anaya, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Raymond Carver, Willa Cather, John Cheever, Kate Chopin, Sandra Cisneros, Joseph Conrad, Edwidge Danticat, Daniel Defoe, Anita Desai, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Eliot, Ralph Ellison, Louise Erdrich, William Faulkner, Henry Fielding, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E.M. Forster, Thomas Hardy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Kazuo Ishiguro, Henry James, Ha Jin, Edward P. Jones, James Joyce, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa, Jhumpa Lahiri, Margaret Laurence, D.H. Lawrence, Chang-rae Lee, Bernard Malamud, Gabriel García Márquez, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, Bharati Mukherjee, Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor, Orhan Pamuk, Katherine Anne Porter, Marilynne Robinson, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, John Updike, Alice Walker, Evelyn Waugh, Eudora Welty, Edith Wharton, John Edgar Wideman, Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright
  • Expository Prose: Joseph Addison, Gloria Anzaldua, Matthew Arnold, James Baldwin, James Boswell, Joan Didion, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Hazlitt, bell hooks, Samuel Johnson, Charles Lamb, Thomas Macaulay, Mary McCarthy, John Stuart Mill, George Orwell, Michael Pollan, Richard Rodriguez, Edward Said, Lewis Thomas, Henry David Thoreau, E.B. White, Virginia Woolf

AP English LIterature Question Types

Multiple Choice

AP English Literature multiple-choice questions are grouped in sets. You are given four or five passages to read in order to answer a set of questions with five answer choices each for the specified passage. Use your time effectively and wisely!

Free Response

AP English free response questions require students to write essays that respond to the following types of prompts:

  • Literary analysis of a given poem or poems
  • Literary analysis of a passage of prose fiction prose on a story, novel excerpt, or essay that is provided to you.
  • An analysis that examines a specific concept, element, or issue from a literary work chosen by the student

How to Interpret AP English Literature Scores

AP scores are reported from 1 to 5. Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5 on the AP English LIiterature exam, but some may grant credit for a 3. (Here's a quick overview of AP credit policy.) Each test is curved so scores vary from year to year. Here’s how AP English Lit  students scored on the May 2017 test:

Score

Meaning

Percentage of Test Takers

5

Extremely qualified

6.8%

4

Well qualified

16.1%

3

Qualified

29.7%

2

Possibly qualified

33.9%

1

No recommendation

13.5%

Source: College Board

How can I prepare?

AP classes are great, but for many students they’re not enough! For a thorough review of AP English Literature content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style.

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