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A Program of the Virginia Department of Education

01006 AP English Literature and Composition

Field of Study

The AP English Literature and Composition course aligns to an introductory college-level literary analysis course. The course is designed to challenge the student’s ability to think critically, to analyze and evaluate literature and its literary devices, and to write analytical essays effectively.

Material Covered

The course engages students in the close reading and critical analysis of literature to deepen their understanding of the way writers use language to provide both meaning and entertainment. As they read, students will consider a work’s structure, style, and theme, as well as the author’s use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone. Writing assignments include expository, analytical, and argumentative essays that require students to analyze and interpret literary works. The course draws from a selection of literature from various genres, eras, topics, themes, and authors and from an array of backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. In addition, information concerning cultural, historical, philosophical, and psychological influences is addressed. The genres include the epic, drama, novel, novella, short stories, and poetry. The course aims to refine and improve the student’s writing style, voice, grammar, mechanics, organization, and expression. Students will analyze literature both independently and collaboratively with classmates using an array of synchronous and asynchronous resources. In addition, each student will prepare a research paper focused on literary criticism using the current MLA standards and the use of electronic sources. Projects and other assignments incorporate multimedia to enhance the student’s modern literacy skills, including the multimodalities of textual, visual, auditory, verbal, and participatory communication methods. The course prepares students for the College Board AP English Literature and Composition Exam.

Student Expectations

As outlined in the College Board’s Course Description of AP English Literature and Composition, students should be prepared to work on course activities and reading outside of class (on average, 8–10 hours a week). Communication and participation in assigned course activities are required.

Related Requirements

Students are encouraged but not required to take the College Board Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition Exam.


  • Successful completion of English 9, English 10, and English 11 or AP English Language and Composition.
  • Students must demonstrate the ability to work independently, possess a high work ethic, be highly self-motivated, and self-organized. An interest in writing and a mastery of the skills learned in previous English courses are essential.
  • Students should be able to read and comprehend college-level texts and apply the conventions of standard written English in their writing.

Course Texts and Materials

  • All texts are presented in the course as e-texts for student access. However, hard copies are recommended for the following lengthy texts:
    • Othello by William Shakespeare
    • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
    • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
    • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • For Beowulf, students may choose either Seamus Heaney’s translation or Burton Raffel’s translation; either edition can be determined by student preference.
  • Students also will be required to select one novel or play from a list of provided works, chosen for their literary merit, each semester. These books can be found at a library.
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