Effective Strategies for AP English Literature

Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature and Composition is a rigorous course that prepares students for college-level reading, analysis, and writing. The AP English Literature exam assesses students' ability to analyze literature and express their ideas effectively. To excel in this course and on the exam, it's essential to employ effective strategies. In this article, we'll explore strategies that will help you succeed in AP English Literature.

 1. Read Actively

- Annotate Texts: 

As you read, underline or highlight key passages and write notes in the margins. This helps you engage more deeply with the text and makes it easier to revisit important sections.

- Analyze Characterization: 

Pay close attention to how characters are developed. Consider their motivations, relationships, and how they evolve throughout the text.

- Examine Literary Devices: 

Identify and understand literary devices such as symbolism, foreshadowing, metaphors, and similes. Recognizing these devices enhances your ability to interpret the text.

- Consider Themes: 

Think about the major themes and messages in the text. How do they relate to the characters and the plot?

 2. Practice Writing Essays

- Understand Essay Prompts: 

Familiarize yourself with different types of essay prompts, such as analysis, argument, and synthesis. Practice responding to them with clear and concise thesis statements.

- Use the P.E.E. Method: 

In your essays, make a Point, provide Evidence (quotes from the text), and Explain how the evidence supports your point.

- Practice Timed Writing: 

Time management is crucial for the AP exam. Practice writing essays under timed conditions to improve your efficiency.

- Peer Review: 

Exchange essays with peers and provide constructive feedback. This can help you identify areas for improvement in your writing.

 3. Read Widely

- Read Beyond the Curriculum: 

Don't limit your reading to just the assigned texts. Explore other classic and contemporary literature to broaden your literary knowledge.

- Diverse Genres: 

Read a variety of genres, including novels, poetry, drama, and essays. This will prepare you for the diversity of texts on the AP exam.

- Non-Fiction: 

Don't neglect non-fiction. Reading essays, articles, and speeches can help you understand different rhetorical strategies.

 4. Study Literary Analysis Guides

- Literary Criticism: 

Familiarize yourself with different schools of literary criticism, such as formalism, structuralism, feminism, and post-colonialism. Understanding these approaches can enhance your analytical skills.

- Study Guides: 

Utilize literary analysis guides and textbooks to gain insights into the themes, symbols, and interpretations of classic texts.

- Online Resources: 

There are many online resources and forums where literary scholars and students discuss various interpretations of literary works.

 5. Participate Actively in Class

- Discussion: 

Engage actively in class discussions. Share your interpretations and listen to your classmates' perspectives.

- Ask Questions: 

Don't hesitate to ask questions when you don't understand something. Clarifying your doubts is crucial for deep comprehension.

- Collaboration: 

Collaborate with your peers on group projects, presentations, and literary analysis. Different perspectives can enrich your understanding.

 6. Time Management

- Plan Your Study Time: 

Create a study schedule that allocates time for reading, writing, and reviewing. Avoid cramming and aim for consistent, focused study sessions.

- Manage Essay Timing: 

On the AP exam, you'll have a limited time to write essays. Practice managing your time effectively, ensuring you have enough time for planning, writing, and revising.

- Prioritize: 

Recognize which texts and assignments are the most critical, and allocate your time accordingly.

 7. Practice Multiple-Choice Questions

- AP Practice Exams: 

Access AP practice exams, especially the multiple-choice sections. These questions test your understanding of literary concepts and your ability to analyze passages.

- Close Reading: 

Develop strong close reading skills, which are essential for answering multiple-choice questions.

 8. Self-Assessment

- Self-Scoring:

After completing practice essays or multiple-choice questions, evaluate your work using rubrics or answer keys.

- Reflect: 

Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on improving areas where you struggle.

- Revision: 

Review your essays and look for areas where you can revise and refine your arguments.


Succeeding in AP English Literature requires dedication, active engagement with texts, strong analytical skills, and effective writing. By following these strategies and continuously practicing your reading, analysis, and writing skills, you can excel in the course and perform well on the AP exam. Remember that success in AP English Literature is not only about earning a high score but also about deepening your appreciation for literature and literary analysis.