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AP English Literature and Composition

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About the Exam

The AP English Literature and Composition Exam will test your understanding of the literary concepts covered in the course units, as well as your ability to analyze texts and develop written arguments based on your interpretations.  

2025 AP Exam dates available soon

New for 2024-25: mcqs will have four answer choices.

Starting in the 2024-25 school year, AP English Literature and Composition multiple-choice questions (MCQs) will have four answer choices instead of five. This change will take effect with the 2025 exam. All resources have been updated to reflect this change. 

Exam Components

Section 1: multiple choice.

55 questions 45% of Score

  • There are 5 sets of questions made up of 8–13 questions each.
  • Questions include excerpts from prose fiction, drama, or poetry. Each excerpt is accompanied by several multiple-choice questions.
  • There will be at least 2 prose fiction passages (this may include drama) and at least 2 poetry passages.

Section 2: Free Response

3 questions 55% of Score

In the free-response section, you’ll respond to three questions from the following categories with written answers:

  • Poetry analysis: You will read a passage of poetry and respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a poetic interpretation backed up by evidence.
  • Prose fiction analysis: You will read a passage of prose fiction (this may include drama) and respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a literary interpretation backed up by evidence.
  • Literary argument: You will be presented with a literary concept or idea and analyze how the literary concept or idea contributes to an interpretation of a literary work. You can choose one from a list of roughly 40 works provided to you or cite another work of prose fiction or drama from your own reading to create an evidence-based argument that responds to the given topic. In responding to Question 3, select a work of fiction that will be appropriate to the question. A general rule is to use a work that is similar in quality to those you have read in your AP class(es). 

Exam Essentials

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Free-Response Questions and Scoring Information

Go to AP Central to review AP English Literature and Composition free-response questions and scoring information from past exams.

AP English Literature and Composition Course and Exam Description

This is the core document for the course. It clearly lays out the course content and describes the exam and AP Program in general.

Services for Students with Disabilities

Students with documented disabilities may be eligible for accommodations for the through-course assessment and the end-of-course exam. If you’re using assistive technology and need help accessing the PDFs in this section in another format, contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 212-713-8333 or by email at [email protected] . For information about taking AP Exams, or other College Board assessments, with accommodations, visit the Services for Students with Disabilities website.

Credit and Placement

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Additional Information

Lit & More

Lit & More

March 2, 2019 ·

Q3 Study Guides: A Meaningful AP Test Prep Assignment

AP Classroom & AP Scoring

ap lit question 3 essay prompts

When April rolls around my AP ® * Lit students begin preparing for the exam, a process which looks different for each teacher. Many students get the most anxiety when it comes to the free response question, an open-ended prompt asking students to analyze any novel or play. I’ve found success in having each student prepare a study guide for five different texts.

* AP® is a trademark registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this website .

Preparation

First of all, students should reflect back on all of the books they have read in preparation for the AP ® Lit exam, both in class and outside of it. This includes both novels and plays, as well as some memoirs, short stories, essays, epics, and other kinds of texts. Each student needs to create a list of five titles to know, inside and out. Here are some of the rules I implement for choosing titles:

  • They must include at least one play (which may be by Shakespeare)
  • They must include at least one gothic novel.
  • They must attempt to include at least two diverse authors, meaning women and minorities.
  • No author should be repeated more than twice.
  • Use titles on the range of accessibility , aiming for more obscure books if possible.

ap lit question 3 essay prompts

The range of accessibility is a continuum that I designed showing how some works are considered “too accessible” by some readers, meaning that they may be too short, too simple, or frankly too popular. Wonderful but accessible books include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men , and Animal Farm . Students should avoid having titles that all rank low on the continuum and try to put at least one more obscure title on their list. This doesn’t mean a student can’t write about To Kill a Mockingbird . It’s a wonderful novel and contains strong symbols and themes. They should just avoid having multiple titles that are low on the continuum. The same goes likewise for having too many titles from a similar time period or genre.

ap lit question 3 essay prompts

While it is impossible to hit all of these categories, encourage students to choose title combinations that are:

  • Written by both male and female authors
  • Representing world literature, or works from outside of America or Great Britain
  • Including works by minority authors, including writers of color and Native American authors
  • representing plays, especially those not taught in 9 th or 10 th grade
  • A mixture of short and longer texts
  • A balance of old and newer books, including classics and those published in just the past 10 years.

ap lit question 3 essay prompts

The Assignment

Once students have chosen their titles, I give them a week or two to prepare their study guides. These study guides need to include the following for each title:

  • The title, author, and year published
  • The setting (both time and place)*
  • A list of characters*
  • A short plot summary*
  • An overview of themes and symbols, each explained in several sentences

*If time is a factor, or students are being crushed under a weight of other work right before AP ® exams, I sometimes allow these items to be taken from an online study website such as SparkNotes or Shmoop. I’d prefer their themes and symbols be written in their own words, but the rest of the information is really for short review right before the exam. If it speeds up the preparation process this is an accommodation that can be made.

In my classes, the study guides are due the Monday of our AP ® Exam week. I look them over and score them quickly, returning them to the students so they can review them. I also make sure that the week of the exam they have no homework from me. I only ask that they read over their five study guides for 5-10 minutes each day, especially right before they go to bed. They usually bring them to school on the day of the AP ® Exam as well, cramming from them right before the doors open.

This study guide assignment has several benefits:

  • It clears up a common problem, when students have to write about a book they’ve read before, but they have forgotten character names or important plot events. By engraining these five stories into their heads, they are readily able to write about them at the drop of a hat.
  • In the five years of doing this assignment, only once has a student had to write about a book that was not on their study guide. Therefore, it takes away much of the panic that students can feel going into Question 3 when they are unsure of what to write.
  • It adds a formative grade into my gradebook during exam time, showing assessment for a practical and meaningful assignment that is not busywork.

Looking for more AP ® Lit test prep materials? Check out my AP ® Lit Test Prep Bundle , or my AP ® Lit Test Prep Bonus Bundle !

Reader Interactions

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March 31, 2021 at 3:45 pm

Do you have a resource created for the activity? Also, I just have to say thank you for sharing your work! I am a first year AP Lit teacher, and the started kit has been a life saver!

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April 1, 2021 at 7:34 pm

Thanks Natalie! I don’t have a resource for this since it would be so customizable based on what plays you choose.

April 2, 2021 at 10:36 am

Thank you! That makes sense! Just curious, is there something that you have them collect at a sixth piece of information? There is a sixth item on the list, but I wasn’t able to find anything about it. I just wanted to be sure that I wasn’t missing an important idea.

April 2, 2021 at 11:01 am

No, that’s likely an error with the WordPress block. It never seems to know when a list stops and will supply extra numbers or bulletpoints even when it’s over!

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AP® English Literature

How to approach ap® english literature free-response questions.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: February 28, 2023

ap lit question 3 essay prompts

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What is the Format of AP® English Literature?

What content is covered in the free-response section of ap® english literature.

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How to Prepare for AP® English Literature Free-Response

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Practice Makes Perfect

Focus on critical reading, utilize your syllabus, take notes as you read, carefully consider principal ideas, explore the context, read out loud, reread when necessary, consult your dictionary, thesaurus or encyclopedia, write, review, and rewrite regularly, how to answer ap® english literature free-response questions.

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Outline your essay, write clearly and eloquently, what are ap® english literature free-response questions like.

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How Can I practice AP® English Literature Free-Response?

Looking for ap® english literature practice, interested in a school license​, 2 thoughts on “how to approach ap® english literature free-response questions”.

Are you expected to have read the actual work previously for free response question #1 and #2? (For instance, would the test writers expect you have read Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) for 2016 essay?)

Can you still pull out score 5, even if you haven’t read the work before and write your response solely based on the given passage?

Hi Jen, you would not have had to have read the passage before. You’d be expected to be able to interpret from the passage provided — this is how they assess you on your analysis skills.

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AP English Literature Practice Exams

Be sure to work through some of these AP English Literature practice exams. There are hundreds of challenging practice questions to try. Perfect for your test prep and review.

Official Practice Exam

Ap literature multiple choice, mymaxscore practice exam, albert ap english literature, official sample questions, varsity tutors, flashcard terms test.

AP English Literature | Practice Exams | Free Response | Vocab |  Study Guides

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, every ap literature practice test available: free and official.

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Advanced Placement (AP)

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When you're studying for your AP Literature Exam, you're going to want to use practice tests and questions to hone your skills. But where can you find AP literature practice tests? And are all practice exams equally useful for you?

The real exam has 55 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions, but there are practice tests with every conceivable number and combination of question types.

In this article, you'll learn where to find every official College Board AP English Literature and Composition practice exam, free unofficial tests, and paid practice test resources. You'll also find out which tests are high-quality and how you can best use different practice exams to fulfill your studying needs.

Official Free AP Literature Practice Tests

The gold standard of AP English Literature practice tests and AP English Literature practice exam questions are College Board released materials . That's because the College Board administers the AP exams, so their practice questions are most like the actual AP questions you'll see on the test.

There are three different kinds of resources offered by the College Board: complete released exams from past years, released free-response questions from past years, and sample questions from the "AP Course And Exam Description."

Official Released College Board Exams

There are three official released College Board Exams. However, only the most recent one (from 2012) is complete. The 1999 and 1987 exams have the standard 55 multiple-choice questions, but both are missing parts of the three question free-response section. You can still use them as complete exams if you supplement them with released free-response questions from past years which we recommend since official multiple-choice problems are hard to come by.

2012 AP English Literature and Composition Exam

This is the best AP Lit practice test available. It's the most recent exam released by the College Board, and it follows the format of the current test with 55 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions. Definitely make use of this test!

1999 AP English Literature and Composition Exam

This test excludes the poetry and prose analysis questions of the free-response section and only has the student choice question. So, to take it as a complete exam, you'd need to supplement it with questions 1 and 2 from the released free-response questions below . You can actually get question 2 for the 1999 test from the official free-response questions bank, but the excerpt for question 1 can't be reprinted, so you'll need to supplement with another poetry analysis question.

1987 AP English Literature and Composition Exam For reasons that are not totally clear, this exam excludes the third essay question, the poetry analysis. If you want to take this as "complete" exam practice, use a free-response poetry analysis prompt from the bank of free response questions linked below.

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Or supplement with this tree-poem.

Official Free-Response Questions

There may not be very many complete released exams, but there are tons of free-response questions available from previous administrations of the test. These are great practice, not just for writing complete essays, but for practicing writing thesis statements, outlines, and so on.

What's also great about these is that most of them come with sample response and scoring guidelines, so you'll be able to see exactly what makes a high-quality AP essay by College Board standards. Be aware, though, that some of the prose and poetry excerpts can't be reprinted due to copyright concerns.

Below is the link to all the free-response questions available. The questions go all the way back to 1999, and since there haven't been many changes to the free-response part of the exam, all of these questions can be useful during your studying.

AP English Lit Free Response Questions 1999-2021

Sample Questions From the Course and Exam Description

The 2019 AP English Literature Course and Exam Description has practice multiple-choice questions and free-response questions.They don't add up to a complete test--there are only 19 multiple-choice questions instead of 55–but there are three free response questions (enough for a full test). Even though there aren’t many multiple-choice questions, they are great for simple practice.

If you're looking for more questions like these, you can revisit the old exam description booklets as well . (Just keep in mind that some of the other information in the booklet may be out of date!)

Your Teacher

Your AP teacher may have access to copies of old AP exams that you can use for practice. They probably can't let you take them out of the classroom, but they may be allowed to loan them to you in a supervised setting. This is because teachers can purchase resources directly from the College Board that students can't. Asking your teacher may not bear fruit, but it's worth a try.

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Why are you asking me for AP Lit practice tests? I'm your Econ teacher!

Free Unofficial AP Literature Practice Tests

In addition to the free College Board resources, there are also several places online where you can get free, unofficial practice tests. Be aware that, because these resources aren't College-Board created or approved, they are of variable quality. For each of these resources we'll describe what's offered and how it compares to official College Board tests.

Varsity Tutors AP Literature Practice Tests

This site has multiple-choice practice quizzes divided by concept--things like "interpreting the passage," "claims and argument," and "interpreting excerpts." The questions aren't worded exactly the same way as AP test questions, but they are still okay for testing your passage-interpretation skills. Basically, the questions test for similar skills, but don't necessarily mimic AP test questions in style.

Also, the site provides the date, title, and author of each work, which is not something you'll receive on the AP exam. You can make a free account at the site to track your scores, but it's not necessary to be able to take the tests.

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Kittens not included with free practice tests, unfortunately.

Albert AP English Literature Quizzes

Albert offers multiple-choice quizzes divided into prose, poetry, and drama categories. You are given the title, date, and author of the work--which you will not receive on the real AP exam. Like the Varsity Tutors quizzes, Albert offers questions that test similar skills as the AP exam, but the questions are worded differently.

High School Test Prep Tests

This site offers three short multiple-choice practice tests. You're given the title and author of the work. The questions for these tests are fairly surface-level, so I would only use these if you are working on your reading comprehension skills.

CrackAP English Literature Quizzes

CrackAP has over 40 short AP Lit quizzes. Each quiz gives a passage then has 15 multiple-choice questions on it. The questions are somewhat easier than you'll find on the real AP exam, but if you need some quick practice, this can do the trick. This resource also has examples of past free response questions, which can be useful study tools, too!

Practice Quiz AP English Literature

This site offers a 20-question multiple-choice quiz on two passages--one poetry, and one prose. The passages are extremely basic, however, so I would only use this resource if you are working on your reading comprehension skills.

Looking for help studying for your AP exam? Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!

The queens of AP Lit practice give you their blessing.

Paid Unofficial Practice Tests

There are also several paid resources that offer unofficial practice questions.

This is a subscription service with questions for tons of different tests—SAT, ACT, and AP exams.They also have videos and other review resources. We can't really speak to the quality of the questions because the entire service is behind a paywall of about $25 a month.

The Princeton Review AP Literature Study Guide 2021

Published study guides are an excellent way to practice for the AP Literature exam. These books are put together by experts who have inside knowledge of the test, and The Princeton Review is one of the best out there.

This study guide has three practice tests, along with other types of sample questions and expert explanations to help you improve your analytical skills.

Barron's AP English Literature and Composition, 7th Edition

Like The Princeton Review study guide, the Barron's AP Literature study guide is another great resource for students looking for extra exam prep. This guide has four practice tests and sample essay questions , along with an expert walk-through of the AP Literature exam itself.

If you're looking for a guide that gives you practice and provides tips for mastering the exam, this would be a good pick!

This subscription service offers access to tons of test prep, including the SAT, ACT and lots of AP courses. Their AP Literature resources include two full-length practice tests, three sets of flashcards to help you study, and several instructional videos.

Prices for subscriptions start at $39 dollars per month, and some plans include live tutoring and writing instruction . If you choose to subscribe, you get access to all of their course and test-prep materials, so if you’re taking several AP classes, this could be a good source.

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I definitely advise paying for all of these resources with whatever loose foreign change you have lying around.

How to Use AP Literature Practice Tests

How to use a given practice test depends somewhat on the resource itself. We'll offer some recommendations here on how to best use different resources.

Complete Official Released Tests

The best way to use a complete official practice test is to do a practice-run for the exam . So find a quiet room, bring a timer or watch so you can time sections, and get to work! This will help you get familiar with the exam experience so you'll feel more comfortable on exam day!

Since there are two complete AP Lit practice tests, it makes sense to take one early on in your studying time, and one later. You can get a parent, tutor or teacher to grade the exams. The early test will help you figure out what you need to work on, and the later test will show you how you've improved! Since the AP English Literature test is more skills-heavy than content-heavy, you shouldn't feel totally lost taking a practice test even in the middle of the school year.

Official Released Free-Response and Sample Questions

Official resources that aren't complete tests are best for practicing individual sections of the test. The sample multiple-choice questions in the "Course and Exam Description" make for great AP English Literature multiple-choice practice--they'll help you get familiar with the style of the questions and practice close-reading.

The wealth of released free-response questions are great resources for building your timed essay-writing skills. You can practice complete essays or develop essay outlines.

Unofficial Practice Tests and Resources

Since unofficial practice tests aren't going to be quite as similar to the real AP exam as official College Board materials, they won't be quite as useful for preparing for the format of the exam or its questions. However, they can be very valuable close-reading practice. And since that's a critical skill for the exam, it's still worth it to use unofficial resources.

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Be very quiet. She's close-reading.

Key Takeaways

Practice tests and questions are a hugely important resource as you prep for the AP Lit exam. The gold standard of practice resources are those that come from the College Board, but there are many other places where you can get practice questions that will help you hone your close-reading skills for the exam. Most of the resources listed in this article are free, but a few are paid.

Remember: official College Board practice tests are best for simulating the exam experience. Actual College Board questions are good for focused preparation for individual sections of the exam--especially the essays. Unofficial resources are best used for further honing your close-reading skills after you’ve practiced with the official materials.

Now that you know where to find these resources, you're ready to start studying for your AP Literature exam!

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What's Next?

Wondering what you should be reading for AP Lit? Check out our list of 127 great books to help you prepare for the AP Literature exam.

Need more study guidance for your APs? See my five-step AP prep plan. Or see our guide on when to start studying for your APs.

If you're looking for practice tests for other AP exams, see our assembled practice tests for AP US History , AP Chemistry , AP Biology , AP World History , and AP Psychology .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

These recommendations are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links, PrepScholar may receive a commission.

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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.

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    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 ...

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    1975. Although literary critics have tended to praise the unique in literary characterizations, many authors have employed the stereotyped character successfully. Select one work of acknowledged literary merit and in a well-written essay, show how the con-ventional or stereotyped character or characters function to achieve the author's purpose.

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    Question 3: Mysterious Origins. 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. A poorly written essay may not be scored higher than a 3.

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    AP English Literature and Composition Question 3: Literary Argument (2019) Sample Student Responses 4 Sample J [1] Oftentimes, when coming from a well-off upbringing, an individual develops an idealistic viewpoint of the world. He or she may believe humans to be innately good or government to be innately focused on the well-being of all.

  5. PDF AP English Literature and Composition

    AP ® English Literature and Composition ... Question 3: Literary Argument 6 points . In many works of fiction, houses take on symbolic importance. ... • There is a thesis, but it does not respond to the prompt. 1 point : Responds to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible interpretation of the

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    17 AP® ENGLISH LITERATURE. ND COMPOSITION FREE-RESPONSE QUESTIONSQuestion 3(Suggested time-40. minutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay section score.)Select a novel, play, o. epic poem that features a character whose origins are unusual or mysterious. Then write an essay in which you analyze how these origins shape the ...

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    AP English Literature and Composition Question 3: Literary Argument (2018) Sample Student Responses 4 [5] Elizabeth Dalloway no doubt possesses extraordinary beauty, but whether this beauty is to her benefit or detriment is another question entirely. Elizabeth's appearance has cast her in the role of gorgeous inguene.

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    3 Questions | 2 Hours | 55% of Exam Score. Students write essays that respond to 3 free-response prompts from the following categories: A literary analysis of a given poem; A literary analysis of a given passage of prose fiction (this may include drama) An analysis that examines a specific concept, issue, or element in a work selected by the ...

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    ISH LITERATURE AND COMPOSITIO. FREE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS (Form B)Question 3(Suggested time—40 m. nutes. This question counts as one-third of the total essay section s. leave home all you want, but home will never leave you."—Sonsyrea TateSonsyrea Tate's statement suggests tha. "home" may be conceived of as a dwelling, a place, or a ...

  11. AP English Literature and Composition Exam

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