Skip to Main Content

AP English Literature and Composition

An AP English Literature and Composition course engages students in the careful reading and critical analysis of literature. Through the close reading of selected texts, students deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language to provide both meaning and pleasure for their readers. Students consider a work’s structure, style and themes, as well as such smaller-scale elements as the use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism and tone. According to surveys of comparable curricula at four-year colleges and universities, it is equivalent to a two-semester introductory college course in literary analysis.

The course includes intensive study of representative works from various genres and periods, concentrating on works of recognized literary merit. The works taught in the course require careful, deliberative reading. Students learn to analyze and interpret material by making careful observations of textual detail, establishing connections among their observations and drawing from those connections a series of inferences leading to an interpretive conclusion about the meaning and value of a piece of writing.

Writing is an integral part of the AP English Literature and Composition course and exam. Writing assignments focus on the critical analysis of literature and include expository, analytical and argumentative essays. Writing instruction includes attention to developing and organizing ideas in clear, coherent and persuasive language.

Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on helping students develop stylistic maturity, which, for AP English, is characterized by the following:

  • a wide-ranging vocabulary used with denotative accuracy and connotative resourcefulness
  • a variety of sentence structures, including appropriate use of subordinate and coordinate constructions
  • a logical organization, enhanced by specific techniques of coherence such as repetition, transitions and emphasis
  • a balance of generalization with specific illustrative detail
  • an effective use of rhetoric, including controlling tone, maintaining a consistent voice and achieving emphasis through parallelism and antithesis

Read the full course description and exam information with sample questions.

AP English Literature and Composition Development Committee

Committee Co-Chairs

Frank A. Briguglio, Iolani School, HI
Samir Dayal, Bentley University, MA

Committee Members

Eileen Cahill, Salem Academy, NC
Kathleen Harringon, United States Air Force Academy, CO
Minaz Jooma, Millburn High School, NJ
Kathryn Temple, Georgetown University, DC

College Board Advisor

Erik Powell, Joel E. Ferris High School, WA

Chief Reader

Warren Carson, University of South Carolina Upstate, SC