AP English Language Tips and Test Taking Strategies

By April 10, 2019 April 18th, 2019 High School Study Tips
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Throughout this post, we’re going to look at AP English Language tips and test-taking strategies to help you get that 5 on your test. We’ll look at each of the different sections, including multiple choice, analysis, synthesis, and persuasive or argumentative essays. These AP English Language last minute tips will hopefully help you along the way to getting the score you want.

This test is different from the AP English Literature and Composition test, so make sure that you’re choosing the right one to start your studying. You want to make sure that you are studying the right topics with this test focusing on analysis, vocab, grammar and the like.

Overall, this type of test is going to focus on the necessary information related to how to survive AP lang and whether you fully understand it. This is then used by colleges to determine whether or not you will receive college credit for already taking the courses.

Each of these tests is supplied by College Board, and qualified proctors grade the results. Students who take the test must achieve different scores to receive credit from the institution of their choice. Most schools will require either a 4 or a 5 in order to receive exemption and may have separate requirements to receive credit.

Hopefully, these AP English Language tips and test-taking strategies are going to make it easier for you to get the score you want and make sure you get the waiver you’re looking for. We’ll take a look at different methods that have been used by AP English Language students and see what’s worked to help them get a 5.

Looking for the best AP English Language review books? Check out our guide here.

AP English Language General Study TipsGeneral How to Study for AP English Language Tips

The AP English Language test is a total of 3 hours and 15 minutes. This includes 2 separate sections, with a multiple choice section that consists of a 1-hour block of time and an essay section which consists of 2 hours and 15 minutes. We’ll start by taking a look at some of the more general AP English Language tips when it comes to this test, so you can make sure that you’re prepared overall for what this test will require.

  1. Read a lot. In order to learn everything that you need to know about this test, you’re going to need to read a lot. Reading is going to make it easier for you to read through the passages that will appear throughout the exam and also to answer any of the questions because you’ll be better and developing an understanding of what the author is saying. This also helps you with understanding vocab.
  2. Practice College Board test questions. College Board is the ones that actually create the AP English Language test in the first place, which means they know pretty well what it takes to get a good grade. They also know exactly what the questions are going to look like so taking the time to go through some of their test questions are going to make it a whole lot easier for you to understand what your actual test is going to look like.
  3. Read sample responses. Just like you want to study some of the questions that you might find, you also want to make sure that you study the responses. The ones that you can find on College Board are also going to make sure that you know what scores well and you have an inside track on how you can make all of your answers fit the criteria that they’re watching for.
  4. Make flashcards with vocab to study. Vocab is extremely important so making flashcards that you can keep with you at any time and study is going to be important. It’s also a super simple process. The cards are primarily going to be about memorization, which can be a lot simpler than trying to understand complex strategies. Of course, you’ll need to learn those too, but this is a good starting point.

AP English Language Multiple-Choice TipsAP English Language Multiple-Choice Tips

The multiple choice portion of the test consists of 50-55 questions which are related to approximately 4-5 passages of text. You get a total of 1 hour to take this portion, which means a little over 1 minute per question and it’s going to count for a total of 45% of your overall score. That means it’s the highest percentage and it’s an area you should evaluate carefully, especially as there’s no specific subject matter for you to prepare. Take a look at these AP English Language MC tips.

  1. Find the best answer, not just the right one. When you read through the answers to a question, it’s possible that more than one of the answers will actually fit the question. Your job is to find the answer that best fits the question. This may mean taking a closer look at the answers and the question before you choose the one that seems to work best.
  2. Read to understand the passages. Make sure that you actually fully understand the passage that you’re looking at. If you don’t understand it, you need to read through it again and try to be more careful. If you don’t understand the passage, you’re not going to be able to answer the questions accurately, and this will affect your score for the multiple choice section.
  3. Look for a purpose or claim from the writer. In many of the passages that you read you’re going to be required to look for the purpose of the passage or the claim that the writer is making. Whether this is accurate or not, factual or not or anything else, this is the purpose of the passage itself, and that’s the only thing that matters. Make sure you pay attention to what the writer is trying to get across.
  4. Use annotations as you read to prepare for the questions. While you’re reading through the passage, you should be making annotations that reflect the key points or specific things that seem important. If you want more tips like this, you can also check out this video to find out even more about some of the tips and techniques that are out there.
  5. Read the description at the top of the passage to get more context. The description that’s given at the top of the passage is going to provide you with a little more information about what the passage is about. It could tell you who wrote it, what piece of work it came from, where it’s taking place or anything else that can give you a bit more foundation about what you’re reading and what you should expect to find when you do.
  6. There are 4 different types of questions. These are, analytical, factual, inferential, technical. Each type of question is going to require a slightly different type of answer, so you want to make sure that you’re reading the question carefully and looking for any keywords that might tell you what type of question it is.
  7. Pace yourself on each of the passages and questions. Our best AP English Language and composition multiple choice tips are these. You are only going to get a set amount of time to finish the entire series of multiple choice questions. On average, it’s only 1 minute per question, so try to balance your time as close to that number as possible. Some questions may be easy, and some may take a little more time. If you find you’re getting close to the end of the time limit and you have a lot of questions to answer it’s time to start hurrying a little more.
  8. Locate the pre-1900 passage first and save it for last. This is the hardest set of questions usually so you should save it to make sure you have time to answer more questions. It plays right into your AP lang multiple choice strategies. All of the questions give you the same number of points, so if you can get twice as many of the other questions done as you would in this section during the same amount of time you’re already going to be ahead of the game.
  9. Answer all of the questions in three phases. The first thing you should do is look for any questions that you know. These are the ones you want to answer first because they take the least amount of time. From there, start eliminating incorrect answer choices from the questions that you don’t know immediately. Once you’ve done that if you still aren’t sure what the answer is, make an educated guess based on the remaining answers.
  10. If you run out of time find the shortest questions first. Look for specific line questions as well as those that are self-contained and don’t reference anything. These three types of questions are going to be the easiest ones for you to answer in a short amount of time. You can quickly read the question, find the answer and fill in the bubble, so you can move on to the next question. Work your way up to the harder questions if there’s time left.
  11. Stick with 1 letter response for any questions you don’t have time to answer. If you don’t have any time to answer all the questions just fill in a single answer bubble for all of them. Picking random answers very rarely allows you to get lucky. If you pick just one letter, usually either B or C and fill in all the answers you don’t know with it you will have a higher chance of getting more of those questions right.
  12. Write a quick summary (a sentence) for each paragraph as you read. As you read each passage, try to sum up the paragraphs with a single sentence in the margins. This makes it easier for you to go back when you’re looking at the questions and see what the answers are or to better understand where you might find the answer. If one passage talks about the subject of the question your summary will tell you where to look.
  13. Write a larger summary (a couple of sentences) for the passage when you’re done reading. When you’re finished reading the entire passage write down a couple of sentences that will sum up the entire thing. This will help you with any questions that want to know more about the main point of the passage or what to know what the author’s intent was. You’ll have a general idea already laid out and ready to go.
  14. Read the questions first. Reading the questions first means that you already know what you’re looking for when you start working your way through the passage. It means you’ll be able to more easily and more accurately pick out the information that you need and you may be able to get through that section of the test more quickly. That’s definitely going to be an important point when it comes to balancing out your time and making sure that you’re able to answer all of the questions in the time allowed.
  15. The answer is always in the text. Focus on what the passage says, not what you think it means. It’s easy to get caught up in what you think the author is trying to say or how you think they’re trying to express something. Instead, focus on what the question asks and then on exactly what the passage tells you. The answer is in there, so if it seems like you can’t find it, you may be reading either the passage or the question incorrectly.
  16. Incorrect answers do not count against you. There is absolutely no penalty for guessing. That means you should never leave a single answer bubble blank. Even if you have absolutely no idea what answer it is you will have a 25% chance of getting it right. If you decide not to fill in something because you’re not sure you have a 100% chance of getting it wrong. Why would you want to risk that?

AP English Language Essay Questions TipsAP English Language Essay Questions Tips

There are a number of AP English Language tips and test-taking strategies that you should know all about when it comes to all of the essay questions. These tips will help you understand some of the facts that go into the entire section, which you’re going to have 2 hours and 15 minutes to take in total. You’ll want to make sure you pay close attention to how each section requires you to look at the passages you’re provided on and how to write AP lang essays.

  1. Practice essay question types. The first thing you should do is to make sure you’re practicing each of the different types of essays. You should know how to analyze, synthesize and argue based on various passages, both fiction and non-fiction. You should be able to take any source of information that you’re provided and write a cohesive and well-defended argument on one side or the other.
  2. 5 paragraph structure is not required. While you do have to pay attention to some of the underlying factors of the English language, like sentence structure, grammar, and spelling, you do not have to pay attention to the standard 5 paragraph structure that is most common for essays. You can write things out in any organizational structure that you want, and you can write fewer paragraphs as well.
  3. All essays are considered drafts. The people grading your test consider these essays as drafts. What that means is they expect that there may be additions made throughout and that words may be crossed out or rewritten. They also expect that things may not be in the exact right order. This is important because it means you don’t need to worry about outlining and then trying to write your essay in too formal a manner.
  4. Showcase evidence of thought and control of the English language. The primary goal of this type of essay is for you to exhibit that you know what you’re talking about. You should be able to express that you fully understand what you read and that you also have a good knowledge and basis of the English language. From there, your essay should adequately reflect the prompt that you’ve been given.
  5. Address counterarguments as well. Make sure to address a counterargument or a couple of them through the course of your essay. You can defend your point in reflection of these counterarguments, and you can use them as concessions as well, but they help to show how you have analyzed the information.

AP English Language Literary Analysis TipsAP English Language Literary Analysis Tips

The literary analysis or rhetorical analysis portion of your AP English Language test is going to be a complex one because it requires you to analyze everything about a specific passage to figure out the purpose according to the author. This essay requires you to really explore what the author says and what they mean in the context of the passage that you’re looking at. It can be complicated, but it should take approximately 40 minutes to write this essay with these AP English Language rhetorical analysis essay tips.

  1. Must know literary vocab. You should know a great deal of literary vocab. This includes things like antecedents, hyperbole and sentence structure. These terms are going to help you create a better AP lang rhetorical analysis of the material that you’re given and will allow you to showcase that you know what you’re talking about and what you’re actually reading. You must exhibit full knowledge of these words.
  2. Usually nonfiction. The piece that you get will usually be non-fiction, but that’s not always the case. You should be prepared for different types of works, and you would be better off preparing by studying both fiction and non-fiction pieces for this type of analysis. You’ll likely find samples of both forms by looking at some of the best websites for study questions, including College Board.
  3. Analyze the author’s work. Generally, you’re going to be required to analyze the work that the author has written for structure, purpose, and style using rhetorical strategies. You should know how to accurately locate each of these elements and express them to someone else. The person grading your test should be able to tell that you fully understand what the author is saying and what they meant to convey through the piece.
  4. Use textual evidence. Use information directly from the piece in order to back up your analysis. You can use quotes, specific words and phrases and more, just make sure that you reference the passage and that fact that you are quoting from it during your response.

AP English Language Synthesis TipsAP English Language Synthesis Tips

In this portion of the test, you’re going to be given 6-7 different passages to read, which could include poems, quotes, passages, images and more. At least one of the documents is going to be an image of some type. You will then be required to use at least half of those documents to synthesize the information you’re given into an answer to the prompt. This portion of the test is recommended to be 40 minutes as well, plus 15 minutes for reading the text. Make sure you review these AP English Language synthesis essay tips too.

  1. Given documents that you must use. For this section, you’re going to be given the specific documents that you’re required to use. There may be several documents provided, and you will be told how many you need to reference when you’re writing. Make sure you use the correct number of documents when supporting your point or you will lose points.
  2. Have an argument before you look at documents. Read through the question or prompt that you are given and decide your point of view before you even read the documents. You want to write your essay based on what you know best and use the documents as a background of information to support or defend yourself. If you read the documents first, you could end up struggling to figure out which viewpoint to write from.
  3. Make sure to be persuasive with your argument. Your essay is supposed to be at least somewhat compelling. You are attempting to make a specific point, which means you should be focusing on just how to make that point. You should also be considering and paying close attention to how you can get someone else to agree with your point or at least see where you are coming from.
  4. Annotate the text/documents. While you’re reading, you should be annotating the documents that are provided so you can reference them easily when you start writing. You want to be able to find the most important passages and areas where you can use information. If you already know the point you’re going to make it will be even easier to locate the relevant points as you read the passage.
  5. Use quotes and attribute to them. Using quotes from the text shows that you’ve read it carefully and that you understand it. You should use quotes to back up specific points and make sure you show how that quote really helps you to explain something that you believe backs up the main argument.

AP English Language Argumentative TipsAP English Language Persuasive or Argumentative Tips

The final portion of the essay section is about writing an argumentative essay with AP lang argument prompts. You will be given a single passage, and your responsibility is to take the information and create a point of view. You can choose any side that you want, and you can actually decide to pick neither side as well. Just make sure that you back up your point as well as you can using information from the passage provided. That’s the best advice we have for you in tips for AP English Language argument essay.

  1. Understand the nature of the position taken in the prompt. There will be a specific argument or stance taken when it comes to the prompt you are given. You must understand what that stance is so you can decide how you are going to respond to it or what you’re opinion is going to be when it comes time to write the essay.
  2. Take a stand. Decide what your position is going to be when it comes to writing the essay. You’ll want to read the prompt carefully so you can see what the point of it is and what the topic is overall. It could be something basic or something highly argumentative. Your job is to decide what side of the issue you want to come across on and to write in defense of it.
  3. Clearly and logically support your claim. Make sure that you are clear and logical when you state whatever it is that you want to point out. The person grading your essay should easily be able to figure out what your stance is and they should be able to understand how you reached that stance or why you feel that way based on the information that you provide.
  4. Agree, disagree or qualify. You are allowed to qualify your answer, which means that you can agree with some of the viewpoints of both sides of the issue. You are not required to choose to either agree or disagree. Just make sure that you are clear about your points and about which areas you agree with and which ones you don’t to make your stance clear. This is one of the best AP lang argument essay tips.

AP English Language Test Day TipsAP English Language Test Day Tips

If you need some last minute AP English Language and composition writing tips, here goes. When it comes to the day of the test you have to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and preparing to the best of your ability. This is going to be an extremely important day and all the AP English Language tips, and test-taking strategies in the world aren’t going to help you if you don’t know how to prepare on that very last day. These tips are going to make it easier for you to be at your best and make sure you can perform well.

  1. Eat a good meal. Eating a good meal is crucial because it’s going to keep you full and better focused. If you’re hungry, you may struggle to pay attention to the questions or the passages, or you may be slowed down. This could lead to you not finishing the test in time or making mistakes that you wouldn’t otherwise.
  2. Don’t study. It may seem strange to not study the day before and the day of the test, but this is extremely important. Cramming right before a test can actually make it more difficult for you to remember the things that you’re supposed to know. Whatever you know going into things the day before is going to be all you know at the end. So don’t try to cram at the end.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep. Getting plenty of rest is going to be a lot like eating right. You want to be rested and refreshed to make sure you can perform at your best. If you’re tired you might struggle to remember things that you knew and you might have difficulty finishing the test in time. Sleeping for at least 8 hours the night before the test can definitely help you feel better prepared going in.
  4. Bring everything you need. Make sure you know everything that you are expected to bring and make sure you have it with you. You will likely need your own writing utensils (and you should know what kind are approved) and you will likely need some type of identification. Make sure you have a complete list of everything that’s required and that you bring only the items that are on the approved list. Bringing other items may mean you are disqualified or not allowed to take the test, and not having the right items may mean you’re not prepared to take the test.
  5. Know when and where to be. You should make sure you know exactly what building and what room your test is in long before the test day comes, but make sure that you verify this information in the days leading up to the test. Locations can sometimes be changed last minute, for just about any reason. You don’t want to show up at the wrong place. Plus, make sure you know when the test starts and try to get there as soon as the doors open. This makes sure you aren’t late and don’t miss your chance.

AP English Language Review Videos and ResourcesRecommended AP English Language Review Videos and Resources

You want to know how to pass an English language exam, and these resources are going to make it even easier for you to practice because they provide you with the information you need to know as well as examples of what the test itself is going to look like. You can take as many practice tests as you want too, so you’ll know how to pace yourself and more come test day.

  1. College Board practice tests and questions. College Board is responsible for the test itself, which means they’re the ones who know the most about what you need to know. By taking a look at their practice tests and questions you’re going to have the best AP English Language tips and test-taking strategies that you possibly could. Not only that, but you’re going to be able to get an inside look at what your test may look like.
  2. Find the right AP English Language review books. If you’re looking for the right material to study then you definitely want to make sure you have the right study books. There are plenty of them out there, so make sure you know which ones you need.

Hopefully, these 45 tips are going to make it a lot easier for you to figure out how to prepare for the AP English Language exam. These AP English Language tips and test-taking strategies should tell you what is most important and how you can get a better grade. Things like reading the questions first, making sure you understand the question and the passage before choosing an answer and using the right references are extremely important and make sure that you don’t lose points for a silly mistake.

If you’re still looking for the best AP English Language review books, check out our comprehensive guide on that here.


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