What are the High School English Courses?

Throughout your high school career, you are expected to fulfill a variety of English course requirements. Some may help you satisfy requirements at the college level, some will assist you in exploring creative writing, and some may simply help you develop the necessary skills to write successfully in the workplace.

Like science courses and math courses, English coursework is typically divided up throughout your high school years. While every school and every student’s schedule are different, let’s take a look at a basic guideline…  

Freshman Language Arts

During your ninth grade year, you will likely take a class referred to as Language Arts. The scope of this class is typically broad, designed to introduce young learners to the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills that will be necessary later in life.

This course (and courses like these) will allow you to practice your writing skills in a variety of essays, explore a range of literary genres, and examine texts at a fairly granular level. You’ll look at plot, voice, tone, characters, and so on.

Sophomore Language Arts

In a sophomore Language Arts class, you can expect to build upon the skills you learned in ninth grade. You’ll likely focus a little more on the process of revision, employing practices like outlining and writing drafts as you develop your writing.

You may also delve a little deeper into the texts you’re reading, which will span even more literary genres. Expect to analyze theme, symbolism, imagery, etc.

American Literature

Your junior year of English coursework may focus on American Literature, though you’ll continue to build upon the reading and writing skills you focused on during your freshman and sophomore years as well.

In terms of writing, expect to begin researching and incorporating outside sources into your essays. You’ll be using context in your exploration of American Literature, too — historical context, point of view, time period, and more.

British/World Literature

During your senior year of high school, you may broaden the scope of the work you’re looking at to include British or even world literature. While you may have mostly focused on works of fiction before, you might now explore more nonfiction and poetry. The works you read will probably increase in complexity.

As a writer, you’ll be expected to provide more in-depth analysis, so make sure you’re familiar with a plethora of literary devices. You might also write research papers and other presentations that require more of a thought-out timeline to complete, which is an excellent time to practice your time and project management skills.

Honors and AP Classes

Many high schools will offer Honors or AP versions of the aforementioned classes, which will adhere to a similar (but more complex) format. You’ll become more familiar with the why of writing, exploring why authors make the stylistic choices they do.

Honors classes are typically offered during freshman and sophomore years, while AP classes (AP English Language and Composition and AP English Literature and Composition) typically occur during junior and senior years.


Elective English classes can vary widely by school, but most high schools offer at least one or two. You might expect to find classes that focus on a particular writer (Shakespeare is a popular one) or a certain genre. You may also find creative writing classes offered, which will involve both reading and writing, though they’ll go more in-depth than generic Language Arts classes.

Never underestimate the value of strong reading and writing skills. Reading well will help you excel in other subjects, follow directions, and gain an advanced understanding of everything you study. Writing well will allow you to communicate more effectively, understand the motivations of other writers, and present yourself appropriately as a professional later in life.

If you’re interested in writing, certainly explore your elective options. If you’re less reading/writing inclined, find something else that does get you excited about these skills, or consider seeking reading tutoring or writing tutoring. Your future self will thank you!


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