How to writing English literature essays and how to write an english literature dissertation introduction and english literature dissertation methodology proposal example
Keys for Success on the AP English Literature and
It was July 1995, after my first year teaching AP English. My son had taken a phone message from
one of my students who was very excited to tell me the results of her exam. He said, “Mom, one of your
students called and said she got a four on some test.” Confused by what appeared to be a very low
score, he then asked, “Is that good?” I smiled. Not good. It is greatOVERVIEW
The Odyssey by Homer is considered the first epic poem. The first English novel is often said to be
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe written in 1719. Walt Whitman, who lived and wrote in the 1800s, is
said to be the father of free verse. There is a long, complex history of world literature, and there is so
much to know. Even college literature professors do not study the entirety of the literary field but instead
specialize in a particular aspect, such as British Romanticism. You are not expected to know it all, either.
How could you?
The AP English Literature and Composition Exam (AP Lit) presents many challenges, and even if you
had read every book ever written, you might not be prepared for what is in store for you. So, knowing that
you can’t study it all, the purpose of this book is to give you the most important keys to success.
In the chapters that follow, you will get content specific help, tips for success, and general insight about
what you need to know. This chapter gives you a glimpse into the structure and scoring of the exam as
well as general ways to prepare yourself for the big day in May.STRUCTURE OF THE EXAM
Part I: 55 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes, 45% of the total score
Part II: three essays in 120 minutes, 55% of the total score
Test proctors will give a short break between Part I and Part II. Your AP English Literature and
Composition instructor is not allowed to proctor your exam.SCORING OF THE EXAM
The multiple-choice section is scored by machine.
The three essays are scored by AP readers in early June. Readers include college professors and
experienced AP English teachers, who meet for this purpose. These readers work in teams to read and
score essays using scoring guides provided to them. Your essay is not identified by name or geographical
location. Every effort is made to ensure objectivity and fairness in assessing essays.
The scores from Part I and II are combined to create a composite score. See how to estimate your score
later in this chapter.
Scores are reported to students and designated colleges in July.AP SCORE SCALE
5 Extremely well-qualified
2 Possibly qualified
1 Not qualified
Qualification is to receive college credit or advanced placement.
In its information to AP students, the College Board writes: “You may be very surprised to see that
your composite score can be approximately two-thirds of the total possible score and you could still earn
a grade of 5 ” Earning that score on other exams might translate to an “F” at worst and a “D” at best. In
other words, you do not have to get all the multiple-choice questions right or write perfect essays to get a
high score on the exam.
In the 2006 figures reported by the College Board, 62.1% of all students who took the exam scored a 3
or higher. And while fewer than 10% of students scored a 5 in 2006 (which says a bit about the difficulty
of the exam), you should focus on the high number who passed. A 3, 4, or 5 will earn you college credits.
(Check with your intended colleges for their AP credit policy.)2006: ENGLISH LITERATURE GRADE DISTRIBUTIONS
Examination Numbe r of Te st Take rs Pe rce nt of Te st Take rs
Grade Achie ving Score Re ce iving Score
5 19,890 7.1
4 58,490 20.8
3 96,309 34.3
2 83,702 29.8
1 22,720 8.1
3 or Higher / % 174,689 62.1
Mean Grade 2.89
DeviationESTIMATING YOUR SCORE
The following form is intended to help you estimate your score when using practice exams. It can only
give a general prediction and should not be taken too seriously as an indicator of your potential success.
For one thing, if you are scoring your own essays, you may be too hard on yourself. Also, ranges for
composite scores can change from year to year as the exam itself changes.
Part I: Multiple-Choice
Part II: Essays
Estimating Your Composite Score:
Translating your composite score into an AP Grade:
43–70 2WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT EXAM DAY
What you can (should have) and cannot have in the exam room:
Ye s No
Several no. 2 pencils, sharpened, with good Cell phones, mp3 players, or any other electronic
erasers device, including calculators
One or two reliable blue or black pens; avoid
Cameras or other recording devices
pens that clump or bleed
A watch, so you can monitor your time Books, including dictionaries
Your social security number Scratch paper
Water (No bottles with paper labels are
Notes you’ve made in advance
Preparing yourself personally:
1. Eat well in the weeks prior to the exam. Get used to eating breakfast, so that you can eat a good
breakfast on exam day (the AP Lit exam is generally scheduled in the morning). A good breakfast for
your brain consists of fruit, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates. Also, drink water not sugared
2. Get your sleep and not just the night before the exam. Establish good sleep patterns in the weeks
prior to the exam. Teens typically do not get enough sleep. Aim for 8–9 hours a night.
3. Wake up early enough to be fully awake and ready to go on exam day. Set your alarm so you don’t
oversleep. You don’t want to be groggy.
4. Caffeine or energy drinks may help you to be more alert, but overdoing them can make you jittery and
make it harder for you to focus. If you are not used to caffeine, you shouldn’t have any on exam day.
5. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes on the day of the exam. Prepare for fluctuations in room
temperature by wearing layers that you can adjust.
See more in Chapter 2 about what you can do to prepare for exam day.Chapter 2
Students’ Tools: What You Bring to Your Own
SuccessSUGGESTED STRATEGIES FOR USING THIS BOOK
1. Read the entire book, noting which topics or chapters will require the most study time. Focus on
what you need to know instead of what you already know.
2. Make a goal sheet, listing specific tasks for the upcoming months. For example,
read three novels and two plays and fill out a Remembering Major Works form for each one
(see Chapter 4).
practice annotating all the texts you read.
3. Good goals have time limits, so be sure to say when you plan to meet your goals.
4. Re-read this book as often as necessary to reinforce ideas. Most people will not remember
everything they read the first time.
5. Make a short list of the five most important skills you need to improve before test time, such as
reading complex texts or understanding figurative language. Find ways to practice those skills.
6. Form an AP Lit study team with friends who will be taking the exam. Learn from each other. Here
are some reasons to form a study team:
Team members can quiz each other on subject terms.
Members can share essays to review them. Peer review can help team members to see strengths
and weaknesses in their writing. They can also learn from the reading of each other’s work.
Members who choose to read the same books, can discuss them, which helps everyone to
understand a text more completely.
7. If you get frustrated, try these strategies:
Analyze the reason for your frustration. Why are you frustrated? What can you do to alleviate
Take a short break to refocus: go for a walk outdoors, with no headphones. Let nature (or the
city) help you get out of yourself for a while.
Talk to your study group and vent. Then, together, find ways to get back on track.
Ask your teacher for help.MORE TIPS
Penmanship counts: not everyone has good penmanship, but in preparation for the exam, you should
do as much as you can to improve yours. If you do not write legibly on your essays, you are
jeopardizing your score. You cannot expect tired, overworked, AP readers to struggle with your
essay needlessly. When you write your practice essays, always use blue or black ink and always
write with an imagined reader in mind.
This exam is about scholarship. You should think of yourself as you embark on this “quest” as an
upper level scholar—a college student, really. If you wear the garb of scholar, even metaphorically,
it will influence how you think about things.
Your attitude is more important than you think—it influences everything, even your physical well-
being. A positive attitude will give you energy and confidence. A negative attitude will
▶ limit your ability to read carefully (you’ll want to rush, skim, get it over with)
▶ lead to frustration and fatigue
▶ keep you from having an open mind
▶ possibly infect others, giving them doubt about their own abilities
You need to study hard and take the exam seriously, but also realize that it is just one test of what you
know—at one point in your life. It is not the most important thing you will ever do. Try to keep it all
Literature might be thought of as the creative measure of history. Great writers, poets, and playwrights
mold their sense of life and the events of their time (their own histories) into works of art. It seems
impossible to disconnect most literary works from their historical context, but the themes that make their
work universal and enduring perhaps do transcend time in that they speak to people of all time, ensuring
us that we are all part of something much larger than simply the here and now.
When you look at the literary concepts below and study the timeline, you will see that shifts in literary
theory or tradition are often precipitated by major events in history, most notably wars. The ways that
history is linked to literature are endless, and this chapter only hints at some of them.
This chapter is not here for you to memorize. In fact there are rarely questions on the exam that expect
you to know particular literary periods and their characteristics. However, it will not hurt you to have a
sense of how literature (particularly Western literature) has evolved over time. And this timeline and the
representative authors will help you determine a reading list for your study.A FEW MAJOR CONCEPTS OR “ISMS”
The following list is given in chronological order.
Romanticism (mid-19 century)
Valued feeling over reason
Valued the individual, but recognized the alienation of the individual
Literature characterized by elements of the supernatural, appreciation for the beauty of nature,
Transcendentalism (mid-19 century)
An offshoot of American Romanticism led by Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph
Favored self-reliance and non-conformism
Sought to see the sublime in the ordinary
Believed that to transcend was to reach beyond ordinary experience—self perfection was an aim
Realism (mid- to late 19 century)
Pre–and post–Civil war
Writers rejected sentimentality, wanted to represent true life experience, including the way people
really acted and spoke
Shunned flowery diction and romanticism
The rise of the women’s movement also significant
Regionalism (19 century)
Extension of Realism
Focus on local setting, customs, and dialects
Naturalism (19 century)
Extension of Realism
Themes are darker: crime, poverty, prejudice, etc.
Naturalist writers tried to understand scientific or psychological reasons behind behavior
Imagism (early 20 century)
Movement in poetry that favored the use of images as the things themselves
Motto: “The natural object is always the adequate symbol.”
Willingness to play with forms
Most notable poets: Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams
The Lost Generation (1914–)
The Lost Generation is the phrase coined by writer Gertrude Stein and later made popular by Ernest
Referred to the generation who lost fathers, husbands, sons and brothers in World War I and who feltaimless and without foundation
Many of the lost were disillusioned by traditional American values and became expatriots, who
chose to leave the United States for Europe, Mexico, and elsewhere. (Paris was an especially
The Harlem Renaissance (1920s)
The explosion of African American visual art, dance, music, and literature in the 1920s, primarily
centered in Harlem, New York
Poet Langston Hughes is often seen as the symbol of the period.
The prolific period between the end of World War I and the end of World War II
Other historical context:
▶ The industrial revolution and the age of machines
▶ Mass immigration to the United States
▶ Women’s rights (19 amendment)
▶ The Great Depression
Alienation and the loss of the individual to the machine are major themes.
Post Modernism (1945–)
Begins with detonation of atom bombs in Japan to end World War II
▶ Post-apocalyptic themes
▶ The absurd
▶ The rise of multiculturalism and diverse voices
▶ Alienation due to race, gender, and sexual orientation
▶ Political and social oppression
The Beat Movement (1950s)
Led by poet Allen Ginsberg and novelist Jack Kerouac
Rejected mainstream American values and embraced nonconformity and Eastern philosophy
The forefather of the 1960s counter-culture movement (Hippie Movement)
Gonzo Journalism (1970–)
Named by Hunter S. Thompson in 1970
Refers to a new kind of journalism where the writer can be part of the story, blending fact and fiction
Magical Realism (1960’s–)
Magical or supernatural elements appear in otherwise realistic circumstances
First considered an element of painting
Mostly associated with Latin American writers, especially Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes,
and Isabel Allende450–1066
Haiku poetry in Japan
British Literature (Anglo Saxon Period)
Italian writers: Petrarch: sonnets
Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy
Boccaccio: The Decameron
British Literature (Middle English Period)
Geoffrey Chaucer: Canterbury Tales
German Johannes Gutenberg invents the printing press1500–1660: The Renaissance
Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish writer: Don Quixote
Christopher Marlow: Dr. Faustus
Ben Jonson, known for satirical plays and lyric poetry
John Donne, known for metaphysical conceits
Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Queen
Andrew Marvell: To His Coy Mistress
John Milton: Paradise Lost1660–1785: The Neoclassical Period
Molière, French, Tartuffe
Voltaire, French, Candide
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French writer and philosopher
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer
Alexander Pope, British poet
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders
Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal
The rise of the novel
American Literature (Puritan/Colonial Period)
Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (sermon)
Anne Bradstreet, poet
Puritan writing was God centered, plain in style, instructive in purpose.1750–1800:
(The Age of Reason/Revolutionary Literature)
Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine: Common Sense
African-American poet Phillis Wheatley, Poetry on Various Subjects
Period recognized by emerging nationalism; characterized by persuasive,
philosophical writing: speeches, pamphlets, and the beginnings of newspapers in