Come early May, you may elect to take the AP Literature test. If you pass the test, you may get out of a freshman course at certain colleges. Around 50% of students achieve a four or above on the scale out of 5, which is accepted by most colleges. It is usually a good idea to take as many AP exams as you can in order to get out of as many classes as possible, and earn as much credit as possible -- prior to even going to college. This page contains some of the basics information regarding the AP Test.
The AP Test layout consists of two sections: an essay section, and a multiple choice section.
Multiple Choice - 55 questions, 1 hour
Essay - 3 essays, 2 hours
The multiple choice section consists of reading a passage, and answering several questions about it. Examples can be found online, but they generally look something like this:
The speaker and the person addressed in the poem are probably
a.) an old man speaking to an old woman
b.) an old woman speaking to another old woman
c.) a young man speaking to an old woman
d.) a young man speaking to a young woman
e.) a young man speaking to himself
They assess both your understanding of the passage as well as your knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary.
2.) Setting aside considerations of rhythm and rhyme, a modern writer would probably replace the verb form “pass” in line 1 with
b.) is passing
c.) to pass
d.) will have passed
e.) to have passed
Online practice is available in the form of previous prompts from past years. Since you cannot know the content ahead of time, being able to analyze writing quickly is essential, as you have less than one minute per question not including reading. Speed is almost as important as accuracy. If worse comes to worse, you are not penalized for guessing, so be sure to write something down.
In the essay section of the AP test you are given 2 hours to write 3 essays about literature. Generally, two of the essays ask you to analyze two pieces of literature they provide, while the third asks that you take a book you’ve read and relate to the prompt, ie. you answer the prompt with evidence from a well-known piece of literature. They provide you with a list of books that could answer the prompt well, and with luck you’ve read one or two of them.
Understanding how the graders are trained can help improve your score. Below is the general process that each grader goes through when considering what score an essay should receive.
Upper or Lower Range
Graders have to read through and score hundreds of essays in a short amount of time, and they have to be largely uniform in how they grade. So while reading it they’re immediately trying to decide if the essay will be in the upper (6-9) or lower (1-4) range. This is decided within the first page, and while it can go up after that, it’s likely to remain somewhere within that initial range. This means your introduction and first impressions are essential.
The next decision is which even number is your essay closest to? Having decided that your essay is upper range, they now ask, “Is this essay an 8, or a 6? Which is it closer to?” They decide this based on the rubric they’re given, which generally hinges on the depth of your analysis as well as the strength of your thesis and evidence. They use this to choose an even number that your essay most likely falls into.
The final score is largely dictated by the remainder of your essay, where the grader asks,”Should the score go up, or go down?” This means that if they put you in the 6 range and your essay improved or showed a little more depth, you might be bumped up to a 7. If you were lacking, you may drop down to a 5. Either way, however, your score is largely determined prior to this point. There are essays in which the scorer might reevaluate their initial assessment of upper or lower range, but for the most part, by the time they’re reaching your second page they have a score in mind.
General Tips and Advice
Stay away from basic and polarizing vocabulary that might simplify and issue at hand. Don’t use words such as
Positive / Negative
Good / Evil
Statements which include these words often ignore the nuance that the writing is trying to convey, and they can show a lack of understanding of said writing.