One of the most common questions I am asked on social media is: Should I take AP Lang or AP Lit?
Disclaimer: Both of these courses vary widely based on your grade, school, and especially your teacher. Some teachers prepare students for the exam exceedingly well, and some teachers hardly focus on the exam, even if the course is called “AP Language and Composition” or “AP Literature and Composition.” Therefore, my advice is based on 10+ years of teaching and tutoring these subjects and my knowledge of both exams.
I am going to take you through the pros and cons of both exams, and then we will discuss which class might be the best fit for you.
Pros of AP Lang
AP Lang MCQ: The AP Lang MCQ is very similar to the SAT Reading and SAT Writing MCQ sections. Therefore, if you have prepared for the SAT, you have already, to some extent, also prepared for the AP Lang MCQ. This can save you valuable time during an already busy junior or senior year.
Rhetoric: AP Lang tests your ability to analyze and use rhetoric, AKA persuasion. So, if you are a student who likes argumentation and to discuss current topics, especially historical, political, or social ones, this is a great class for you. You will both excel in the content and enjoy yourself.
Cons of AP Lang
3 Different Essays: This could be seen as a pro or a con, but in my experience with struggling students, it tends to be a con. While each of the essays can absolutely be prepared for, the three essays require slightly different approaches and skills to score a 6/6. Switching between different tasks and skills can be mentally draining and requires more focus. This can be cumbersome for some students and can create difficulties when managing your time.
Time Management: In order for students to perform well on this exam, there is a significant amount of pre-thinking and organization that needs to happen before you start writing your essays. This pre-writing work needs to be fast, it should take no more than 10 minutes. For some students, this is manageable, and for other students, it can be very challenging.
Pros for AP Lit
3 Similar Essays: Unlike AP Lang, one pro of the AP Lit exam is that all three essays require similar skills. Plus, the thesis frames students can use for all three essays are very similar. From my experience tutoring students for both of these exams, this is helpful because when we are preparing for one essay, the skills can easily be transferred to the other two essays as well.
Literary Devices: One positive of the AP Lit exam is that students usually have more experience and familiarity with the devices tested on the exam since they are literary and not rhetorical. Usually, literary devices, at least basic ones, are covered in grades 9 and 10, but rhetorical devices are not. Therefore, students usually have more prior knowledge and don’t have to learn new rhetorical devices for AP Lit.
Cons for AP Lit
Poetry: Poetry analysis is difficult. Period. The MCQ Poetry section and the Poetry Essay can both be very challenging for students. Poetry analysis can be extremely subjective, so most students need to be guided to improve their analysis of poetry so that they can excel on these portions of the exam.
AP Lit MCQ: The AP Lit MCQ is definitely harder than the AP Lang MCQ. This is because it includes poetry and prose passages that are usually very high level and are from a wide range of time periods. From my experience, the AP Lit MCQ is definitely one of the barriers to success for most students preparing for this exam.
TLDR: Should I take AP Lang or AP Lit?
I would suggest taking AP Lang if you have had prior experience preparing for the SAT and you also have prior experience with AP US History or you are taking AP US alongside AP Lang. Also, I would suggest AP Lang if you like discussing different historical, political, and social topics or plan to pursue a Humanities-related major in college, such as Political Science, History, Philosophy, International Relations, etc. If you like learning about argumentation and rhetoric and strengthening your persuasive skills sounds appealing, this is a great class for you. Lastly, if you want to score a 4 or 5, be prepared to commit time to preparing for this exam inside and outside of class. AP Lang Test Tutoring can be very helpful.
I would suggest taking AP Lit if you genuinely enjoy reading and studying literature or if you want to develop your already budding literary analysis skills. If you are a student who enjoys reading and studying poetry, this is also a great course for you. If you are a student who has already taken Honors English or Advanced English classes, then AP Lit is a great next step to gain college credit. Also, if you are a student who wants to pursue an English or Humanities degree in college, then I would highly suggest AP Lit. Lastly, if you want to score a 4 or 5, be prepared to commit time to prepare for this exam inside and outside of class. AP Lit Test Tutoring can be very helpful.