How to Approach the Multiple-Choice Questions on the AP English Literature Exam (page 3)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 22, 2011

Poetry: Key Words and Phrases Found in Multiple-Choice Questions

Factual Technical Analytical Inferential
all except imagery character portrayal mood
definition literary devices imagery attitude of
thesis paradox literary devices poet's attitude
sequence of events organizational pattern paradox purpose of
the object of ____ is _____ syntax purpose of tone of the poem
allusion metrics rhetorical shifts theme of the poem
the subject of dramatic situation parallel structure ironies presented reader may infer
paraphrasing rhetorical shifts lest important best interpreted as
subject ironies presented most important effect of diction
references function of diction   speaker implies
  dramatic moment   _____  is associated with ______
  meaning conveyed by   context


A word about jargon. Jargon refers to words that are unique to a specifi c subject. A common language is important for communication, and there must be agreement on the basic meanings of terms. Even though it is important to know the universal language of a subject, it is also important that you not limit the scope of your thinking to a brief defi nition. All the terms used in the tables are interwoven in literature. They are categorized only for easy reference. They also work in many other contexts. In other words, think beyond the box.

Scoring the Multiple-Choice Section

How does the scoring of the multiple-choice section work?

The College Board has implemented a new scoring process for the multiple-choice section of the AP English Literature and Composition exam. No longer are points deducted for incorrect responses so there is no longer a penalty for guessing incorrectly. Therefore, it is to your advantage to answer ALL of the multiple-choice questions. Your chances of guessing the correct answer improve if you skillfully apply the process of elimination to narrow the choices.

Multiple-choice scores are based solely on the number of questions answered correctly. If you answered 36 questions correctly, then your raw score is 36. This raw score, which is 45 percent of the total, is combined with that of the essay section to make up a composite score. This is then manipulated to form a scale on which the fi nal AP grade is based.

Strategies for Answering the Multiple-Choice Questions

You’ve been answering multiple-choice questions most of your academic life, and you’ve probably figured out ways to deal with them. However, there may be some points you have not considered that will be helpful for this particular exam.

General Guidelines

• Work in order. This is a good approach for several reasons:

• It’s clear.

• You will not lose your place on the scan sheet.

• There may be a logic to working sequentially that will help you answer previous questions. But, this is your call. If you are more comfortable moving around the exam, do so.

• Write on the exam booklet. Mark it up. Make it yours. Interact with the test.

• Do not spend too much time on any one question.

• Focus on your strengths. If you are more comfortable working with poetry, answer the poetry questions first.

• Don’t be misled by the length or appearance of a selection. There is no correlation between length or appearance and the diffi culty of the questions.

• Don’t fi ght the question or the passage. You may know other information about the subject of the text or a question. It’s irrelevant. Work within the given context.

• Consider all the choices in a given question. This will keep you from jumping to a false conclusion. It helps you to slow down and to really look at each possibility. You may fi nd that your fi rst choice is not the best or most appropriate one.

• Maintain an open mind as you answer subsequent questions in a series. Sometimes the answer to a later question will contradict your answer to a previous one. Reconsider both answers. Also, the phrasing of a question may point to an answer in a previous question.

• Remember that all parts of an answer must be correct.

• When in doubt, go to the text.

Specific Techniques

• Process of elimination: This is your primary tool, except for direct knowledge of the answer.

1. Read the fi ve choices.

2. If no choice immediately strikes you as correct, you can

• Eliminate those that are obviously wrong

• Eliminate those choices that are too narrow or too broad

• Eliminate illogical choices

• Eliminate answers that are synonymous

• Eliminate answers that cancel each other out

3. If two answers are close, do one or the other of the following:

• Find the one that is general enough to cover all aspects of the question

• Find the one that is limited enough to be the detail the question is looking for

• Substitution/fi ll in the blank

1. Rephrase the question, leaving a blank where the answer should go.

2. Use each of the choices to fi ll in the blank until you fi nd the one that is the best fi t.

• Using context

1. Consider the context when the question directs you to specifi c lines, words, or phrases.

2. Locate the given word, phrase, sentence, or poetic line and read the sentence or line before and after the section of the text to which the question refers. Often this provides the information or clues you need to make your choice.

• Anticipation: As you read the passage for the fi rst time, mark any details and ideas that you would ask a question about. You may be able to anticipate the test makers this way.

• Intuition or the educated guess: You have a wealth of skills and knowledge in your literary subconscious. A question or a choice may trigger a “remembrance of things past.” This can be the basis for your educated guess. Have the confi dence to use the educated guess as a valid technique. Trust your own resources.


Survival Plan

If time is running out and you haven't finished the fourth selection:

1. Scan the remaining questions and look for:

* The shortest questions

* The questions that direct you to a specific line.

2. Look for specific detail/definition questions.

3. Look for self-contained questions.  For example: "The se slid sliently from the shore" is an example of C. alliteration.  You do not have to go to the passage to answer this question.

You can’t be seriously hurt by making educated guesses based on a careful reading of the selection. Be smart. Understand that you need to come to this exam well prepared. You must have a foundation of knowledge and skills. You cannot guess through the entire exam and expect to do well.

This is not lotto. This book is not about how to “beat the exam.” We want to maximize the skills you already have. There is an inherent integrity in this exam and your participation in it. With this in mind, when there is no other direction open to you, it is perfectly fi ne to make an educated guess.

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