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 45 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.
2021 AP Test Changes Due to COVID-19
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, AP tests will now be held over three different sessions between May and June. Your test dates, and whether or not your tests will be online or on paper, will depend on your school. To learn more about how all of this is going to work and get the latest information on test dates, AP online review, and what these changes means for you, be sure to check out our 2021 AP COVID-19 FAQ article.
A Note on Exam Updates
For the multiple-choice section, there are now only be 45 questions instead of roughly 55. Passages will also be shorter, and there will be a new question type, called "composition questions." They make up roughly half of the questions on multiple choice and test students on their ability to "read like a writer" and properly revise texts. Vocabulary-in-context questions and identification questions no longer appear on the exam. (To learn more about different AP Language question types, check out our guide.)
So what does this mean for you? Unfortunately, it means that pretty much every AP Language practice resource will be somewhat out of date until new practice tests are created. However, that doesn't mean they are no longer valuable resources. Free-response prompts and passages remain the same.
The biggest change is the introduction of new composition multiple-choice questions. The College Board has released some example composition questions (beginning on page 115), and we highly encourage you to study them. Other than that, the major changes you should make are to stop answering multiple-choice questions after 45 questions and skip any vocab-in-context and identification questions you see.
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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. (And again remember that the rubrics for grading these questions have changed, even though the questions themselves haven't.) Earlier tests include two rhetorical analysis questions instead of a synthesis question.
Sample Questions From the "AP Course and Exam Description"
Beginning on page 115, the AP Course and Exam description for AP Language and composition includes 17 multiple-choice questions and three free-response prompts: one synthesis prompt, one analysis prompt, and one argument prompt. As mentioned above, this is the only current source of official practice questions for the new "composition" question type, so make sure to check this resource out!
Put them in your question bank!
Free Unofficial Resources
Outside of the College Board, there are lots 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. (Again, none of the free resources have currently updated to the newest, 2019 version of the test, so the multiple-choice sections especially will be somewhat out of date.)
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.
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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 Albert 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 38-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 extra, very basic rhetorical analysis practice.
Crack AP has a plethora of AP English Language "tests" (that are actually short quizzes), however; we don't recommend them as a resource to use. They're based on outdated versions of the AP exam and don't cover many of the skills you'll actually see on the AP test. Feel free to skip this resource.
Clunky like a retro calculator.
Paid Unofficial Resources
If you need even more practice, there are also paid unofficial practice test resources available.
Albert offers a large number of mini-quizzes on analyzing the rhetoric of various notable nonfiction passages. Some of their questions don't match the tone of actual AP Lang questions, but they are one of the few resources to have practice composition questions already available. You need to create an account to use this resource, and while some questions you can access for free, for others you need a paid subscription.
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 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 about $25 per month, which is rather expensive if you want to do anything but cram a month before the AP.
A monthly plan costs roughly $50 for access to all of Peterson's resources. For AP English Language, they have two practice tests. 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.
You should aim to take your first full-length practice test around the beginning of your second semester. 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 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!
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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.