How to Prepare for the AP English Literature Exam

Srong preparation can increase your chances of a high score on the AP English Literature Exam

Advanced Placement courses, offered free to students in many high schools across the country, can save you hundreds of dollars in college tuition costs by giving you college credit when you begin at a university. To receive this credit, you must take the AP Exam in the subject of your choice. For the AP English Literature Exam, there are steps you can take to maximize your chances of passing which, in turn, will net you the most available credit that your future college offers to AP students.

Download the course description from the College Board AP English Literature Exam website. The College Board administers the exam, and their materials tell you exactly what areas in which you need to be knowledgeable to pass with a high score.

Read the course description. Don't start a week before the exam, because the description is more than 80 pages long. It helps you understand testing strategies and the types of questions you will be asked. Familiarity with the test reduces stress, which helps you score better.

Take excellent notes on the books you’re reading for class. You may be asked to recall plot details, so having a thorough understanding of everything you’ve read will help you pass.

Arrange your notes according to the years the books were written, and then study your notes in that same order. It will help you create a structure of literature in your head that you can then refer to on the exam.

Practice your writing. Ask your teacher for sample essay prompts and then write answers to the questions in the time allotted. Have your teacher or a parent look over your answers and suggest places for improvement. Writing one of these every day for two weeks prior to the exam will help you be comfortable with the format and will provide time to identify your strengths and and improve your weaknesses.

Find examples of past test questions. Try answering as many as you can on your own in the weeks leading up to the exam.

Become familiar with the literary canon. Know the basic plots and themes for the works most likely to appear on the exam--classics like Moby Dick and the Scarlet Letter--by using a service that abridges books and their themes. Though you should always read books in their entirety, there are too many for you to finish before your exam, and even a passing knowledge of the ones you couldn’t get to can help.

Practice comparing and contrasting. A large number of questions on the AP English literature exam will ask you to do this because it encourages analytical thinking.

  • Eat a peppermint as you start testing. This will help keep you awake, as many tests start early in the morning.
  • Get a full night's sleep before the exam, and eat a healthy breakfast that includes protein, carbohydrates and a small amount of natural sugar from fruit or juice. Avoid sugary meal choices that cause energy spikes and crashes.

Melly Parker has been writing since 2007, focusing on health, business, technology and home improvement. She has also worked as a teacher and a bioassay laboratory technician. Parker now serves as a marketing specialist at one of the largest mobile app developers in the world. She holds a Master of Science in English.