AP English Language Exam

Can you apply the rhetorical triangle to a piece of writing? Are you able to argue a position? The AP ® English Language and Composition exam tests topics and skills discussed in your Advanced Placement English Language course. If you score high enough, your AP English Language score could earn you college credit!

Check out our AP English Language Guide for what you need to know about the exam:

What’s on the AP English Language & Composition Exam?

The College Board is very detailed in what they require your AP teacher to cover in his or her AP English Language & Composition course. The exam tests your abilities to understand how authors use rhetoric and language to convey their purpose. Students are also expected to apply these techniques to their own writing and research projects. Some of the major skills tested include the ability to:

  • Identify an author’s purpose and intended audience
  • Recognize rhetorical devices and strategies in an author’s work
  • Demonstrate understanding of citations in research papers
  • Apply these skills and techniques to their own writing
  • Create and organize an argument defended with evidence and reasoning
  • Plan, write, and revise cogent, well-written essays

AP English Language Sections & Question Types

The AP English Language & Composition exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long and consists of two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free response section.


Question type

Number of Questions

Section 1

60 minutes

45 multiple choice questions

  • Reading: 2 passages, 23–25 questions
  • Writing: 3 passages, 20–22 questions


Section 2

2 hours and 15 minutes

3 free response questions

  • Synthesis Essay
  • Rhetorical Analysis Essay
  • Argument Essay


Read More: Review for the exam with our  AP English Language Crash Course 


For AP English Language multiple-choice questions, you are presented with two Reading Passages and three Writing passages. The two Reading passages are nonfiction passages taken from all sorts of works. The idea is to get you to focus on rhetorical devices, figures of speech and intended purposes, under rigid time constraints and with material you haven’t seen before. The three Writing passages are student-produced essays. The idea is to get you to revise the essay that help the writer accomplish his or her goal.

Free Response

The AP English Language section contains three essay prompts: a synthesis essay, a rhetorical analysis essay, and an argument essay.

  • Synthesis essay: You’ll be given a scenario and tasked with writing a response using at least three of six or seven short accompanying sources for support.
  • Rhetorical analysis essay: Asks you to analyze the techniques an author uses, and discuss how they contribute to the author’s purpose.
  • Argument essay: Presents a claim or assertion in the prompt and then asks you to argue a position based on your own knowledge, experience, or reading.

How to Interpret AP English Language Scores

AP scores are reported from 1 to 5. Colleges are generally looking for a 4 or 5 on the AP English Language exam, but some may grant AP credit for a 3. Each test is curved so scores vary from year to year. Here’s how AP English Lang students scored on the May 2022 test:



Percentage of Test Takers


Extremely qualified



Well qualified






Possibly qualified



No recommendation


Source: College Board

How can I prepare?

AP classes are great, but for many students they’re not enough! For a thorough review of AP English Language content and strategy, pick the AP prep option that works best for your goals and learning style.

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