AP® English Literature and Composition
Free-Response Questions (FRQs)

The AP® English Literature and Composition exam consists of two major sections: multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and free-response questions (FRQs). In this guide, we’ll take a look at the FRQ section of the exam.

We will start by examining the format of the writing section of the AP English Literature exam and give you tips to score well on the FRQs. In the following sections, we have also included a few examples of AP Literature FRQ writing prompts that have been used on the exam. By the end of this article, you will know how to approach the FRQs so you can score well on them. We’ll also share insights to help you prep for the literary argument essay portion of the AP Lit exam.

AP English Literature FRQ Section Format

So, how many FRQs are on the AP Lit exam? There are three FRQs: a poetry analysis question, a prose fiction analysis question, and a literary argument question. You have 2 hours to complete all three questions, which amounts to 40 minutes per essay, although you can use more or less time on each.

Essays are scored on a scale from 0 to 6. The entire writing section counts for 55% of the exam score, with each essay equally weighted.

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How to Answer AP English Literature Free-Response Questions

Here are some general tips for approaching the AP Literature and Composition exam’s FRQ section:

  1. Before you start, look over all the prompts and begin with the easiest one.

    Start with the easiest question. It’ll boost your confidence, helping you succeed on this exam. For some students, the literary argument question is the easiest because it allows you to choose a piece of literature to write about that you are already familiar with. However, the prose fiction analysis question is the easiest for others because they comprehend prose better than poetry. Many students answer the poetry question last because they prefer to write the easiest essays first to have more time for the harder ones.

  2. State your thesis in the introduction.

    Your thesis must contain a defensible interpretation, not a summary or restatement of the prompt. A secure interpretation is the main idea you get from the passage or poem that applies to the prompt's focus. Don’t spend too much time on your introduction. Two or three sentences are sufficient. If you are running out of time, write a thesis for all essays because you will receive at least a point

  3. The word "complex" in a prompt simply means more than one.

    When you analyze a character's complex reaction to events, show two different reactions. If needed, discuss a character's complex relationship to something. Write about two sides of the relationship, maybe past and present, love and hate, etc.

  4. Use evidence from the text to support your interpretation.

    To score well on the FRQs, include quoted or paraphrased proof of all of your ideas in your essay. Focus on specific words and details that support what you have to say. Be sure to explain how the evidence illustrates your idea. Two pieces of evidence for each of your points are sufficient; only include lists of quotes if they explain how they support your interpretation.

  5. You do not need a conclusion to earn a high score.

    However, if you have time to write a sentence that pulls your ideas together at the end to make your essay sound finished, you should write one.

  6. Don’t worry about making spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes.

    The graders understand that you are writing under time pressure and that your essay is more like a rough draft. If you make a mistake or change your mind, draw a line through the mistake and keep going.

AP English Literature FRQ Examples

Here are some examples of AP English Lit FRQs from past exams to illustrate the questions you will see on the exam. These questions come directly from the College Board® course description guide and are an excellent source to use for practice.

How can I practice AP English Literature free-response questions?

The best way to practice for the AP English Lit FRQs is to use released questions from the College Board’s previous exams.

If you are taking the AP English Lit class, your teacher will help you learn how to write effective responses throughout the year and give you feedback on your writing. However, if you want to practice on your own, look at the released questions, sample student responses, and explanations of their scores on the College Board website. By studying what makes high-scoring essays successful, you can use the same strategies in your essays. Be sure you are familiar with the rubrics the graders use to score each essay. They will tell you how much information you should include in your responses.

Practice writing essays at a slower pace at first to learn how to express your ideas skillfully. Gradually reduce your time on each practice essay until you can write a good essay in 40 minutes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

There are three FRQs on the AP English Literature exam: Poetry Analysis, Prose Fiction Analysis, and Literary Argument. The exam will present the FRQs in this order.

High school AP Lit teachers and college professors who teach freshman-level English courses will grade your FRQs. The College Board provides rubrics that tell graders what to look for in successful essays. Essays are primarily graded on the quality of their ideas and not on grammar, punctuation, or spelling accuracy. There are specially designated readers available to help score essays with unusual handwriting. Handwriting quality will not impact your score.

Students have two hours to complete FRQs on the AP English Lit exam, which equals 40 minutes per essay. However, students can use more or less time on each essay if they choose to do so.

You can find released questions from past exams on the AP Central website.


  1. (2019). AP® English Literature and Composition - Free-Response Questions. College Board.
  2. (2023). AP English Literature and Composition Past Exam Questions. College Board.

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