Expert’s guide to the ap literature exam

If you”re planning to lớn take the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you”ll need to lớn get familiar with what lớn expect on the test. Whether the 2021 test date of Wednesday, May 5, is near or far, I”m here to lớn help you get serious about preparing for the exam.

You are reading: Expert’s guide to the ap literature exam

In this guide, I”ll go over the test”s format and question types, how it”s graded, best practices for preparation, & test-day tips. You”ll be on your way khổng lồ APhường. English Lit success in no time!


2021 APhường Test Changes Due khổng lồ COVID-19

Due lớn the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirut pandemic, APhường tests will now be held over three different sessions between May and June. Your test dates, và whether or not your tests will be online or on paper, will depover on your school. To learn more about how all of this is going to lớn work and get the lachạy thử information on kiểm tra dates, AP online review, và what these changes means for you, be sure lớn kiểm tra out our 2021 AP. COVID-19 FAQ article.

APhường English Literature: Exam Format & Question Types

The AP Literature Exam is a three-hour exam that contains two sections in this order:

An hour-long, 55-question multiple-choice sectionA two-hour, three-question free-response section

The exam tests your ability to analyze works and excerpts of literature and cogently communicate that analysis in essay form.

Read on for a breakdown of the two different sections and their question types.

Section I: Multiple Choice

The multiple-choice section, or Section I of the AP Literature exam, is 60 minutes long & has 55 questions. It counts for 45% of your overall exam grade.

You can expect khổng lồ see five sầu excerpts of prose và poetry. You will always get at least two prose passages (fiction or drama) and two poetry passages. In general, you will not be given the author, date, or title for these works, though occasionally the title of a poem will be given. Unusual words are also sometimes defined for you.

The date ranges of these works could fall from the 16th to the 21st century. Most works will be originally written in English, but you might occasionally see a passage in translation.

There are, generally speaking, eight kinds of questions you can expect lớn see on the APhường English Literature & Composition exam. I”ll break each of them down here and give you tips on how lớn identify và approach them.


“Tiny books carried by ladies” is not one of the question types.

The 8 Multiple-Choice Question Types on the APhường Literature Exam

Without further delay, here are the eight question types you can expect lớn see on the APhường. Lit exam. All questions are taken from the sample questions on the AP Course and Exam Description.

#1: Reading Comprehension

These questions chạy thử your ability lớn understand what the passage is saying on a pretty basic level. They don”t require you to lớn vì chưng a lot of interpretation—you just need khổng lồ know what”s going on.

You can identify this question type from words & phrases such as “according to,” “mentioned,” “asserting,” and so on. You”ll succeed on these questions as long as you carefully read the text. lưu ý that you might have sầu to go baông xã và reread parts lớn make sure you underst& what the passage is saying.

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#2: Inference

These questions ask you khổng lồ infer something—a character or narrator”s opinion, an author”s intention, etc.—based on what is said in the passage. It will be something that isn”t stated directly or concretely but that you can assume based on what”s clearly written in the passage. You can identify these questions from words such as “infer” & “imply.”

The key khổng lồ these questions is to lớn not get tripped up by the fact that you are making an inference—there will be a best answer, & it will be the choice that is best supported by what is actually found in the passage.

In many ways, inference questions are lượt thích second-level reading comprehension questions: you need khổng lồ know not just what a passage says, but also what it means.



#3: Identifying và Interpreting Figurative Language

These are questions for which you have sầu to lớn either identify what word or phrase is figurative language or provide the meaning of a figurative phrase. You can identify these as they will either explicitly mention figurative language (or a figurative sầu device, such as a simile or metaphor) or include a figurative sầu phrase in the question itself.

The meaning of figurative sầu phrases can normally be determined by that phrase”s context in the passage—what is said around it? What is the phrase referring to?

Example 1: Identifying


Example 2: Interpreting


#4: Literary Technique

These questions involve identifying why an author does what they do, from using a particular phrase lớn repeating certain words. Basically, what techniques is the author using lớn construct the passage/poem, and khổng lồ what effect?

You can identify these questions by words/phrases such as “serves chiefly to lớn,” “effect,” “evoke,” & “in order lớn.” A good way to lớn approach these questions is to lớn ask yourself: so what? Why did the author use these particular words or this particular structure?



#5: Character Analysis

These questions ask you to lớn describe something about a character. You can spot them because they will refer directly lớn characters” attitudes, opinions, beliefs, or relationships with other characters.

This is, in many ways, a special kind of inference question, since you are inferring the broader personality of the character based on the evidence in a passage. Also, these crop up much more commonly for prose passages than they bởi for poetry ones.



#6: Overall Passage Questions

Some questions ask you khổng lồ identify or describe something about the passage or poem as a whole: its purpose, tone, genre, etc. You can identify these by phrases such as “in the passage” và “as a whole.”

To answer these questions, you need khổng lồ think about the excerpt with a bird”s-eye view. What is the overall picture created by all the tiny details?



#7: Structure

Some APhường. Lit questions will ask you about specific structural elements of the passage: a shift in tone, a digression, the specific khung of a poem, etc. Often these questions will specify a part of the passage/poem and ask you lớn identify what that part is accomplishing.

Being able lớn identify and understvà the significance of any shifts—structural, tonal, in genre, and so on—will be of key importance for these questions.



#8: Grammar/Nuts & Bolts

Very occasionally you will be asked a specific grammar question, such as what word an adjective is modifying. I”d also include in this category super-specific questions such as those that ask about the meter of a poem (e.g., iambic pentameter).

These questions are less about the literary artistry & more about the fairly dry technique involved in having a fluent command of the English language.



That covers the eight question types on the multiple-choice section. Now, let”s take a look at the free-response section of the APhường. Literature exam.


Keep trachồng of the nuts & bolts of grammar.

Section II: Free Response

The AP Literature Free Response section is two hours long & involves three free-response essay questions, so you”ll have about 40 minutes per essay. That”s not a lot of time considering this section of the chạy thử counts for 55% of your overall exam grade!

chú ý, though, that no one will prompt you to move sầu from essay khổng lồ essay, so you can theoretically divide up the time however you want. Just be sure to leave enough time for each essay! Skipping an essay, or running out of time so you have to rush through one, can really impact your final test score.

The first two essays are literary analysis essays of specific passages, with one poem & one prose excerpt. The final essay is an analysis of a given theme in a work selected by you, the student.

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Essays 1 & 2: Literary Passage Analysis

For the first two essays, you”ll be presented with an excerpt & directed to lớn analyze the excerpt for a given theme, device, or development. One of the passages will be poetry, and one will be prose. You will be provided with the author of the work, the approximate date, and some orienting information (i.e., the plot context of an excerpt from a novel).

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