How can I score a 5 on the AP English Language exam?

Barbara Swovelin April 30, 2014


This is indeed The Big Question!

Let’s first look at the more elemental question, namely, “What does it take for anyone to get a 5 on the exam?” After that, we can talk about what it is that you need to do.

Here’s a very rough estimate of what it takes to score a 5 on the overall exam: Multiple-Choice scores of at least 83% (or higher), plus essay scores in the 8-9 range, although if one of your three essays gets a score of 7, it’s likely that you’ll still be OK . These percentages are just ball-park estimates, and the actual numbers vary from year-to-year, but this info gives you a feel for what it takes.

Maybe a score of 4? That comes from Multiple-Choice scores roughly in the 73—83% range and essay scores in the 6-7 range, although one 5 won’t kill your score.

How about a score of 3? Get Multiple-Choice scores approximately in the 60—70% range and get 5’s on your essays.

Remember that a 5 on the overall score is equivalent to getting an A in a college freshman English class, a score of 4 = a B in that same class, and a 3 = a C.

Now, how do you score a 5?

Of course you already know the answer: practice, practice, practice! But be sure to practice intelligently.

Track your Multiple-Choice scores as you prepare, getting a feel for your average percentages. If it turns out that you’re one of those lucky devils who can score 90%+ consistently, you should be very happy! But if you’re getting scores in the mid 70% range, you’ll need to focus on which questions you’re getting wrong. Look for trends in the questions you miss: Did you work too fast and miss a key word? Did you misread some of the passage? Did your answer choice not really answer the specific question? Did you not know some of the terms that were used in the question and/or answers? After you spot whatever it is that you’re doing wrong, you can fix it and get higher scores.

You also need to focus on your essays, of course, since they account for 55% of your overall score. Practice reading the prompt very carefully, planning your essays quickly, finishing your essay, and saving time to proofread. Remember that the scoring guides basically break down into four key points: (1) write on topic! (2) organize your essay well, (3) develop your ideas thoroughly, and (4) use sophisticated language and style.

When you concentrate on practicing these skills, you’re on the right road to a better score!

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