Is AP Literature Hard? 

Is AP Lit hard? Well, that is like asking if books are all the same. Just as people see stories differently, Advanced Placement Literature and Composition students have their own challenges. Some find big old books and writing tough, while others enjoy the learning.

This course is a good choice if you are interested in a future or college major related to teaching, reading, creative writing, literature, humanities, etc. Typically, many students take AP Language test and then the AP Literature in their junior and senior years of high school, respectively.

Here is what you will face in this English literature course: you will read many different kinds of books, from old classics to modern stories. Then, you will write essays about them. All these might sound hard, but it is also a chance to think and learn excitingly. AP English Lit is not the same for everyone, but here is the good part: you can get better at it.

So, when you think about this AP exam, remember that it is not just about books; it is about discovering amazing ideas & writing them and sharing your thoughts on imaginary literature (fiction, poetry, drama) from various periods. It might have some tricky parts, but it is a fantastic adventure that you can handle.

The English Literature exam is often regarded as one of the most challenging courses and exams for high school students. This course is designed to push students’ reading, analysis, and critical thinking abilities to their limits.

If you are considering taking AP Literature or are already enrolled in the course, you might wonder, “Is AP Lit hard?” To help you analyze the same, we will explore if it is tricky through the course details and various statistics.

Also, I will give you the tools to handle it. So, whether you are already in the class or thinking about it, don’t worry. You are in for a learning adventure and can do it if this course benefits your college and desired future.

1. What does AP Literature include?

Before diving into the question, is AP Lit hard? Let’s first understand its course and exam. The AP Literature is a part of the College Board’s Advanced Placement program. This program allows high school students to earn college credit by demonstrating mastery of the college’s introductory-level content in various subjects.

About the AP Lit Course

The AP Literature course studies literary works from different time periods and themes. You will read them closely and analyze the writers’ context. While reading, students pay attention to the story’s structure, the author’s style, the main ideas, and how the author uses creative language, vivid descriptions, and symbols.

In addition to reading, students must write different types of essays. These essays could be explanatory, analytical, or persuasive, and they will ask students to study and explain the literature they have read.

As for requirements, there are no specific prerequisites before taking the course. Still, you should be comfortable reading and understanding advanced texts and be able to write sentences that are grammatically correct and make complete sense.

The course content includes a total of 9 units. These 9 units include 3 for Short Fiction, 3 for Poetry, and 3 for Longer Fiction or Drama.

AP Lit Exam & Scoring Pattern

Students must read texts, from classic literature to contemporary works, and analyze them through essays and multiple-choice questions. The exam consists of two primary sections with the respective scoring percentages:

Section I: Multiple Choice ( 55 questions)

45% of the Total Score

In the test, you will find 5 groups of questions. Each group has around 8 to 13 questions in it. These questions are about short pieces from stories, plays, or poems. After each piece, there are several questions with multiple-choice answers.

You will see at least 2 pieces from fiction works (which might also be from drama) and at least 2 from poems.

Under the multiple choice questions, the scoring weightage allotted is  42% – 49% for Short Fiction, 36% – 45% for Poetry, and 15% – 18% for Longer Fiction or Drama.

Section II: Free Response Questions (3 essays)

55% of the Total Score

The multiple-choice section assesses your comprehension of various literary works, including prose, poetry, and drama. It also tests your ability to analyze literary techniques, such as figurative language, structure, and theme.

The free-response section requires you to write three essays (6 points each):

  • A Poetry Analysis Thesis
  • A Prose Fiction Analysis
  • An open-ended essay where you choose a literary work from 40 works to analyze

This challenging exam measures your understanding of literary concepts, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. Scoring well on the AP Literature test can lead to college credit and the opportunity to skip introductory-level college English courses.

2. Is AP Lit Hard? – Analysing from Different Prospectives

Let us go through different aspects to answer the question – is AP Lit hard or not?

What makes AP Literature challenging?

Several factors contribute to the course’s reputation for difficulty:

Complex Texts

AP Literature exposes students to various challenging literary works, often from different time periods and cultures. Analyzing these texts requires a deep understanding of language, themes, and context.

High Expectations

The course expectations are set at a college level. You must read and understand complex texts, write insightful essays, and engage in deep literary analysis.


To excel in this AP test, you must devote much time to reading, studying, and writing. The workload can be demanding.

Critical Thinking

AP Literature emphasizes critical thinking and analysis. You are not just summarizing the text; you are expected to interpret and provide evidence to support your interpretations.

To succeed in the course, you must read and engage with various texts critically. Your reading skills are the foundation for the analysis and writing tasks required in the course. Reading helps you develop a deep understanding of literary techniques and themes.

So, is AP lit hard? The answer is yes because it pushes you to think beyond the surface of a text. You must ask questions about the author’s intentions, the impact of literary devices, and the cultural context.


Writing three essays in a limited time frame can be challenging. The essays require a clear thesis, strong argumentation, and textual evidence.

Depth of Knowledge

The exam assesses your ability to dive deep into texts and extract subtle meanings. This depth of knowledge can be intimidating. Also, it has a challenging course load.

Check out EnthuZiastic AP Courses to learn with the best teachers.

AP Literature Scoring Distribution of Last 5 Years

The table and the chart show the percentage of total students AP scores 1 to 5 ( 5 being the perfect and 1 being the lowest) from 2019 to 2023.

In 2023, 350000+ students appeared for this exam.


Year 5 4 3 2 1 Total Students
2023 15% 28% 34% 14% 9% 356,043
2022 16.60% 27.20% 34% 14.30% 7.90% 339,401
2021 5% 12% 27% 39% 17% 321,029
2020 9.30% 17.30% 33.50% 27.70% 12.20% 333,980
2019 6.20% 15.90% 28% 34.30% 15.60% 380,136


As it is evident, getting a pass rate (3+ Score) shows an increasing trend. The percentage was lower until 2021 but has improved since 2022. Simultaneously, the ratio of getting 2- has reduced.

3+ 2-
2023 77% 23%
2022 77.80% 22.20%
2021 44% 56%
2020 60.10% 39.90%
2019 50.10% 49.90%


To conclude - is AP Lit hard?

The pass rate has increased in recent years, and the number of students appearing for the Advanced Placement Literature exam has also increased. Thus, it is not difficult to pass the exam if you have the right tutor by your side and have covered the entire course properly with the perfect resources. However, if your college and placement requirement is a 4 or a 5, you need to work really hard for the same.

FAQs – Strategies for Success in AP Literature

What are the tips for studying and preparing for the exam?

  • You must work on your reading and critical thinking skills. While reading, underline or highlight key passages, write notes in the margins, and ask questions in the text. This active reading technique helps you engage more deeply with the material.
  • Join or form study groups to discuss the texts. Hearing different perspectives can broaden your understanding and critical thinking.
  • Begin preparing for the course well in advance. You may use a planner or calendar to keep track of reading assignments, essay due dates, and study sessions.

How do you approach different types of literature questions?

  • Get an expert teacher, peers, or a tutor for test prep.
  • Practice Writing analytical essays & variety of texts on your own or in class to improve your ability to express your thoughts clearly and coherently. Study high-scoring sample essays
  • Familiarize yourself with the format of the AP Literature exam by practicing with previous years exams. This practice can help you become more comfortable with the test structure and timing. Also, invest in review books for practice questions, test-taking strategies, and summaries of key literary works.

What are the common challenges, and how do you overcome them?

  • Time management: Practice writing assignments under timed conditions to improve your ability to manage time effectively during the exam.
  • Overcoming writer’s block: It can be difficult, especially with challenging essay prompts. Start by writing anything that comes to mind, and the ideas will flow.
  • Complex works: Some texts may be more challenging to understand. Seek help from your teacher or peers, and read secondary sources for additional context.
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The question, “Is AP Lit hard?” is obvious for the students. It is indeed a challenging course and exam. However, with the right mindset, study strategies, and resources, you can overcome these challenges and thrive in AP Literature. Remember that the skills you develop in this course extend far beyond the classroom and can be applied to various aspects of your own experiences in life. Embrace the challenge and make the most of this valuable educational opportunity.

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