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What You Should Know About the AP English Literature Exam

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

“AP” does not stand for “Always Puzzling.” The following should help lift the veil of mystery associated with the AP exam.

What is the Advanced Placement Program?

The Advanced Placement program was begun by the College Board in 1955 to construct standard achievement exams that would allow highly motivated high school students the opportunity to be awarded advanced placement as freshmen in colleges and universities in the United States. Today, there are 35 courses and exams with more than a million students from every state in the nation, and from foreign countries, taking the annual exams in May.

As is obvious, the AP programs are designed for high school students who wish to take college-level courses. The AP Literature course and exam are designed to involve high school students in college-level English studies in both literature and composition.

Who writes the AP Literature exam?

According to the folks at the College Board, the AP Literature exam is created by college and high school English instructors called the AP Development Committee. The committee’s job is to ensure that the annual AP Literature exam reflects what is being taught and studied in college-level English classes in high schools.

This committee writes a large number of multiple-choice questions that are pretested and evaluated for clarity, appropriateness, and range of possible answers. The committee also generates a pool of essay questions, pretests them, and chooses those questions that best represent the full range of the scoring scale which will allow the AP readers to evaluate the essays fairly.

It is important to remember that the AP Literature exam is thoroughly evaluated after it is administered each year. This way, the College Board can use the results to make course suggestions and to plan future tests.

What are the Advanced Placement grades, and who receives them?

Once you have taken the exam and it has been scored, your test will be assigned one of five numbers by the College Board:

• 5 indicates you are extremely well-qualifi ed.

• 4 indicates you are well-qualifi ed.

• 3 indicates you are qualifi ed.

• 2 indicates you are possibly qualifi ed.

• 1 indicates you are not qualifi ed to receive college credit.

A grade of 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 will be reported to your college or university fi rst, to your high school second, and to you third. All this reporting is usually completed by the middle to end of July.

Reasons for Taking the Advanced Placement Exam

At some point during the year every AP student asks the ultimate question: Why am I taking this exam?

Good question. Why put yourself through a year of intensive study, pressure, stress, and preparation? To be honest, only you can answer that question. Over the years, our students have indicated to us that there are several prime reasons why they were willing to take the risk and to put in the effort:

• For personal satisfaction

• To compare themselves with other students across the nation

• Because colleges look favorably on the applications of students who elect to enroll in AP courses

• To receive college credit or advanced standing at their colleges or universities

• Because they love the subject

• So that their families will really be proud of them

There are plenty of other reasons, but no matter what the other reasons might be, the top reason for your enrolling in the AP Lit course and taking the exam in May should be to feel good about yourself and the challenges you have met.

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