No doubt about it. The AP English Literature and Composition exam is tough. But with a little guidance, some pointers, and a lot of studying, you can conquer it. To do well on the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you’ll need to write competent essays. Specifically, you must write an argument defending your interpretation of the work designated in the Free Response Question section.
The AP English Literature and Composition exam consists of two parts. The first part consists of 55 multiple choice questions worth 45% of the total test grade. This section tests your ability to read and answer questions about drama, verse, or prose fiction excerpts. The second section worth 55% of the total score requires essay responses to three questions, demonstrating your ability to analyze literary works: a poem analysis, a prose fiction passage analysis, and a concept, issue, or element analysis of a literary work.
By the time you take the test, you should know how to write a clear, organized essay that argues a claim. Beginning with a brief introduction that includes the thesis statement, you’ll analyze a poem, prose excerpt, or novel in body paragraphs that support your thesis statement. Pulling quotes and details from the work, you’ll discuss how your support connects with your thesis statement, and then conclude by reiterating the thesis statement without repeating it. Clear organization, specific support, and full explanations or discussions are three critical components of high-scoring essays.
General Tips for the AP English Literature FRQs
Your teacher may have already told you how to approach the essays, but it’s important to keep the following in mind coming into the exam:
- Carefully read, review, and underline key to-do’s in the prompt.
- Briefly outline where you’re going to hit each prompt item–in other words, pencil out a specific order.
- Be sure you have a clear thesis that includes the terms mentioned in the instructions, literary devices, tone, themes, and meaning.
- Include the author’s name and title of the work in your thesis statement.
- Use quotes—lots of them—to exemplify your points throughout the essay.
- Fully explain or discuss how your examples support your thesis. A deeper, fuller, and focused explanation of fewer items is better than a shallow discussion of more items (shotgun approach).
- Avoid vague, general statements for a sharper focus on the work itself.
- Use transitions to connect sentences and paragraphs.
- Write in the present tense with generally good grammar.
- Keep your introduction and conclusion short, and don’t repeat your thesis verbatim in your conclusion.
The previously-released 2013 sample AP English Literature and Composition exam questions, sample responses, and grading rubrics are valuable learning tools. It’s instructive to analyze the three sample essays for each of the three FRQ essays and zero in on the differences between what AP readers deem a high, medium, and low scoring essay. In that way, you’ll know what to do and what to avoid come test time.
Free Response Question #1
The poem for analysis in the 2013 exam was “The Black Walnut Tree” by Mary Oliver. The prompt requires exam takers analyze the following:
- how the poet conveys the relationship between the tree and family
- how the poet’s use of figurative language conveys that relationship
- how other poetic techniques convey that relationship
To model successful strategies, you want to break down the CollegeBoard’s three sample answers: the high scoring (A) essay, the mid-range scoring (B) essay, and the low scoring (C) essay. Together, they’re a road map to a high score on the poetry analysis essay.
Start with a Succinct Introduction that Includes Your Thesis Statement
All three essays identify the title of the poem, though the A model omits the author. All three also mention figurative language and the relationship, touching on the target words in the instructions. However, the A essay, unlike the other two, matches key terms, like ‘figurative language’ with an example of such language, using the term ‘symbolic’. The writer then clarifies that the tree symbolizes family heritage. The thesis is clear at the outset: the poem divides between the figurative and literal representations, the symbol of the tree and the decision to sell the tree. The writer wastes no words and lays out a cohesive claim.
The B essay introduction correctly specifies the figurative language as “metaphor and simile”, but then merely restates the prompt instructions. Claiming the relationship between the tree and family “gives the work its purpose” is vague. What’s the work’s purpose? The reader doesn’t know what the essay sets out to prove.
The third sample lacks a thesis statement and organization. The first two introductory sentences about yards contribute little to focus the writer’s argument. The third sentence is ambiguous and confusing, with the awkward phrases “brought to light,” and “specifically on a particular tree”. The last sentence is vague. The writer defines the relationship between the tree and family as “one of respect”, which is clearly responsive to the prompt but ends with “how they feel about the tree”, which leaves the reader guessing.
In sum, make introductions brief, compact, and precise. Use details from the poem and respond to the instructions. Don’t waste time on sentences that don’t do the work ahead for you, and write a thesis statement.
Use Clear Examples to Support Your Argument Points and Discuss them
The A answer models how to seamlessly weave together assertions, quotes, and discussion in dense paragraphs. Again, economy is critical. Make every sentence count. For example, the topic sentence of the first paragraph claims that the poem is in free verse with “straightforward” language. To prove that statement, the writer supplies quotes, “My mother and I debate/we could sell/the black walnut tree”, etc. Explanation follows that the casual language doesn’t reveal the tree’s symbolism that later appears. This formula–assertion, quote, and explanation–continues throughout the body paragraphs.
Through a methodical process of presenting topic sentences, and then supporting the topic sentences with quotes and discussion that illustrate the quotes, the A writer demonstrates keen analytical and composition abilities. The organized essay proceeds logically from the introduction to the conclusion with well-chosen details to make the student’s points clear. Throughout, transitions, like the words “but suddenly” tie the second and paragraphs together, which clarify the contrasting relationship between the two.
The mid-range sample struggles to maintain clarity and focus. The writer doesn’t stick to the A formula but crafts unclear topic sentences at times and insufficiently explained quotes at others. For example, the third paragraph begins with an incomprehensible fragment of an incomplete thought. The second sentence points out a simile, but the explanation of the figurative language creates a visualization of men is missing. How do “edge” and “trowel” suggest men?
By first summarizing the poem, then jamming the quotes into uneven paragraphs, some with lots of quotes but little discussion, and others with explanation and no quotes, the B argument is hard to follow. The writer does cite “powerful diction” in the third paragraph with appropriate quotes but merely concludes without explaining how the quoted language depicts the tree’s importance. Without a thesis statement guiding the reader and writer along, the essay stumbles between discrete moments of adequate analysis.
Sample C uses quotes throughout to illustrate “figurative language” and “other poetic technique” but neither names the figurative language as similes, metaphors, or symbols nor explains how the quotes support the writer’s conclusions. The paragraphs lack clear topic sentences, transitions, and discussion. They’re merely a string of details.
Write a Brief Conclusion
While it’s more important to provide a substantive, organized, and clear argument throughout the body paragraphs than it is to conclude, a conclusion provides a satisfying ending to the essay and the last opportunity to reinforce the argument points of the preceding paragraphs. If you run out of time for a conclusion because of the thorough preceding paragraphs, that is not as damaging as not concluding or not concluding as robustly as the A essay sample.
The A response uses the conclusion to tie together all the points of the preceding paragraphs: the decision to cut down the tree presented in ordinary language, the switch to figurative language insinuating the symbolic value of the tree as heritage, and the meaning of the author’s switch through the writer’s interpretation. The conclusion is also where the larger themes of the poem–family value, enduring heritage, and intangible wealth–finally appear. The A sample neither repeats the essay instructions, like the C does, nor concludes broadly on points not explicitly covered in the essay, like the B.
Finally, a conclusion compositionally rounds out your essay. You don’t want your reader to struggle with any part of your essay. By repeating recapped points or fleshing them out with insights, you help the reader pull the argument together and wrap up.
Free Response Question #2
The 2013 AP English Literature and Composition exam Prose Analysis, Free Response Question 2, required test takes to read the given passage from D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow and analyze how the author employs literary devices to
- Characterize the woman
- Capture her situation
Whereas the poetry analysis forced writers to tease out meaning from the fewer words comprising a short poem, the prose analysis requires students to focus on broader components, such as character and description, in a larger excerpt.
Introduction and Thesis Statement
The A Essay
The writer packs the first sentence with specific language (“entrapped”, “quotidian”), details (title and author), description (“short-sighted men”), and direction (thesis statement). It succinctly characterizes the woman as desirous of “exploration” and “liberation”, and her environment as rural and mundane to cover the call of the question: the woman and her situation. The introduction ends with the thesis statement that includes the “how” of the question: “rhetorical questions, repetition, and contrasting imagery”. The reader knows from the start that this writer intends to prove the woman’s “novel” desire for the unknown and liberation through these literary devices.
The B Essay
Unlike the economy of the A essay, the B response uses vague language (“wants more”, “what she’s lived through”) and lacks focus. By the end of the introduction, the reader understands the writer will touch on the “contrasting diction” the author uses to compare the men to the women, and the vicar to her husband–but to what end? The main idea unifying the essay is a mystery.
The C Essay
Aside from spelling errors that confuse the reader, the student’s introduction lacks a focus. Besides “the repition [sic] of certain words and phrases”, we know nothing about the literary devices the author uses, the character of the woman, nor her situation. The introduction doesn’t hit the prompt points and merely claims that women and men contrast in the passage. The writer shows a superficial understanding of the meaning and elements contained in the passage.
Exemplification and Discussion in the Body Paragraphs
As promised, the A response dives right into the woman’s character, calling on the “novelty of her sentiments” elicited by the contrasting images of the men and the woman. The word “novelty” nicely connects the introduction, which leaves off with the word “novel”, to the first body paragraph. The topic sentence steers the rest of the paragraph filled with plentiful quoted phrases illustrating the men’s contentment with and “concrete” images of rural life. Using the transition “yet”, the student then contrasts the abstract imagery of the “woman’s desire” as “romantic” and “ideal” or “head-in-the-clouds” and “ethereal”.
Throughout the body paragraphs, the writer demonstrates confidence and control over language, ideas, and composition skills. The student analyzes methodically, pulling out specific words and devices (rhetorical questions, anaphora) to reach complex conclusions synthesized from the passage’s images and language. No statement is left unexplained (“thereby illustrating the woman’s unsatiated thirst”). Each paragraph begins with topic sentences and transition words (Furthermore, also) to coherently connect all paragraphs to the thesis statement.
Since this essay lacks a clear thesis statement, the topic sentence of the first body paragraph is likewise unclear. Why is the writer beginning by characterizing men as happy? What does the men’s happiness support in the introductory paragraph? The student pulls out good quotes to illustrate their contentment and their surroundings, but to an unclear end. There is no transition to signal the switch from their happiness to their surroundings, so the paragraph reads disjointed and unfocused.
The broad language like “intimate”, “personal”, and “unintimate”, which leave the readers scratching their heads to the meaning. The reader must glean the student’s assertion that the narration changes to reflect the author’s attitude toward the men versus the woman through clunky, vague observations (“the men would describe their life just how the narration portrayed it”). That’s not specific enough. In contrast, the A writer uses the terms “concrete” and “visceral” to specify the author’s portrayal of the men.
The C Essay
The description of the men through quoted repetition (“enough”) as content is a good observation. However, it doesn’t support the topic sentence about men’s roles in society. The student over-generalizes the passage to men’s roles in society, not the specific farm men in Lawrence’s novel. Like the C Essay in the poetry analysis above, the writer here pulls evidence from the excerpt, makes conclusions about the evidence, but does not present, explain, further, or support a thesis. The essay is directionless and shows low composition skills in a shallow analysis (men and women are different, and the woman is submissive?).
Only the A essay adequately concludes. The other two end with their last points (B) or Lawrence’s last paragraph (C). The high-scoring A response ties up the essay in a bow with a return to the beginning, repeating the points the writer set out to make in the introduction and carried out in the body paragraphs.
The Free Response Question #3
The year’s Open Question defines a bildungsroman and then asks students to choose a bildungsroman from the provided list or another of the student’s choosing to
- Analyze a “pivotal moment” in the protagonist’s “psychological or moral development”
- Analyze how that moment shapes the meaning of the work
Broader still than both the poetry and prose selections, the open question requires writers to explore big themes of long works through scene and character analysis. The attention to detail, economy, and specificity are also critical to success on this question, despite the broader scope of the work to be analyzed. Writers must resist the temptation to retell the plot of the novel.
Introductions and Thesis Statements
The A Essay
The top essay gets right to work identifying the play, author, characters, and overall one-sentence plot summary as the main character’s “coming-of-age” story. The writer then identifies and locates the pivotal scene, why it’s significant, and its psychological implications (reaching maturity and station in the family). The introduction indisputably covers the prompt in clear, crisp sentences. The first sentence further piques interest with a framing question that the student immediately answers to warm the reader up to the ideas to follow.
The B Essay
Like the B responses of the two prior sections, the introduction lacks a clear direction, and the language is vague and loose. This short introduction locates the novel, author, and overall theme, but doesn’t zero in on a pivotal moment or scene. Without a stated thesis, who knows where this essay will go?
The C Essay
The third introduction merely repeats the definition in the instructions and lacks a thesis statement, scene, or plot clue. “This change” the writer refers to is a mystery as is the character, Scout. This essay could also wind up anywhere, given the scarcity of detail or direction.
Exemplification and Discussion
The A Essay
Like the model essays before it, this sample successfully organizes each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that seamlessly connects with the preceding paragraph (“Before Act III”–the specified moment’s place from the introduction). The next order of business is defining the motivations and dreams of the subject character, Walter, and characterizing his relationship with his family. There’s just enough plot summary to inform the reader and contextualize the points the writer makes about Walter’s changed perspective: not money but principle becomes his priority.
The writer’s sentences are compact and definite, piling on the adjectives and clauses that carry important details along each sentence’s assertion (“Mama who really rules the roost”). The student weaves relevant facts to support the first paragraph’s topic sentence: Walter’s decision changes his family’s attitude toward him. The next sentence packs in details that Mama treated Walter like her child and she was the one in charge (deciding what to buy with the insurance money), effectively dashing Walter’s liquor store dreams. The writer gallops through to the finish line in dense sentences packed with details that prove each paragraph’s topic sentence.
The B Essay
This response contains insights about the facts of the novel and the characters’ actions, particularly Denver’s and Sethe’s, but the essay’s all a jumble. There’s no logical starting place when the student dives into an unspecified scene with general, vague details, such as “releasing her place” in the first body paragraph. “As her world seems to be crashing down” opens the paragraph, and the reader hasn’t a clue what happened to topple the world. The writer provides no context.
Clearly, the writer knows the novel and refers to specific details, such as Sethe’s scars and her relationship to Paul D, but overall, the essay confuses more than it clarifies. The pivotal moment is when Denver realizes what Beloved represents, but Beloved herself is never clearly identified. Facts seem to float unanchored to a plot.
The C Essay
The last example is vague throughout, even more than the B essay. The plot is missing and vague references to “the trial that her father was involved in”, “the world she lived in”, and “why society worked the way it did” don’t help. In fact, the writer’s vague language makes the essay largely incomprehensible, especially at first. The paragraph about hate causing Scout to mature speaks to the prompt vaguely, but the pivotal moment never shows up. The essay reads more like a scattering of plot details.
All three essays conclude, but the first one clearly satisfies the most. Not only does the conclusion restate the salient points and supporting details of the body paragraphs, but it refers to the introduction question and allusion to Langston Hughes’ poem from which the title derives. The writer fluently uses the framing question to answer with the wind-up of the student’s parting remarks: Walter gained happiness and love for the dream (liquor store) deferred. More than merely competent and useful, the writer’s conclusion is artful.
The B and C conclusions, however, open more questions than they resolve since throughout the writings both lack direction and focus.
Write in Complete Sentences with Proper Punctuation and Compositional Skills
As you can see from all nine samples, writing counts–heavily. Though pressed for time, it’s important to write an essay with correctly punctuated sentences and properly spelled words. Fragments and misspelled words cause confusion and weaken your argument. Additionally, sound compositional skills create a favorable impression on the reader.
You want your essay to read like a smooth ride, without speed bumps. Using appropriate transitions or signals (however, therefore) to tie sentences and paragraphs together solidifies relationships between sentences and paragraphs (“also”–adding information, “however”–contrasting an idea in the preceding sentence), making your essay organized and clear.
Starting each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that previews the main idea or focus of the paragraph helps both writer and reader keep track of each part of the argument. Each section furthers your points on the way to convincing your reader of your argument. If one point is unclear, unfocused, or grammatically unintelligible, like a house of cards, the entire argument crumbles. Excellent compositional skills help you lay it all out orderly, clearly, and completely.
So by the time the conclusion takes the reader home, the writer has done all of the following:
- followed the prompt
- followed the propounded thesis statement in exact order promised
- provided a full discussion with examples
- included quotes proving each assertion
- used clear, grammatically correct sentences
- written paragraphs ordered by a thesis statement
- created topic sentences for each paragraph
- ensured each topic sentence furthered the ideas presented in the thesis statement
Have a Plan and Follow it
It takes discipline to lay out an order, a strict time limit for each essay, and stick to them. To score high on the AP Literature and Composition FRQs, practice planning responses under tight time constraints. Write as many practice essays as you can. Follow the same process each time.
First, be sure to read the instructions carefully, highlighting, circling, or underlining the parts of the prompt you absolutely must cover. Then quickly pencil a scratch outline of the order you intend to cover each point in support of your argument. You should write a clear thesis statement, written as a complete sentence, as well as the topic sentences to each paragraph. Then quickly write underneath each topic sentence, the quotes and details you’ll use to support the topic sentences. Then refer to your outline often and follow it faithfully.
Be sure to give yourself enough time to review and revise. Give your essay a brief re-read to catch mechanical errors, missing words, or necessary insertions to clarify an incomplete or unclear thought. With time, an organized approach, and plenty of practice, earning nines on the AP English Literature and Composition FRQs is attainable. Be sure to ask your teacher or consult other resources, like albert.io’s English Literature practice essays, if you’re unsure how to identify poetic devices, prose elements, or just need more practice writing literary analyses.
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When you’re studying for your AP Literature Exam, you’re going to want to use practice tests and questions to hone your skills. But where can you find AP literature practice tests? And are all practice exams equally useful for you?
The real exam has 55 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions, but there are practice tests with every conceivable number and combination of question types.
In this article, you’ll learn where to find every official College Board AP English Literature and Composition practice exam, free unofficial tests, and paid practice test resources. You’ll also find out which tests are high-quality and how you can best use different practice exams to fulfill your studying needs.
Official Free AP Literature Practice Tests
The gold standard of AP English Literature practice tests and AP English Literature practice exam questions are College Board released materials. That’s because the College Board administers the AP exams, so their practice questions are most like the actual AP questions you’ll see on the test. There are three different kinds of resources offered by the College Board: complete released exams from past years, released free-response questions from past years, and sample questions from the “AP Course And Exam Description.”
Official Released College Board Exams
There are two official released College Board Exams. However, neither is quite complete--while they each have the standard 55 multiple-choice questions, both are missing parts of the 3-question free-response section. You can still use these as complete exams if you supplement with released free-response questions from past years.
1987 AP English Literature and Composition Exam
For reasons that are not totally clear, this exam excludes the third essay question, the poetry analysis. If you want to take this as “complete” exam practice, use a free-response poetry analysis prompt from the bank of free response questions linked to below.
1999 AP English Literature and Composition Exam
This test excludes the poetry and prose analysis questions of the free-response section and only has the student choice question. So, to take it as a complete exam, you’d need to supplement it with questions 1 and 2 from the released free-response questions below. You can actually get question 2 for the 1999 test from the official free-response questions bank, but the excerpt for question 1 can’t be reprinted, so you’ll need to supplement with another poetry analysis question.
Or supplement with this tree-poem.
Official Free-Response Questions
There may not be very many complete released exams, but there are tons of available free-response questions from previous administrations of the test. These are great practice, not just for practicing complete essays, but for practicing writing thesis statements, outlines, and so on. What’s also great about these is that most of them come with sample response and scoring guidelines, so you’ll be able to see exactly what makes a high-quality AP essay by College Board standards. Be aware, though, that some of the prose and poetry excerpts can’t be reprinted due to copyright concerns.
Below is one link for more up-to-date free response questions and another for older versions. However, there doesn’t appear to be a significant substantive difference between the old and new prompts.
AP English Lit Free Response Questions 2003-2017
AP English Lit Free Response 1999-2003
Sample Questions From the Course and Exam Description
The AP English Literature Course and Exam Description has practice multiple-choice questions and practice free-response questions. They don’t add up to a complete test--there are only 46 multiple-choice questions and a whopping six free response (enough for two tests!)--but they are great for simple practice.
Your AP teacher may have access to copies of old AP exams that you can use for practice. She probably can’t let you take them out of the classroom, but she may be allowed to loan them to you in a supervised setting. This is because teachers can purchase resources directly from the College Board that students can’t. Asking your teacher may not bear fruit, but it’s worth a try.
Why are you asking me for AP lit practice tests? I'm your econ teacher!
Free Unofficial AP Literature Practice Tests
In addition to the free College Board resources, there are also several places online where you can get free, unofficial practice tests. Be aware that, because these resources aren’t College-Board created or approved, they are of variable quality. For each of these resources I’ll describe what’s offered and how it compares to official College Board tests.
Barron’s Books Free Practice Test
Barron’s, those distinguished makers of review books, also offer a complete free practice test with multiple choice and free response. They provide the author and name of the work, but not the date. All of these free resources probably credit the authors for copyright reasons, but you won’t have this information on the actual exam.
You can take the test timed or in “practice” mode. While answers are provided for the multiple-choice questions, no scoring guidelines are provided for the free-response prompts.
This isn’t an official resource, but the questions are of a high quality and are a good option when you’ve run out of official material. If you combined the multiple-choice questions with some official released free-response questions (with scoring guidelines and sample essays) you could get a pretty good approximation of a complete practice test.
McGraw-Hill AP Diagnostic Quiz
McGraw-Hill, textbook and review book publisher, offers a 25-question multiple-choice diagnostic quiz for the AP English Literature exam. You may actually be able to get more than 25 questions out of this, because each time you open a new test window, you get 25 randomly ordered and selected questions from a question pool.
The passages open in another window, which is a little annoying. However, the questions are fairly difficult and pretty well-written AP imitations, so the annoyance is worth it. You’ll get the author and title of the works excerpted.
Varsity Tutors AP Literature Practice Tests
This site has practice multiple-choice quizzes divided by concept--things like “interpreting the passage,” “claims and argument,” and “interpreting excerpts.” The questions aren’t worded exactly the same way as AP test questions, but they are still okay for testing your passage-interpretation skills. Basically, the questions test for similar skills, but don’t necessarily mimic AP test questions in style.
Also, the site provides the date, title, and author of each work, which is not something you’ll receive on the AP exam.You can make a free account at the site to track your scores, but it’s not necessary to be able to take the tests.
Kittens not included with free practice tests, unfortunately.
Learnerator AP English Literature Quizzes
Learnerator offers multiple-choice quizzes divided into prose, poetry, and drama categories. You are given the title, date, and author of the work--which you will not receive on the real AP exam. Like the Varsity Tutors quizzes, Learnerator offers questions that test similar skills as the AP exam, but the questions are worded differently.
High School Test Prep Tests
This site offers three short multiple-choice practice tests. You’re given the title and author of the work. The questions for these tests are fairly surface-level, so I would only use these if you are working on your reading comprehension skills.
Practice Quiz AP English Literature
This site offers a 20-question multiple-choice quiz on two passages--one poetry, and one prose. The passages are extremely basic, however, so again, I would only use this resource if you are working on your reading comprehension skills.
4Tests AP English Lit Test
This site offers 35 multiple-choice questions. However, there are lots of ads, the questions are poorly written and vague, the interface is clunky, and the passages are very long. Overall, I do not recommend this site.
College Board SAT Literature Materials
While they aren’t identical by any means, you can definitely use SAT Literature Subject Test practice questions to hone your skill in answering multiple-choice questions about passages. The SAT Subject Test in Literature focuses a little more on the meaning of words and phrases in context and less on making inferences and describing the author’s purpose, but they can still be a useful resource simply for reading and answering high-level, in-depth questions on prose and poetry.
You can get sample SAT Literature questions online here or in the “Getting Reading for The SAT Subject Tests” booklet released by the College Board.
The queens of AP Lit practice give you their blessing.
Paid Unofficial Practice Tests
There are also several paid resources that offer unofficial practice questions.
Shmoop - Paid Subscription
This is a subscription service with questions for tons of different tests--SAT, ACT, AP exams.They also have videos and other review resources. I can’t really speak to the quality of the questions because the entire service is behind a paywall of a dollar a day.
Peterson’s AP Practice Tests
You can pay twenty dollars to get two English Lit practice tests from this site. However, I wasn’t able to find much information on these tests or reviews from students who had taken them.
Most, if not all, review books contain practice tests and questions. These will vary in quality depending on the quality of the review book, so be sure to look for reviews online of any book before you buy it. In general, Barron’s and the Princeton Review are fairly reliable review book sources.
I definitely advise paying for all of these resources with whatever loose foreign change you have lying around.
How to Use AP Literature Practice Tests
How to use a given practice test depends somewhat on the resource itself. I’ll offer some recommendations here on how to best use different resources.
Complete Official Released Tests
The best way to use a complete official practice test is to do a practice-run for the exam. So find a quiet room, bring a timer or watch so you can time sections, and get to work! This will help you get familiar with the exam experience so you’ll feel more comfortable on exam day!
Since there are two complete AP Lit practice tests, it makes sense to take one early on in your studying time, and one later. You can get a parent, tutor or teacher to grade the exams. The early test will help you figure out what you need to work on, and the later test will show you how you’ve improved! Since the AP English Literature test is more skills-heavy than content-heavy, you shouldn’t feel totally lost taking a practice test even in the middle of the school year.
Official Released Free-Response and Sample Questions
Official resources that aren’t complete tests are best for practicing individual sections of the test. The sample multiple-choice questions in the “Course and Exam Description” make for great AP English Literature multiple-choice practice--they’ll help you get familiar with the style of the questions and practice close-reading.
The wealth of released free-response questions are great resources for building your timed essay-writing skills. You can practice complete essays or develop essay outlines.
Unofficial Practice Tests and Resources
Since unofficial practice tests aren’t going to be quite as similar to the real AP exam as official College Board materials, they won’t be quite as useful for preparing for the format of the exam or its questions. However, they can be very valuable close-reading practice. And since that’s a critical skill for the exam, it’s still worth it to use unofficial resources.
Be very quiet. She's close-reading.
Practice tests and questions are a hugely important resource as you prep for the AP Lit exam. The gold standard of practice resources are those that come from the College Board, but there are many other places where you can get practice questions that will help you hone your close-reading skills for the exam. Most of the resources listed in this article are free, but a few are paid.
When you’ve assembled a stable of practice resources, you might not be quite sure how to use them. Official College Board practice tests are best for simulating the exam experience. College Board questions are good for focused preparation for individual sections of the exam--especially the essays. Unofficial resources are best for further honing your close-reading skills.
Now that you know where to find these resources, you’ll have even more time to prep for the AP Literature exam by completing practice questions!
Need more study guidance for your APs? See my five-step AP prep plan. Or see our guide on when to start studying for your APs.
If you're looking for practice tests for other AP exams, see our assembled practice tests for AP US History, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP World History, and AP Psychology.
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