AP Language and Composition Exam | Multiple Choice and Free Response Explained

It may still be too early to worry about what is on the GRE when you still haven’t aced the AP English exam, but it doesn’t hurt to look far ahead in the future if you want some additional motivation in crushing this Advanced Placement course. This may be one of the most popular AP courses with its high enrollment rate but it doesn’t mean that it’s the easiest to get great scores for.

With a 5 rate of just 9.1%, you might really need all the inspiration you can get to ace this exam. A whole lot of preparation is necessary, too, especially since this is quite a challenging course to take. 

To help you get those free college credits you’ve wanted, make sure to check out our quick guide below.

AP Language and Composition Exam: What You Need to Do to Get a 5

If you’ll ask whether AP Lang and Comp is hard, you’ll get mixed answers. Some will tell you that it’s quite difficult if you’re not a natural at writing. Others find the class enjoyable and challenging, especially the parts where there are lots of reading and analyzing involved. These can make the subject a bit daunting.

exam sheets

However, it’s highly recommended that you take the course because it can really help you out in getting ready for college-level studies.

As this class will teach you to be more analytical and eloquent in expressing your ideas, it can help you prepare for the challenges that university classes can bring. 

By acing the AP Language and Composition exam, you can also save yourself from spending another semester studying the basics. With a good score, you won’t just move schools prepared but also ready to take on bigger challenges.

How do you get a 5 in the AP Lang exam, then? Here are a few things that might help you achieve this goal:

Evaluate your own skills.

To help you learn where you should start, you should first get to know your own skills. As AP English Language and Composition is about writing, analysis, comprehension, and rhetoric, it’s possible to assess your own skills in the said areas.

Taking a formative assessment would be the best way to help you gauge your knowledge and skill levels related to the course. They can help you learn what you already know and what you don’t know about the subject you’re testing for. With the results, you’ll be able to tell where you’re already good and where you need to focus more to help you achieve your desired results.

AP Lang formative assessments will help you approach the course on the right foot because it can point your efforts in the right direction. The information you’ll get through this test will also help you cover all your bases because you’ll know where you need improvements and which areas you can compromise with.

AP English Language and Composition is about writing, analysis and rhetoric

Where can you get a formative assessment? Ask your AP English Language teacher if they can help you. Sometimes they also hold such assessments at the beginning of the semester and that can make things easier for you.

If none is available to you, you can also find some assessment questions online.

Ask a parent or a friend grade the essay part for you, however, as this area is rather subjective.

Once the results are available, make sure to take note of your performance. Take note of the areas that need improvement and the areas that you did well. This can then help guide you in planning your study strategies.

Make sure you thoroughly understand the material.

It might not seem like it but AP Language and Composition is a very technical class. You’ll need to compose distinctly different essays and analyze texts for the writing itself among other things in this course.

To do this, you have to know what the differences between an AP Lang argument essay, synthesis essay, and a rhetorical analysis essay for starters. Churning out such output would be difficult if you don’t know what rhetorical devices in AP Lang are best used or what makes it different from a synthesis essay.

To learn what you need to do, you first have to understand the material thoroughly. This is a given for every academic course but it bears repeating in this case. Some think that they just need to write stuff for this class and that’s not necessarily true. While you will be writing a lot, you also have to do so in a specific manner that you have to master.

What should you do in order to learn how to write argumentative essay and the other two types? Here are a few of our tips:

Study the materials provided to you.

materials for studying

This is another given that bears repeating: study the provided materials. If you want to keep up with your coursework and understand the lectures, then you should pay attention to the study materials given and used in class.

As mentioned before, there will be tons of reading involved in this class so it’s best to create a good strategy for how you can cover the materials provided.

If you’re not a fast reader, you might struggle a bit in covering all of the materials that you need to work on but with a good study plan and schedule, you don’t have to be swamped with coursework.

Do the coursework diligently.

With the amount of work that you need to do for AP Lang, it’s the last class that you should slack off in. Make sure to set aside time for your readings, essays, and other assignments because you might need it.

Not everyone can craft a solid AP Lang synthesis essay a few hours before the deadline so don’t even try pulling this off. Besides, sticking to a good schedule can help you better manage your time and be less stressed over the number of things that you need to accomplish. So it’s just really better to be diligent about handling this class.

Use supplemental materials and study tools if you must.

To help you better understand the material for AP Language, you can also make use of study tools and other supplemental materials that you can find. Study guides are excellent examples of these. They’ll help you summarize concepts and topics and break down information into pieces that are easier for you to digest.

If you’re strapped for time, some supplemental materials for AP Lang can also be lifesavers for you. They might let you skip spending hours on reading lengthy novels if you really don’t have time to pore through them.

Note, however, that you should strive to find and use the best AP Lang review book.

Not all of these study guides are made equally and some of them might not really prove to be helpful to you. So it would be wise to only opt for the best title available.

A good and reliable review book should contain in-depth summaries of the concepts that are covered in the AP Language exam. They should contain composition examples and critiques so you can see what an ideal essay is like. If these samples are essays written by actual students, then they’re even better as you can find shared points that can help improve your work.

They should also help you better familiarize yourself with the exam. They should teach you about the format and give you tips to help you get ready to answer it with confidence. Most of these study guides also come with AP English Language and Composition practice exams so you should be able to get a good amount of test-taking practice with their help.

Familiarize yourself with the exam.

Aside from the material that will come out in the exam, it’s also highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the AP English Language and Composition exam. This way, you’ll know what to expect during the exam day and you’ll be able to prepare for the test accordingly.

To help you fully get ready for the test, make sure to do the following:

Get to know the exam format.

By learning the format of the AP Language exam, you’ll know what you need to prepare for. It will also help you plan your study strategies effectively.

The good thing about this AP course exam is that it only has two sections: multiple choice and free response.

The MC portion usually has up to 55 questions that you can answer in an hour while the FR portion has 3 questions that you should answer within 2 hours and 15 minutes. Each question will prompt you to craft a specific type of essay so you really have to know how to do more than just AP Lang rhetorical analysis.

Find ways to answer the exam in the most effective manner.

get yourself familiar with the exam

Aside from the content and the actual exam format, you can also benefit from knowing how to answer the exam effectively.

Taking a test can be nerve-wracking that even if you have a thorough understanding of the subject, you might still end up not performing well if you don’t know how to handle the test-taking process. 

Looking for MC and comp tips online is also a good idea. A lot of former students will have a number of tricks to share to help you answer the exam effectively, so take advantage of them.

Get acquainted with the scoring system.

To help you better prepare for the exam, you should also have a good understanding of its scoring system. This will let you better fine tune your study efforts and composition techniques. While there’s still no guarantee that your practice tests will get the same scores as the actual exam, learning about the scoring system can still help your preparation efforts.

Create a study plan and strategies.

As mentioned above, AP Lang’s content and workload can get overwhelming. This is why its best to have a plan of attack for this course to make sure that you’ll cover all of the content that you need to learn about.

When crafting your own study plan, you should also look into developing your own strategies and techniques in retaining and recalling the information you’ve learned. With so many things that you have to remember to get a good score, having a few tricks up your sleeve will be beneficial for you.

Practice makes perfect.

When it comes to answering AP Lang essays and remembering key concepts and information, getting some practice will help you trigger the release of information stored in your brain. It will also help you build confidence in your test-taking ability. By rehearsing how much time to spend on each question and remembering answers to questions, you can be able to feel more secure that you’ll be able to ace the AP English test.

Fortunately, there are lots of practice tests that you can use. Study guides and review books often include at least two full practice exams. The College Board also offers a fe​​​​w. Make sure to use this as it will be the nearest sample to the actual exam.

Do not forget to answer practice essay prompts. The comp exam might only have three questions but it makes up for 55% of the scores so you have to do really well in it. Practicing answering essay prompts will also help you better budget the allocated time which will prove to be useful to you on the exam day.


The AP Lang test may seem like a daunting procedure at initial glance but it’s not an impossible undertaking if you know what you have to do. We’re confident that these study tips will prove to be helpful to you as they are shared by many who were able to get high scores on the course.

These tips might also prove to be helpful as well if you intend to take the AP Literature and Composition exam. AP Lang and AP Lit are two of the most popular but also work-intensive and challenging Advanced Program courses so it would be wise to work smart when tackling them. This guide could be a good way to jumpstart your efforts in doing such.

Leonard Haggin

I created this site to help students like you learn from the experiences my team had learned during our extensive academic careers. I am now studying Law at Stanford, but I also make time to write articles here in order to help all you fellow students advance in your academic careers and beyond. I hope our efforts on Study Prep Lounge will arm you with the knowledge you need to overcome whatever trial or test you find in front of you.

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