The College Board offers two advanced placement (AP) courses in English focusing on either literature or rhetorical prose. They suggest students choose AP English Language and Composition if they are interested in studying and writing analytic and persuasive essays on nonliterary topics and AP English Literature and Composition if they are interested in studying literature of various periods and genres.

Course Goals

The goals set forth by the College Board for the AP English Language and Composition course requires writing about a variety of subjects and disciplines with a focus on audience and purpose. Additionally, the composition portion of the course focuses on expository, analytical and argumentative writing with an emphasis on synthesis of material from texts. The goal of the AP English Literature and Composition course includes intensive study of literary works from a variety of genres and periods, with emphasis on evaluation of the quality and artistic achievement of literary works. The composition portion of the course focuses on critical analysis of literature and also includes expository, analytical and persuasive essays. The goal of writing instruction in this course is to develop and organize ideas in coherent and persuasive language.

Types of Reading

The reading requirements for the AP English Language and Composition course focus on the broad category of nonfiction. Reading in preparation for the exam include letters, diaries, histories, biographies, sermons, speeches, satire, social criticism and journalism. The reading requirements for the AP English Literature and Composition course focus on works originally written in English and should include literature from both British and American writers form the 16th century to the modern era.

Development of Writing Style

Writing assignments in the AP English Language and Composition course include the use of informal and formal writing exercises, which take the form of journaling, imitation exercises and writing in collaboration with other students. The use of research materials in writing develops student ability to synthesize sources and the ability to formulate varied arguments. Stylistically, the AP Language course and the AP Literature course both teach a variety of sentence structure, logical organization, a balance of generalization and illustrative detail and effective use of rhetoric. Writing assignments in the AP Literature course use both critical analysis and creative writing to help students develop an understanding of how literature is created.

College Board Exam

The AP Language exam comprises multiple choice and free response questions. The multiple choice questions focus on the analysis of rhetoric in prose, and the free response essays are synthesis essays about prose selections. The AP Literature Exam includes two essay questions, one analysis of a passage or poem and one open question in which students may write about a literary work of their choosing to answer the question. It also includes multiple choice questions that test critical reading of selected passages.