The AP English Language course is designed to develop critical literacy and facilitate informed citizenship in students. To that end, students examine and discuss non-fiction works of various types and themes, summarizing who is being addressed, what is being said, how the idea is being presented and why it is being said.
According to the AP English Language Course Description the exam strives to test reading and writing skills necessary for successful college careers and intellectual and civically responsible involvement in the world, as a whole. The review includes three free-response prompts within 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Free-response section accounts to 55% of your score.
What is the format of AP English Language Exam?
The exam consists of 52 – 55 multiple-choice questions. You have one hour to complete the multiple-choice section. The free-response section includes three essay responses within 2 hours and 15 minutes. Each piece follows a particular prompt.
Students review several different texts about a common topic. They must create an argument which uses at least three of the sources to support their thesis.
Students read a non-fiction passage and interpret how the author’s language choice contributed to his or her intended meaning and purpose for writing.
Students reply to a given topic by creating an evidence-based argument.
You can find AP English Language practice questions on the Albert.io Guide to AP English Language.
Why is the AP English Language Free-Response Important?
According to CollegeBoard’s 2016 Student Score Distributions Guide only 10.7% of AP English Language students received a 5 in 2016. To achieve the optimal score, you’ll need to present yourself clearly with well-written essays.
Essays are scored 1 – 9. This grade is then multiplied by 3.0556 for the weighted score. An exam must total a minimum of 112 to receive a 5.
What Content is Covered in the Free-Response Section of AP English Language?
There is no set syllabus or recommended reading for the course. However, there are guidelines which AP teachers use to choose included texts. Reading assignments should represent a clear rhetorical situation (e.g. topical fiction), speak to one another through a variety of genres, offer various rhetorical devices, and challenge AP students to understand non-fiction writing. Albert.io has compiled the Ultimate AP English Language Reading List as a helpful tool for students.
The free-response section of the exam will require you to write three essays, as outlined in the course description on CollegeBoard. There are three types of articles, and each year the content is changed. However, the primary goals remain the same.
You will be presented a topic and must choose a position. Then you will formulate a clear and convincing essay to sway the reader. You must employ appropriate evidence and persuasive arguments, to make your point.
For an in-depth guide read How To Master AP English Language Arguing or How To Craft An Argument For AP English Language on Albert.io.
You will read a selected non-fiction text or passage. Your essay must attend to the stylistic and pragmatic choices the author made for the piece. Then surmise how these decisions affect the author’s ability to address their intended audience, or possibly multiple unintended readers.
Read Understanding the Rhetorical Triangle for AP English Language and 3 AP English Language Rhetorical Strategies for specific direction on this subject.
You are given multiple texts with a common theme. It is your assignment to formulate an opinion after analyzing multiple views on the same topic. You must write an informed, authoritative, and convincing argument which answers the prompt and includes data from multiple sources.
Turn to Understanding the AP English Language Synthesis Rubric for help on this topic, as well as How to Ace the AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay.
How to Prepare for AP English Language Free-Response Section
How you distribute your time will be a major factor as the AP exams grow closer. There are many invaluable resources online through CollegeBoard and Albert.io to aid in your test preparation. Take advantage of AP English Language Free-Response Questions from past years on CollegeBoard. Don’t discount Albert.io’s practice questions and the One Month AP English Language and Composition Study Guide. The following are some quick tips for your AP English Literature study plan.
Familiarize Yourself with AP Questions
Use the resources available to read and practice answering real AP questions. There are free-response questions from past exams, along with example responses, and scoring on CollegeBoard. Albert.io offers model AP style questions for various topics. Read different prompts, write practice essays and improve your performance.
Self-score Your Practice Essays
Check out How To Score Your Own AP English Language Practice Essay for tips. Be objective, pay particular attention to grammar, syntax, and spelling. Don’t let yourself perpetuate small mistakes. If possible, trade practice exams with a classmate and grade each other using the guide.
Choose a Review Book
Employ the use of an AP English Language review book to help you prepare. The Best AP English Language Review Books of 2016 is an excellent resource for that purpose.
Read Comparable Texts
Read all your assigned texts and as many others as you can. Use the Ultimate AP English Language Reading List for insightful suggestions.
Make thoughtful and detailed notes as you read every text that answers the important qualifying questions for any AP English Literature review. Who is the writer addressing? What are they saying? Why are they saying it? And, how is the author presenting this information?
Use all Your Resources
In addition to class work, syllabus and extra reading, online AP English Language practice questions, and CollegeBoard free-response questions, responses and scoring guides for previous years, think outside the box. Form a study group. Watch YouTube videos on the topics you’re researching. Adapt your study tactics for your personal learning preferences.
How to Answer AP English Language Free-Response Questions?
Thoroughly Review Essay Prompts
Read the given instructions and clearly identify the objective. Look at the solution from opposing viewpoints before beginning your outline.
Adopt a Position
Decide what your thesis statement will be. When choosing what position to take, consider the evidence you are provided. Pick a position that is easily dependable with the given information.
Outline Your Essay
Construct a quick outline which will include the main idea, supporting evidence (three items are recommended) and a conclusion.
Write Your Thesis
Create a cohesive and intelligible statement which addresses the given prompt and topic. Answer all questions presented in your introductory paragraph and present the main point of your argument.
Write Supporting Paragraphs
Include evidence to defend your position and cite origin. Expand on how your thesis is justified by your presented information.
Include Provided Resources
Cite passages, statements, and facts from the given texts. It is important to connect your points with supporting information directly. Failing to do so will be detrimental to your performance.
Use precise language and specific examples to support your supposition. Each example should work towards the goal of proving your thesis.
Establish a Tone
Your essay should maintain a consistent tone which is suitable for the topic and your intentions.
Use Logic to Your Advantage
The ability to make logical assumptions is imperative to your score on the AP English Literature free-response prompts. Use these inferences to substantiate your claims and clarify your opinions.
Take Time for Style
When writing your essay, utilize sophisticated vocabulary, proper grammar and syntax. Ensure that you understand any words used and that your argument makes sense. A well-written response will engage the reader and use style to entice them.
Manage Your Time
As you organize and write your response, be mindful of the time. You must complete three prompts in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Keep this in mind.
Understand the Scoring Rubric
This is a valuable method for scoring well on the free-response section. Comprehension of the way your essay will be scored can help you model better responses.
Visit Understanding the AP English Language Argument Rubric, Understanding The AP English Language Synthesis Rubric, and How To Score Your Own AP English Language Essay for tips.
What are AP English Language Free-Response Questions Like?
The following are actual free-response prompts from past exams. You can find more released essay questions with example responses and scores on CollegeBoard.
Example one is from the 2016 exam.
“Over the past several decades, the English language has become increasingly globalized, and it is now seen by many as the dominant language in international finance, science, and politics. Concurrent with the worldwide spread of English is the decline of foreign language in English-speaking countries, where monolingualism-the use of a single language-remains the norm.
Carefully read the following six sources, including the introductory information for each source. Then synthesize information from at least three of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent, well-developed essay that argues a clear position on whether monolingual English speakers are at a disadvantage today.
Your argument should be the focus of your essay. Use the sources to develop your argument and explain the reasoning for it. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Clearly indicate which sources you are drawing from, whether through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. You may cite the sources as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parenthesis”.
To view the sources, take a look at the complete 2016 prompt.
As you tackle this question, it’s important to observe the following steps for a successful synthesis essay. For more in depth direction refer to How to Ace the AP English Language and Composition Synthesis Essay.
Use the 15 Minute Planning Time Effectively
Read all the sources provided for you. As you examine the evidence, plan your position. Write your outline and the basis of your thesis during this time.
Evaluate Sources Critically
Take into account the background information provided for each source and what biases may be in effect.
Create a Cohesive Argument
Support your cohesive argument with specifically cited information from provided sources.
Proofread Your Essay
Cross check your essay for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.
Example two was given during the 2015 exam.
“On the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., labor union organizer and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez published an article in the magazine of a religious organization devoted to helping those in need. Read the following excerpt from the article carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the rhetorical choices Chavez makes to develop his argument about nonviolent resistance.”
When answering this prompt, it is important that you fully understand the rhetorical triangle, before you begin. As you read the excerpt, mark passages or points that will be relevant to your argument. Refer to 3 AP English Language Rhetorical Essay Strategies for help in developing this type of answer.
Carefully Discern what the Prompt is Asking for.
Collect your thoughts and outline your essay in the planning time allotted.
Organize your thoughts
as you read the text. Make annotations along the margins to direct your writing. Remember to cite relevant passages to support your position.
Begin each body paragraph
with an assertion you will prove within. This clearly outlines what you are attempting to demonstrate with the enclosed citations and explanations
LORA stands for Language, Organization, and Rhetorical Appeals.
To view the entire prompt,example responses and scoring visit the CollegeBoard.
How can I practice AP English Language Free-Response?
The most efficient AP English Language study plan will include a variety of resources and devices. Take full advantage of the practice prompts provided on Albert.io, the many free-response questions presented and reviewed on CollegeBoard and helpful articles to pinpoint strategies for exceptional performance.
To that end, check out How To Study For AP English Language and Composition and 9 Things You Need To Remember About The AP English Language and Composition Exam next!
Looking for AP English Language practice?
Kickstart your AP English Language prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.
With the AP English Language and Composition exam coming up, it’s important to find the best practice resources, and that includes practice tests! The AP Language and Composition exam has two sections: a multiple-choice section with 52-55 multiple questions, and a free-response section with three essay questions—one synthesis prompt, one analysis prompt, and one argument prompt.
But not all AP Lang practice tests are like the real exam, and they aren’t all of equal quality. In this guide, I’ll break down where you can find official College Board AP Language and Composition practice test resources, other free resources out there, and paid practice tests and questions. I’ll also break down which resources are high-quality and how to best incorporate AP English practice tests into your exam preparation.
Official Practice Resources
The best practice test resources come from the College Board. This is because they are the ones who create and administer all AP exams, including AP Lang and Comp, so their materials are the closest to the real, actual questions you will be seeing on test day! If you practice with material that’s close to the actual exam, you’ll feel more comfortable when you are actually taking the test. Therefore, when possible, it’s best to use College Board materials. However, it’s worth noting that official resources for AP Language and Composition are a little bit sparse, especially when compared to the AP Literature exam.
There are, in general, three resources that the College Board offers for any given AP exam: complete released exams, released free-response questions from previous years, and sample questions from the “AP Course and Exam Description.”
Complete Released Exams
Unfortunately, the College Board doesn’t appear to have released any official complete AP English Language and Composition practice exams, so I have nothing to link to here. However, you can probably find at least one entire past exam by Googling “AP Language complete released exam” or similar variations on that. Make sure any AP Language and Composition released exams you get this way have answer keys, though!
You might also ask your AP teacher if she has any copies of old AP exams you can use for practice. AP teachers can purchase past exams from the College Board that students don’t have access to. She may not be able to let you take them home, but even then you could be allowed to use them in a supervised setting.
Released Free-Response Questions
The College Board has posted years and years worth of past AP Language and Composition free-response questions that are at your disposal for practice purposes. However, only the tests from 2007-onward include the same three question types that are on the test currently. Earlier tests include two rhetorical analysis questions instead of a synthesis question.
Sample Questions From the “AP Course and Exam Description”
The AP Course and Exam description for AP Language and composition includes 50 multiple-choice questions (so, just two questions short of a complete multiple-choice section) and three free-response prompts: one synthesis prompt, one analysis prompt, and one argument prompt. This means that the sample questions from the Course and Exam Description are just two multiple-choice questions shy of being a complete AP English Language and Composition practice exam, so if you want to use it as one you definitely can. In fact, if you can’t find any official tests either from Google or your teacher, I advise it. Otherwise, you can add these College-Board approved questions to your practice bank!
Put them in the bank!
Free Unofficial Resources
Outside of the College Board, there are lots of sites offering free practice questions for the AP Language and Comp exam. But which ones will actually help you? Since anyone can slap together a few questions and call it an “AP Language and Composition Practice Test,” how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?
I’ve combed through tons of free resources so you don’t have to! Presented in order of quality, from best to worst, here’s my list of all the free AP Language practice tests and quizzes I could find out there.
College Countdown Complete AP Language Practice Test
College Countdown offers a complete unofficial practice test, essays and all. While the exact wording of the multiple-choice questions isn’t exactly the same as on a real AP exam, the tasks are very similar and the passages are well-selected. The essays are solid examples of the AP essay prompt style, although you could also substitute the unofficial free-response section for an official past free-response question if you wanted to make the experience even closer to a real AP. Also, there are robust answer explanations. This is an especially good resource given that there isn’t an official College Board-released exam for this test.
McGraw-Hill AP Practice Quiz
The academic publisher McGraw-Hill offers a 25-question multiple-choice diagnostic quiz for the AP English Language exam. The quiz is nominally 25 questions, but you might actually be able to get more than 25 questions’ worth of practice out of it because every time you open a new test window you get a subset of questions that are randomly selected from a question pool.
This quiz has pretty difficult, well-written multiple-choice questions that actually resemble real AP questions, so it’s a particularly good resource. The passages do open in another window, though, which is a small annoyance.
Albert iO AP English Language Practice
Albert offers a huge number of mini-quizzes on analyzing the rhetoric of various notable nonfiction passages. The questions don’t exactly sound like genuine AP questions—the style is a little more informal and to the point—but they are decent practice for answering questions about rhetorical techniques as applied in a given passage. You can’t access the most difficult questions if you don’t pay, but all of the other question levels are free.
High School Test Prep AP Language Practice Tests
High School Test Prep offers four short practice tests, each offering questions about a given nonfiction passage. The question style is definitely different from that of true AP questions; like the Albert questions, they are written in a more stylistically simplistic way. Additionally, the ratio of questions about the passage overall versus specific moments in the passage is weighted much more heavily towards overall passage questions than the real AP exam. However, these are still decent rhetorical analysis practice questions, and this resource is an especially good choice if you find yourself struggling with identifying the major themes and arguments of passages overall.
Varsity Tutors AP English Practice Tests
Varsity Tutors offers very short, skill-specific quizzes. The questions don’t sound all that much like AP questions, and every question asks about a different short passage, which is a little bit bizarre and inefficient. Additionally, not all of the specific skills they offer quizzes in are super-relevant to AP Language (e.g. “Motives and goals of characters”). However, if you feel like there are very specific rhetorical techniques you are confused about, taking some of the quizzes here could be a good study strategy. If you want to track your scores, you can make a free account with Varsity Tutors, but it’s not necessary to be able to access the quizzes.
4tests.com AP English Language Exam
This site offers a 35-question AP English Language and Composition practice exam. The questions are somewhat overly basic and passages are not particularly similar in style or content to actual AP Language passages, though. Additionally, the interface is a little bit clunky. I would only use these if you desperately need some additional, very basic rhetorical analysis practice.
Clunky like a retro calculator.
Paid Unofficial Resources
If you need even more practice, there are also paid unofficial practice test resources available.
Review books usually contain one or more complete practice tests and are a great resource when you run out of free resources. Not all review books are equally high-quality, though—be sure to look at reviews (and check out the questions by flipping through the book at the bookstore if you can, to see how similar they are to actual AP questions). As a starting place, Barron’s and the Princeton Review both generally offer high-quality AP review books.
Shmoop - Paid Subscription
Shmoop is a test prep subscription service that offers material for a variety of standardized tests, including AP Language and Composition. I can’t advise as to the quality of the material or the questions, though, because the service has an access cost of a dollar a day.
Peterson’s AP Practice Tests
A bundle of two AP Lang and Comp practice tests from this site costs twenty dollars. I couldn’t find much information or reviews as to the quality of the material, though, so this is a bit of a gamble. You’d likely be better off buying a well-reviewed review book with practice tests.
How to Use Practice Resources in Your Exam Prep
How to best use practice resources as you study depends a lot on what kind of practice material you are using. I’ll review how to make the most of different types of resources here.
Complete Practice Exams (Official and Maybe Unofficial)
The best way to use complete practice tests is to do full timed practice-runs for exam day. Bring a clock, a timer, and a hefty supply of pencils into a quiet room and have at it! A practice-run will help you to feel more comfortable when it’s time to take the exam for real in May. If you have access to multiple practice tests, you can even take complete tests at different times in the studying process to see how you’ve improved and what you still need to work on. When you do take practice tests, it can be helpful to get someone else to help grade your free-response essays based on the rubric.
You should aim to take your first full-length practice test around the beginning of your second semester. Normally I advise to only use official College Board practice tests for this, but since easily accessible complete official exams for the AP Language and Composition exam are sparse, you may want to supplement with the practice test from College Countdown linked to above.
Official College Board Practice Free-Response and Sample Questions
Released free-response questions from past years are best for practicing specifically for the free-response section in a targeted way. You can work on the prompt types that you find the most difficult or practice outlining essays in a certain amount of time, or writing all three essays in 120 minutes.
If you don’t use the Course and Exam Description as a practice test, the multiple choice questions are great targeted practice for the first section of the text. It will help you get familiar with the College Board’s question style and work on your rhetorical close-reading.
Unofficial Practice Quizzes and Questions
Unofficial practice quizzes and questions just aren’t going to be as much like the real AP exam as College Board materials. However, while they aren’t as helpful for prepping for the exam format or question styles, they are still good practice for building your rhetorical analysis skills, which is critical for the exam. High-quality unofficial resources are definitely worth your time.
Building rhetorical analysis skills: more complicated than building with blocks.
Practice tests are a key AP prep resource. The best resources come from the College Board, but unfortunately, official College Board resources for AP Language and Composition are a little bit sparse as compared to some other AP exams. However, there are also tons of unofficial resources, and some are high-quality. Most are free, but a few are paid.
Once you have your resources assembled, you might not be sure how to use them. Complete practice tests are best for mimicking the experience of the actual exam, sample Official questions are best for targeted section practice, and unofficial practice tests are best for rhetorical analysis skill-building.
You’re ready to practice your way to AP success!
We also have complete practice test lists for AP Literature, AP US History, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Psychology, and AP World History. Or see our guide to finding the best AP practice tests for any exam.
Taking the AP Literature exam? See our ultimate guide to AP Literature.
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