AP English Literature & Composition Essay Questions

AP English Literature &
Free Response Section
Three essays
Two hours (about 40
minutes each)
Two are “close reading”
One on a prose passage
One on poetry
One is “open”
Topic given
Student chooses a work from
a list or “of comparable
literary merit”
Essay Questions
Each question has an
introductory blurb that helps
set context for the question.
These blurbs offer
important information that
can help the student
It is important to analyze
the question, mark up the
given text, and write a plan
before beginning to write
the essay.
The Close Reading
The first two questions are
usually close reading
questions, one on prose
and one on poetry.
All close reading questions
require students to
(1) identify devices and
techniques of language, and
(2) explain their effect.
Close Reading
Questions (cont.)
Sometimes, wording on the
close reading questions is
broad, without identifying
specific literary or rhetorical
techniques the student
might discuss.
Instead of a list of specific
techniques, directions may
include a phrase as general
as "resources of language"
or "elements of argument."
The Open Question
The open question on the
literature exam requires
recollection and analysis of
a literary work, and, like the
close reading questions,
asks students to balance
two elements:
(1) identification of a specific
idea (e.g., moral ambiguity) or
technique (e.g., social
protest, minor characters) in
one literary work, and
(2) explanation of how that
idea or technique contributes
to the meaning of the work as
a whole.
The Open Question (cont.)
Students are instructed to
select one of the works on
a list or "another novel or
play of comparable literary
Short stories and poetry are
too short.
Films and television are
Most popular fiction lacks
the necessary depth.