Top 5 Tips for the AP English Language and Composition Exam

August 1, 2021

It’s easy to get overwhelmed as you’re preparing for the AP English Language and Composition exam. We’ve compiled a list of five tips to help you get a high score on the AP English Language and Composition exam. 

AP English Language and Composition Exam Tip #1: Familiarize yourself with the language and effects of rhetoric.

Both the short-answer and essay questions require that you know how authors employ rhetorical strategies to create effects and convey meaning. Become conversant with the functions of tone, syntax, imagery, irony, point of view, and the other rhetorical techniques.

AP English Language and Composition Exam Tip #2: Become an annotation addict.

Nothing will build your skill in prose analysis better than a steady diet of annotation. Begin by reading nonfiction prose passages. Resolve to figure out exactly what each author did to compose the passage. Identify rhetorical techniques and, more important, try to explain why the author chose each rhetorical component.

AP English Language and Composition Exam Tip #3: Review elements of argumentation.

Familiarity with various forms of argumentation will help you in both the multiple-choice and the essay sections of the exam. Whenever you read nonfiction, pay attention to writers’ claims about the subject. Look for various kinds of evidence used to justify the claims: examples, forceful language, kinds of reasoning (e.g., deductive and inductive), the testimony of experts, appeals to emotion, and much more.

AP English Language and Composition Exam Tip #4: Brush up on basic grammar skills.

Don’t bother memorizing terminology. Few, if any, multiple-choice questions require it. Concentrate on writing error-free essays because essay scores suffer when grammar rules are broken. Proofread all your practice essays. Look particularly for: 

  • sentence errors 
  • lack of agreement between subjects and verbs 
  • incorrect pronoun usage 
  • errors in verb choice

AP English Language and Composition Exam Tip #5: Plan and practice an essay-writing process.

Develop a process for writing an essay in no more than forty minutes. Build in time to read the question, think of a main idea, and decide how to support it. Before you start writing, list your ideas and arrange them in sensible order. While composing your essay, be mindful of the need to: 

  • state a thesis 
  • develop coherent paragraphs containing evidence that supports and develops the thesis 
  • vary sentences 
  • choose the best words to express ideas 
  • provide a brief conclusion 

Set aside time for editing and proofreading.