What score do I need on the AP® English Literature exam for college credit?

The Advanced Placement® English Literature and Composition Exam gives you the opportunity to fulfill a rhetoric or writing course for college before you even step foot on campus. The course and exam constitute a rigorous study of rhetoric and writing skills.

Generally speaking, the score you need on the AP® English Literature Exam for college credit is a 3 or higher. As with all things AP®-related, though, the exact answer is a bit more complicated than that.

Let’s take a look at exactly how the AP® English Literature Exam works, how to find the score you need for specific schools, and how it impacts you.

Breaking down the AP® English Literature Exam

Many colleges and universities across the United States require that you take a rhetoric or writing class before you can graduate. However, if you take the AP® English Literature Exam and attain a certain score, it is possible you could qualify for credit toward that requirement.

The exam is split into two sections: Section I and Section II.

Section I is the multiple-choice section and counts for 45% of your exam score. The multiple-choice section addresses the six big ideas of the AP® English Literature course, and is designed to test for certain skill categories including a student’s ability to:

  • Explain the function of character
  • Explain the function of setting
  • Explain the function of plot and structure
  • Explain the function of the narrator or speaker
  • Explain the function of word choice, imagery, and symbols
  • Explain the function of comparison
  • Develop textually substantiated arguments about interpretations of part or all of a text

Section II of the AP® English Literature Exam is the free-response section, and counts for 55% of your overall exam score. In this section, you will have two hours to answer three free-response questions:

Question 1: Poetry Analysis

Question 2: Prose Fiction Analysis

Question 3: Literary Argument

Each of the free-response questions is scored out of 6 points.

For a more detailed look at how the AP® English Literature Exam is scored, check out this article.

Now that you know what to expect on the exam and course, let’s take a look at the scoring system and how each score is typically recognized by colleges nationwide.

How to find the score you need on the AP® English Literature Exam

The AP® Exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 5. The higher your score, the better it is for you.

Check out the table below for a good breakdown of what each score means.

AP® Score

What it means


Best. The highest score you can get on your AP® Exam. This score typically guarantees college credit or placement out of a required course at colleges that accept AP® Exams.


Excellent. While not the highest, this is still a very good score. You’ll usually get college credit with it.


Very Good. This is often called a “passing” score and is the usual threshold for colleges to give you credit, though not at the most competitive colleges.


Okay. Even though this is not a “passing” score, it can still reflect some significant improvement over the course of a year.


Not the best. We all have to start from somewhere!

When it comes to AP® English Literature and Composition, you’ll want to aim for a score of 3 or higher. Most colleges will give you college credit if you score within that range.

It varies from college to college though. So, if you want to know the score that a specific college will accept in exchange for credit, you’ll need to check with the college’s registrar’s office to find out information about AP® credit for the AP® U.S. History Exam. Often, you can find this information on the school’s website. You can also check out the College Board’s search tool for AP® credit policies.

NOTE: Colleges sometimes change their requirements for awarding college credit or offering placement out of required courses. So always check in with the college to make sure you have the most relevant and recent information.

What this means to you

Bottom line: You’re going to want to score as high as you possibly can. Sure, your dream school only requires a three—but you should always be aiming for a five, regardless!

When you get that credit, you will effectively be walking into college with part of the requirements already completed. It means you could skip a writing requirement and take whatever class you wanted to. Or, you could even save money on college tuition by spending less time getting credits. Either way, getting that college credit before college is a great way to set yourself up for the next four years.

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