Parents of high school students want their children to succeed, especially those students taking AP (Advanced Placement) courses, which will result in college credits if the student passes an AP exam.

Many high school students take AP English, and often the AP exam can be challenging. Here are some tips for parents to help their children succeed in taking the AP English exam.

My first suggestion may seem obvious, but I need to make it. Your student needs to read books!

It is, after all, a literature exam! But there are three specific reasons why you need to read novels, poems, and plays in preparation for the AP Lit Test.

1. To Increase your familiarity with different eras and genres of literature.

2. To improve your close-reading skills.

3. To help with the student choice free-response question.

The answer to the all-important question, “How Many Books Do I Have to Read?” is “That depends.”                          

In terms of reading to increase your familiarity with literature from different eras and genres and to improve your close-reading skills, the more books you have time to read, the better.

Students need to read them all with an eye for comprehension and basic analysis, but they don’t necessarily need to focus equally on every book. The student will want to read four or five books closely, so that they could write a detailed, convincing analytical essay about any of their themes.

They should know the plot, characters, themes and major literary devices or motifs used inside and out. Since they won’t know what theme they be asked to write about in advance, they need to be prepared to write a student choice question on more than just one book.

In answer to the question, then, of how many books you need to read for the AP Lit exam, you need to know four to five inside and out, and beyond that, the more the better!

Stop by Phoenix Books for a list of AP books. We have many in stock, new and used.

Joanne Hoeffer

Joanne Hoeffer, an independent bookseller, has been the owner and operator of Phoenix Books in Los Banos for the past three decades. Her email is