How to Get a 5 on AP English Literature & Composition

[This article is part of a series where a former AP student goes over the strategies she used to get a 5 on different AP classes. Follow us to find the others!]

Of all the AP tests you can take, AP English Literature & Composition is unique. Why? Two reasons. First, it’s one of the most subjective AP exams, so you have to be careful. And second, it requires you to use specific knowledge from outside of just the AP class itself.. We’re going to be talking specifically about the Free Response section because the Multiple Choice is much more self-explanatory. So, let's delve into how to get a 5 on AP English Literature and Composition.

The Most Subjective Test

The AP Literature class is known to be one of the most subjectively graded ones because of the nature of the subject. What defines good writing to one person may not be good writing to another. And the way you analyze the meaning of a passage may not be how it’s analyzed by someone else. So you might be thinking: how can I guarantee getting a 5 on the test?

The most important thing you need to know is that your score depends heavily on your ability to provide convincing evidence to your arguments, despite what they may be. For example, if you believe a certain character from your favorite novel represents freedom, you’re going to have to prove it. Maybe your grader will think the character represents something else - but that’s totally okay as long as you can make a convincing argument for your perspective.

So, this Free Response section is all about your ability to write persuasively.

Using Knowledge Outside of Your AP Class

The hardest part of AP Literature is the Free Response portion. Similar to AP US History, you will be given a prompt to which you must answer using evidence from any AP level book. Here’s the thing - your AP class will most definitely not cover every single possible book that you can use. You’ll likely only get through probably around 10 books in your class max, but even if you’ve analyzed all of them very deeply, there is still a chance your prompt may ask you to write about something that doesn’t fit with any of the books.

So, a huge piece of advice is to review the books that you’ve read in prior English classes that are AP level. So for instance, a lot of students read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird years before taking the AP class. These are totally valid novels to use as examples in your Free Response essays, but that means you’ll likely need to review them before taking the test. We’d recommend reviewing basic novel facts, plot, themes, and literary devices of such novels about a month before the test.

The more readings you have under your belt, the better, because you’ll be prepared for any kind of prompt they throw you. It may be beneficial to take additional classes outside of your school AP class or join a book club in order to build up your repertoire. We hope these tips for how to get a 5 on AP English Literature & Composition will help you achieve that score you want!

7EDU is offering AP English Literature & Composition classes this fall so you can get ahead on both writing persuasively and analyze additional novels that will add to your repertoire. Contact us at or (408) 216-9109 for more info!

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