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Should You Take AP English Literature Or AP English Language?

Apr 5, 2023

There is much confusion among students in their high schools regarding the choice between AP Literature and AP Language. So, is AP lit hard? Or is AP lang hard? What is the difference between these two? Let’s start comparing AP lang vs AP lit.

What is AP literature? 

Critical analysis of complicated fictional texts is an important part of this course. It is generally an in-depth analysis of texts, including poetry, prose, and drama.

  •  You will assess fiction and other works from diverse historical and cultural periods. 
  • This course focuses on the analysis of literary works and the ability to explain your opinions in writing.

What is AP language?

Analyzing nonfiction texts and creating evidence-based arguments will hone your critical reading and writing abilities in the AP lang course. If you don’t know who that is, you probably will after taking AP Language!

  • Rhetorical analysis (the study of how humans utilize tactics and words to achieve a given goal) is a key topic. 
  • This enables students to comprehend the writer’s intent, the reader’s expectations, and the overlapping themes.

Which is hard, AP lang vs AP lit?

In some colleges, AP lang is taken in junior year, and AP lit is taken in senior year. But in others, there is a choice in your senior year to choose between AP lang and AP lit. We can’t solely say that AP lit is hard or AP lang is hard. Both courses have their difficulties. It depends on your weakness and strength to do well in one of them. So let’s dive into which one to choose according to your strengths.

  • AP English tests for both AP lit and AP lang are similar. They both assess reading comprehension and literary analysis. And they both demand you to read complicated documents rapidly and comprehend them. The second part of both exams is an essay, so you must write fast. There are three long essays in two hours. You have to articulate the essays creatively within the time frame.
  • AP English lang tests essay consists of Synthesis, Rhetorical Analysis, and Open-Ended Argument Essay, while the AP English lit test essay section contains Poetry, Prose, and Thematic Analysis Essay.
  • The syllabus for AP language is huge. It has more extensive topics than AP lit since it contains non-fictional text analysis, including news, memoirs, essays, comics, journals, letters, biographies, speeches, and criticism. So you have to make more extensive comparisons and arguments of complicated texts.
  • English literature, American literature, plays, poetry, and satire are all in AP literature. This requires deeper learning and extensive text analysis. Because you not only have to read the books thoroughly but also have to prepare in advance and know the story’s context, theme, and tone. Rather than examining their arguments, students will use literary tools to determine the themes or purposes of the works.
  • AP lang is widely applicable to other subjects. For example, if you want to study political science, sociology, or economics at university, the skills you develop in AP Language will be readily valuable. On the other hand, suppose you are interested in scientific sciences or engineering. In that case, AP lang is also a smart choice because learning to deconstruct arguments and reading nonfiction literature may be more useful in these subjects than selecting poetry and literary works.
  • Since AP lit is based on fictional texts such as novels and poetry, you need more extensive reading than AP lang. AP Lang is more technical and nonfiction based, so it has shorter reading intensity. While AP lang is about traveling on the ocean surface, AP lit measures the ocean’s depth.

The Game Of Score

Understanding the rates of achieving a four or a five on the AP English test is critical. Everyone wants to earn the highest possible score within their abilities, and the percentage of test-takers who get a 5 is a significant indicator. It reflects the subject’s exam difficulty and scoring norms. AP English lang and AP English lit are your hardest exams. As a result, the passing percentage is very low. 

  • AP English Literature Test:

There are 55 multiple-choice questions in all. Section 1 lasts for one hour.


Three questions are provided as free resources. Section 2 lasts for two hours.

Students compose essays in response to three free-response topics.

  • AP English Language Test:

There are 45 multiple-choice questions in all. Section 1 lasts for one hour.

Three questions are provided as free resources. Section 2 lasts 2 hours and 15 minutes. The student has been given 15 minutes to read.

  • Only 57.2% of students who took AP English lang tests received a “passing” score of 3 or above. On the other hand, just 47.3% of students scored a three or better on the AP English lit test.

The AP English test is challenging for both tests containing multiple sections, reading, writing, and comprehensive analysis.

The Game Of Choice

Now, the question arises which one to choose?


The choice is purely based upon your choice of interest. Because as you saw, both tests are hard to score. 

  • If you enjoy reading, take AP Literature; if you enjoy writing, take AP English. Both courses include reading and writing; the difference is that each course focuses on a different topic. One concentrates on reading more, while the other concentrates on writing more.
  • If you want to study engineering, AP Language is the ideal option since it requires less intensive reading, which allows you to devote more time to Math and Science. On the other hand, if you choose to major in Humanities, AP Literature will provide you with a good foundation.
  • If you enjoy reading fiction, take AP English Literature; otherwise, choose AP English Language.
  • If you have debate experience, AP Language is for you. On the other hand, if you’re a poet at heart, AP Literature is for you since it demands you to read and analyze poems.

Neither course is easy or difficult. You only need to assess your area of interest, and you will be able to excel in it. As a result, take your time determining which course interests you and make your decision appropriately.


Are you still dubious about AP lang vs AP lit?

  • Many students find the last inquiry on the AP Literature test particularly difficult. This is because the AP Literature test does not provide pertinent quotes or summaries of the books you can write about for the final prompt. This implies you’ll need to know at least a few novels and be able to write on them without having the books with you when you take the test. 
  • In contrast, the AP Language test supplies most of the evaluation materials. (You should, however, be familiar with rhetorical devices!) Only one essay requires you to explore outside sources, but it does not specify which books you must read and instead permits you to draw on your own experience.
  • If you can’t pick, see if you can take both classes. Colleges want to know that you are pursuing a challenging course load depending on your school’s offerings. That might mean taking both AP English courses, but if doing so means preceding other AP subjects or an extracurricular, taking just one is sufficient.

You might have found AP lang to be an easier choice and better for my future career paths as it has its application in more expansive areas. But on the other hand, literature was more difficult because you might need to know a few works and plays inside and out to prepare for the AP test’s free-response portion. 


AP lang and AP lit are challenging courses, and the AP English test is hard for both. But the bottom line is your choice of interest, whether you like fiction or nonfiction, reading or writing. Because the major difference between these two is the type of content or knowledge they provide. They both will improve your reading and writing skills, but one can hone your reading skills better while the other can improve your writing skills more. So, think carefully and choose wisely. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which one to choose, AP lang vs AP lit?

A. One may prefer AP lang over AP lit. Because AP lit requires more in-depth knowledge and extensive reading, while AP lang has a wider variety of applications and can be helpful in the future, it can hone your writing skills more.

2. Which AP English test is more difficult?

A. The AP English tests are equally difficult, but for AP lit, you have to read many books and do deep learning for all of them. Therefore, it requires more time and patience. On the other hand, while AP lang needs less reading, the writing part is equal for both.

3. Is AP lit more difficult than AP Lang?

A. You can’t say that AP lit is more complex than AP lang because both provide you with the same skills. And the difficulty level purely depends on your choice of interest. For example, it might be a good choice for someone who likes fiction, but AP lang is easy for nonfiction lovers.

AP English Literature


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