You don’t necessarily need to drill down to the same degree on every text, but you should always be thinking, “Why did the author write this piece this way?
” Perhaps the most critical piece in reading to prepare for the AP Lit test, however, is for the student choice free-response question.
For the third question on the second exam section, you’ll be asked to examine how a specific theme works in one novel or play that you choose.
The College Board does provide an example list of works, but you can choose any work you like just so long as it has adequate “literary merit.” However, you need to be closely familiar with more than one work so that you can be prepared for whatever theme the College Board throws at you!
If you read primarily modern works, for example, you may stumble through analyzing a Shakespeare sonnet.
So, having a basic familiarity level with the language of a broad variety of literary works will help keep you from floundering in confusion on test day because you’re seeing a work unlike anything you’ve ever read.
You may be doing some of these activities anyways for books you are assigned to read for class, and those books might be solid choices if you want to be as efficient as possible.
Books you write essays about for school are also great choices to include in your four to five book stable since you will be becoming super-familiar with them for the writing you do in class anyways. The most important thing for the student choice free-response question is that the work you select needs to have “literary merit.” What does this mean?
They are also all very different in style (although you’ll just have to take my word on that one unless you go look at all of them yourself), and they span a range of time periods and genres as well.
However, while there’s not necessarily a specific, mandated AP Literature reading list, there are books that come up again and again on the suggestion lists for student choice free-response questions.