AP English Course: How To Choose | College Admission Manual


At first glance, AP English Language and Composition and AP English Literature and Composition seem closely related. After all, both are designed to mirror college-level English classes and contain the common word ‘composition’.


However, for high school students who have a passion for English, it is essential to choose carefully between these two Advanced Placement course options.

Similarities of English Language and English Literature AP

Both classes assume native or near-native fluency in the English language. In AP English Language and AP English Literature, you will be asked to read a variety of sophisticated texts and write articulate analytical essays about them. The importance of finely honed reading and writing skills cannot be overemphasized for either course.

In addition, the format of the two end-of-year AP exams is surprisingly similar, with the first section consisting of multiple-choice questions based on passages that are worth 45% of the total score. Of the two exams, the second section consists of three open-ended prompts that represent the remaining 55% of the total mark.

It should be noted that although AP English courses are quite popular, they have relatively low pass rates compared to most other AP exams – pass meaning a score of 3 or better, below which colleges generally do not grant credit. In 2020, the score rate of 3 or higher was 62.1% for AP English Language and 60.1% for AP English Literature. Only 12.6% and 9.3% of applicants, respectively, received a 5, the highest possible score.

With these statistics in mind, students of either course should plan to devote a significant amount of time to study.

Differences between English language and English literature AP

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two AP English courses is the nature of the reading material. English Literature students cover several canonical literary works each year, including “The Odyssey”, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Great Gatsby”.

Students of English, on the other hand, spend their time reading non-fiction works like memoirs, persuasive essays, and other types of texts.

Due to the different genres favored by each course, the writing assignments also differ. English literature prompts ask questions about literary devices used in works – such as symbolism and tone – while English language prompts ask students to explore rhetorical devices that aid the author or student. to formulate his argument.

Student Profiles That Match AP English Literature

Avid readers. Although both AP English courses place a heavy reading load on students, English literature can overtake the English language in this regard. Therefore, students who are passionate about reading should consider taking AP English Literature, as it may require them to devour around 100 pages per week.

Prospective majors in human sciences. Students planning to pursue a major in a humanities-based field such as philosophy, history or literature would particularly benefit from AP English Literature. This course can give these students a sense of familiarity with several readings that they are bound to encounter again in their study program, such as plays by William Shakespeare.

Student profiles that align with AP English Language

Future speakers. Since the English curriculum focuses on rhetoric, students in this course can begin to build a repertoire of effective speaking and writing skills that will be of use to them in their future career fields. Students who aspire to work in law or politics, for example, can prepare for college through the rigorous rhetorical exercises offered by AP English Language.

Undecided students. AP English Language is more universal in that its curriculum covers more areas. For example, you can transfer the skills you learned by analyzing persuasive essays in this course to all the essays you read in college and beyond, whether they are about science or another topic. As such, it may be best to select the more general option of AP English Language if you are unsure about your future.

Both AP English courses are highly regarded and will make you a more skilled reader and writer. Ultimately, deciding between them depends on your personal interests and plans.

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