The AP* Language and Composition exam can be a tough beast for students to tackle, involving many terms and rhetorical techniques that some students don't learn until college.

Here are a few books that will help them make sense of it all.

1. Handbooks for research citations

One of the goals of the AP Language and Composition course is for students to be able to properly cite primary and secondary sources.

Whether you choose MLA, APA, or Chicago style for use in your classroom — or teach all three — a citation handbook is essential.

2. Books on style

Excellent style is essential for excellent composition. If your students are unable to write clearly and concisely to express their points, they're going to have trouble when the exam rolls around. The sooner they learn to cut unnecessary words and simplify their sentence structures, the better.

3. Handbooks on rhetoric, rhetorical devices, and techniques in nonfiction

By the time the exam comes around, students need to be able to:

  • analyze the rhetorical content of what they're reading
  • analyze and interpret informative and persuasive texts: What's being said? To whom? How? Why?
  • Use rhetoric and rhetorical strategies in their own writing

Teaching Aristotelian rhetorical analysis is a good start. Some books make it easier for high school students to understand than others, but your students definitely need to know Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Three of the five canons of classical rhetoric are important as well — invention, arrangement, and style. Memory and delivery can safely be left out, as these canons target public speaking.

4. Collections of essays/speeches/other nonfiction texts

You need a wide selection of nonfiction texts for an AP Language and Composition course, whether they're in print or online. Essays, newspaper and magazine articles, political documents — they're all important.

The main thing you're looking for in these texts is rhetorical depth. Some texts better lend themselves to rhetorical analysis than others, of course. It's unlikely that you're going to find a BuzzFeed article that meets your classroom's needs (not a knock on BuzzFeed — rhetorical pieces aren't what they do, after all), but you might do well looking at, say, The New York Times for editorials.

Annotated texts can definitely help your students, especially those who have less practice with rhetorical analysis. You'll want to use annotations to scaffold the learning process for those students.

5. Comprehensive coursework books

Perhaps the best resources for the AP Language and Composition exam are those that were written with that very exam in mind. These kinds of books take into account all the information about the AP Language course that the College Board makes available and help you guide your students through a year's worth of study.

* AP, Advanced Placement, and the Advanced Placement program are registered trademarks of the College Board, who was not involved in the production of any of the products on this page, nor do they endorse these products.