5 Ways to Get the Most Out of AP Lit and AP Lang
Unlike other AP classes, Advanced Placement English is divided into two separate courses: AP Literature and AP Language and Composition. AP Lit focuses on novels, dramas, short stories, and poetry, while AP Lang focuses on non-fiction. Students in both courses are expected to read and write at the college level as the courses are comparable to an English 101 class. Also, if you score a 4 or 5 on the AP test offered in May, you can receive college credit. Certain colleges even accept credit for a score of 3.
To be successful in AP Lit and AP Lang, you must be able to read difficult texts independently, have strong written analysis skills, and implement the test-taking strategies taught in class.
But how do you build these skills and become a successful AP Lit and AP Lang student?
Let’s break down our 5 tips for becoming a better reader and writer, so you can earn tops scores in class and on the exam in May!
1. Read, Read, Read!
Building up your reading skills is one major key to being successful in AP Lit and AP Lang. Because both are English courses, your teacher is going to assign a lot of reading. Some of the reading will be easy, but most of it will be very challenging. And the more you practice, the easier reading these more difficult texts will become. Even better if you annotate your texts! Annotations not only help you interpret what you’re reading, annotating helps you practice literary and rhetorical analysis skills.
Pro Tip: Read as much as you can.
For AP Lit, that means reading fiction, especially novels and dramas, short stories, and poetry. For AP Lang, you want to read non-fiction, for example memoirs and personal essays.
Ideally you need to be reading in your free time in addition to what your teacher assigns. Both AP Lit and AP Lang have a section of the exam for long form essays. Reading as much you can in preparation for test day will improve your writing skills by enhancing your ability to analyze a text and will give you material to use for the literary argument essay on the AP Lit exam.
2. Build Your Literary and Rhetorical Analysis Skills
Being able to write a literary or rhetorical analysis is all about knowing your literary elements. Some teachers will give their students a list of literary terms to study, while some teachers do not. No matter whether your teacher has given you a list or not, it is very important that you keep a running list of literary and rhetorical elements in your notes.
Click here for a comprehensive list of literary and rhetorical elements that are beneficial for students in both AP Lit and AP Lang to know and use in their own literary analysis.
Aside from memorizing the definition of each term, you must understand how each of these terms are used in fiction and non-fiction. Both AP Lit and AP Lang have a portion of their respective tests dedicated to literary and rhetorical analysis essays.
A good way to practice using the glossary of elements linked above is to find examples of each element in a novel, drama, short story, poem, memoir, or personal essay that you’ve read. In your notes, define the term and explain how the term is used in the text. This way you know what the element looks like in action and will be able to identify its use in a text you’re given on the exam.
For example, a symbol is defined as an image that represents a larger idea. If you’re reading The Great Gatsby, you’ll know that the green light at the end of Gatsby’s dock symbolizes Gatsby’s dream of a life with Daisy. The green light is the symbol. Gatsby’s dream of a life with Daisy is what the symbol represents.
Being able to identify and explain the use of literary elements in texts will bring you one step closer to a great score on your exam essays!
3. Practice Writing from Day One
Every teacher is different when it comes to assigning writing. Some teachers will assign essay writing on day one. Other teachers will wait to assign essay writing until closer to the exam date. No matter when your teacher assigns essay writing, it is your responsibility to begin practicing your writing skills from day one.
Writing Practice Pro-Tips
- Get to know the essay types – Both AP Lit and AP Lang have essay portions of their respective tests. You’ll have around 2 hours to write three different essays for each test. For more information about these essay types, click on the links for AP Lit and AP Lang where you can find an explanation of each essay and examples of past exam questions.
- Get to know the rubrics – Each essay is graded based on its own rubric. The rubric breaks down what you should include in your essay. If you know how your essays are going to be graded, then it will be easier to write them because you know what is expected of your writing. Click on the links for AP Lit and AP Lang to check out the rubrics for each essay.
- Get to know literary analysis – The essays you write will have you analyzing texts. You will either be given the texts to analyze. Or you must analyze a text from memory based on a prompt. The best way to learn how to analyze a text is by reading literary analysis. Reading literary analysis will show you how professionals and scholars break down the elements of a text. Then, you can use that same formula to write your literary or rhetorical analysis essays.
Take these steps to build your writing practice from day one. The more you write, the better your score will be on the exam in May!
4. Use Your Teacher as a Resource
Teachers are some of the most under utilized resources in the classroom. However, their knowledge of the curriculum and the exam could help you get a 6 out of 6 on the essay portion of the test!
Utilizing your teacher as a resource goes beyond just asking for extra help after school. Teacher feedback is one of the best tools for improving your writing. Whenever you receive an essay with feedback, make a point to revise your essay based on the feedback. Then, ask your teacher if they can read your revision. Feedback is useful because it is individualized to your specific needs and can give you important information on how to improve your score.
If it is grammar and style that seem to be holding you back from earning your best essay score, ask your teacher for resources on grammar and mechanics. Your teacher will be able to give you practice exercises and other materials that you can apply to your own writing.
Using your teacher’s feedback to revise your writing and implementing what you learn through supplemental materials will help you get to your goal score quickly!
5. Build Your Test-Taking Stamina
The AP Lit and AP Lang tests are comprised of two sections. Section one of each test is multiple choice. You will have an hour to answer 55 questions for AP Lit and 45 questions for AP Lang. The second half of the test is the essay portion. Both tests require you to write three essays. But for AP Lit you’ll have 2 hours and for AP Lang you’ll have 2 hours and 15 minutes.
The passages and excerpts you’ll have to read will be difficult. And the questions you’ll be asked to answer will be challenging. By the time you get to the essay section, or even the last passage of the multiple choice, you might be losing steam. And if you run out of energy, your work will suffer.
How can you combat test fatigue?
You must take every chance before exam day to practice answering multiple choice and writing essay questions in a timed setting. Most often, it is the amount of time you are given to answer questions that causes test fatigue. And, like any muscle, your testing muscle will get stronger with practice.
If your teacher gives you an essay for homework, time yourself writing it. Look for practice multiple choice tests online and give yourself a set amount of time to answer the questions. The more you time yourself during practice sessions, the better you’ll be able to combat test fatigue on exam day!
At this point in the school year, you know what challenges to expect from your AP Literature and AP Language and Composition courses. If you’re struggling, don’t wait to get help!
MEK offers individualized School Support Tutoring. Our expert instructors work with you one-on-one to create a plan for classroom success that takes into account your specific needs and goals. Contact us here for a consultation!
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