AP Language and Composition Exam: Ultimate Guide on Essay and Prompts

AP English Language and Composition Exam
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The AP English Language and Composition Exam is a standardized test administered by the College Board. It's an advanced placement course designed for high school students who wish to earn college credit or placement. The exam assesses students' understanding of rhetorical analysis, argumentation, and synthesis of information from multiple sources to form cogent, evidence-based arguments.

The AP English Language and Composition Exam is a fear of many. However, we're here today not only to tell you that you will nail it but provide all the necessary tips for your success. Students oftentimes are scared more because they don't know a thing about the test. Indeed, not knowing is worse than the actual writing part. Here we cover tips, multiple-choice questions, argumentative writing, and so much more. Read this guide, and you will know what colleges are looking for, how to be prepared as well as ready!

What Is AP English Language and Composition?

AP English language and composition is a challenge that everyone should face. At least, someday. But it’s never too early or too late to be fully prepared for it. So what even is this test? In simpler terms, it is a course and later an exam that tests your rhetoric and composition skills.

The majority of schools and colleges have a special course that teaches students how to write. But apart from writing, the students must focus on how they can construct compelling arguments. It is an art of convincing, if one may. Thus, one needs to show how one can use evidence in argumentative pieces.  

AP English Language and Composition Exam: Basics

AP language and composition exam tests what you have learned during the course we have discussed above. It deals with the same arguments and rhetoric. Full credits are given to the students who can use evidence, assess the mistakes of others, and show a good flow of their text. Here is a basic structure of the test:

  • First part Multiple-choice questions. They test whether one can see and understand the technique other authors used in their texts.
  • Essays An ideal moment to showcase your writing skills. The topics and prompts are usually given.

How Long Is the AP Lang Exam?

The AP language and composition exam has two separate sections, as we already discussed. But here’s a brief on how much time one will get for each of them:

  1. Your first section Multiple choice questions: you have one complete hour to finish 45 questions. They will deal with the proposed texts as well as paragraphs.
  2. Your second section Essays: this section will require three separate articles. One has 15 minutes to read the task and 2 hours two write the texts.

Thus, 3 hours for everything.

AP English Language and Composition Exam Structure & Format

AP lang exam format is easy to remember. They also make sure to repeat the instructions thoroughly. But below, you’ll find a prepping summary.

First section

Once more: this section has multiple choice questions, 45 of them to be exact. They test how well students understand rhetoric. So one will be given several passages as well as questions.

Second section

It is also called the free-response one. It will feature three different essays.

  • In your first one, one must show your synthesis of several texts and create an argument.
  • In your second article, you should provide rhetorical analysis for a nonfiction passage.
  • Your final essay will deal with an argumentative essay. Thus, you’ll respond to a prompt.

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AP English Language and Composition Exam Multiple Choice

AP English language and composition exam will first meet you with multiple-choice questions. They are easy as well as tricky at the same time. So what will you do and what to expect?

  • 23-25 rhetorical analysis questions that test your rhetorical skills.
  • 20-22 composition questions that will ask you to think about the revision of your texts.

There will be no actual writing involved. The questions are not open-ended. But concentration is your best friend. Revise rhetoric techniques that you have learned during your course as reading passages requires thorough analysis.

Sample AP English Language and Composition Exam Questions

To ease your understanding, we have a little sample AP English language and composition exam. It will help you understand what is expected from you and how you might approach it in your future. So see our examples below:

  • Type 1 The passage can be best described as written from which perceptive?
    • First Person
    • Second Person
    • Omniscient narrator
    • Unreliable narrator
    • Limited Third Person
  • Type 2 In the second paragraph, the writer claims that Hamilton is the most successful Broadway musical. What evidence would serve the argument or be the most convincing?
    • The musical sold the most tickets
    • It is now streamed on a digital platform
    • It became a national phenomenon known even overseas
    • The creator of the musical is Lin Manuel Miranda
    • It was written almost fully in verses as one would when creating a rap song

AP English Language and Composition Essay

There are 3 types of essays on the AP lang exam. But without further ado, here are AP lang essays in all their glory:

  1. Synthesis essay (One should create a summary of several texts and construct an argument.)
  2. Rhetorical analysis essay (It is a quite obvious article. Here, one must provide rhetorical analysis for a nonfiction passage. What did our author do here to be convincing?)
  3. AP argumentative essay (Response to a prompt. But don't forget that here you also must construct an argument.)

AP Lang Score: Essay Grading Rubric

AP lang essay rubric is also available down below. Save our table, and you'll always know how many points you have scored or how to calculate them.

Essays have their own rubric. In short, it looks something like this:

You can get a score of 6 points for each essay. As you can see, special attention is paid to the thesis. So make sure you perfect it.

AP English Essay Examples of Prompts and Questions

Here are few AP English essay examples of prompts.

Prompt question 1

To answer this question, you need to get a good analysis of imagery, form, and diction that are used by the speaker. Note the symbolism that he uses. To do that you need to learn what symbolism is and what are the methods of its usage in literature.

It is the action of attaching a symbolic meaning to some particular thing, action, definition, etc. In most cases, symbolism is about metaphors and imagery. To describe and define a symbol use evidence and try to make it accurately. Don’t just list all those tools author uses. You need to make a strong well-supported analysis instead.  

Prompt question 2

In this part of your exam, you need to analyze the structure of a literature piece and its contribution to the entire meaning. Your interpretation, description, and explanation should be unique, accurate, and specific. The main deal is the repetition.

It is the main factor that contributes to the meaning of a poem. We recommend not quoting the entire line of the poem in your essay, but writing the number of the line. It is more effective and saves time if you are in a rush.  

Prompt question 3

Some students consider the free response section being the hardest part of the entire English exam. And here you should explain how and why a character from the literature piece contributes to the entire theme.

You are free to choose a novel and a character from it. You should work both with the character and the plot of the story it is engaged in. Please, don’t ignore the note at the end of the prompt. It says that you should not do a summary of the entire plot.  

How to Deal With AP English Language Essay Prompts

You should note that AP English Literature and AP English Language essay prompts are not the same. There is a special essay in the prompt that you need to analyze. The goal of the entire course is to teach you how to analyze. And the only way to deal with this exam is to learn to analyze that format. You should start early before the exam to make a good improvement.

The format of the Language and Literature essays is nothing different from any other essay you know.  

  • It starts with the Introduction where your thesis statement is presented.
  • The body section consists of a few paragraphs supporting your main argument.
  • The conclusion is summarizing the entire essay.

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How to Study for AP Language and Composition Exam: Tips

We also have several tips for preparing for the AP language and composition exam. Now you know what to expect. So it’s a perfect time to learn how to nail your test scores. Don’t worry, we got you! You’ll find all the needed information below explicitly created for this guide.

1. Get Familiar With the AP Lang Exam Details

AP English language and composition exams will seem easy, especially for those who pay special attention to your tasks. Experienced examiners will say that some questions or tasks can be misleading. The first thing you actually should do is read everything carefully.

Getting your prompt right is already your first step towards your success. Make sure that you understand what you are required to do. Knowing your basic structure of all sections and having a general idea of your tasks will help you a lot.  

2. Read and Synthesize

AP lang synthesis essay is one of your articles you should write in your second section. So what do they mean by saying that you should synthesize something? Indeed, it’s a scary word, but we can help you with that.

This essay requires you to read several texts as well as summarize their main idea. Therefore, synthesizing can also mean summarizing. It is a perfect way to test how well you understand the argumentation of other authors. Don’t forget to add an argument of your own. State why each text talks about a certain subject and provide evidence from those articles.  

3. Recognize Rhetorical Strategies as You Read

Rhetorical strategies and devices in AP lang are points definitely worth taking into consideration. Sadly, it’s not enough to use techniques and devices on your own. But, please, do that in your essays; it’s important. However, during your course, you will learn or have probably learned about ways to convince people.

The majority of authors understand their audience and thus utilize certain techniques to influence their emotions or thoughts. Your job here is to see those special strategies and recognize them. The good idea is to read several texts before your exam or practice on your own.  

4. Work Out Your Argumentative Writing

An AP argumentative essay is all about convincing your audience that your opinion is correct. You cannot just say that you are right or that everyone should believe you. That is why we use arguments to convince others. The same thing you should achieve in your argumentative essay.

What is the most important part of such work? Generally, we would say that your thesis statement is vital. And that would be correct. But do your best to include as much evidence to support your arguments as possible. You should make your points bulletproof. Evidence is a perfect way to achieve ideal argumentation.  

5. Try Sample AP English Language and Composition Practice Exam

In case you want to calm your nerves or simply chill, sample AP language and composition practice exams are widely available. They allow you not only to see how much time you spend on each question but get a feel of your overall test.

There are plenty of online preparatory websites that have mock exams for students. You can search for previous tests or generate one of your own. By practicing, you not only relax but get acquainted with the structure of a test. When your real thing comes, you’ll be as cool as a cucumber.  

AP English Language and Composition Exam: Final Thoughts

AP language and composition exams will no longer scare you because you know everything there is about this test. We hope that all of your questions were answered as we tried to cover all the best tips, structures, and possible issues you might have during your preparation. Try to stay focused as many students lose their minds during their exam or forget to read prompts. Remember that you can buy assignment of any type at StudyCrumb tailored to all your needs. 


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Article posted on:May 10, 2022
Article updated on:May 12, 2023


Leave your comment here:
6/28/2022 6:42 AM
Hi guys,

I wanted to ask someone who has already passed the AP English language and composition exam. How hard is this exam? I've read this article, everything is clear, but I can't determine the difficulty of this exam. Thank you so much for your attention and participation.
6/28/2022 7:24 AM
Hi Alex, it really depends. For someone, the exam will be easy. Personally, for me, the hardest thing about AP English language and composition was the large volume of writing. Since I'm not fast in writing, I felt I lacked time. But again, for a person who practised writing a lot, had to write essays every week it won't be a problem.
6/28/2022 7:28 AM
True. For me, the big size of writing was an advantage. I usually want to add more details, including as much information as possible, so writing a big piece made it only easier for me to pass the exam.
6/28/2022 7:38 AM
Hi Alex,

Absolutely agree with the comments above. In addition, no exam will be challenging if you prepare well. Practice your AP English language and composition and follow our tips from the article, and we bet you will get the highest score possible! Good luck!