High School English Courses You Should Take (2023)

High School English Courses You Should Take (1)

It's no secret that colleges want you to take English classes every year in high school. But what exactly should you learn? What options do you have to exceed expectations and show off your stuff? And if you're such an avid book reader that the dictionary has a picture of you under "bibliophile," how can you really maximize your high school English experience?

Read on to learn more about Common Core, Honors, and AP Classes, and go beyond what the standard curriculum offers!

What do universities expect?

You will have a hard time finding a college that doesn't expect you to take 4 years of English or language arts classes. Also, the vast majority of high schools require 4 years of English proficiency in order to graduate. These 4 years are cumulative meaning each year will build on what you have learned before and now each year will likely build on the Common Core Patterns.

So colleges assume that by the beginning of your freshman year you will learn all this:

The 9th grade is the preparatory year

  • Practice basic writing skills
  • They study different literary genres
  • They analyze the narration voice, the characters and the plot

The tenth year is the year of construction.

  • You'll practice the process of drafting, writing, and revising
  • They focus on issues andLiterary SourcesifPicturesand voice

Class 11 focuses on American literature

  • Your writing becomes more complex as you do your own research and use external sources
  • Now you can read not only the content but also the historical context, period, setting andStand point
  • This is a good year to study American history as well

12th class look at the world

  • Depending on your high school, you read British literature and sometimes world literature.
  • You combine all your skills and analyze complex literature and non-fiction
  • produces research papers, presentations and maybe even multimedia projects
  • This could be a good year to also study European or World History

Common core reading patterns

High School English Courses You Should Take (2)There are many opportunities. Having a guide helps.

Want to know what kind of books colleges assume you've read when you enter? Here are some examples of what the Common Core Standards wants you to read in high school, broken down by year:

Literature: stories, drama, poetryInformative texts: Literary and historical, scientific and technical factual texts
9th - 10th gradeA Macbeth tragedyvon William Shakespeare (1592)"Address to the Second Virginia Convention" by Patrick Henry (1775)
„Ozymandias“ von Percy Bysshe Shelley (1817)George Washington's "Farewell Speech" (1796)
"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe (1845)Abraham Lincolns „Gettysburg Address“ (1863)
"The Gift of Kings" by O. Henry (1906)Franklin Delano Roosevelt's State of the Union Address (1941)
Grapes of Wrathby John Steinbeck (1939)"Letter from Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)
Fahrenheit 451von Ray Bradbury (1953)"Hope, Despair and Memory" by Elie Wiesel (1997)
die Killerengelvon Michael Shaara (1975)
11th - 12th grade"Ode to a Grecian Urn" by John Keats (1820)Thomas Paine's Common Sense (1776)
Jane Eyrevon Charlotte Bronte (1848)Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
"Because I Couldn't Stop at Death" by Emily Dickinson (1890)"Company and Solitude" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1857)
The Great Gatsbyby F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)"The Fallacy of Success" by G.K. Chesterton (1909)
His eyes looked to Godvon Zora Neale Hurston (1937)Richard Wright's The Black Boy (1945)
a raisin in the sunby Lorraine Hansberry (1959)Politics and the English Language by George Orwell (1946)
the namesakeby Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)"Take the Tortillas Out of Your Poetry" by Rudolfo Anaya (1995)

If you want a really in-depth breakdown of what the Common Core recommends you study, check this outguidance year after year.

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How can I exceed expectations?

honorable classes

They will likely be similar to the standard classes your school offers, but the papers you read will be more challenging and the assignments more complex and challenging. In other words, you'll work harder and put in more effort, but you'll be better prepared to write at college level!

Pro tip: At your school, special classes may be a requirement for AP classes.

AP English lessons

There are two advanced English options:

  • AP English Language and Composition
    • If your school offers both AP English courses, take them in your freshman year
    • This course and exam is about how writers do what they do: how they userhetoric, genre, style and how they deal with audience expectations
  • AP English Literature and Composition
    • If your school offers both AP English courses, take that one in your senior year
    • This course and exam covers critical analysis, close reading, literary structure, themes as well asPictures

IB diploma classes

There are three options for IB literature:

  • Language A: Literature
    • This course focuses on the analysis of literary texts
  • Language A: Language and Literature
    • This course takes the analysis further, looking at literary and non-literary genres and looking at how the context of writing or reading something affects its meaning.
  • literature and drama
    • This class explores the relationship between literature and theater with an emphasis on accurate reading, critical writing, and the aesthetic and symbolic elements of performance.

Both language A courses are offered in several languages, and literature and drama can be taken in French or Spanish on special request.As such, these can be great options for non-native speakers or bilingual students..

Some IB Diploma courses can be taken online, but the Film SL course, which covers history, formal elements, technical production and of course film critical analysis, is the closest to English online.

What if I'm Addicted to English Lessons? Are?

High School English Courses You Should Take (3)

Please sir, can I have more... English lessons? In that bowl for some reason?

Check your school's electives

It's time to think a little outside the box! For example the classes ofCreative writingprovide a great window to later see how someone else did it. Humanities electives can often offer a basically modified literature course. And there are many other subjects that focus on reading, analyzing and writing texts, such as philosophy, drama, world religions, psychology or anthropology.

Design your own course

Your school is your resource, so don't be afraid to be creative. Consider asking a teacher to help you create an independent study or project to explore your interests!


For example, in my senior year, in addition to my major, I planned to pursue independent study in reading and writing poetry with the help of my favorite English teacher. It was incredibly rewarding!

Take high school classes online

For example, Stanford University aGymnasium im InternetThe has 7 English courses and allows you to sign up to take as many as you like.

Brown University also offers a number ofOnline College Courses. They have 4 related classes on non-fiction, travel writing, formal college writing and a liberal arts seminar on evolutionary thinking.

Take summer courses on college campuses.

You can consult our guideSummer institute for the giftedor any information about which we collectStanford's two summer programs.

Take college-level online courses

Are you confident in your abilities or are you interested in something specific that you won't find anywhere else? Perhaps the best thing you can do is try yourself at a different level! Think about it, if you do well on a college-level course, it will look great on your report card and you might even get college credit for it!

What's next?

Need to improve your knowledge of key literary terms?Take advantage of our articlespersonification,Pictures,rhetorical medium,Stand point,literary elements,assonance, mijambischer Pentameterto help you in your search.

Are you still having trouble knowing whether AP or IB is better?check overour guide to decide between them.

Curious about how your writing skills apply to the SAT?read abouthow to improve your satellite score, or better,how to get perfect 800miThis is how you get a 12 in the SAT essay.

And don't forget to read about themACT writing testmisatellite survey.

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High School English Courses You Should Take (4)

Thinking about college applications?

If you're a freshman, sophomore, or junior worried about college admissions, our world-class admissions advisors can help.We know exactly what kind of students universities want to host and can make sure your profile shines.

Preparation for accepting scholarship holdersis the best admissions consultancy in the world. We have helped thousands of students enter theirsschools of choice, from state universities to the Ivy League.

Join our mentoring program today:

High School English Courses You Should Take (5)

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High School English Courses You Should Take (6)

pull. Anna Wullick

About the author

Scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, Anna studied English at Princeton and received her PhD in English Literature from Columbia. He is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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