2020 Changes to AP Literature & AP Language

By: Jason Robinovitz | Last Updated: February 27, 2020

2020 Changes to AP English Literature and Composition

The test this year will be 15 minutes shorter than it was in previous years, but the only substantive change is in the scoring of the free-response questions. The content of the free-response section remains unchanged from previous years, but the way that it’s scored will change.

Formerly, this section was scored from zero to nine points based on a “holistic” scoring rubric, but that’s changing to zero to six points based on an “analytic” rubric. Here’s how points are decided:

  • You’ll get one point by constructing a clear and defensible thesis/argument.
  • You’ll get another zero to four points for your use of evidence and commentary on it. You’ll get two points if you present at least evidence that’s relevant to your thesis/argument and explain how some of it relates to your thesis/argument. You’ll get all four if you provide evidence that supports your thesis/argument, explain its relevance, and show how multiple literary devices contribute to the thrust of the piece.
  • You’ll get the sixth point if you demonstrate “sophistication” by presenting a complex literary argument, and you can do that by placing the passage in a broader literary or historical context, providing possible alternative interpretations of some or all of the passage, mentioning possible internally contradictory elements in the passage, or doing anything else that moves your response beyond mere thesis and analysis.

2020 Changes to AP English Language and Composition

The first change you’ll encounter is that the reading passages for the multiple-choice section of the exam will be shorter than they used to be. That will allow the students to focus more closely on reading to finish the multiple-choice section on time. Also, the number of multiple-choice questions is going down from 55 to 45, further enhancing students’ chances of finishing that section on time.

Another important change to the multiple-choice section is that almost half of the questions will be of a new type. “Vocabulary in context” and “identification” question will no longer appear on the exam. Instead, there’ll be “composition questions,” on which, according to the College Board, “students will be asked to ‘read like a writer’ and consider revisions to stimulus texts,” with the stated goal of striking “a better balance between reading and composition.”

Except for minor wording changes, the prompts for the FRQs will remain unchanged, but how they’re scored will be different. Phrasing in the writing prompts for all three FRQs will be “stabilized.” For example, the prompt for FRQ #3 will always direct students to “take a position” on a specific subject instead of being asked to “evaluate the relationship between” two ideas or to “determine to what extent” a statement is true. Further, FRQ essays will no longer be graded “holistically” (on the overall impressions that the essays make). Instead, they’ll be graded using “analytic” rubrics that will be extremely similar for all three question types.

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