With the AP English Language and Composition exam coming up, it’s important to find the best practice resources, and that includes practice tests! The AP Language and Composition exam has two sections: a multiple-choice section with 52-55 multiple questions, and a free-response section with three essay questions—one synthesis prompt, one analysis prompt, and one argument prompt.
But not all AP Lang practice tests are like the real exam, and they aren’t all of equal quality. In this guide, I’ll break down where you can find official College Board AP Language and Composition practice test resources, other free resources out there, and paid practice tests and questions. I’ll also break down which resources are high-quality and how to best incorporate AP English practice tests into your exam preparation.
Official Practice Resources
The best practice test resources come from the College Board. This is because they are the ones who create and administer all AP exams, including AP Lang and Comp, so their materials are the closest to the real, actual questions you will be seeing on test day! If you practice with material that’s close to the actual exam, you’ll feel more comfortable when you are actually taking the test. Therefore, when possible, it’s best to use College Board materials. However, it’s worth noting that official resources for AP Language and Composition are a little bit sparse, especially when compared to the AP Literature exam.
There are, in general, three resources that the College Board offers for any given AP exam: complete released exams, released free-response questions from previous years, and sample questions from the “AP Course and Exam Description.”
Complete Released Exams
Unfortunately, the College Board doesn’t appear to have released any official complete AP English Language and Composition practice exams, so I have nothing to link to here. However, you can probably find at least one entire past exam by Googling “AP Language complete released exam” or similar variations on that. Make sure any AP Language and Composition released exams you get this way have answer keys, though!
You might also ask your AP teacher if she has any copies of old AP exams you can use for practice. AP teachers can purchase past exams from the College Board that students don’t have access to. She may not be able to let you take them home, but even then you could be allowed to use them in a supervised setting.
Released Free Response Questions
The College Board has posted years and years worth of past AP Language and Composition free-response questions that are at your disposal for practice purposes. However, only the tests from 2007-onward include the same three question types that are on the test currently. Earlier tests include two rhetorical analysis questions instead of a synthesis question.
Sample Questions From the “AP Course and Exam Description”
The AP Course and Exam description for AP Language and composition includes 50 multiple-choice questions (so, just two questions short of a complete multiple-choice section) and three free-response prompts: one synthesis prompt, one analysis prompt, and one argument prompt. This means that the sample questions from the Course and Exam Description are just two multiple-choice questions shy of being a complete AP English Language and Composition practice exam, so if you want to use it as one you definitely can. In fact, if you can’t find any official tests either from Google or your teacher, I advise it. Otherwise, you can add these College-Board approved questions to your practice bank!
Put them in the bank!
Free Unofficial Resources
Outside of the College Board, there are lots of of sites offering free practice questions for the AP Language and Comp exam. But which ones will actually help you? Since anyone can slap together a few questions and call it an “AP Language and Composition Practice Test,” how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?
I’ve combed through tons of free resources so you don’t have to! Presented in order of quality, from best to worst, here’s my list of all the free AP Language practice tests and quizzes I could find out there.
College Countdown offers a complete unofficial practice test, essays and all. While the exact wording of the multiple-choice questions isn’t exactly the same as on a real AP exam, the tasks are very similar and the passages are well-selected. The essays are solid examples of the AP essay prompt style, although you could also substitute the unofficial free-response section for an official past free-response question if you wanted to make the experience even closer to a real AP. Also, there are robust answer explanations. This is an especially good resource given that there isn’t an official College Board-released exam for this test.
The academic publisher McGraw-Hill offers a 25-question multiple-choice diagnostic quiz for the AP English Language exam. The quiz is nominally 25 questions, but you might actually be able to get more than 25 questions’ worth of practice out of it because every time you open a new test window you get a subset of questions that are randomly selected from a question pool.
This quiz has pretty difficult, well-written multiple-choice questions that actually resemble real AP questions, so it’s a particularly good resource. The passages do open in another window, though, which is a small annoyance.
Learnerator offers a huge number of mini-quizzes on analyzing the rhetoric of various notable nonfiction passages. The questions don’t exactly sound like genuine AP questions—the style is a little more informal and to the point—but they are decent practice for answering questions about rhetorical techniques as applied in a given passage. You can’t access the most difficult questions if you don’t pay, but all of the other question levels are free.
High School Test Prep offers four short practice tests, each offering questions about a given nonfiction passage. The question style is definitely different from that of true AP questions; like the Learnerator questions, they are written in a more stylistically simplistic way. Additionally, the ratio of questions about the passage overall versus specific moments in the passage is weighted much more heavily towards overall passage questions than the real AP exam. However, these are still decent rhetorical analysis practice questions, and this resource is an especially good choice if you find yourself struggling with identifying the major themes and arguments of passages overall.
Varsity Tutors offers very short, skill-specific quizzes. The questions don’t sound all that much like AP questions, and every question asks about a different short passage, which is a little bit bizarre and inefficient. Additionally, not all of the specific skills they offer quizzes in are super-relevant to AP Language (e.g. “Motives and goals of characters”). However, if you feel like there are very specific rhetorical techniques you are confused about, taking some of the quizzes here could be a good study strategy. If you want to track your scores, you can make a free account with Varsity Tutors, but it’s not necessary to be able to access the quizzes.
This site offers a 35-question AP English Language and Composition practice exam. The questions are somewhat overly basic and passages are not particularly similar in style or content to actual AP Language passages, though. Additionally, the interface is a little bit clunky. I would only use these if you desperately need some additional, very basic rhetorical analysis practice.
Clunky like a retro calculator.
Paid Unofficial Resources
If you need even more practice, there are also paid unofficial practice test resources available.
Review books usually contain one or more complete practice tests and are a great resource when you run out of free resources. Not all review books are equally high-quality, though—be sure to look at reviews (and check out the questions by flipping through the book at the bookstore if you can, to see how similar they are to actual AP questions). As a starting place, Barron’s and the Princeton Review both generally offer high-quality AP review books.
Shmoop - Paid Subscription
Shmoop is a test prep subscription service that offers material for a variety of standardized tests, including AP Language and Composition. I can’t advise as to the quality of the material or the questions, though, because the service has an access cost of a dollar a day.
A bundle of two AP Lang and Comp practice tests from this site costs twenty dollars. I couldn’t find much information or reviews as to the quality of the material, though, so this is a bit of a gamble. You’d likely be better off buying a well-reviewed review book with practice tests.
How to Use Practice Resources in Your Exam Prep
How to best use practice resources as you study depends a lot on what kind of practice material you are using. I’ll review how to make the most of different types of resources here.
Complete Practice Exams (Official and Maybe Unofficial)
The best way to use complete practice tests is to do full timed practice-runs for exam day. Bring a clock, a timer, and a hefty supply of pencils into a quiet room and have at it! A practice-run will help you to feel more comfortable when it’s time to take the exam for real in May. If you have access to multiple practice tests, you can even take complete tests at different times in the studying process to see how you’ve improved and what you still need to work on. When you do take practice tests, it can be helpful to get someone else to help grade your free-response essays based on the rubric.
Normally I advise to only use official College Board practice tests for this, but since easily accessible complete official exams for the AP Language and Composition exam are sparse, you may want to supplement with the practice test from College Countdown linked to above.
Official College Board Practice Free Response and Sample Questions
Released free-response questions from past years are best for practicing specifically for the free-response section in a targeted way. You can work on the prompt types that you find the most difficult or practice outlining essays in a certain amount of time, or writing all three essays in 120 minutes.
If you don’t use the Course and Exam Description as a practice test, the multiple choice questions are great targeted practice for the first section of the text. It will help you get familiar with the College Board’s question style and work on your rhetorical close-reading.
Unofficial Practice Quizzes and Questions
Unofficial practice quizzes and questions just aren’t going to be as much like the real AP exam as College Board materials. However, while they aren’t as helpful for prepping for the exam format or question styles, they are still good practice for building your rhetorical analysis skills, which is a critical for the exam. High-quality unofficial resources are definitely worth your time.
Building rhetorical analysis skills: more complicated than building with blocks.
Practice tests are a key AP prep resource. The best resources come from the College Board, but unfortunately, official College Board resources for AP Language and Composition are a little bit sparse as compared to some other AP exams. However, there are also tons of unofficial resources, and some are high-quality. Most are free, but a few are paid.
Once you have your resources assembled, you might not be sure how to use them. Complete practice tests are best for mimicking the experience of the actual exam, sample Official questions are best for targeted section practice, and unofficial practice tests are best for rhetorical analysis skill-building.
You’re ready to practice your way to AP success!
We also have complete practice test lists for AP Literature, AP US History, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Psychology, and AP World History. Or see our guide to finding the best AP practice tests for any exam.
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Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.