Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, expert's guide to the ap literature exam.

author image

Advanced Placement (AP)


If you're planning to take the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you'll need to get familiar with what to expect on the test. Whether the 2023 test date of Wednesday, May 3, is near or far, I'm here to help you get serious about preparing for the exam.

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

AP English Literature: Exam Format and 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 section
  • A 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 and has 55 questions. It counts for 45% of your overall exam grade .

You can expect to see five excerpts of prose and 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 to see on the AP English Literature and Composition exam. I'll break each of them down here and give you tips on how to identify and approach them.


"Pretty flowers carried by ladies" is not one of the question types.

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

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

#1: Reading Comprehension

These questions test your ability to understand what the passage is saying on a pretty basic level . They don't require you to do a lot of interpretation—you just need to know what's going on.

You can identify this question type from words and phrases such as "according to," "mentioned," "asserting," and so on. You'll succeed on these questions as long as you carefully read the text . Note that you might have to go back and reread parts to make sure you understand what the passage is saying.


#2: Inference

These questions ask you to 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" and "imply."

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

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


#3: Identifying and Interpreting Figurative Language

These are questions for which you have to 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 device, such as a simile or metaphor ) or include a figurative phrase in the question itself.

The meaning of figurative 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 to repeating certain words. Basically, what techniques is the author using to construct the passage/poem, and to what effect?

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


#5: Character Analysis

These questions ask you to describe something about a character . You can spot them because they will refer directly to 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 do for poetry ones.


#6: Overall Passage Questions

Some questions ask you to 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" and "as a whole."

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


#7: Structure

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

Being able to identify and understand 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 literary artistry and 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 AP Literature exam.


Keep track of the nuts and bolts of grammar.

Section II: Free Response

The AP Literature Free Response section is two hours long and 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 test counts for 55% of your overall exam grade !

Note, though, that no one will prompt you to move from essay to 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 and one prose excerpt. The final essay is an analysis of a given theme in a work selected by you , the student.

Essays 1 & 2: Literary Passage Analysis

For the first two essays, you'll be presented with an excerpt and directed to 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).

Below are some sample questions from the 2022 Free Response Questions .


Essay 3: Thematic Analysis

For the third and final essay, you'll be asked to discuss a particular theme in a work that you select . You will be provided with a list of notable works that address the given theme below the prompt, but you can also choose to discuss any "work of literary merit."

So while you do have the power to choose which work you wish to write an essay about , the key words here are "literary merit." That means no genre fiction! Stick to safe bets like authors in the list on pages 10-11 of the old 2014 AP Lit Course Description .

(I know, I know—lots of genre fiction works do have literary merit and Shakespeare actually began as low culture, and so on and so forth. Indeed, you might find academic designations of "literary merit" elitist and problematic, but the time to rage against the literary establishment is not your AP Lit test! Save it for a really, really good college admissions essay instead .)

Here's a sample question from 2022:


As you can see, the list of works provided spans many time periods and countries : there are ancient Greek plays ( Antigone ), modern literary works (such as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale ), Shakespeare plays ( The Tempest ), 19th-century English plays ( The Importance of Being Earnest ), etc. So you have a lot to work with!

Also note that you can choose a work of "comparable literary merit." That means you can select a work not on this list as long as it's as difficult and meaningful as the example titles you've been given. So for example, Jane Eyre or East of Eden would be great choices, but Twilight or The Hunger Games would not.

Our advice? If you're not sure what a work of "comparable literary merit" is, stick to the titles on the provided list .


You might even see something by this guy.

How Is the AP Literature Test Graded?

The multiple-choice section of the exam comprises 45% of your total exam score; the three essays, or free-response section, comprise the other 55%. Each essay, then, is worth about 18% of your grade.

As on other AP exams, your raw score will be converted to a score from 1-5 . You don't have to get every point possible to get a 5 by any means. In 2022, 16.9% of students received 5s on the AP English Literature test, the 14th highest 5 score out of the 38 different AP exams.

So, how do you calculate your raw scores?

Multiple-Choice Scoring

For the multiple-choice section, you receive 1 point for each question you answer correctly . There's no guessing penalty, so you should answer every question—but guess only after you're able to eliminate any answer you know is wrong to up your chances of choosing the right one.

Free-Response Scoring

Scoring for multiple choice is pretty straightforward; however, essay scoring is a little more complicated.

Each of your essays will receive a score from 0 to 6 based on the College Board rubric , which also includes question-specific rubrics. All the rubrics are very similar, with only minor differences between them.

Each essay rubric has three elements you'll be graded on:

  • Thesis (0-1 points)
  • Evidence and Commentary (0-4 points)
  • Sophistication (0-1 points)

We'll be looking at the current rubric for the AP Lit exam , which was released in September 2019, and what every score means for each of the three elements above:

To get a high-scoring essay in the 5-6 point range, you'll need to not only come up with an original and intriguing argument that you thoroughly support with textual evidence, but you’ll also need to stay focused, organized, and clear. And all in just 40 minutes per essay!

If getting a high score on this section sounds like a tall order, that's because it is.


Practice makes perfect!

Skill-Building for Success on the AP Literature Exam

There are several things you can do to hone your skills and best prepare for the AP Lit exam.

Read Some Books, Maybe More Than Once

One of the most important steps you can take to prepare for the AP Literature and Composition exam is to read a lot and read well . You'll be reading a wide variety of notable literary works in your AP English Literature course, but additional reading will help you further develop your analytical reading skills .

I suggest checking out this list of notable authors in the 2014 AP Lit Course Description (pages 10-11).

In addition to reading broadly, you'll want to become especially familiar with the details of four to five books with different themes so you'll be prepared to write a strong student-choice essay. You should know the plot, themes, characters, and structural details of these books inside and out.

See my AP English Literature Reading List for more guidance.

Read (and Interpret) Poetry

One thing students might not do very much on their own time but that will help a lot with AP Lit exam prep is to read poetry. Try to read poems from a lot of eras and authors to get familiar with the language.

We know that poetry can be intimidating. That's why we've put together a bunch of guides to help you crack the poetry code (so to speak). You can learn more about poetic devices —like imagery and i ambic pentameter —in our comprehensive guide. Then you can see those analytical skills in action in our expert analysis of " Do not go gentle into that good night " by Dylan Thomas.

When you think you have a grip on basic comprehension, you can then move on to close reading (see below).

Hone Your Close Reading and Analysis Skills

Your AP class will likely focus heavily on close reading and analysis of prose and poetry, but extra practice won't hurt you. Close reading is the ability to identify which techniques the author is using and why. You'll need to be able to do this both to gather evidence for original arguments on the free-response questions and to answer analytical multiple-choice questions.

Here are some helpful close reading resources for prose :

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center's guide to close reading
  • Harvard College Writing Center's close reading guide
  • Purdue OWL's article on steering clear of close reading "pitfalls"

And here are some for poetry :

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison's poetry-reading guide
  • This guide to reading poetry at (complete with two poetry close readings)
  • Our own expert analyses of famous poems, such as " Ozymandias ", and the 10 famous sonnets you should know

Learn Literary and Poetic Devices

You'll want to be familiar with literary terms so that any test questions that ask about them will make sense to you. Again, you'll probably learn most of these in class, but it doesn't hurt to brush up on them.

Here are some comprehensive lists of literary terms with definitions :

  • The 31 Literary Devices You Must Know
  • The 20 Poetic Devices You Must Know
  • The 9 Literary Elements You'll Find In Every Story
  • What Is Imagery?
  • Understanding Assonance
  • What Is Iambic Pentameter in Poetry?
  • Simile vs Metaphor: The 1 Big Difference
  • 10 Personification Examples in Poetry, Literature, and More

Practice Writing Essays

The majority of your grade on the AP English Lit exam comes from essays, so it's critical that you practice your timed essay-writing skills . You of course should use the College Board's released free-response questions to practice writing complete timed essays of each type, but you can also practice quickly outlining thorough essays that are well supported with textual evidence.

Take Practice Tests

Taking practice tests is a great way to prepare for the exam. It will help you get familiar with the exam format and overall experience . You can get sample questions from the Course and Exam Description , the College Board website , and our guide to AP English Lit practice test resources .

Be aware that the released exams don't have complete slates of free-response questions, so you might need to supplement these with released free-response questions .

Since there are three complete released exams, you can take one toward the beginning of your prep time to get familiar with the exam and set a benchmark, and one toward the end to make sure the experience is fresh in your mind and to check your progress.


Don't wander like a lonely cloud through your AP Lit prep.

AP Literature: 6 Critical Test-Day Tips

Before we wrap up, here are my six top tips for AP Lit test day:

  • #1: On the multiple-choice section, it's to your advantage to answer every question. If you eliminate all the answers you know are wrong before guessing, you'll raise your chances of guessing the correct one.
  • #2: Don't rely on your memory of the passage when answering multiple-choice questions (or when writing essays, for that matter). Look back at the passage!
  • #3: Interact with the text : circle, mark, underline, make notes—whatever floats your boat. This will help you retain information and actively engage with the passage.
  • #4: This was mentioned above, but it's critical that you know four to five books well for the student-choice essay . You'll want to know all the characters, the plot, the themes, and any major devices or motifs the author uses throughout.
  • #5: Be sure to plan out your essays! Organization and focus are critical for high-scoring AP Literature essays. An outline will take you a few minutes, but it will help your writing process go much faster.
  • #6: Manage your time on essays closely. One strategy is to start with the essay you think will be the easiest to write. This way you'll be able to get through it while thinking about the other two essays.


And don't forget to eat breakfast! Apron optional.

AP Literature Exam: Key Takeaways

The AP Literature exam is a three-hour test that includes an hour-long multiple-choice section based on five prose and poetry passages and with 55 questions, and a two-hour free-response section with three essays : one analyzing a poetry passage, one analyzing a prose passage, and one analyzing a work chosen by you, the student.

The multiple-choice section is worth 45% of your total score , and the free-response section is worth 55% . The three essays are each scored on a rubric of 0-6, and raw scores are converted to a final scaled score from 1 to 5.

Here are some things you can do to prepare for the exam:

  • Read books and be particularly familiar with four to five works for the student-choice essays
  • Read poetry
  • Work on your close reading and analysis skills
  • Learn common literary devices
  • Practice writing essays
  • Take practice tests!

On test day, be sure to really look closely at all the passages and really interact with them by marking the text in a way that makes sense to you. This will help on both multiple-choice questions and the free-response essays. You should also outline your essays before you write them.

With all this in mind, you're well on your way to AP Lit success!

What's Next?

If you're taking other AP exams this year, you might be interested in our other AP resources: from the Ultimate Guide to the US History Exam , to the Ultimate AP Chemistry Study Guide , to the Best AP Psychology Study Guide , we have tons of articles on AP courses and exams for you !

Looking for practice exams? Here are some tips on how to find the best AP practice tests . We've also got comprehensive lists of practice tests for AP Psychology , AP Biology , AP Chemistry , and AP US History .

Deciding which APs to take? Take a look through the complete list of AP courses and tests , read our analysis of which AP classes are the hardest and easiest , and learn how many AP classes you should take .

Want to build the best possible college application?   We can help.   PrepScholar Admissions combines world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies. We've guided thousands of students to get into their top choice schools, from state colleges to the Ivy League. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit and are driven to get you admitted to your dream schools. Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in:

Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Improve With Our Famous Guides

  • For All Students

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

Follow us on Facebook (icon)

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”

Introduction to the Q1: Poem Essay on the AP Lit Exam

Mr. Chilton

Essay Overview

  • 3 essays total
  • 1 “open response” on book of your choice

Q1 Poetry Essay: Overview

  • One poem from 1500-Present
  • Renaissance poem
  • Romantic poem
  • Modern American poem (last 20 years)
  • Sometimes two comparative poems on same subject or theme
  • Historically the lowest performing essay

But that’s because no one has a teacher that loves poetry like Mr. Chilton!

Think about all the practice with poetry you’ve been given this year through the Daily Doses!

Framework for Question:

“Read the following ___ carefully. Then write an essay in which you discuss the author’s attitudes towards ____ and also discuss the devices (such as ___, ___, or ____) the author uses to convey these views.

  • Understand the passage’s meaning, an interpretation of what it conveys
  • Comment on the style, devices, techniques, or language used.

What the prompt tells you:

  • The prompt tells you a bunch about the poem
  • Connects to historical time period (Timeline, anyone?)

Answer all parts of the question!

  • Don’t be in a hurry to start writing
  • Underline ALL parts of a prompt

Analyze the poem like I taught you...

  • Ask questions of the text
  • Summarize it / Make a movie in the margin
  • Meter, rhyme, special poetic devices, enjambment, etc.

What an “8” looks like

General Reminders:

  • Connect closely to the text--NEVER personal or universal (“I have often felt this way… or “The world is a wonderful place, similar to what the poet says”) Uh, no.
  • See other tutorials online
  • See all websites and resources posted on my website under “AP Literature Test Prep”
  • Work hard in class
  • Be present every day
  • Ask Mr. Chilton questions afterwards
  • Work hard on the in-class essays and pester Mr. Chilton as much as possible to improve / question him about your essays
  • Buy and study your own test prep booklet or check one out from Mr. Chilton
  • See practice essay prompts and responses online

Calculate for all schools

Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, ap lit q1 essay examples—where to find them.

Hello there! So the AP Lit exam is coming up, and I want to get as much practice as I can. Does anyone know where I could find some good Q1 Poetry essay examples to study and get a better grasp of what constitutes a high-scoring essay? Thanks a bunch!

Hey! It's great to see you're preparing for the AP Lit exam. Practicing with high-scoring essay examples is definitely a good way to get a better sense of what's expected. You can find examples of high-scoring Q1 Poetry essays on the College Board website. They provide student samples for each free-response question and include score explanations, so you can understand why they received their specific scores.

Here's the link to the AP Lit Free Response Questions page on the College Board website:

Another useful resource is CollegeVine, which has a free Peer Essay Review platform where you can submit your essays and receive feedback from peers. This may help you understand what works well in your writing and what may need improvement.

Finally, you can also check out helpful online communities like the AP English subreddit. Users often discuss and share tips, essay examples, and advice related to AP exams. Keep in mind that the quality of these postings might vary, but it's still a place where you can engage with others who are also preparing for the AP Lit exam and find helpful resources.

Good luck with your studies, and I hope you find these resources helpful for your preparation!

About CollegeVine’s Expert FAQ

CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.


AP® English Literature

The ultimate list of ap® english literature tips.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: March 1, 2022

the_ultimate_list_of AP® English literature tips

Managing to score a 5 on the AP® English Literature and Composition exam is no easy task. In 2020, for example, only 12.5% of students earned a 5 on the test. But don’t let that statistic scare you! While such a number may make you want to throw in the towel, it is possible to ace this exam through hard work, preparation, and determination. In this post, we’ll break down tons of AP® English Literature tips for you to tackle your exam.

The AP® English Literature and Composition exam is designed to test your ability to think critically and analyze literary excerpts. The test is three hours long and consists of a multiple-choice portion (worth 45% of your grade) and a free response portion (worth 55% of your grade).

The best way to score a 5 on the AP® English Literature exam is to practice, practice, practice. And we’re here to help. Below, we’ve compiled an ultimate list of AP® English Literature practice tests, study guides, AP® Lit prose essay examples, test-taking strategies, and more. Think of this page as the ultimate AP® English Literature review.

If you’re looking for online solutions, use Albert . If you’re looking for old school review books, read this for the best AP® English Literature review books .

What We Review

Overall How To Study for AP® English Literature: 9 Tips for 4s and 5s

1. complete any and all summer work assigned.

AP® English Literature, as its title indicates, requires a lot of reading. Chances are, your teacher will provide you with a reading list and expect the required titles to be read when you walk into your first day of class. In some cases, you may even be assigned a report or project to be completed before you begin the class.

These summer assignments serve as crucial moments in the long and difficult process of developing yourself into a budding literary critic. If you take it seriously and complete a proficient assignment, it will show your teacher that you are in the course to learn. This attitude will make the school year a lot more bearable for both you and your instructor.

2. Read Thomas Foster’s How To Read Literature Like a Professor

Foster’s book offers an accessible and entertaining gateway into the complex and often confusing world of literary criticism. Chapters include explanations and reviews of subjects like symbolism, theme, irony, context, and more.

It is an excellent way to begin getting yourself to think deeply about literature, and it offers clear examples of close- and critical reading. It also discusses a wide variety of classic literary works which will help familiarize you with what academics call the “canon.” (More on this in the next tip.) It’s very readable too. Buy it, read it, mark it up, and keep it by your side throughout the class.

3. Become familiar with the Western Canon

Often referred to simply as “The Canon,” the Western Canon is the body of high-culture literature, music, philosophy, and works of art that is highly valued in the West, i.e. the poems, prose passages, and drama selections that you will mostly see on the AP® Lit exam.

Cultivating a basic understanding of these texts and their authors will not only familiarize you with the history and development of the English tradition but also strengthen your understanding of the “conversation of literature,” the innumerable and complex ways that authors and their works speak to each other and interact. We recommend reading at least the first chapter of Harold Bloom’s book on the subject to get a basic understanding.

We also insist that you familiarize yourself with the various problems that the upholding of such a canon produces. During the 80’s and 90’s, a canon war of sorts took place among English departments, with progressives aiming to dismantle the canon on the grounds that it neglects many African-American, female, queer, and impoverished writers in favor of spotlighting “dead white males.” Understanding this friction will deeply enrich your understanding of literature and increase your chances of scoring a 5 on the exam.

4. Learn how to analyze text

Learn how to analyze text - AP® Lit Tips

Analyzing literary text comprises an incredibly large portion of the AP® English Literature course and exam. It’s important that you learn how to examine the text both as a whole and as a part. Analyze the setting, characters, and plot of the piece. However, it’s also imperative that you understand how to look deeper within the details. Deconstruct the text and examine its theme, look for literary devices, and motives. Do not merely summarize. Foster’s book from tip #2 is a great place to start developing your critical reading skills.

5. Develop a daily reading habit

This is literature! Therefore, you should become accustomed to reading…a lot! However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to aim to read an outrageous number of books or anything. You just need to at least make an attempt to read every day.

Get a subscription to a major publication like The New Yorker or The New York Times , or you can check out our comprehensive AP® English Literature Reading List for a list of essential works. As you read, try to dissect the depth of the text. After a few days of this, you’ll be surprised at how easy analysis can come to you once you train your mind to question everything.

6. Ask questions to seek clarity

Your teacher is there to help; it’s their job. If there’s anything you don’t understand, be sure to ask your instructor even if you feel embarrassed or shy. Understanding a concept you previously had trouble with is sure to be a huge weight off of your shoulders. Asking questions and literature go hand-in-hand. Some go-to’s include: 

  • “How did the author create that tone?”
  • “How do you properly weave evidence into your argument?
  • “What is the meaning of this word?”

7. Form a study group and meet either weekly or bi-weekly

Studying with other people provides opportunities to approach subject matter from different angles, and analyzing literature is all about understanding and engaging with various perspectives.

Everyone brings their own experience to the text, and what better way to learn about new perspectives than through a study group? Meet weekly or bi-weekly at a coffee shop or friend’s house, and maintain a focused but casual tone. Also, create a checklist of what to review with your group prior to meeting to provide structure to the meeting.

8 . Make flashcards of literary devices, terms, concepts, works, and more

The AP® English Literature exam consists of tons of questions involving literary devices, authorial intention, works and authors, and more, so it is imperative that you develop a strong understanding of the literary lexicon.

The easiest way to strengthen your vocabulary is to make yourself some flashcards with the most common literary devices, authors, works, and rhetorical techniques, and carve out at least 30 minutes per day to review. If you’d prefer to use an online resource, make some flashcards over at Quizlet !

9. Experiment with different study styles

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to studying. Maybe you’re a visual learner. Perhaps you like to listen to the material to really understand it. The best way to find out what form of studying helps you best is to experiment. Use flashcards one day, read and summarize material the next, take a practice exam after that, and then try a study group. Variety is key!

Now that you have a grasp on how to get through the actual coursework of your AP® English Literature and Composition class, it’s time to learn how to study for the exam at the end of the year.

First, we’ll take a look at some tips that are sure to help you ace the first portion of the AP® Literature exam: the multiple-choice section. This portion is worth 45% of your total score and it consists of several passages to read and 55 questions to answer, which you have exactly one hour to complete.

Let’s get started.

Return to the Table of Contents

AP® English Literature Multiple-Choice Review: 11 Tips

AP® English Literature Multiple-Choice

1. Choose a multiple-choice strategy: read the passages first or read the questions first

Most people are familiar with the classic shortcut when it comes to taking multiple choice tests—read the questions first, then scan the passages to look for the answers. This method of approaching the AP® English Literature exam can work. It can give you a more focused, determined approach on what to look for when reading the passage. But it can also be distracting to some.

On the other hand, you can read the passages first and then answer the questions. This is the more straightforward, perhaps more traditional way of approaching the multiple-choice section, and it works best for people who like to do things in logical, sequential ways. Work through a few practice exams, and then decide which works best for you and stick with it. 

2. Look deep within the text for implications and subtleties

Analyze the passages within the exam very carefully. There will undoubtedly be questions covering the tone of the passage, or the author’s purpose for writing it. Was it to inform or persuade the audience? To create a specific mood or tone? Perhaps the author used some literary devices like allusions or irony. Closely read the passages and you will have no problem identifying the answers to questions that are specific to the literature side of AP® English. Avoid interpreting the text at face-value.

3. Carefully read the questions and mark them up

If you don’t understand what the question is asking, you can’t possibly expect to know the answer. Take a deep breath and calmly read the questions, dissecting them completely by marking them up with underlines, circles, and more. If you’d like you could create your own system, where underlining represents, say, imagery, and circles represent irony, etc.

Sometimes, the writers of the test will throw in certain words or phrases that lead the question in a different direction. For example, the words “ EXCEPT ” and “ NOT ” are often used at the end of questions, and this can confuse you. Underline these keywords to force yourself to pay attention to them. 

4. Eliminate answer choices that are obviously incorrect

Ever since you were young, you’ve likely heard the helpful suggestion of deducing answers. If you’re familiar with the subject matter of the question, it should be easy to rule out at least one of the choices that you have determined not to be correct.

Physically mark out the answers you believe are wrong by crossing or exxing them out. It will help you to visually see which answers couldn’t possibly be correct, and it will make the multiple-choice questions much more manageable.

5. Reread parts of the passage that are pertinent to the AP® English Literature questions

If a certain question throws you slightly off, return to the passage to clear up your confusion. Most of the time, the answer can be found either directly inside the text or just outside of it through implication and metaphor.

You may even want to put a star, dash, or some other marking beside portions of the text that contain answers or key phrases or moments. That way, if you have extra time at the end of the test, you can go back and check your answers quickly.

6. Pay attention to time

Pay attention to time - AP® Lit tips

This is a timed exam. You have 60 minutes to complete 55 questions. This allows for an average of less than a minute per question when you account for time spent reading passages. You have absolutely no time to sit at your desk staring blankly at questions you don’t quite understand.

Luckily, there is no penalty for answers marked wrong—or answers not marked at all—on the AP® English Literature exam. This means you should definitely skip the questions you’re unsure of. Mark them in some sort of way so that it is noticeable that you haven’t answered them yet. Then, if you have some time at the end of the test, you can go back and see if you can come up with the answer. Alternatively, if you can’t seem to find an answer: guess!

7. Formulate summaries of the passages in the margins

If you are a fast worker, this tip may prove extremely helpful for you. A few of the multiple-choice questions may test your overall comprehension of the passages you read. In the margins of the page beside the passage, jot down a few bullet points outlining the plot progression as you read. This way you can refer back to your notes when answering questions rather than searching the entire text. Think of this strategy as you are creating a treasure map of the passage, drawing up a guide which will lead you to the hidden treasure.

8. Be wary of “All of the above” and “None of the above.”

There will be a few times where “all of the above” and “none of the above” appear as answer choices on the AP® English Language exam. These can be tricky. Remember that “all of the above” means that every single provided answer choice is correct, so if you are somewhat unsure of a single answer then be weary of “all of the above.” The same goes for “none of the above.” Be confident that all choices are either correct or incorrect.

9. Create a daily study routine and stick to it

You will not be able to score a 5 if you decide to cram the night or even week before the exam. Therefore, you must develop a daily study schedule as soon as the year begins. One way to do this is to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to study. Moreover, take the flashcards you’ve made with you wherever you go. Keep them in your wallet, in your purse, or even in your car. Whenever you have a moment of free time, instead of scrolling through Twitter or Facebook on your phone, run through a review of your terms. Ultimately, create your own AP® English Literature study guide. It’ll stick better in your memory and help your AP® Literature exam score in the long run.

10. Work through multiple practice exams

The most helpful and effective way to prepare for the multiple-choice portion of the AP® English Literature exam is by testing yourself. Prepare early in the semester for the test by taking practice exams. We offer tons of practice assessments with our AP® English Literature course and so does College Board , but if you’re more of a pen and paper person, you can use the recommended AP® Lit books here .

Shoot for one practice exam per month, and be sure to time yourself when working through the practice exams. This will help familiarize you with the ins and outs of the exam itself while simultaneously strengthening your test-taking skills. We can’t stress this tip enough. 

11. Don’t let your stress and anxiety overwhelm you

Sure, the AP® English Literature exam is a difficult and important test. And yes, it affects the amount of college credit you receive coming out of high school. But at the end of the day, it’s just a test. Anxiety and stress can severely affect your ability to function and think correctly. Take a deep breath periodically throughout the test. It’ll help calm your body and soothe your mind so you can concentrate better.

Now that you have some tips on how to tackle the multiple-choice portion of the AP® English Literature exam, it’s time to focus on the most challenging part: the free response portion. In this portion, you have two hours to complete three essays. This section tests your ability to analyze passages and dissect them to form logical interpretations to be illustrated in your essays.

Here are some tips for nailing the free response portion of the AP® English Literature and Composition exam:

AP® English Literature Free-Response Review: 13 Tips

AP® English Literature Free-Response Tips

1. Critically read and mark-up the question

The first step towards writing an awesome essay on the AP® Literature exam is reading (and understanding) the question. What are the authors of the test asking for specifically? As you read the question, underline, highlight, or circle key words and phrases. Think critically about what the question is asking of you. The scorers of the free response portion want essays that are clear and to the point. Simply restating the prompt will result in a huge deduction of points. Regurgitating the question will show the reader that you may not be confident in your ability to dissect passages. Avoid this by spending time with the question and marking the AP® English Literature prompts up.

AP® Literature FRQ

Here, the key words and phrases to underline are “analyze” and “portrayal” as they point you toward what you are to do and where you are to focus. Additionally, the prompt includes further areas to highlight including, “imagery, selection of detail, and tone.”

2. Develop a strong, well-developed AP® English Literature thesis statement

A well-written thesis is the basis of all successful essays. As mentioned previously, do NOT restate the question. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes students made in the 2019 exam involved moving from commentary (point by point observations) to more cohesive claims. In other words, students had difficulty strengthening their observations into arguments. Many times, this error stems from having a weak thesis statement. Think of your thesis as your essay’s central claim, its expression of its argument. Crafting a perfect thesis statement is indeed difficult, so if you find yourself totally lost, check out AP’s very own video lecture on the subject .

Here are examples of good and bad thesis statements over an essay concerning free speech: 

  • Bad Thesis: “This paper will consider the advantages and disadvantages of certain restrictions on free speech.” 
  • Good Thesis: “Even though there may be considerable advantages to restricting hate speech, the possibility of chilling open dialogue on crucial racial issues is too great and too high a price to pay.”

3. Structure the essay with a cohesive mode of organization

Organization is key to writing a great essay. If your analysis moves all over the place in a discursive manner, the reader will get angry, and you don’t want to make the reader angry. You should be greatly familiar with the basic five paragraph essay outline before taking the exam. While this outline isn’t necessarily set in stone (it can be adjusted, expanded, shortened, etc.), it does serve as a tried and true method of organization.

After you dissect the question, prepare an outline within the first few minutes of writing your essay. Perhaps even use a diagram, if you’re a visual learner. A clear and precise outline can help prevent rambling when answering the question in your essay.

4. Use high-level, academic vocabulary

Since this is an exam for an Advanced Placement English course, it is imperative that you use a vocabulary that reflects a higher level of education. Avoid slang, colloquialism, and vague language like, “sort of,” “kind of,” and “very.” These lower the professional and academic tone of your essay, and they will obfuscate your writing with ambiguity.

On the other hand, don’t go overboard with smarty-pants language that you don’t have control of. This will render your essay pretentious and unclear. To strengthen your academic vocabulary, you should make flashcards on Quizlet and develop a daily study habit. Check out our 15 Must Know Rhetorical Terms for AP® English Literature page , too.

5. Mark-up the passage and refer back to it

On the first two essays, you will be asked to read a passage and analyze it according to the instructions given in the question. Use the passage to your advantage. As you read mark it up by circling, highlighting, or underlining key words or phrases. One common misconception that occurred in the 2019 exam was students relying on plot summary instead of focusing more specifically on details or elements and explaining how these illustrate their points. To avoid this, frequently refer back to specific parts of the text.

6. Develop familiarity with many literary works to ace the third FRQ

The third free response question on the AP® Literature exam is more open-ended than the first two. AP® describes the FRQ as this: “An analysis that examines a specific concept, issue, or element in a work of literary merit selected by the student.” Essentially, you will respond to an open-ended prompt by selecting your own work of literary merit to analyze. Therefore, you must become familiar with a wide variety of texts that could help you answer the question. It’s important that you keep this particular essay question in mind as you work throughout the semester. Check out our Ultimate AP® English Literature Reading List!

7. Practice frequently using previous exams and consulting rubrics

As they say, practice really does make perfect. A good option for practicing free response questions involves searching the Internet for old exam rubrics. These show you exactly what the scorers are looking for in an essay. The AP® Literature section of AP® Central has several practice exams for your use. Take advantage of this and practice writing essays using different prompts from previous exams. We also offer practice exams filled with free response prompts that can help you develop your writing skills. 

8. Use a good writing utensil

Use a good writing utensil - AP® Lit Tips

Nothing is worse than getting halfway through an essay and having your pen run out of ink, or your pencil getting smudged. Often, readers prefer the look and clarity of black ink to colored ink or the graphite of pencil. Take that into mind when going into the free response portion of the exam, and have a handful of backup writing utensils at hand when you take the test. The Ticonderoga pencil is a tried and tested stalwart, and we recommend it. 

9. Pace yourself throughout the test

Before the free response portion begins, work out how much time you need to spend on each question. It may even be helpful to bring a watch to time yourself on each essay. Remember: there are three essay questions total: one literary analysis of a poem, one of a passage of prose fiction, and one analysis of a specific concept, issue, or element in a work of literary merit. You have a total of two hours, so we recommend that you spend 40 minutes per question. However, you also need to be sure that you are not rushing through the questions and leaving vital information out of your essays. Time yourself when you take practice exams, and go from there.

10. Write legibly

When facing the pressure of taking difficult tests, you might find yourself rushing through the essay questions because of time constraints. This often leads to messy handwriting that will give your scorer a headache. The clarity of your writing is necessary for a good score on your essay. If the reader cannot decipher your chicken scratch, how can they possibly score it? In order to perfect this skill before the exam, practice writing legibly under pressure during practice exams and other essays. 

11. Don’t leave any question blank

Although this may be acceptable for the multiple-choice portion of the exam, it is absolutely inexcusable for your essays. You only get three chances to prove your competency in the free response portion, and the section at large counts for 55% of your overall score. Some might say that the FRQ section is the most important portion of the exam because of its weight. Write, write, and write even if you are totally stumped by the prompt. Take advantage of this opportunity to show the readers how much you’ve learned from taking this AP® course.

12. Understand what the AP® readers are looking for

As we said earlier, rubrics are a great resource to use when preparing for the AP® English Literature exam. They reflect exactly how your essay will be scored. It’s vital to understand exactly what the readers are looking for in a good essay. This includes:

a) Thesis: This requirement emphasizes the importance of crafting an effective thesis statement. Students must respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible interpretation of the poem.

b) Evidence and commentary: This section assesses your ability to cite and analyze textual evidence. It stresses that you provide specific evidence to support all claims in a line of reasoning, and consistently explain how the evidence supports that line of reasoning. Additionally, you must explain how multiple literary elements or techniques in the poem contribute to its meaning.

c) Sophistication: This component of the rubric is tough because sophistication is not something you can simply check off. Ultimately, the scorer wants your essay to demonstrate sophistication of thought and/or develops a complex literary argument.

13. Listen to your teacher

This is perhaps the most important of all the AP® Lit free response tips. Over the course of the semester, your teacher will provide you with ample advice for the exam. Pay close attention to your teacher’s guidance, and frequently meet with them to discuss your progress.

Seriously, meet with your teachers and continue asking how you can improve, what you’re doing well, what you’re not doing so well, etc. If the information your teacher gives you wasn’t relevant, they wouldn’t waste their time giving it to you. Your instructor knows the exam; it’s only logical to follow their advice.

In the event that you have a bad teacher, consult online resources like us, and perhaps begin formulating relationships with other teachers who are known to be excellent. Moreover, meet with students who excel in the course, and try to form study groups with them.

The AP® English Literature and Composition exam is all about analysis of different literary works. Hopefully, these tips will help you tackle this massive exam with ease.

Study Tips from AP® English Literature Teachers

Tips Submitted by AP® English Literature Teachers

We asked a number of AP® English Literature teachers to share their favorite AP® Lit tips and have compiled them here for you to review.

AP® English Literature Multiple Choice Tips:

1. Debate the questions

Get students to debate the answers to AP® multiple choice questions without your help. After they “quiz” on a passage and the questions for it, ask them how they think they did. The answer is always mixed, so give them an option: Keep the score they currently have OR discuss the answers in a large group without teacher’s help and take that community grade. 

They always pick the latter. Participating in the discussion helps students practice justifying their answers (tell them you will keep track to make sure that everyone participates at least ___ time(s).) As you observe their process, you will gain all kinds of insight into students’ thinking process, they will learn from the ways their classmates explain their choices, and their scores are almost always 100! Thanks for the tip from Wendy R. from Weslaco East High School.

2. Brush up on your vocabulary

If you don’t understand the vocabulary used in the questions and/or answers, you will not be able to find the correct answer. There are many words with multiple meanings/nuances of meaning that will bring you to the wrong conclusion. Pay attention to the wording of the questions and answers! Thanks for the tip from Susan R. from Palm Beach Gardens High.

3. Consider Audience, Occasion & Purpose

Whether you’re speaking, reading or writing, you’re thinking: Audience, Occasion & Purpose. Who is the audience? What is the occasion? And what is the purpose of the author’s writing? Breaking down writing and literature into these three components can make the exam much easier and more digestible. Thanks for the tip from Mike L. at Tilton School.

AP® English Literature Free Response Tips:

1. Always remember to consider the author’s purpose

 Retelling what happened in the story is not an analysis. You must understand and relay why the author wrote it the way he/she did and what he/she is trying to tell readers! That’s crucial! Thanks for the tip from Kim F. from Tavares High.

2. Strive for originality

Think about the fact that the AP® readers have been looking at essays on the same topics for three days. What will you do to be original and stand out that will surprise the reader at 4:30 pm on day three? Brainstorm what everyone else will say before writing. Then, don’t write on those topics. Originality will hook your reader. Thanks for the tip from Mike G. from MPS.

3. Don’t just summarize the author’s devices or techniques

Focused writing on two or three aspects of the text (characterization, use of devices, etc) accompanied with analysis will generate a higher score than lightly touching on five to ten aspects. As a reader, we are happy that you can identify techniques, but what we are looking for is analysis. And, we also know that analysis is tough to achieve. Think deep about the text. What was the author trying to say about the human condition with this scene, with that image? Thanks for the tip from Matt U. at Liberty High.

4. Always answer the question: “So what?”

Yes, the writer used an extended metaphor, so what? Why did they choose that metaphor? How does that choice reflect the author’s intent? What effect does it create within the text and within the reader? Provide the reader with the “so what” to help drive your analysis deeper. Thanks for the second tip from Matt U. at Liberty High.

5. Students who read widely and regularly are far more prepared to write and communicate clearly with a deeper understanding than students who do not read

Reading expands knowledge, vocabulary usage, and comprehension, and it enables students to make connections within and between content areas which have real-world applications. Reading widely across genres will broaden your perspective, too. Thanks for the tip from Elizabeth B. from Harrison High.

6. Use something you’ve read in AP® Lit for the third question

While you may be tempted to analyze a novel you’ve read on your own for the third FRQ, you should stick to what you’ve read in class. You will have spent more time and analytical energy on those books and plays than you did on your own.. Prepare for Question 3 before the exam by reviewing everything you’ve read in AP® English Literature. Thanks for the tip from Erin M. at Mercy County Senior High.

7. Turn your words into pictures and your pictures into words

Meaning: If you have an idea, anchor it to something concrete. If you have something concrete, associate it with an idea. Be able to move back and forth between the abstract and the literal. Most if not all deep literature involves this sort of mental navigation, so it’s best that you become familiar with it. Thanks for the tip from Jeff T. at Lynden Christian High School.

8. Never be unacceptably brief

Even if the selection is difficult or slim, there’ll be something in it that all students can latch onto and dissect. Sometimes, even the smallest moments in literature are actually the biggest through moments of metaphor, symbolism, and more. So if you find yourself writing 1-2 sentence paragraphs, return to the smaller moments and think BIG!Thanks for the third tip from Bill O. from El Molino High.

9. Do not merely skim to point out literary devices

Zoom deep into the text to identify the device, explain in detail how the device is functioning and then zoom out to explain how it works to support the passage as a whole and how it connects to the universal human condition. Focus on two primary ideas (literary devices, elements of composition, etc…) for each essay in order to go deeper in analysis of each. This means the difference between writing a college level paper and writing a high school level paper. Thanks for the tip from Jodi G. from Saugus High. Thanks for the tip from Erin M. at Mercy County Senior High.

10. Deconstruct the prompt

Make sure you understand exactly what the prompt is asking you to do. Then use it as a focus for your annotation of the text on Q1 and Q2 and as a launching point for your notes and thesis for Q3. Spend a lot of time marking up and breaking down the prompt before you attempt the essays. Look for key words, phrases, action verbs, etc. Thanks for the tip from Erin M. at Mercy County Senior High.

11. Find a good literary timeline to conceptualize what you read in terms of the art movement and historical time period

Since the AP® Literature Exam is a test over, well, literature, knowing the historical progression of literature is vital. This is where a literary timeline comes in handy. Check out this one on Pinterest for a general idea. These can provide insight into the texts as well as help you remember what you have read. Thanks for the tip from Paul H. at Walled Lake Central High.

Wrapping Things Up: The Ultimate List of AP® English Literature Tips

Scoring a 5 on the AP® English Literature exam is a difficult feat to accomplish. However, with proper preparation, some hard work, and consistent practice, you can ace the exam. Remember that the AP® English Literature and Composition exam is designed to test your ability to read critically and deeply analyze literature. The test is three hours long and consists of a multiple-choice portion (worth 45% of your grade) and a free response portion (worth 55% of your grade).

To adequately prepare, you must develop an effective study routine. Make flashcards of common literary concepts and terms using Quizlet. Take practice exams either through Albert , and be sure to time yourself each time you take one of the tests. Finally, cultivate a daily reading schedule which incorporates literature (fiction or poetry, preferably for this exam). This will familiarize you with the wide and complex world of literature and sharpen your literary skills. We also offer tons of practice on various novels and essential works that can be super helpful, too.

After taking a few practice exams, identify which section of the test you are better or worse at. Do you ace the multiple choice but flunk the free-response questions? Whichever it is, be sure to practice and develop your weaker skills. Focusing on the components of the test that you consistently ace—though it may be tempting—will make your score lopsided. Again, we must reiterate: practice, practice, practice. 

Interested in a school license?​

4 thoughts on “the ultimate list of ap® english literature tips”.

Ahhh….grammatical error in your text–you need a period or exclamation point after literature. (See below)

5. Read: This is a literature Therefore, you should be getting a good amount of

Thank you for catching that. We have fixed it!

These tips will be very helpful for me during this year of AP® Lit. I found tip 23 most important because I always take to much time on things like the intro that I don’t realize I’m wasting much of my time.

Thanks for sharing what you found most helpful, Antonio!

Comments are closed.

Popular Posts

AP® Physics I score calculator

AP® Score Calculators

Simulate how different MCQ and FRQ scores translate into AP® scores

ap lit q1 essay example

AP® Review Guides

The ultimate review guides for AP® subjects to help you plan and structure your prep.

ap lit q1 essay example

Core Subject Review Guides

Review the most important topics in Physics and Algebra 1 .

ap lit q1 essay example

SAT® Score Calculator

See how scores on each section impacts your overall SAT® score

ap lit q1 essay example

ACT® Score Calculator

See how scores on each section impacts your overall ACT® score

ap lit q1 essay example

Grammar Review Hub

Comprehensive review of grammar skills

ap lit q1 essay example

AP® Posters

Download updated posters summarizing the main topics and structure for each AP® exam.

What are your chances of acceptance?

Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance.

Duke University

Your chancing factors


ap lit q1 essay example

How to Write the AP Lit Poetry Essay

What’s covered:.

  • How to Write the AP Literature Poetry Essay
  • Tips for Writing The AP Lit Poetry Essay

To strengthen your AP Literature Poetry Essay essay, make sure you prepare ahead of time by knowing how the test is structured, and how to prepare. In this post, we’ll cover the structure of the test and show you how you can write a great AP Literature Poetry Essay.

What is the AP Lit Poetry Essay? 

The AP Literature exam has two sections. Section I contains 55 multiple choice questions, with 1 hour time allotted. This includes at least two prose fiction passages and two poetry passages. 

Section II, on the other hand, is a free response section. Here, students write essays to 3 prompts. These prompts include a literary analysis of a poem, prose fiction, or in a work selected by the student. Because the AP Literature Exam is structured in a specific, predictable manner, it’s helpful to prepare yourself for the types of questions you’ll encounter on test day. 

The Poetry Essay counts for one-third of the total essay section score, so it’s important to know how to approach this section. You’ll want to plan for about 40 minutes on this question, which is plenty of time to read and dissect the prompt, read and markup the poem, write a brief outline, and write a concise, well-thought out essay with a compelling analysis. 

Tips for Writing the AP Lit Poetry Essay

1. focus on the process.

Writing is a process, and so is literary analysis. Think less about finding the right answer, or uncovering the correct meaning of the poem (there isn’t one, most of the time). Read the prompt over at least twice, asking yourself carefully what you need to look for as you read. Then, read the poem three times. Once, to get an overall sense of the poem. Second, start to get at nuance; circle anything that’s recurring, underline important language and diction , and note important images or metaphors. In your annotations, you want to think about figurative language , and poetic structure and form . Third, pay attention to subtle shifts in the poem: does the form break, is there an interruption of some sort? When analyzing poetry, it’s important to get a sense of the big picture first, and then zoom in on the details. 

2. Craft a Compelling Thesis

No matter the prompt, you will always need to respond with a substantive thesis. A meaty thesis contains complexity rather than broad generalizations , and points to specifics in the poem.

By examining the colloquial language in Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem, “We Real Cool”, we can see the tension of choosing to be “cool”. This raises important ideas about education, structure, and routine, and the consequences of living to be “real cool”.

Notice how the thesis provides a roadmap of what is to follow in the essay , and identifies key ideas that the essay will explore. It is specific, and not vague. The thesis provides a bigger picture of the text, while zooming in the colloquial language the speaker uses. 

A good thesis points out the why as much as the what . Notice how in the above example, the thesis discusses language in the poem as it connects to a bigger message about the poem. For example, it’s not enough to discuss Emily Dickinson’s enjambment and hyphens. A good thesis will make a compelling argument about why those infamous Dickinson hyphens are so widely questioned and examined. Perhaps a good thesis might suggest that this unique literary device is more about self-examination and the lapse in our own judgement. 

3. Use Textual Evidence 

To support your thesis, always use textual evidence . When you are creating an outline, choose a handful of lines in the poem that will help illuminate your argument. Make sure each claim in your essay is followed by textual evidence, either in the form of a paraphrase, or direct quote . Then, explain exactly how the textual evidence supports your argument . Using this structure will help keep you on track as you write, so that your argument follows a clear narrative that a reader will be able to follow. 

Your essay will need to contain both description of the poem, and analysis . Remember that your job isn’t to describe or paraphrase every aspect of the poem. You also need lots of rich analysis, so be sure to balance your writing by moving from explicit description to deeper analysis. 

4. Strong Organization and Grammar

A great essay for the AP Literature Exam will contain an introduction with a thesis (not necessarily always the last sentence of the paragraph), body paragraphs that contain clear topic sentences, and a conclusion . Be sure to spend time thinking about your organization before you write the paper. Once you start writing, you only want to think about content. It’s helpful to write a quick outline before writing your essay. 

There’s nothing worse than a strong argument with awkward sentences, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Make sure to proofread your work before submitting it. Carefully edit your work, paying attention to any run-on sentences, subject-verb agreement, commas, and spelling. You’d be surprised how many mistakes you’ll catch just by rereading your work. 

Common Mistakes on the AP Literature Poetry Essay 

It can be helpful to know what not to do when it comes time to prepare for the AP Literature Poetry Essay. Here are some common mistakes students make on the AP Literature Poetry Essay:

1. Thesis is not arguable and is too general 

Your thesis should be arguable, and indicate the central ideas you will discuss in your essay. Read the prompt carefully and craft your thesis in light of what the prompt asks you to do. If the prompt mentions specific literary devices, find a way to tie those into your thesis. In your thesis, you want to connect to the meaning of the poem itself and what you feel the poet intended when using those particular literary devices.

2. Using vague, general statements rather than focusing on analysis of the poem

Always stay close to the text when writing the AP Literature Poetry Essay. Remember that your job is not to paraphrase but to analyze. Keep explicit descriptions of the poem concise, and spend the majority of your time writing strong analysis backed up by textual evidence.

3. Not using transitions to connect between paragraphs

Make sure it’s not jarring to the reader when you switch to a new idea in a new paragraph. Use transitions and strong topic sentences to seamlessly blend your ideas together into a cohesive essay that flows well and is easy to follow. 

4. Textual evidence is lacking or not fully explained 

Always include quotes from the text and reference specifics whenever you can. Introduce your quote briefly, and then explain how the quote connects back to the topic sentence after. Think about why the quotes connect back to the poet’s central ideas. 

5. Not writing an outline

Of course, to write a fully developed essay you’ll need to spend a few minutes planning out your essay. Write a quick outline with a thesis, paragraph topics and a list of quotes that support your central ideas before getting started.

To improve your writing, take a look at these essay samples from the College Board, with scoring guidelines and commentary. 

How Will AP Scores Affect My College Chances?

While you can self-report AP scores, they don’t really affect your admissions chances . Schools are more interested in how you performed in the actual class, as your grades impact your GPA. To understand how your GPA impacts your college chances, use our free chancing engine . We’ll let you know your personal chance of acceptance at over 1500 schools, plus give you tips for improving your profile.

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

ap lit q1 essay example


Find what you need to study

Poetry Analysis (Q1) Thesis and Introduction

march 24, 2020

Candace Moore

Candace Moore

After a little bit of discussion about the new AP Lit exam, poetry analysis prompts and rubric are reviewed, answering questions about expectations and prompt language. Where and how to write a thesis is discussed, and attendees collectively critique two example theses in response to an AP prompt. Read and discuss a poem in preparation to write a thesis, focusing on the devices that create the relationship of the prompt.


About Fiveable

Code of Conduct

Terms of Use

Privacy Policy

CCPA Privacy Policy

AP Score Calculators

Study Guides

Practice Quizzes

Cram Events

Crisis Text Line

Help Center

Stay Connected

© 2024 Fiveable Inc. All rights reserved.

AP® and SAT® are trademarks registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse this website.


  1. AP Lit Poetry (Q1) Style Essay Prompt- If We Must Die Distance Learning

    ap lit q1 essay example

  2. Ap12 English Lit q1

    ap lit q1 essay example

  3. Q1

    ap lit q1 essay example

  4. AP Lit: Q1 Essay Exemplar Comparison using Walcott's "XIV" poem

    ap lit q1 essay example

  5. ap15_english_lit_q1

    ap lit q1 essay example

  6. AP Lit: Q1 Essay Exemplar Comparison using Walcott's "XIV" poem

    ap lit q1 essay example


  1. PMC Module#2 Exercise of Practical Life(EPL) |Solved Assignment

  2. AP Lit and Comp Parody 2024



  5. AP Lit Final Video Siddhartha

  6. AP Lit project 3 SD 480p


  1. AP English Literature and Composition Exam Questions

    Download free-response questions from this year's exam and past exams along with scoring guidelines, sample responses from exam takers, and scoring distributions. If you are using assistive technology and need help accessing these PDFs in another format, contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 212-713-8333 or by email at ssd@info ...

  2. PDF AP English Literature and Composition

    essay is organized by the actions of the speaker, first as he walks through the empty streets where the "'steam / pouring from the manhole covers'" is "the only thing exciting about the man's life" to his encounter with the saxophone player, which the essay describes as "the first instance in which the speakers point of view does

  3. PDF AP English Literature and Composition

    essay, analyze how Blanco uses literary elements and techniques to develop the speaker's complex associations with the ritual of shaving. In your response you should do the following: • Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible interpretation.

  4. PDF AP English Literature and Composition

    The writing often demonstrates a lack of control over the conventions of composition: inadequate development of ideas, accumulation of errors, or a focus that is unclear, inconsistent, or repetitive. Essays scored a 3 may contain significant misreading and/or demonstrate inept writing. 2−1 These essays compound the weaknesses of the papers in ...

  5. PDF AP English Literature and Composition 2019 FRQ 1 Sample Student

    AP English Literature and Composition Question 1: Poetry Analysis (2019) Sample Student Responses 2 Sample HH [1] Ones predestination for introversion or extroversion - whether due to genetics, trauma, or environment - may seem to be an asset to most, or even passive at the least. In reality, this can be crippling.


    These essays offer a range of interpretations; they provide convincing readings of both the ideas and Oliver's use of figurative language and other poetic techniques. They demonstrate consistent and effective control over the elements of composition in language appropriate to the analysis of poetry. Their textual references are apt and specific.

  7. How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay + Example

    The AP Lit prose essay is the second of the three essays included in the free-response section of the AP Lit exam, lasting around 40 minutes in total. A prose passage of approximately 500 to 700 words and a prompt will be given to guide your analytical essay. Worth about 18% of your total grade, the essay will be graded out of six points ...

  8. How to Write the AP Lit Prose Essay with Examples

    Fifth: Give each literary device its own body paragraph. In this essay, the writer examines the use of two literary devices that are supported by multiple pieces of evidence. The first is "romantic imagery" and the second is "hyperbolic imagery.". The writer dedicates one paragraph to each idea. You should do this, too.

  9. How to Ace the AP Lit Poetry Essay

    In this video, I'll show you how to write the AP English Literature poetry essay (Q1) step by step using the actual 2018 prompt. Watch me annotate the poem g...

  10. PDF AP English Literature and Composition

    Question 1: P. K. Page, "The Landlady". The score should reflect the quality of the essay as a whole — its content, style, and mechanics. Reward the students for what they do well. The score for an exceptionally well-written essay may be raised by 1 point above the otherwise appropriate score. In no case may a poorly written essay be ...

  11. Expert's Guide to the AP Literature Exam

    The AP Literature Exam is a three-hour exam that contains two sections in this order: An hour-long, 55-question multiple-choice section. A 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.

  12. Introduction to Q1 Poem Essay of the AP literature exam

    Introduction to the Q1: Poem Essay on the AP Lit Exam. Mr. Chilton. 2 of 18. Essay Overview 2 hours ; 3 essays total ; 1 poem ; 1 prose ; 1 "open response" on book of your choice ; 3 of 18. Q1 Poetry Essay: Overview. One poem from 1500-Present ; Bet on: Renaissance poem ; Romantic poem ; Modern American poem (last 20 years) Sometimes two ...

  13. AP Lit Exam Guide

    FRQ Scoring Rubric for the 2024 AP Lit Exam. View an example set of questions and the corresponding ... Q1 Evidence and Commentary: Follow the process of reading a poem and selecting evidence in real-time. You can have an essay before it's through. ... and common pitfalls for students writing AP Literature essays. Commentary and ...

  14. AP Lit Q1 essay examples—where to find them?

    Hey! It's great to see you're preparing for the AP Lit exam. Practicing with high-scoring essay examples is definitely a good way to get a better sense of what's expected. You can find examples of high-scoring Q1 Poetry essays on the College Board website. They provide student samples for each free-response question and include score explanations, so you can understand why they received their ...

  15. Ap13 eng lit q1

    AP lit sample essay english literature and composition 2013 scoring guidelines question (mary black walnut the score reflects the quality of the essay as whole ... Ap13 eng lit q1 - AP lit sample essay. Course: AP English (AP Literature And Composition) 108 Documents. Students shared 108 documents in this course. Level • Grade: High School ...


    The writing often demonstrates a lack of control over the conventions of composition: inadequate development of ideas, accumulation of errors, or a focus that is unclear, inconsistent, or repetitive. Essays scored a 3 may contain significant misreading and/or demonstrate inept writing. 2-1 These essays compound the weaknesses of the papers in ...

  17. The Ultimate List of AP® English Literature Tips

    The AP® English Literature and Composition exam is designed to test your ability to think critically and analyze literary excerpts. The test is three hours long and consists of a multiple-choice portion (worth 45% of your grade) and a free response portion (worth 55% of your grade). The best way to score a 5 on the AP® English Literature exam ...

  18. How to Write the AP Lit Poetry Essay

    The AP Literature exam has two sections. Section I contains 55 multiple choice questions, with 1 hour time allotted. This includes at least two prose fiction passages and two poetry passages. Section II, on the other hand, is a free response section. Here, students write essays to 3 prompts.

  19. PDF AP English Literature and Composition Sample Student Responses and

    The score should reflect the quality of the essay as a whole — its content, style, and mechanics. Reward the students for what they do well. The score for an exceptionally well-written essay may be raised by 1 point above the otherwise appropriate score. In no case may a poorly written essay be scored higher than a 3.

  20. AP Lit: Poetry Analysis (Q1) Thesis & Introduction [video]

    After a little bit of discussion about the new AP Lit exam, poetry analysis prompts and rubric are reviewed, answering questions about expectations and prompt language. Where and how to write a thesis is discussed, and attendees collectively critique two example theses in response to an AP prompt.


    The writing often demonstrates a lack of control over the conventions of composition: inadequate development of ideas, accumulation of errors, or a focus that is unclear, inconsistent or repetitive. Essays scored a 3 may contain significant misreading and/or demonstrate inept writing. 2-1 These essays compound the weaknesses of those in the 4 ...

  22. AP English Literature and Composition Exam

    Starting with the 2025 exam, AP English Literature and Composition multiple-choice questions (MCQs) will have four answer choices instead of five. Most AP courses have already implemented this change, which research indicates could improve students' exam-day experience. This summer we'll release updated resources reflecting the change.

  23. AP English Language and Composition Exam Questions

    Download free-response questions from this year's exam and past exams along with scoring guidelines, sample responses from exam takers, and scoring distributions. If you are using assistive technology and need help accessing these PDFs in another format, contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 212-713-8333 or by email at ssd@info ...