AP Spotlight: English Literature and Composition


Emma Robeau, Editor-in-Chief

Welcome back to our AP Spotlight series! In this interview, you will hear from Ms. Ledoux, who teaches AP English Literature and Composition, a senior English course, commonly called AP Lit. The exam itself is 3 hours long, consisting of 55 multiple choice questions and 3 open-response questions. If you have any questions regarding the class, feel free to contact Ms. Ledoux ([email protected])!

What is AP English Literature and Composition?

AP Lit is the senior year AP English course, and it’s an intensive study of fiction, poetry, and novels.

What is your grading policy?

An important part of the grading for AP Lit includes a commitment to reflection and revision on your work. We do a lot of analysis practice, practice for the exam, as well as a lot of independent reading, so grades for the class really come from a lot of effort, that effort being taking on the independent work and willingness to look back at your work and revise.

What is homework like?

Homework is a little bit different in AP Lit. Very often, we are reading books and a lot of reading for those books will be done independently, so when we talk about homework, we’re talking about a lot of long-term reading and assignments. Other than that, we actually do a lot of the work in class, and for nightly homework, we’ll do some small assignments that will reinforce the learning from that day or perhaps get you ready for the next day. 

What are the challenges of AP Lit?

AP Lit is challenging because we read books that are definitely more complex than books you may have read in other grades. We read books that have multiple interpretations and that deal with really tough issues. Similarly, many of the short stories and poems we read tackle tough topics, and it takes a lot to analyze them and break down their meaning. 

The most challenging thing about AP Literature is the reading. It’s being committed to the reading and being willing to work to understand pieces that are difficult. It can also be challenging to write about these books, so that’s why we spend a good chunk of the year practicing reading tough things and working to analyze them. We live in a world where people don’t read as many books as they used to, as there is so much to watch online, and because of the pandemic, even our experiences with books in school was reduced as we all struggled through remote and hybrid learning. 

Why should students take the class?

I think the first reason students might be interested in taking it is to improve their reading. If they’re willing to take on the challenge, there is definitely the reality that if you read more and you read challenging things, you will become a better reader. We tend to forget that. We think about reading as a one-and-done thing and not the fact that, like any skill, the more you do it, the better you become. Being a good reader is great for college and for being a good citizen. 

Beyond that, I think the bigger reason why students might want to take on the challenge is to explore what’s been happening with books and the idea that people are moving away from reading them, and so by taking AP Lit, you’re able to get a sense of why books can be valuable and why literature matters. That’s something that isn’t always available to students because the world is moving into writing and research, but I think if you take the class, you’re able to dig into that and find out what that value is.

Who should take AP Lit?

If you take AP Lang, I would definitely recommend moving onto AP Literature if you enjoy English. It provides more opportunity to improve your analysis and your writing skills. However, you don’t have to have taken AP Lang, and I would definitely recommend anyone that simply enjoys English class to think about taking AP Literature. Anyone that loves reading, loves talking about current events and issues, loves analyzing and taking apart writing, I think can do well in this class, and I definitely think it’s a class for people who are readers and enjoy talking about the ideas that books bring up.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have been teaching at South for about 15 years, and AP Lit is the class that I have been teaching the longest. Over the years, there’s been a lot of changes to the coursework and changes to the world in general, but I will say it’s still probably my favorite class to teach. It’s a class that gives an opportunity to really dig into literature and to think about its impact, and every year I’m always struck by the conversations that happen when we study these books, stories, and poems. Even though the point of the class is to prepare us for the AP Exam and to prepare us for college-level reading and analysis, I find that it’s the class that offers the most opportunity for students to be able to deeply reflect on their own lives and the world through the reading that we do.