The AP English Literature and Composition Exam tests students on critical reading skills and knowledge of a variety of literary works, genres and periods. The exam is scored from 1 to 5, with 3 being a minimum passing score. Students who earn a 3 or higher on the exam have an opportunity to earn college credit, depending on the policies of the specific college or university they plan to attend. Understanding how the test is scored can help students prepare for it.

Exam Structure

The AP English Literature and Composition Exam is divided into two parts: Multiple-choice questions and free response questions. There are 55 multiple choice questions, and students have one hour to answer them. There are three free response questions, which require essay responses. Students have two hours to answer these three questions. Overall, students have three hours to complete the exam. The multiple-choice section is worth 45 percent of the exam score, and the free response section is worth 55 percent of the score.

Free Response Scoring

Each of the three essays in the free response section is given a point value from 0 to 9. Two readers score each of the essays, and if they agree, that is the score that is given. If they disagree, a third reader provides a final judgement. According to the College Board, each essay is scored as a whole, including its content, style and mechanics, and students are rewarded for what they do well. The points for each essay are multiplied by 3.055, and then the points for each section is added together for a raw score.

Multiple Choice Scoring

Typically, five choices are given for each of the multiple-choice questions. There is no penalty for wrong answers, and questions that are left blank receive no points. Guessing the answer is encouraged when students do not know the right answer. Each correct answer is given a value of 1.2272 points, and all the points are tallied to arrive at the total score for the section.

Composite Score

The composite score is calculated by adding the raw score for the free response section and the multiple-choice section. A total of 82.5 points is possible for the free response section, and a total of 67.5 points is possible for the multiple-choice section. Exams that earn between 100 and 150 points are scored a 5. A 4 is awarded to exams with 86 to 99 points, and a 3 is given to exams with 67 to 85 points. Anything under a 3 is not considered passing and is not viewed favorably by college admissions officials.