About AP® English Language And Composition Exam

English Language and Composition is as fundamental to K-12 education as the English language is to the United States and the world. For high school students seeking to challenge themselves further in this subject, taking the AP® English Language and Composition course and exam offers tremendous advantages.

You can take the AP Language exam once you have completed its course curriculum. This AP English Language exam guide will help you navigate the course and prepare for the AP Lang exam by answering some of your most pressing questions on exam format and what to expect on the exam. This article will also explain the differences between AP English Lit and AP English Lang, and help you decide whether taking this course and exam is the right choice for you.

What Is AP English Language Equivalent to and Who Can Take It?

AP English Language is a year-long course equivalent to an introductory, college-level literary analysis and composition course. Students taking AP English Language may take the optional exam in the spring, but it is not required. Most students who take the course take the exam at the end of the year to take advantage of the many benefits of scoring well on the exam.

You may also register to take the AP English Language and Composition exam in the spring without first taking the course. This option is most suitable for students who are already very proficient in English and have a solid understanding of the material, making them comfortable to self-study for the AP English Language exam.

The AP Language and Composition course teaches students to develop critical reading and writing skills, formulate arguments, and compose rhetoric. The course will challenge you to:

  • Compose and revise evidence-based analytic and argumentative writing.
  • Conduct a rhetorical analysis of nonfiction texts.
  • Analyze the choices writers make to influence audiences.
  • Evaluate, synthesize, and cite sources to support your arguments and thesis statements.
  • Read and interpret rhetorical elements in non-fiction texts from various disciplines and historical periods and analyze their importance in the given texts.
Study smart with visual learning.
Let us help you to uncover the secret of A.P. English Language success.
 Illustration and explanation of the English language concepts “biased vs. objective.”

What Is on the AP English Language Exam?

The AP English Language and Composition exam will test your ability to comprehend and interpret given text, collect and evaluate data from various sources, and draft a thesis using evidence and a sound line of reasoning. You will acquire these skills through the AP English Lang course units. These units will provide you with the knowledge and skills that colleges typically expect students to possess to receive credit for an introductory college composition course.

The units in the AP English Language course are structured around the skills covered in the class. These course skills are organized into nine units that help students build up the analysis and writing skills needed for success on the AP Lang exam. The exam score is based on how well you do in these skill categories.

Both the multiple-choice (MCQ) and the free-response (FRQ) sections of the exam test your mastery over the eight skill categories specified by the College Board. The table below lists the AP English Language and Composition skill categories and their respective weights in the MCQ section of the AP Lang exam:

Skill Categories Exam Weight
Rhetorical Situation: Reading 11%–14%
Rhetorical Situation: Writing 11%–14%
Claims and Evidence: Reading 13%–16%
Claims and Evidence: Writing 11%–14%
Reasoning and Organization: Reading 13%–16%
Reasoning and Organization: Writing 11%–14%
Style: Reading 11%–14%
Style: Writing 11%–14%

Along with the course skills, you will be taught four fundamental themes that make up the AP English Language course. These themes are called big ideas by the College Board and you will come across these concepts repeatedly as you cover the course. Below is the list of the four big ideas covered in your AP English Language and Composition course:

  1. Rhetorical Situation (RHS)
  2. Claims and Evidence (CLE)
  3. Reasoning and Organization (REO)
  4. Style (STL)

To find detailed information regarding the units, topics, and key concepts, you can go through our AP English Language Course and Exam Description page.

AP English Language and Composition Exam Format for 2024

On the AP Language and Composition exam, students are assessed on how well they understand and apply the big ideas and skill categories outlined in the course framework. The exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long, with 45 MCQs in Section I and 3 FRQs in Section II. Below are the exam details, including the section weights and duration.

Question Type No. of Questions Exam Weight Duration
Section I Multiple-choice
45 45% 1 hr
Section II Free-response
3 55% 2 hrs

Why Take AP English Language and Composition?

AP Lang is one of the most popular AP courses students take in their junior year, and for a good reason. But you might be wondering, is it worth taking AP English Language? And if you decide to take it, how many college credits can you earn with a score of 3, 4, or 5 on the AP English Language exam? Here are a few advantages of taking the AP Lang course and exam:

  1. Taking AP English Language demonstrates to college admissions committees that you are ready for college-level coursework. Students who take AP classes are generally more prepared for the challenges of college than non-AP students.
  2. Students often ask, "How many credits do you earn for AP English Language?" You'll be eligible for college credits at most public universities if you score a 3 or higher on your AP English Lang exam. This means you can potentially reduce the number of courses you need to complete during your college education. (Note: Score requirements for college credit vary from school to school, so be sure to research the policies of your target colleges or universities.)
  3. Earning college credit while still in high school could save you money on college tuition.
  4. AP English Language offers you a solid foundation and a headstart on college-level reading and writing skills and prepares you for the rigor of other college-level courses. Mastering the content taught in AP English Language will boost your confidence as you brace yourself for the challenge of higher education.

If you are a highly motivated student with college ambitions, taking the AP English Language course and the AP Lang exam will put you on the fast track to success.

Top A.P. English Language Practice Test
We make really hard stuff easy to understand. Study smarter with UWorld.
Illustration and explanation of the English language concept “exigence.”

Should I Take AP English Language or Literature?

In general, we recommend AP Lang to students interested in any career path, and AP Lit to students interested in reading, writing, and the humanities. Students will need to put in time and effort (plus read and write a lot) to do well in either class. Check out our post on AP English Language vs AP English Literature if you need help figuring out the right course.

How Hard Is AP English Language?

The AP English Language exam falls within the average difficulty range compared to other exams. Notably, it boasts a higher passing rate when compared to numerous other courses that emphasize reading and writing skills. In the 2023 AP English Language exam, more than half of the students (56%) successfully scored a 3 or higher on the exam. The average score achieved by students was around 2.83.

As shown below, the AP English Language pass rate has been between 50 and 60 percent in the last four years.

AP English Language
Exam Score
2023 2022 2021 2020
5 10 % 10.4 % 9.1 % 12.6 %
4 20 % 21.1 % 22.9 % 20.4 %
3 26 % 24.2 % 25.8 % 29.1 %
2 29 % 29.8 % 29.3 % 26.2%
1 15 % 14.5 % 12.9 % 11.8 %
Pass rate (3 and above) 56 % 55.7 % 57.8 % 62.1 %
More than 318,000 students earned a score of 3 or above in the 2023 AP English Lang exam.

AP English Language vs. AP English Literature

The main difference between AP Language and AP Literature is that AP Language covers and focuses on nonfictional literature like biographies, research articles, news, current affairs, as well as political and philosophical speeches. In contrast, AP Literature focuses on fictional literature like poetry, novels, and plays. In AP English Language and Composition, you will learn how to look at arguments and ways of using rhetoric in nonfiction works.

AP English Language Review Tips

Now that you have reviewed the AP English Language and Composition exam information, you may be intrigued to learn the most effective ways to prepare for the exam to earn a 3, 4, or 5 on test day. As with most high-stakes exams, practice is critical to proper preparation.

Using a high-quality resource like our Online Learning Tools for AP gives you an advantage in preparing for the AP English Language exam because we provide:

  • Hundreds of exam-like questions that resemble the style and difficulty of the exam
  • Answer explanations with vivid illustrations to facilitate content mastery
  • Performance tracking to measure your progress and target areas that need improvement

If you prepare with UWorld, take our AP English Language and Composition Practice Exam, focus on your studies, and follow a well-designed study plan, you will position yourself for success in the classroom, in college, and beyond.

We hope you found the information in this AP English Language exam guide useful. Please read this helpful AP English Language Study Guide for more insights and tips for preparing for the AP English Language and Composition exam.

Just Like the Real A.P. English Language Exam
We just made A.P. exams easier to master! Try our Free Trial now. No credit card required.
Illustration and explanation of the English language concept “rhethorial question.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

You may bring the following items to the exam on exam day:

  • Two No. 2 pencils with erasers
  • Two black or dark blue ink pens
  • The AP Student Pack
  • Government or school-issued ID

Please refer to the College Board® AP Exam policies and accommodations for a complete list of what to bring to the exam.

On the College Board website, you can see past AP English Language and Composition essay questions. The College Board does not post multiple-choice practice questions on its website, making them more challenging to find.

The AP English Language and Composition exam will be on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at 8 a.m. local time.

Your AP exam scores won’t impact your high school grade point average (GPA). The curriculum of your academic year will determine your GPA. While you will not earn college credits if you score below a 3 on the AP English Language exam, studies show that you will perform better in your introductory college English course.

Many students take AP English Language before moving on to AP English Literature. Typically, students take AP English Language in their junior year and AP English Literature in their senior year.

As of 2023, AP Exam fees per exam are $97 if taken in the U.S., Canada, or US territories and $127 if taken outside the U.S. However, many schools pay for their students to take the exam.

Read more about the
AP English Language & Composition Exam

If you’re aware of the exam format, you’ll have a leg up on the competition. Check out this AP English Language format guide that breaks down the exam components, question types, etc.
Need a summary of the AP English Language Course and Exam Description? To give you an overview, we’ve compiled a list of all the exam units, topics, and key course skills you need.
Want to know how AP English Language scores are graded? See our detailed article on the English Language Scoring System here.
Your dream school requires a dream score! We can help you reach your goal—check out our AP English Language Study Guide with all the tips, tricks, and essential materials to score 5.
Scroll to Top