As we approach AP exam time, you’ll want to explore how to best prepare yourself for the AP English Literature free-response section of the exam. Free-response makes up 55% of your test score. In this section, you will write three essays regarding prompts from poetry, a selected passage, and a work of literary fiction you select.
Only 7.6% of AP English Literature students scored a 5, in 2016. Follow this AP English Literature study plan to improve your chances of a possible 5 on this year’s test. Included herein are best practices for studying, practice exams, and tips on writing extraordinary essays.
What is the format of AP English Literature?
The goal of the AP English Literature course is to familiarize students with complex literary works of fiction. Through analytical reading and a careful attention to detail, students learn critical analysis of creative writing. Writing is an integral part of the course and exam. Essay assignments focus on the critical analysis of provided literary works and can be expository, analytical or argumentative.
The exam takes 3 hours. It is comprised of three free-response essays and 55 multiple-choice questions. The free-response section accounts to 55% of your score.
You will be given two hours to complete three free-response essays. The first will be corresponding to a given poem. The second will be regarding an excerpt from prose fiction or drama. The third is centered around a literary work chosen by you, from a specified category.
Why is the AP English Literature Free-Response Important?
Scoring guidelines for the AP English Literature Exam show that essays are assigned grades from 1-9. A 9 is the best score possible. Each of your scores is then multiplied by 3.0556. This weighted score is added to your multiple-choice totals, and the sum is your score. Overall scores ranging 114-150 are required for a 5 on the AP English Literature Exam.
If you score a perfect 68 on the multiple-choice portion, you would need three solid 5’s on your essays to earn a 5, on your overall exam. Since, it’s unlikely for anyone to achieve a perfect multiple-choice score, you should aim higher on the free-response questions.
A reasonable goal to strive for, would be earning 7’s on your essays. This would allow you to earn a 5 for your overall score by answering 40 MCQs correctly.
What Content is Covered in the Free-Response Section of AP English Literature?
For the AP English Literature Free-response section you are required to write three essays. They may be argumentative, analytical or expository depending on instructions. This section tests your ability to read and interpret various literary works, as well as your ability to communicate your ideas in a stylized, coherent response.
The test questions and subject matter change yearly, however, the structure remains the same. There will be one poem, one passage from prose fiction (or drama), and one work that you choose from a given category. Each fictional work will be accompanied by a question that you must answer in your essay. These range from specific interpretation of a given line or literary device used, to overall understanding of a writer’s purpose, theme or style.
Literature represented may span the 18th to 20th centuries. Poets such as John Keats, Walt Whitman, and Gwendolyn Brooks are possible examples. In drama, you may see the likes of Samuel Beckett, Sophocles, or Tennessee Williams. And, in expository prose, you’ll find authors such as Gloria Anzaldua, George Orwell, or Edward Said.
How to Prepare for AP English Literature Free-Response
Managing your time, as the AP exams grow closer, is imperative if you want a perfect score. There are many resources available online to help get the most from your AP English Literature study plan, both on Albert.io and CollegeBoard. Whether you’re natural at writing and comprehending literature, or not, you’ll want to prepare for the coming exam. Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of study sessions.
Practice Makes Perfect
You can find released exams and sample essays from previous years, on CollegeBoard. On Albert.io there are a multitude of helpful study resources including 15 Must Know Rhetorical Terms For AP English Literature, AP English Literature; 5 Essential Reads, and practice free-response essays for various works. If you’d like to follow a specific route the One Month AP English Literature Study Guide is helpful and comprehensive.
Focus on Critical Reading
Critical reading is essential for any AP English Literature review. It’s important to never skim through passages while studying. You will miss underlying themes and subtext which are important for answering the AP English Literature practice questions.
Always read at a normal pace in practice and during your exam. Repeat or elaborate passages to ensure you’ve understood them. Consider the following question as you read, “What is the meaning of this sentence, paragraph, stanza, or chapter?”
Utilize Your Syllabus
At the beginning of the year, collect as many of the books, poems and other works assigned for your AP English Literature course as you can. This will allow you to read at your own pace and save valuable time looking for assigned texts as they come up.
Take Notes as You Read
When reviewing any book, poem, essay or other literary work take careful notes which, can be used later. Include the exact title, author’s name and a paraphrasing of the preface or introduction. Also note important themes, styles, and content. When recording specific ideas related to a particular part include page, paragraph, and line number for easy re-examination at a later date.
Carefully Consider Principal Ideas
Take into account the key concepts in any reading assignment. What evidence or support does the author show? In the writings of journalists, identifying these ideas and reinforcing materials is easy. However, accomplishing the same task for a more subtle work, such as that of Sylvia Plath or F. Scott Fitzgerald, may prove challenging.
Explore the Context
Spending a short amount of time researching the context surrounding an author or their work can expand your understanding of issues they tried to address and how well they succeeded. For example, researching Berlin in 1935 will give you insight to better understand the motivations of Vladimir Nabokov, when he wrote The Gift.
Read out Loud
When reading complex passages or poetry it is helpful to read aloud. Often, this approach slows your reading and aids in your comprehension of underlying tones and themes.
Reread when Necessary
It is regularly advised to read a literary work more than once to fully understand complex issues and sophisticated expressions.
Consult Your Dictionary, Thesaurus or Encyclopedia
Take advantage of these invaluable resources at your local library or online to expand your knowledge of words and content that you are reading. Remember that many English and American texts require familiarity with the major themes of Judaic and Christian religious traditions and with Greek and Roman mythology.
Write, Review, and Rewrite Regularly
Writing quality essays takes practice. It’s not an innate ability we are born with. Proper use of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax are just as important as understanding the literature you’re analyzing. Refer to How To Score Your Own AP English Literature Practice Essay to review and improve your writing. For an in depth review of free-response strategies turn to 3 Ways to Tackle AP English Literature Prompts. Use of the Albert.io AP English Literature free-response practice questions will be invaluable to your study plan.
How to Answer AP English Literature Free-Response Questions?
Here are some basic guidelines for writing a cohesive free-response essay. For more specific details on writing an exemplary response, check out How to Score Your Own AP English Language Practice Essay. Also, head over to 11 AP English Literature Test Taking Strategies for exam insight.
Understand the Subject Matter
Before you begin formulating your answer, read the prompt and any corresponding passage thoroughly. Ensure you fully comprehend what is being asked of you.
Outline Your Essay
Begin answering any free-response question with a quick outline of your planned essay. An effective introduction will include a thesis statement. Your thesis statement and supporting ideas should be clear and well thought out. Remember to structure your points and end with a conclusion which summarizes your answer.
Write Clearly and Eloquently
As you craft your response pay special attention to structure, vocabulary, and grammar. A well written essay is essential. Be certain to answer the presented question fully with supporting evidence from the passage provided. Ensure that your tenses are in line, pronoun use is not messy, and read your essay for fluidity as you go. Conclude by restating your thesis and summarizing your argument.
What are AP English Literature Free-Response Questions Like?
The following are actual free-response questions from AP English Literature Exams of the past years. You can find many more released questions and responses on CollegeBoard, for reference.
Example One is from the 2016 exam.
“In this excerpt from Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Michael Henchard and his daughter Elizabeth-Jane are reunited after years of estrangement. During this separation, Henchard has risen from poor seasonal farm worker to wealthy mayor of a small country town, while Elizabeth has supported herself by waiting tables at a tavern.
Read the passage carefully. Paying particular attention to tone, word choice, and selection of detail, compose a well-written essay in which you analyze Hardy’s portrayal of the complex relationship between the two characters.”
When reading the passage, pay special attention to the relationship between the two characters. Note specific lines which give particular insight. Formulate your opinion and structure your essay to support it. A well-written response for this prompt would understand the many nuisances seen in this excerpt. Notable points to mention in an effective essay include the underlying hypocrisy of Henchard, the unhealthy relationship between the characters and the paradox wherein Elizabeth-Jane tries in vain to relate to her father, causing her own pain.
Take a look at some past responses for this prompt and the scores on CollegeBoard’s 2016 Scoring Guidelines.
Example two is from the 2015 exam.
“In literary works, cruelty often functions as a crucial motivation or a major social or political factor. Select a novel, play, or epic poem in which acts of cruelty are important to the theme. Then write a well-developed essay analyzing how cruelty functions in the work as a whole and what the cruelty reveals about the perpetrator and/or victim.
You may select a work from the list below or another work of equal literary merit. Do not merely summarize the plot.”
Some of the choices given included Beloved, Oliver Twist, The Scarlet Letter, and The Crucible.
Select one of the given options or your own, based on your confidence that you remember and understand the plot, characters and details well enough to write a convincing and sophisticated essay. Examine how cruelty plays a role in the story, what that means for the victim and/or perpetrator, and any underlying themes which relate to cruelty. Use specific examples from the piece and support your argument clearly.
Take a look at a few past responses from this prompt and the scores on CollegeBoard’s 2015 Scoring Guidelines.
How can I practice AP English Literature Free-Response?
As you continue to prepare yourself for the AP English Literature free-response portion of the exam, take advantage of the many resources cited herein. Also, look on Albert.io for helpful AP English Literature practice questions, study tips and essay guides.
Don’t forget to check the quality of your writing as you practice by self-scoring your practice responses. Check out How to Score Your Own AP English Literature Essay for help.
Looking for AP English Literature practice?
Kickstart your AP English Literature prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.
AP English essay prompts often get student confused, especially, those who haven’t faced this type of format before. For a better understanding of the format and AP English essay prompts you to need to review some valuable AP English essay examples. And our experts have few tips for you to consider too.
What is AP English?
This is a tough course of Language and Literature compositions on the college level. Both of these courses have their own focus. The language course is more about rhetoric and the Literature course about the analysis of literature. And synthesis essay is the thing that unites both of these courses. And the essay should be done in this particular format. That is why you should learn how to deal with AP English essay prompts.
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How to prepare for Exam
The exam is always a tough thing to deal with. During this one, you should prepare not just one, but three different essays of this English format. Here are those AP English essay examples:
- Two essays should analyze one particular literature work. It can be a part of a poem, essay or a story.
- Another one should be an answer to free AP English essay prompts. It is based on a piece of literature you should read before the exam.
The exam is divided into few parts and goes into three sections. Each section has various questions on different literature topics. There will be about:
- Modern literature of 20th century will offer from 10 to 20 questions.
- Romanic or Victorian literature will also require from 10 to 20 questions.
- And from 5 to 10 questions will be dedicated to 17th-century Elizabethan literature.
By default, there are no Contemporary literature questions that are beyond the 20th century. Also, Middle English is not very often in AP English exam essay examples. There can be exceptions, but our experts don’t recommend wasting your time on learning and practicing those two periods in literature.
How to Prepare for AP English Literature Essay
Free response essays are easier to deal with for most students than English essay with analysis. But we think that AP English essay examples of various types show us that it is not always true. If you are afraid of both of these essays, you have these simple steps to prepare yourself for the battle:
- You need to learn to analyze and read quickly. Try to practice both on prose and poetry. It is easier to do reading poems and extracts from different periods and styles in literature.
- Always read prompts before reading that particular piece of literature. Do it before answering the question. And don’t forget to do prompt annotations.
- Let those keywords become your triggers. Look for them in questions and read it several times to understand completely.
- Take notes as you read through the literature piece. Compare those notes to your prompt and identify keywords and main themes.
Our writing team recommends practicing frequently.
AP English Essay Examples of Prompts and Questions
Here are few AP English essay examples of prompts.
To answer this question, you need to get a good analysis of imagery, form, and diction that are used by the speaker. Note the symbolism that he uses. To do that you need to learn what symbolism is and what are the methods of its usage in literature.
It is the action of attaching a symbolic meaning to some particular thing, action, definition, etc. In most cases, symbolism is about metaphors and imagery. To describe and define a symbol use evidence and try to make it accurately. Don’t just list all those tools author uses. You need to make a strong well-supported analysis instead.
In this part of your exam, you need to analyze the structure of a literature piece and its contribution to the entire meaning. Your interpretation, description, and explanation should be unique, accurate, and specific. The main deal is the repetition.
It is the main factor that contributes to the meaning of a poem. We recommend not quoting the entire line of the poem in your essay, but writing the number of the line. It is more effective and saves time if you are in a rush.
Some students consider the free response section being the hardest part of the entire English exam. And here you should explain how and why a character from the literature piece contributes to the entire theme.
You are free to choose a novel and a character from it. You should work both with the character and the plot of the story it is engaged in. Please, don’t ignore the note at the end of the prompt. It says that you should not do a summary of the entire plot.
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AP English Language and Composition Essay Prompts
AP English language and composition essay prompts are not easier than the Literature ones. You should be prepared to work hard from the start. And the difficulties start from its structure. The entire exam is divided into four parts. Here they are:
An English argument essay is nothing more than just a typical argumentative essay we all love from our high school times. But there are is a special feature you need to consider. The grammar should be perfect, and structure should be totally logical. AP Language and Composition course is a big deal, and your main aim is to show your ability to make good analysis with a perfect structure and grammar indexes.
How to Deal with AP English Language Essay Prompts
You should note that AP English Literature and AP English Language essay prompts are not the same. There is a special essay in the prompt that you need to analyze. The goal of entire course is to teach you how to analyze. And the only way to deal with this exam is to learn to analyze that format. You should start early before the exam to make a good improvement.
The format of the Language and Literature essays is nothing different from any other essay you know.
- It starts with the Introduction where your thesis statement is presented.
- The Body section consists of few paragraphs supporting your main argument.
- The Conclusion is summarizing the entire essay.
AP English Exam Essay Examples of Format
There is just one difference in this prompt, and it lies in this synthesis essay you should write. There are three main components that should be present in your synthesis essay:
- There should be an Argument with a special evidence for support.
- This type of essay gets its focus on multiple perspectives analysis.
- You need to define intentions of the author.
AP English Essay Prompts Advice From Our Professional Team
The main tip our writer can give you is to read constantly and a lot. Some students ignore those tasks of reading books in summer before the exam. And it is totally wrong. Prior reading is a must. Just deal with it. If you still have any questions about this very type of exam or prompt, our specialists are always ready to help you. Just place your order for any type of essay, and it will be done at the highest level.