What is the test format of the AP® English Language Exam?

The format of the Advanced Placement® English Language and Composition Exam is simple:

SECTION I: Multiple choice

SECTION II: Free response

  • One hour
  • 45 questions that cover excerpts from nonfiction text
  • 45% of final exam score
  • Two hours and 15 minutes including a 15-minute reading time
  • Three questions with prompts covering synthesis, rhetorical analysis, and argument
  • 55% of final exam score

 

But there is a bit more to it that’s useful to know about the format of the AP® English Language and Composition Exam than this. That’s why we want to quickly go through how the exam is formatted and what will be covered on the test.

How the AP® English Language and Composition Exam works

A lot of colleges all over the country require you to fulfill a writing course before you’re allowed to graduate. Students typically take this “expository writing” or “writing and composition” course during their freshman year of college.

Luckily, you may have the opportunity to fulfill this requirement before you’re even accepted into college. Through the AP® English Language and Composition course, you can learn the rhetorical and writing skills necessary to earn the college credit.

The course is comprehensive when it comes to the English language, covering topics such as:

  • Rhetorical analysis of prose
  • Reading comprehension
  • Written argumentation
  • MLA, APA, and Chicago-style citation
  • Reputable sourcing
  • Synthesis of information from multiple texts

When it comes time to take the exam, you can expect the same format and structure. You’ll have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam. There are two sections on the exam. The first is comprised of excerpts from non-fiction texts with multiple-choice questions. The second is a free-response section made up of three prompts you must answer in essay form.

The prompts cover three areas:

  1. Synthesis. You will read multiple sources and craft an argument that cites at least three of the sources to support your argument.
  2. Rhetorical analysis. You will read a passage of text and then craft an analysis of the author’s intention as well as how the author’s choices in the text support that intent.
  3. Argument. You will craft an argument over a specific topic and support that argument with evidence. There will be no “source” text, so you will have to provide your own examples and evidence.

Here’s what the structure of the exam looks like broken down by section and question type, along with how much each section impacts the final score:

  • Section I: Multiple choice
    • 45 questions that cover excerpts from nonfiction text
    • One hour
    • 45% of final exam score
  • Section II: Free response
    • Three questions with prompts covering synthesis, rhetorical analysis, and argument
    • Two hours and 15 minutes including a 15-minute reading time
    • 55% of final exam score

The multiple-choice section is scored by computer. When the computer calculates your answers, it does not deduct points for incorrect answers, which means only stand to gain points when you answer questions. So you should never leave any questions blank on the multiple-choice section of the AP® English Language Exam!

The free-response section is a bit more complicated however. Rather than using a computer, the free-response section is scored by actual humans. This occurs during an event called the AP® Reading, an annual convention in June during which thousands of college professors and AP® teachers nationwide convene to help judge and score AP essays.

The free-response section is scored on a scale of 0–6, with 6 being the best score you can get and 0 being the worst.