Is AP English Literature Hard? Is AP English Literature Worth Taking?

4 min readoctober 18, 2021

Samantha Himegarner

Samantha Himegarner

AP English Literature 📚

145 resources
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When choosing courses, one of the most common questions from students would be whether or not a certain class is worth the trouble. It is important not to load up your schedule with multiple overly difficult classes, but to aim for a healthy balance instead. If you’re considering adding AP Lit to your schedule for next year, here is a rundown of what it might mean to register for the class.

What do you do in AP Lit? 🤔

AP Lit, which is short for AP Literature and Composition, teaches students how to deeply analyze literature. The curriculum expects students to be proficient in the analysis of prose, poetry, as well as dramas. Therefore, most of the course focuses on building exam skills, such as reading comprehension and writing literary analysis.

Is AP Lit Hard? 💪

Words like “hard” and “difficult” are subjective, so I can’t give an answer that would be appropriate for everyone. Some people find this exam to be particularly more difficult than others, yes. To best answer this question, let’s look at some data.
Here are the score distributions from previous years, for reference. 📊
2019- 5: 6.2% 4: 15.9% 3: 28% 2: 34.3% 1: 15.6%
2020- 5: 9.3% 4: 17.3% 3: 33.5% 2: 27.7% 1: 12.2%
Between the last two years, the majority of students fell within the 2-3 range. These distributions represent a true bell curve more than other exams may, with fewer and fewer earning top scores of 4s and 5s. Statistically speaking, it is more difficult to earn a 4+ on AP Lit than it would be for AP Lang. 🍵

Is AP Lit Anything Like AP Lang? 📔

Actually, yes! The end goal of both of these courses is to strengthen students’ abilities to communicate their interpretation of a piece of writing. The main difference between the two classes is the focus on fiction and nonfiction.
In AP Lang, the main focus is on nonfiction works, such as essays or speeches, and how the author/speaker uses rhetorical devices to build an argument. AP Lit has that same concept but transferred over to literary fiction; how the author uses literary devices to enhance the plot, setting, character development, etc.

How Much Work is AP Lit? ✍️

This question varies from student to student based on personal experience. While there is no required minimum of books to have read prior to the exam, most students report having read at least 5 full works (including novels and plays) throughout the year in preparation for the exam.
Due to the nature of the course, a lot of the homework will require reading and writing. While it may seem challenging, it is also important to read a variety of works, including diverse origins, authors, and time periods! Also be sure to read plenty of poems, plays, and novels; you’ll likely face all three, so doing so will prepare you!

Hopefully this is not what your stack of homework would actually look like... Image courtesy of Dobie News

Is AP Lit Worth Taking? 😅

That depends on you. Each person’s circumstances are different. One thing to look at is how it may pay off in the long run. Most colleges accept AP scores of 3 or higher in exchange for college credit. Make sure to research the colleges you are interested in attending to see how they may accommodate this score; some will allow students with sufficient scores to opt-out of an entry-level class, others will only give general credit, and each college has its own credit policy regarding the minimum score required to earn said credit.
Top Tip: When considering how AP Lit may benefit you (in regards to college credit), see how the AP Lit credits may compare to AP Lang credits. Again, each school has a vastly different credit policy. Sometimes, AP Lit is more beneficial than AP Lang. Other times, neither allow you to get ahead and will only grant general credits. Consider making a spreadsheet about each potential college's credit policies!

Advice for Incoming AP Lit Students 🗣️

The overwhelming majority of students that have been successful in this course give a piece of simple advice:
“Do The Readings!”
And most of them will note that it is incredibly helpful to annotate as well!
Sites like SparkNotes are great to enhance your understanding, but it should never replace the reading itself. Many an AP Lit student has made this mistake, and we want to make sure you learn and benefit from it.
Another incredibly popular piece of advice was simply to practice writing a lot. These students have noted that asking fellow students and/or teachers for feedback helps as well, as their specific comments can help directly improve your writing.


So, in conclusion, I can’t say conclusively if AP Lit is “hard” or even if it is “worth it”. While most students will agree that this class may not be a walk in the park, it was generally pretty enjoyable, and overall, worth the amount of work that students put into it.
If you go ahead and take the course, here are some guides with tips to succeed!
📝Read: AP English Literature - Best Quizlet Decks
📝Read: AP English Literature - Best Textbooks and Prep Books
📝Read: AP English Literature - Tips to Get a 5
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🧐Exam Review – Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
📝Exam Review - Poetry Analysis Essay
📕Exam Review – Short Fiction FRQ
🎭Unit 3 – Intro to Longer Fiction & Drama
⚔️Unit 4 – Character, Conflict, & Storytelling in Short Fiction
🛠️Unit 6 – Literary Techniques in Longer Works
🏛️Unit 7 – Societal & Historical Context in Short Fiction

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