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In an AP English course, you may feel you have never been given so much to read. AP English demands plenty of serious reading, and you might be tempted to "speed-read." You may try to scan paragraphs and pages as fast as you can while hunting for main ideas. In a word: Don't. First, main ideas usually aren't quickly accessible from "speed-reading" complex texts.
Also, if you race through good writing, you are likely to miss the subtlety and complexity. A paragraph of text by Frederick Douglass or Joyce Carol Oates, a poem by W.H. Auden, or a play by Shakespeare cannot be appreciated — or even minimally understood — without careful, often-repeated readings.
In reading your AP assignments, keep in mind to:
  • Read slowly
  • Reread complex and important sentences
  • Ask yourself often, "What does this sentence, paragraph, speech, stanza, or chapter mean?"

Make Your Reading Efficient

How can you balance the careful reading AP English requires with your demanding chemistry and calculus workloads, plus get in play practice, soccer games, and whatever else you've got on your busy schedule? We've compiled some helpful tips to make your AP reading more efficient, fun, and productive.
Get a head start.
Obtain copies of as many assigned texts as you can. Then you won't waste time searching for a text when you absolutely need it.
Preview important reading assignments.
By previewing, you carefully note:
  • Exact title
  • Author's name
  • Table of contents
  • Preface or introduction; this section often states the author's purpose and themes
  • In essays and certain types of prose, the final paragraph(s).
Pause to consider the author's principal ideas and the material the author uses to support them.
Such ideas may be fairly easy to identify in writings of critical essayists or journalists, but much more subtle in the works of someone like Virginia Woolf or Emily Dickinson.
Know the context of a piece of writing.
This technique will help you read with greater understanding and better recollection. A knowledge of the period in which the authors lived and wrote enhances your understanding of what they have tried to say and how well they succeeded. When you read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, find other sources to learn about the difficult conditions for migrant laborers in California in the 1930s.
Read text aloud.
Slow down when you are having trouble with poetry or complex prose passages, and read them aloud. Reading aloud may help you to understand the tone of the poem or passage.
Reread difficult material to help you understand it.
Complex issues and elegant expression are not always easily understood or appreciated on a first reading.
Form the habit of consulting your dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, or atlas.
Through such resources, you'll discover the precise meanings of words as well as knowledge about the content of what you are reading. Similar resources are available online or as computer software.
To understand and appreciate much of English and American literature, you should have some acquaintance with the major themes of Judaic and Christian religious traditions and with Greek and Roman mythology. These religious concepts and stories have influenced and informed first English and then American literary traditions from the Middle Ages through modern times.

Writing Study Skills

Exam Day 2014

May 08
08:00 AM
[[/takingtheexam/ap-calendar|View AP Exam calendar]]

Exam Resources

Writing is central to the AP English courses and exams. Both courses have two goals: to provide you with opportunities to become skilled, mature, critical readers, and to help you to develop into practiced, logical, clear, and honest writers. In AP English, writing is taught as "process" — that is, thinking, planning, drafting the text, then reviewing, discussing, redrafting, editing, polishing, and finishing it. It's also important that AP students learn to write "on call" or "on demand." Learning to write critical or expository essays on call takes time and practice.
Here are some key guidelines to remember in learning to write a critical essay:
  • Take time to organize your ideas.
  • Make pertinent use of the text given to you to analyze.
  • Quote judiciously from it to support your observations.
  • Be logical in your exposition of ideas.
If you acquire these skills — organizing ideas, marshalling evidence, being logical in analysis, and using the text judiciously — you should have little trouble writing your essays on the AP Exam. Practice in other kinds of writing — narrative, argument, exposition, and personal writing — all have their place alongside practice in writing on demand. As you study and practice writing, consider the following points.

Reading Directly Influences Writing Skills & Habits

Reading and writing are intertwined. When you read what published authors have written you are immersed not just in their ideas, but in the pulsing of their sentences and the aptness of their diction. The more you read, the more that the rhythm of the English language will be available to influence your writing. Reading is not a substitute for writing, but it does help lay the foundation that makes good writing possible.

Writing is Fun

When you have penned what you think is a great sentence or a clean, logical paragraph, read it over to yourself out loud. Enjoy it. Delight in the ideas, savor the diction, and let the phrases and clauses roll around in your mind. Claim it as part of your self. You may discover you have a voice worthy of respect.

A Tip from E. M. Forster

He is reputed to have said that he never knew clearly what it was he thought until he spoke it; and once he had said it, he never knew clearly what it was that he said until he had written it down. Then, Forster noted, he could play with it and give it final form. Be like Forster: think, speak, write, analyze your writing, then give it final shape.

Grammar, Mechanics, and Rhetoric

Think of them as elements that you can order to clean up your ideas, to sharpen your statements, to make your words and sentences glisten and stick.


Writers and critical readers have a "technical vocabulary" they use when talking about the language of drama, poetry, and fiction. Compile a list of such words. Notice writing that uses such vocabulary. Here are some of the words you should already know:syntax, tone, rhetoric, attitude, antecedent, denouement, exposition, climax, atmosphere, voice, speaker, stock character, thesis, ideology, persuasion, paradox, allusion, ambivalence, syllogism, and aphorism.


Your teachers may specify an audience that you are supposed to keep in mind when writing a paper. Most of us in daily life are not writing for a particular person or audience, but rather for someone called "the general reader." The general reader is someone, anyone, who possesses an average intelligence and has a fairly sound general education. This general reader is interested in the events of the day and in the world as a whole. He or she has a good measure of sympathy for humankind, appreciates the happy as well as the unhappy accidents of life. This reader also is blessed with a good sense of humor and the ability to listen to others; to writers like you, in fact. Keep the general reader in mind when you write.