Find what you need to study
2024 AP English Literature Exam Guide
15 min read • august 18, 2023
Your Guide to the 2024 AP English Literature Exam
We know that studying for your AP exams can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We created a study plan to help you crush your AP English Literature exam. This guide will continue to update with information about the 2024 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you do your best on test day. Unlock Cram Mode for access to our cram events—students who have successfully passed their AP exams will answer your questions and guide your last-minute studying LIVE! And don't miss out on unlimited access to our database of thousands of practice questions. FYI, something cool is coming your way Fall 2023! 👀
Format of the 2024 AP English Literature Exam
Going into test day, this is the exam format to expect:
Multiple Choice | 1 Hour | 45% of Exam Score
5 sets of questions with 8–13 questions per set.
Each set is preceded by a passage of prose fiction, drama, or poetry of varying difficulty.
will always include at least 2 prose fiction passages (this may include drama) and at least 2 poetry passages.
Free Response | 2 hours | 55% of your score
- A literary analysis of a given poem
- A literary analysis of a given passage of prose fiction (this may include drama)
An analysis that examines a specific concept, issue, or element in a work of literary merit selected by the student
FRQ Scoring Rubric for the 2024 AP Lit Exam
View an example set of questions and the corresponding scoring guidelines from the College Board to get an idea of what they look for in your responses!
Check out our study plan below to find resources and tools to prepare for your AP English Literature exam.
When is the 2024 AP exam and How Do I Take It?
How should i prepare for the exam.
First, download the AP English Literature Cheatsheet PDF - a single sheet that covers everything you need to know at a high level. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses!
Review every unit and question type, and focus on the areas that need the most improvement and practice. We’ve put together this plan to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam
Practice essays are your best friends! The more essays you write, the more automatic the process will come, and the easier the AP exam will be!
Try some of the past exam essays here
We've put together the study plan found below to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam. Pay special attention to the units that you need the most improvement in.
Study, practice, and review for test day with other students during our live cram sessions via Cram Mode . Cram live streams will teach, review, and practice important topics from AP courses, college admission tests, and college admission topics. These streams are hosted by experienced students who know what you need to succeed.
Pre-Work: Set Up Your Study Environment
Before you begin studying, take some time to get organized.
🖥 Create a study space.
Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space.
📚 Organize your study materials.
Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also, create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get yourself set up!
📅 Plan designated times for studying.
The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.
🏆 Decide on an accountability plan.
How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First, set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!
🤝 Get support from your peers.
There are thousands of students all over the world who are preparing for their AP exams just like you! Join Rooms 🤝 to chat, ask questions, and meet other students who are also studying for the spring exams. You can even build study groups and review material together!
AP English Literature 2024 Study Plan
🌱 unit 1: intro to short fiction, big takeaways:.
Unit 1 is the first prose analysis unit, focusing on short fiction. It helps to establish your prose analysis vocabulary, focusing on identifying and describing basic literary elements such as plot, narrator, and setting. This unit also gives the foundations for writing analyses of text, beginning with paragraph structuring and claim defense.
Definitely do this:
📚 Read these study guides:
Unit 1 Overview: Introduction to Short Fiction
1.1 Interpreting the role of character in fiction
1.2 Identifying and interpreting setting
1.3 Identifying how a story’s structure affects interpretation
1.4 Understanding and interpreting a narrator’s perspective
1.5 Reading texts literally and figuratively
1.6 The basics of literary analysis
🎥 Watch these videos:
Prose Prompt Deconstruction : An overview of the Prose Analysis prompt and strategies for preparing to respond
What Lit Is : An overview of the course and exam and their expectations
📰 Check out this articles:
12 Classic Short Stories : Short stories of literary merit to stretch your analysis muscles
Best Quizlet Decks for AP English Literature : Practice with these quizlets to strengthen your AP Lit vocabulary!
🎭 Unit 2: Intro to Poetry
Unit 2 is the first poetry analysis unit, focusing on everyone's favorite figurative language devices -- metaphor and simile . Because poems often have a specific form, this unit also begins analysis of form/structure and also looks at contrasts in a text (which create the complexity that the exam expects you to analyze). All of these poetic elements, though, are being analyzed for their function in the poem -- this unit helps you practice looking for why authors make the choices that they do.
This unit continues the work of Unit 1 in developing paragraphs that establish a claim and provide evidence to support that claim. It’s more important that you can write a stable, defensible, claim-based paragraph at this point than it is that you can write an entire essay (that might not be as strong).
Unit 2 Overview: Introduction to Poetry
2.1 Identifying characters in poetry
2.2 Understanding & interpreting meaning in poetic structure
2.3 Analyzing word choice to find meaning
2.4 Identifying techniques in poetry to analyze literary works
Literary Device Review : An overview of some literary devices that you may have forgotten, or an introduction to some new ones that you want in your analysis vocabulary.
Defending a Claim : Before practicing your paragraphs, watch this stream for guidance in building a claim from the passage in response to a prompt.
How to Read a Poem : A stream dedicated to developing poetry reading skills, including a useful acronym (SIFT) for prioritizing important elements of a poem.
Annotating for Understanding: This stream guides you through the annotation process, making sure that you are annotating purposefully, and developing your own library of symbols.
📰 Check out these articles:
Poetry Overview : Our Fiveable guide to the poetry analysis question -- what to expect and what you need to do to respond effectively.
If you have more time or want to dig deeper:
Theme Statements and Thesis Statements : This stream teaches you how to determine and state a theme, and how to establish a claim to defend for poem analysis.
💎 Play Figurative Language Trivia ! It’s not the names that are important, but it’s fun to know them, anyway!
🎭 Unit 3: Intro to Longer fiction or Drama
Here we go with the novels! Because the exam’s literary argument essay (also affectionately known as Q3 in the Lit circles) asks students to analyze a novel-length text, it’s important to get practice on analyzing novels or plays (did someone say, Shakespeare?). This unit boils down to paying closer attention to character and plot, with a sprinkling of setting analysis. Because novels are longer than short stories, not only can authors spread out the creation of literary elements and go deeper, but you can see more about how it’s done.
In terms of composition, this unit starts discussing the development of a thesis statement! So now we can establish a thesis, and then support it with a paragraph (or two). This means we’re also starting to create a line of reasoning that is introduced in the thesis statement, and supported in the body of your essay.
Unit 3 Overview: Introduction to Longer Fiction and Drama
3.1 Interpreting character description and perspective
3.2 Character evolution throughout a narrative
3.3 Conflict and plot development
3.4 Interpreting symbolism
3.5 Identifying evidence and supporting literary arguments
Theme Statements and Thesis Statements: This stream distinguishes between these two important statements in a Q3 response, and further discusses thesis statements in general.
Annotating for Analysis, part 2: This stream is more about annotating an exam prompt, and then preparing to respond to it.
Characters and Relationships : All about characterization, with terms and tips for understanding the creation of characters and why they matter.
Fiveable study guide to the Literary Argument prompt
💎 Check out John Green’s YouTube channel Crash Course for help analyzing some English teacher novel favorites. These don’t substitute for reading, but they help when you’re done.
📖 Read this Ultimate AP Literature Reading List from Albert.io to see what you’ve read, or what you might want to read. You might even find them free online, or you can support your local library.
⚔️ Unit 4: Character, Conflict, & Storytelling in Short Fiction
Because of the way that the AP Lit units are structured, we spiral skills and text types, so this is phase 2 of short fiction analysis. While the first short fiction unit was focused on identifying and describing elements, now you’re being asked to explain the function (that why again) and describe relationships.
This unit also asks you to start analyzing how those relationships and elements are created by authors. That means you are reading more closely for diction and syntax and paying more attention to how a speaker/narrator’s perspective is shown to you.
We’re still working on defensible thesis statements and building commentary to make clear connections between our claim and the evidence. This is what builds the line of reasoning and earns a 4 in evidence and commentary on the Lit rubric.
Unit 4 Overview: Character, Conflict, and Storytelling
4.1 Protagonists, antagonists, character relationships, and conflict
4.2 Character interactions with setting and its significance
4.3 Archetypes in literature
4.4 Types of narration like stream of consciousness
4.5 Narrative distance, tone, and perspective
Prose Analysis Prompt Deconstruction and Strategies : Before you read the text, make sure that you know the task before you, and you’re ready to read with that in mind.
Q2 Thesis and Introduction : There are some exam-taking tips in here, from a college freshman who conquered the exam. She also discusses forming a thesis and an introduction that works. Quickly.
Q2 Evidence and Commentary : Practicing creating commentary to respond to the prompt efficiently. This stream uses practice prompts to show the process of reading a text with the prompt in mind to select evidence while reading.
Short Fiction Overview : Revisit this guide! Read the section on “How to Read a Short Story. Like, Really Read It.”
💎 Check out this stream on creating a "boot camp" that was originally meant for teachers, but gives guidelines and suggestions on how to dive into short fiction.
AP Lit Prose Analysis Practice Prompt Answers & Feedback – Fahrenheit 451 (Diction): The focus of this practice prompt is diction – analyzing it AND using it yourself, with a little syntax thrown in! Try it yourself and compare it with student responses and feedback.
AP Lit Prose Analysis Practice Prompt Samples & Feedback – The Street : Practicing prose analysis is a great way to prep for the AP exam! Respond to this practice prompt and review practice writing samples and their corresponding feedback.
AP Lit Prose Analysis Practice Essays & Feedback – The Rainbow : Writing essays is a great way to practice prose analysis and prep for the AP exam! Review student responses for an essay prompt and corresponding feedback
🌈 Unit 5: Structure & Figurative Language in Poetry
We’re going back to poems! This unit asks you to “identify and explain the function” of various poetic elements and devices. All at the same time. Those literary devices you learned in Poetry I might come in handy here, but the analysis is more about why the author made those choices about repetition, reference, comparison, etc.
In order to select the most significant, “relevant, and sufficient” evidence to support your line of reasoning from your thesis , you have to know the function of the personification or metaphor or imagery. Ask yourself, “Why would the author write ____ instead of ____?” This helps you analyze the connotations of the choice, and therefore the function in the text.
By now, we’re writing a thesis plus paragraphs. This is also an opportunity to work on the organization of your essays (hint: organizing by the device is neither efficient nor sophisticated; try to find a shift or two in the poem and use them to develop your paragraph chunks.
Unit 5 Overview: Structure and Figurative Language
5.1 Traits of closed and open structures in poetry
5.2 Use of techniques like imagery and hyperbole
5.3 Types of comparisons in poetry including personification and allusion
5.4 Identifying and interpreting extended metaphors
How Form Creates Meaning: Learn about poetry-specific choices authors make, and what elements of form look like in practice. Also, explore a couple of common forms and why they might be used.
Open Poetry Study : An opportunity to practice some of the skills from “How to Read a Poem ”.
Q1 Evidence and Commentary : Follow the process of reading a poem and selecting evidence in real-time. You can have an essay before it’s through.
The complexity of Poetry: This is an opportunity to look specifically at how poets create tensions and complexity in their work. Since this complexity is always a point of analysis on the exam, you can study how it works, and how to write about it
💎 Browse through the Poetry Foundations resources for students , including annotations, poem guides, podcasts, and poet studies.
🛠️ Unit 6: Literary Techniques in Longer Works
Because novels are longer stories, we can look at more elements at a time. That’s what this unit wants from you -- examining speaker perspective and reliability, the formation and function of literary or contextual symbolism, characterization, character relationships and contrasts, the function of plot events, etc. All at the same time.
What you need to know: The bottom line of reading for Q3 is the meaning of the work as a whole or theme . And you might not fully understand what that is until the novel or play is finished, but you can start to build ideas around what BIG IDEA the author is addressing. Your job is to keep track of how characters, plot, and setting contribute to the discussion of this big idea (like greed or isolation or jealousy or love or anger or insanity).
Unit 6 Overview: Literary Techniques in Longer Works
6.1 Interpreting foil characters
6.2 Understanding and interpreting character complexity
6.3 Understanding nonlinear narrative structures like flashbacks and foreshadowing
6.4 The effect of narrative tone and bias on reading
6.5 Characters as symbols, metaphors, and archetypes
6.6 Developing literary arguments within a broader context of works
Finding Theme Through Characterization : A discussion of the function of characterization as it applies to the meaning of the work as a whole.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) Resources
Multiple Choice Intro : an introduction to the AP Literature multiple choice -- an overview of the weights, number and types of questions you will encounter, with some tips for practice and preparation.
Prose MC Strategies and Practice: covers all aspects of the Multiple Choice section of the AP Lit Exam, including tips on-time efficiency, annotation, and picking the best answer choice. This is followed by 2 sets of practice passages and questions and explanations for each of the provided answer choices.
English Literature Multiple Choice Study Guide
AP English Literature Multiple Choice Help (MCQ)
AP English Lit MCQ Practice Tests
🏛️ Unit 7: Societal & Historical Context in Short Fiction
The last three units of AP Lit ask you to dig even deeper into what you're reading to analyze it. In Unit 7, you'll focus on how characters fit into the societal and historical context of the work they're in, and how those features can become important facets of stories. Importantly, you'll be asked to analyze how complexity develops over the course of the story.
Unit 7 Overview: Societal and Historical Context
7.1 Sudden and more gradual change in characters
7.2 Epiphany as a driver of plot
7.3 Relationships between characters and groups
7.4 Character interactions with changing and contrasting settings
7.5 The significance of the pacing of a narrative
7.6 Setting as a symbol
7.7 Interpreting texts in their historical and societal contexts
🤾 Unit 8: Advanced Techniques in Poetry
Unit 8 will introduce you to more complicated techniques in poetry that are harder to spot and analyze. You will be asked to identify and analyze devices like punctuation and structural patterns, juxtaposition, paradox, irony, symbols, conceits, and allusions. Although these are a little harder to correctly identify in poetry, if you can master them, they can earn you major points on the exam. Additionally, you'll learn about how to correctly cite and attribute information when writing literary analysis!
Unit 8 Overview
8.1 Looking at punctuation and structural patterns
8.2 Interpreting juxtaposition, paradox, and irony
8.3 How ambiguity can allow for various interpretations
8.4 Identifying symbols, conceits, and allusions
8.5 Learning proper attribution and citation in literary analysis
🚣🏿 Unit 9: Nuanced Analysis in Longer Works
The final unit of AP Lit will task you with creating even more nuanced analyses of longer works and drama. To do this, we'll look at how characters change over the course of the plot and react to the resolution of the narrative, how suspense, resolution, and plot development contribute the meaning of a work, and how inconsistencies and differing perspectives create nuance in longer works.
Unit 9 Overview: Nuanced Analysis
9.1 Looking at a character's response to the resolution of a narrative
9.2 Suspense, resolution, and plot development
9.3 Narrative inconsistencies and contrasting perspectives
Breaking Down an Exam Prompt: A discussion of how to break down an AP Literature exam prompt into smaller questions. We end with some do's, don'ts, and common pitfalls for students writing AP Literature essays.
Commentary and Sophistication FAQs: Review the criteria for earning maximum evidence/commentary points and the one sophistication point from the rubric. Next, read scored examples and see what they earned in those two categories.
AP English Literature Free Response Questions (FRQ) – Past Prompts : A sortable list of all the AP English Literature free-response questions.
© 2024 Fiveable Inc. All rights reserved.