AP English Language and Composition: 2021 Results
The following data reflect the 476,735 students worldwide who took either the paper or the digital AP English Language exam in May. Data from students who tested in June are not yet available.
AP English Language score distributions, 2019 vs. 2021
The following table enables comparisons of student performance in 2021 to student performance on the comparable full-length exam prior to the covid-19 pandemic:
Of these 476,735 students, 11 achieved a perfect score from all professors/readers on all essays and correctly answered every multiple-choice question, resulting in the rare and impressive feat of earning all 100 of 100 points possible on an AP English Language Exam.
Identities of the 2021 AP English Language Exams’ Cited Authors
Across the exam versions administered in 2021, 61.8% of the cited texts’ authors identified as non-White, 50.5% of the authors identified as female:
|US Census Category||Authors within the 2021 Exams|
|Asian (5.9%)||8 (7.3%)|
|Black (13.4%)||36 (32.7%)|
|Latinx (18.5%)||14 (12.7%)|
|Indigenous (1.5%)||10 (9.1%)|
|White (60.1%)||42 (38.2%)|
|Female (50.8%)||56 (50.5%)|
|Male (49.2%)||55 (49.5%)|
The May 12 In-School Paper Exam
The largest exam date for AP English Language was May 12, so the following information is specific to the exam version administered on that date.
- AP English Language students proved especially adept at Skill 3, Reasoning and Organization, which requires students to understand the development of an author’s argument. A stellar 35% of students were able to answer virtually all of these multiple-choice questions correctly.
- The most challenging skill for AP English Language students was Skill 4, Style. Questions ask students to recognize the stylistic choices an author makes and how they contribute to an argument. About 8% of students were able to answer all or most of these multiple-choice questions correctly.
Students scored exceptionally well on the synthesis essay on the place of handwriting instruction in today’s schools: 8% of students achieved perfect scores on it, and:
- 98% of students earned the thesis point.
- 26% of students earned all 4 evidence/commentary points; 44% earned 3 points; 23% earned 2 points; 5% earned 1 point; 2% earned 0 points.
- 14% of students earned the sophistication point.
- 90% of students earned the thesis point.
- 17% of students earned all 4 evidence/commentary points; 37% earned 3 points; 31% earned 2 points; 11% earned 1 point; 4% earned 0 points.
- 12% of students earned the sophistication point.
- 97% of students earned the thesis point.
- 14% of students earned all 4 evidence/commentary points; 31% earned 3 points; 37% earned 2 points; 14% earned 1 point; 4% earned 0 points.
- 6% of students earned the sophistication point.
The May 26 Digital Exams
To support student access, different testing modes—paper and digital—were essential. To protect exam security, many different exam versions were necessary. Accordingly, to provide students with similar opportunities for success regardless of which version they took, each version of the exam had to be analyzed separately by psychometricians to identify its unique difficulty level so that standards for scores of 3, 4, and 5 could then be separately identified for each exam version. Analyses focused on:
- Differences in the testing mode (paper or digital). For sections of the exam that proved easier to take digitally, the digital versions require more points for each AP score. For sections of the exam that proved easier to take on paper, the paper exam requires more points for each AP score.
- Differences in the difficulty of specific questions. When exam questions prove easier, more points are required for each AP score, and when exam questions prove more difficult, fewer points are required on one version than another.
- The net result for this year’s AP English Language Exams is that out of 100 points possible, most of the digital versions were slightly or somewhat more difficult than the paper version, while a few of the digital versions were easier or similar to the paper version. Accordingly:
- To receive a 3+ on the more difficult digital versions, students needed to earn 1–6 fewer points (depending on the version) than students who took the paper exam.
- To receive a 3+ on the easier digital versions, students needed to earn 1–2 more points (depending on the version) than students who took the paper exam.