What You Should Know About the AP English Literature Exam (page 2)

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

What You Need to Know About the AP Lit Exam

Let’s answer a few of the nitty-gritty questions about the exam and its scoring.

If I don’t take an AP Lit Course, can I still take the AP Lit exam?

Yes. Even though the AP Lit exam is designed for the student who has had a year’s course in AP Literature, there are high schools that do not offer this type of course, yet there are students in these high schools who have also done well on the exam. However, if your high school does offer an AP Lit course, by all means take advantage of it and the structured background it will provide you.

How is the Advanced Placement Literature exam organized?

The exam has two parts and is scheduled to last 3 hours. The first section is a set of multiple-choice questions based on a series of prose passages and poems. You will have 1 hour to complete this part of the test. The second section of the exam is a 2-hour essay writing segment consisting of three different essays: one on prose, one on poetry, and one free-response.

After you complete the multiple-choice section and hand in your test booklet and scan sheet, you will be given a brief break. Note that you will not be able to return to the multiple-choice questions when you return to the examination room.

Must I check the box at the end of the essay booklet that allows the AP people to use my essays as samples for research?

No. This is simply a way for the College Board to make certain that it has your permission if it decides to use one or more of your essays as a model. The readers of your essays pay no attention to whether or not that box is checked. Checking the box will not affect your grade.

How is my AP Lit exam scored?

Let’s look at the basics first. The multiple-choice section counts for 45 percent of your total score, and the essay section counts for 55 percent. Next comes a four-part calculation: the raw scoring of the multiple-choice section, the raw scoring of the essay section, the calculation of the composite score, and the conversion of the composite score into the AP grade of 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1.

How is the multiple-choice section scored?

The scan sheet with your answers is run through a computer that counts the numbers of correct answers. Questions left blank and questions answered incorrectly are treated the same and get no points. There is no longer a “guessing penalty,” which until the 2011 AP test, involved the deduction of a fraction of a point for answering a question but getting it wrong.

How is my essay section scored?

Each of your essays is read by a different, trained AP reader called a faculty consultant. The AP/College Board people have developed a highly successful training program for its readers. This factor, together with many opportunities for checks and double checks of essays, ensures a fair and equitable reading of each essay.

The scoring guides are carefully developed by a chief faculty consultant, a question leader, table leaders, and content experts. All faculty consultants are then trained to read and score just one essay question on the exam. They actually become experts in that one essay question. No one knows the identity of any writer. The identifi cation numbers and names are covered, and the exam booklets are randomly distributed to the readers in packets of 25 randomly chosen essays. Table leaders and the question leader review samples of each reader’s scores to ensure that quality standards are consistent.

Each essay is scored as 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1, plus 0, with 9 the highest possible score. Once your essay is given a number from 9 to 1, the next set of calculations is completed. Here, if there are 27 possible points divided into 55 percent of the total possible score, each point awarded is given a value of 3.055. The formula looks something like this:

(pts. × 3.055) + (pts. × 3.055) + (pts. × 3.055) = essay raw score

       Essay 1              Essay 2             Essay 3

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