Is AP English Language easy or hard? We reveal the AP English difficulty rating, based on a unique combination of 2021 pass rate data, and 2,627 class reviews from real AP alumnae collected by r/APStudents.
Is AP English Language Easy Or Hard?
AP English Language and Composition is considered moderate difficulty, with class alumnae rating it 5.1/10 for overall difficulty (the 15th-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed).
The pass rate is slightly lower than other AP classes, with 57% graduating with a 3 or higher.
AP English is extremely widely-taken (476,735 entries last year), and 93% would recommend the class.
Alumnae reviewers found the course enjoyable, and reviews focus on course difficulty, the time and work required, and the importance of a good base of knowledge and regular exam practice.
You can see how AP Lang compares to other classes for difficulty in the below chart:
We’ve highlighted AP English Language and related English classes (English Literature) only – to see the full version of this chart, check out our article ranking ALL the AP classes from easy to hard.
You can read more about AP English Literature here.
How Difficult Is AP English – As Rated By Class Alumnae
AP English Language is considered moderate difficulty, with class alumnae rating it 5.1/10 for overall difficulty, making it the 15th-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed.
What Is the AP Lang Pass Rate 2021?
The AP English Language 2021 pass rate was 57%, slightly lower than the all-AP-classes average.
The largest percentage of candidates (31%) received a 2, and only 8% of students attained 5 – less than half of the all-AP average.
AP English Language Pass Rate / Score Distribution Over Time: 2021, 2020, 2019…
The AP English score distribution has varied slightly over the past 5 years of exams. 2020 saw a notably improved pass rate of 62%, 5% higher than the 2021 pass rate.
Is AP English Language Time Consuming To Study: As Rated By AP Lang Alumnae
AP English is rated as moderately time-intensive relative to other AP classes.
A survey of AP alumnae asked for a rating out of 10 for time needed to study each class, with 1 = least time needed, 10 = most time. The average rating for AP English Language was 5/10 (vs the average across all AP classes of 5.3/10).
Is AP English Easy or Hard To Self-Study
AP English Language is rated as quite easy to self-study relative to other AP classes.
A survey of AP alumnae asked for a rating out of 10 for how easy each class is to self study, with 1 = easiest to self study, 10 = hardest to self study. The average rating for AP English Language was 4.3/10 (vs the average across all AP classes of 5.7/10).
How Hard Is AP English Language: 148 Real AP Lang Alumnae Share Their Experiences
If you’re looking forward to taking AP English, it’s important to take both the positive and negative feedback in context. There are multiple factors that could contribute to a great or poor experience of the class, such as your teacher and your personal preferences as a learner.
An impressive 93% of AP English Language alumnae would recommend the class.
The majority of reviews focus on the difficulty of the class, the importance of background knowledge and understanding the exam, and recommend regular exam practice.
1. Many students found AP English tough …
“The course is very tough, but you can manage if you put in the time and effort necessary. Also, read your class books, do your homework, and review the literary terms.” – AP English Language Score: 3
“Don’t give up, it won’t be fun but it will come easier in the long run” – AP English Language Score: 4
“The exam was surprisingly hard time wise. Read fast and effectively. Get really good at writing essays.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“I struggled with Ap lang mostly because i was coming straight out of an english 10 class and thrown into an ap english class for the first time, its really hard to review your own work when you dont know what to do in the first place, if youre gonna do what i did, find someone who can help you on the side, preferably someone who has already passed the exam.” – AP English Language Score: 3
2. … however other students found the course easy and enjoyable
“Best class I’ve ever taken. Take it if you’re on the fence.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“It’s ridiculously easy and would be really easy to self study. I highly recommend this course to anyone with at least a B average in English.” – AP English Score: 5
“If you’re a decent writer, you’ll do fine in here. The class was an easy A, but the exam is pretty challenging, especially the multiple choice part.” – AP English Language Score: 3
“One of the easiest classes I’ve ever taken. I love reading, but I didn’t even have to read most of the books in class. I didn’t read As I Lay Dying but made a 94 on the test. Absolutely no work outside of class required. All you have to do is not suck at writing. Take it!!” – AP English Language Score: 5
“Probably the easiest class I have ever taken, if you know how to properly justify claims and arguments, you’ll be fine. The multiple choice is the easiest thing ever. Don’t sweat this class.” – AP English Score: 5
“It’s easy if you try, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Look at the resources on YouTube. Take notes. Practice on former exam tests. Have an adult or professional look at your practice essays. Then, review your answers and essays to improve yourself. You can do this.” – AP English Language Score: 4
3. Students found there to be a lot of work, skill and time needed (but it’s worthwhile!)
“Be ready to write and read a lot, but it’s a very enjoyable class.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“Contingent on good writing skill from years of good teachers… if your school prepares you for it, and you are capable of introspective thought and abstract thinking — you will get a 5.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“My class did 30 in-class essays (one esssy per week, alternating between the 3 types). This was crucial to improving my writing and I was able to score consistent 8s on my essays second semester. My teacher gave out prompts that she was very experienced with, so she could accurately grade our essays. If you do enough practice then this class is a breeze. Only had to read a few books and do other minor assignments.” – AP English Score: 4
“Expect to be pretty bad at essay writing in the beginning. This class improves your writing skills by a lot and gets you used to writing at a college level and actually answering prompts. Even though it’s one of the hardest AP classes I’ve taken, I’d still recommend it to any prospective student because the skills it teaches are incredibly valuable for writing college essays and/or scholarship essays.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“It was so much work annotating and writing a million essays, but this class gives you important life skills to analyze the world around you from a different perspective. Even if you don’t plan on doing English or humanities in college, this class is really worth taking if you have a good teacher who is passionate about rhetoric.” – AP English Language Score: 4
4. Having a good base of knowledge is very helpful
“Be familiar with history, current events, and popular speeches, essays, novels, etc. for your essays. Also be good with analyzing for figurative language.” – AP English Language Score: 4
“Write as if you are an expert in rhetoric, as if you know the author’s purpose for every letter and period.” – AP English Language Score: 4
“Time management, study rhetorical devices, work on diction and syntax for the essays, be able to truly develop examples for the essays, and use lots of “purpose words”.” – AP English Score: 4
“I spent most of my studying time trying to memorize rhetorical devices for the analysis essay, everything else feels pretty straightforward.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“Make sure you understand how to analyze rather than simple comprehension, also the rhetoric was easily the most difficult so brush up on literary devices” – AP English Language Score: 4
“Try to have a lot of background information, on modern history, current events, and varying opinions, as well as in literature.” – AP English Language Score: 5
5. Students found that understanding the exam requirements was important for success
“I think the best way to pass the exam is by learning the optimal format for writing the three essays. This format can depend on the person but will probably come from your teacher. At that point it really relies on whether or not you can write at a college level on test day. For multiple choice I found that practicing on older tests is a good way to dictate what types of questions you’ll see on the test.” – AP English Score: 3
“Our teacher was very good. We wrote essays once or twice a week, which sounds daunting but it gets a lot easier as time goes on. The test is skills-based, so what you know you know, and what you don’t you don’t. Think outside of yourself.” – AP English Language Score: 4
“Make sure to know what they are looking for in each of the essays. Thoroughly review the literary terms/devices that will be asked of you in the analysis essay. Make sure to improve and perfect your writing skills according to the requirements. I honestly thought I would’ve gotten a 2, if I hadn’t practiced so much in the class.” – AP English Language Score: 3
“Don’t spend more time on a multiple-choice question than you should be spending. The time gets eaten up fast. If you are on the brink of time and still have some questions left, try to answer the easy ones about word meanings or whatever and fill in an answer bubble for the rest before time runs out.” – AP English Score: 3
“Write passionate/emotion driven essays for the free response, not something clinical. Graders prefer if you have a personality behind your essay.” – AP English Language Score: 5
What Does It Take To Succeed: How To Study For The AP English Exam
What is AP English Language? Course Outline & Requirements
According to College Board:
“The AP English Language and Composition course focuses on the development and revision of evidence-based analytic and argumentative writing, the rhetorical analysis of nonfiction texts, and the decisions writers make as they compose and revise.”
There are no prerequisites for AP English. Students are expected to comprehend college-level texts. The course focuses on non-fiction texts.
You will develop skills in:
- Explaining writers’ choices for rhetorical situations
- Addressing rhetorical situations
- Identifying the claims and evidence of arguments
- Analyzing evidence to develop and refine claims
- Describing the reasoning, organization and development of arguments
- Explaining how stylistic choices contribute to arguments
- Using composition, organization and reasoning in your own arguments
The exam consists of one 3 hour 15 minute exam, with 45% (60 minutes) of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and 56% (2 hours 15 minutes) for three free-response questions (synthesis, rhetorical analysis and argument).
For more details, see: College Board’s AP English Language course page.
Examiners’ Reviews: Takeaways From AP English Language Test Assessors
College Board released the following official comments about the 2021 exam results:
- “AP English Language students proved especially adept at Skill 3, Reasoning and Organization, which requires students to understand the development of an author’s argument. A stellar 35% of students were able to answer virtually all of these multiple-choice questions correctly.”
- “The most challenging skill for AP English Language students was Skill 4, Style. Questions ask students to recognize the stylistic choices an author makes and how they contribute to an argument. About 8% of students were able to answer all or most of these multiple-choice questions correctly.”
- “Students scored exceptionally well on the synthesis essay on the place of handwriting instruction in today’s schools: 8% of students achieved perfect scores on it.”
For best results, you may therefore want to consider investing a little extra study time in Skill 4 “Style”.
For more details, see: College Board’s AP English Language 2021 exam results page.
How To (Self) Study AP English: Advice From Class Alumnae
Practicing for the exam is vital for success ..
“Practice multiple choice. The essays are pretty easy as long as you’re a decent writer. Practice multiple choice.” – AP English Language Score: 4
“If you want to do well, I would still sparknote everything, but make sure you read the book to begin with. On the actual test, I would practice by using Khan Academy SAT prep and make sure you are making it through each section with only missing maximum 1-2 questions consistently, **with plenty of time to spare**. The open ended I would just try to learn the general format for each of the three types, and just do the ones you are best at first on the actual test.” – AP English Language Score: 4
“If you are good at ACT Reading and English, you will be set for the multiple choice. If you practice the 3 essay types and know how to adequately answer the prompt and give the scorers what they want, you’ll do well on the essays. – AP English Score: 5
“Practicing truly does help immensely in this case. Writing general arguments and reading through dozens upon dozens of nonfiction prose pieces certainly gets nauseating after a while, but the payoff is astounding.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“I think this course just takes practice – there aren’t new aspects or content to learn like in chemistry or physics. For me it was more learning how to write three essays in 2 hours 15 mins, which took many essays to crunch down my time lol.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“Practice practice practice. Take a couple of practice exams before hand so you know how to pace yourself. Begin paying attention to current events so you have some evidence to choose from for the argumentative essay.” – AP English Language Score: 4
… especially when it comes to the FRQ essays
“Practice essays, they’re easily the most important skill you build in the course. Also learning to read fast and still getting the jist can help.” – AP English Score: 2
“Practice the essays like crazy. Know the format by heart. Have a template or framework for each of the essays so you just have to slot in ideas, and don’t have to worry about the structure as much.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“PRACTICE THE ESSAYS! Seriously, the multiple choice is insanely difficult! Practice, practice, practice the essays so you don’t have to worry much about the multiple choice.” – AP English Language Score: 4
“Be sure to write a ton of practice essays so you can focus on developing good arguments on the exam.’ – AP English Score: 5
“Make sure you practice the essays and stay calm. I rushed through them and it hurt my score. The multiple choice is pretty straightforward” – AP English Language Score: 4
“I think writing practice essays from collegeboards website with help from teachers is way more valuable than barrons. It is nice for practice multiple choice though.” – AP English Language Score: 4
“Practice FRQs LIKE CRAZY. Read the New Yorker and the Atlantic often, and pick up on recurring vocab. Handwrite everything, you need to build that hand muscle in order to survive the exam length. Get a copy of 50 Essays edited by Samuel Cohen if you can.” – AP English Language Score: 4
Overall, success in AP Lit requires dedication and preparation
“You can’t really study for this test aside from learning how to identify the uses and effects of various rhetorical strategies and how to write the three types of essays. Make sure you do as many past FRQs as you can and get them scored as accurately as possible. Pro tip: always try to go for qualifying (it’s like a mid-way stance where you explain the appropriate caveats and concessions to your position) rather than simply defending or challenging in the synthesis and argumentative essays to increase your chances of a higher score.” – AP English Language Score: 5
“Ask people to read your essays. Read the rubric. Read a lot ( doesn’t matter, read at your level and develop faster reading speed and comprehension)” – AP English Score: 4
“Most of the exam itself is analyzing passages; buy a review book and practice with it. If you want to go one step further, do the same thing with whatever you read in this class.’ – AP English Language Score: 4
“This isn’t a test you can easily study for. The best way to study is to read a LOT and have a list of good quality sources (whether it be the news, influential works of lit, local politics…) to pull from. Have a stock list of issues/”worlds” that are very versatile … Basically, find a versatile niche. … The best practice you can get is just by writing a TON of essays. The reason I rated the coursework as being high is because in class, we basically wrote a bunch of essays in short periods of time. Another way to practice is by “world generating” where you pick a “world” (a broad category, like literature, history, or current events) and you try to think of as many individual topics within that to fit a prompt.” – AP English Score: 5
Best books and test prep resources for AP English Language
Only a small minority of students (28%) use a test prep and review textbook to study for AP Lang.
Within that 28%, the most popular textbook for test prep and review for AP English is Princeton Review, used by 45% of students who used a book. It has an average rating of 4.7/5.0 from reviewers on Amazon.com.
Other popular AP English test prep / review books and resources include:
Find out how AP English Language compares to other classes: click here for an overview of all AP Classes ranked by difficulty, from easiest to hardest.
Or check out how other English courses are rated with our analysis of Is AP English Literature Hard?
Wishing you every success in the class!