Tips for Multiple Choice

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Tips for Multiple Choice:

-Look at all four passages before choosing which to tackle first. Save the most difficult passages for the end and tackle the easier ones in the beginning. If you are forced to miss an entire portion/passage, you can still do well. Shorter vs Longer, Contemporary vs Older.

-Eliminate ANSWERS: IF SOMETHING is WRONG, EVERYTHING is WRONG. You may not know what is right, but if you can identify what is wrong, you may only be left with one possible response.

-Preview Questions if it makes you more comfortable.

-If you need to, skim the passage first and then read the questions. Return back to the passage as needed.

-Read Passage for main ideas/purpose, not for complete comprehension.

Most Important: What is the main idea?

-Read poems at least two times before tackling them.

Do not look for figurative language or clues, look for the main idea. Do not waste time analyzing every angle of a poem.

Use the questions to assist in comprehension of the passage!

Poems on the AP exam are, in fact, straightforward.

Read sentences, not lines. Ignore breaks. Know that ideas are developing over time.

You know your reading habits need some improvement if any of the following is true for you: you find yourself thinking of something else about every other sentence you have to reread a paragraph about five times to know what it means you have to look up about every other word you are bored by the passage so you just skim through it, but then you have no idea what it is about you sometimes characterize the text as “stupid,” “dumb,” “pointless,” etc.


When you read a difficult text, you’re not usually reading for pleasure. You want to understand the text and you want to read it as quickly as possible (especially on the AP Lit exam). Difficult texts are not easy to understand quickly, so annotating or marking the text as you read can help you grasp the key ideas and help you more easily reconnect with your thoughts when you take a second look. For example, if you are reading a poem and immediately recognize the dominant tone—mark that down. If the tone shifts in the last stanza—note that as well. If a question that follows the passage asks you to identify the tone, you’ll most likely be able to answer it without rereading the text—all because you annotated!

Types of Multiple Choice Questions You Will Encounter:

-General Comprehension Questions

-Detail Questions

-Factual Knowledge Questions

Comprehension Examples: Discusses the overall passage and should not ask you to refer back to the text

-Passage is primarily concerned with…

-What is the tone…

-Which choice best describes…

-Who is being addressed…

-Which best describes the author’s feelings towards…

-Which best describes the author’s changing attitude…

Detail Questions: Send to back to a specific place in the text

-What change occurs in the author’s tone in lines 5-9

-How do the final three lines of the poem alter the poem’s meaning

-The author uses all of the following literary techniques EXCEPT…

Factual Knowledge Questions: Questions that require you to have a prior knowledge of English language, grammar, and poetry.

-How does the author’s use of irony contribute to…

-How does the author use symbolism to contribute…

-What technique is used to emphasize the author’s attitude…

-In the context of the following lines (1-5), the phrase “…” is used as a metaphor for…


Subject, Verb, Object, Object (direct/indirect)

Clause – Subject & Verb

Phrase – Not a complete sentence (lacks a subject & verb)


KEY TERMS Familiarize yourself with the following list of terms. The starred terms (⋆) are those that have appeared more prominently on released AP Lit exams.

1. alliteration: repetition, at close intervals, of beginning sounds.

2. ⋆ apostrophe: a speaker directly addresses something or someone not living, as a lady in a tapestry, or the wind.

3. assonance: repetition at close intervals of vowel sounds. At its most basic, assonance is simple rhyme (cat, hat). Assonance provides a fluency of sound.

4. consonance: repetition at close intervals of consonant sounds, such as book, plaque, thicker.

5. couplet: two lines that rhyme. Shakespearean sonnets end with a couplet. Set off, couplets may contain a separate or complete idea. Sometimes a couplet can serve as a stanza.

6. ⋆ epigram: a short quotation or verse that precedes a poem (or any text) that sets a tone, provides a setting, or gives some other context for the poem.

7. fixed form: some poems have a fixed form, meaning that there are “rules” about numbers of lines, meter, rhyme schemes, etc. See a list of common fixed-form poems later in this chapter.

8. iambic pentameter: a line of five iambic feet, or ten syllables. See the section on Meter later in this chapter.

9. ⋆ metaphor: a comparison of two unlike things in order to show something new. A basic metaphor contains a literal term (the thing being compared) and a figurative term (the thing the literal term is being compared with).

10. ⋆ imagery: language that appeals to the senses and evokes emotion.

11. metaphysical conceit: an elaborate, intellectually ingenious metaphor that shows the poet’s realm of knowledge; it may be brief or extended.

12. ⋆ meter: the rhythmic pattern of poetry. See the section on meter later in this chapter.

13. ⋆ personification: to personify is to attribute human qualities or characteristics to nonliving things. To attribute human qualities to animals is called anthropomorphism.

14. pun: a play on words where the juxtaposition of meanings is ironic or humorous.

15. rhyme (internal rhyme): words that rhyme within a line of poetry

16. rhyme (rhyme scheme): a regular pattern of end rhymes. To mark a rhyme scheme, label the first line “a,” the next line if it does not rhyme with the first “b,” and so on. Certain fixed form poems, like sonnets, have specific rhyme schemes.

17. rhythm: the beat or music of a poem. A regular beat indicates a metrical pattern.

18. sestet: a stanza of six lines. See other stanza types below.

19. simile: a metaphor that uses comparison words such as “like” or “as.” An epic simile or Homeric simile (named after Homer) is an elaborate simile that compares an ordinary event or situation (familiar to the audience) with the idea in the text. These similes are often recognized by the “just as, so then” construction. Dante Alighieri makes extensive use of epic similes.

20. ⋆ speaker: the narrative voice of a poem. A poem generally has only one speaker, but some poems may have more than one.

21. ⋆ stanza: the “paragraph” of a poem, whether consisting of equal or unequal numbers of lines. Stanzaic form refers to a poem that has stanzas. A poem without stanzas is a continuous form poem.

22. ⋆ structure: the way the poem is built, such as three stanzas of terza rima, or one stanza (continuous form) of successive couplets

23. synechdoche (pronounced sin-eck-doe-key, emphasis on second syllable): the use of a part for the whole, such as “all hands on deck”

24. ⋆ tone: the emotional quality of a poem, such as regretful or contemplative. Tone also refers to the speaker’s attitude (feelings about) a particular thing or idea.

25. unity: the degree to which elements of a poem work together to produce a coherent effect


couplet two-line

stanza tercet three-line stanza

quatrain four-line stanza

quintain five-line stanza

sestet six-line stanza septet

seven-line stanza

octave eight-line stanza

Haiku: Haiku is a traditional Japanese fixed-form poem. It is structured in three lines, with five syllables in the first, seven syllables in the second, and five syllables in the third. One intention of a haiku poem is to capture a moment in time or a perceived aspect of nature.

Sestina: A sestina is a complicated French form of poetry traditionally consisting of six six-line stanzas followed by a tercet, called an “envoy,” to equal 39 lines in all. A set of six words is repeated in varying patterns at the ends of the lines of each of the six-line stanzas. These six words also appear in the envoy, two in each line of the tercet.

Sonnet: You may have heard the phrase, “If it’s square, it’s a sonnet.” A sonnet is fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, generally with either of two traditional rhyme schemes:

Shakespearean/English: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG (three quatrains followed by a rhyming couplet); or Petrarchan/Italian: ABBAABBA CDECDE an octave (two quatrains) presenting a problem followed by a sestet (two tercets) giving the solution. Or, the sestet signals a change in tone or other shift.

Villanelle: This fixed-form poem consists of 19 lines composed of five tercets (rhyme scheme: aba) and a concluding quatrain (rhyme scheme: abaa). Lines one and three of the first tercet serve as refrains in a pattern that alternates through line 15. This pattern is repeated again in lines 18 and 19. The most famous example of a villanelle is Dylan Thomas’ poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

1. Ballad: a short poem in song format (sometimes with refrains) that tells a story

2. Elegy: a poem, the subject of which is the death of a person or, in some cases, an idea

3. Epic: long, adventurous tale with a hero, generally on a quest

4. Lyric: expresses love, inner emotions, tends to be personal; usually written in first person

5. Narrative: the poet tells a story with characters and a plot

6. Ode: Originally a Greek form, odes are serious lyric poems. There are a variety of types of odes. English Romantic poets reinvigorated the form.

7. Prose poem: a prose poem looks like a paragraph, even having a jagged right margin. It may even read like a paragraph, but it retains poetic elements such as imagery, figurative language, and concise diction.


1. abstraction: a concept or idea without a specific example; idealized generalities

2. abstract noun: ideas or things that can mean many things to many people, such as peace, honor, etc.

3. analogy: compares two things that are similar in several respects in order to prove a point or clarify an idea

4. antecedent: that which comes before; the antecedent of a pronoun is the noun to which the pronoun refers (you may be expected to find this relationship)

5. antithesis: the opposite of an idea used to emphasize a point; the juxtaposition of contrasting words or ideas. Example: To err is human; to forgive, divine.

6. catalog (list): Walt Whitman used catalogs or lists of like elements in his poems; lists of details can reinforce a concept. Inductive arguments build to a conclusion based on the collective impression of lists (facts).

7. circumlocution: to write around a subject; to write evasively; to say nothing

8. double entendre: a phrase or saying that has two meanings, one being sexual or provocative in nature

9. euphemism: a kinder, gentler, less crude or harsh word or phrase to replace one that seems imprudent to use in a particular situation

10. ethos: a speaker or writer’s credibility; his or her character, honesty, commitment to the writing

11. hyperbole: an exaggeration or overstatement—saying more than is warranted by the situation in order to expose reality by comparison; also, one of the main techniques in satire

12. juxtapose (juxtaposition): to place side by side in order to show similarities or differences

13. lists: see catalog

14. oxymoron: a figure of speech in which two contradictory elements are combined for effect, such as “deafening silence”

15. paradox: the juxtaposition of incongruous or conflicting ideas that reveal a truth or insight

16. parody: a humorous imitation of an original text meant to ridicule, used as a technique in satire

17. parallel structure: equal or similar grammatical or rhetorical elements used side by side or in succession, generally for emphasis

18. pathos: the quality in literature that appeals to the audience’s emotions

19. repetition: any of a variety of devices that emphasize through repetition: one example of a repetition device is anaphora, which is the repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences

20. rhetoric: the use of language for persuasion (in our context, persuasive writing)

21. rhetorical strategy: various strategies and appeals that writers use to persuade. The main appeals are to logic/reason, to needs, to tradition, to emotion, and to ethics/fairness.

22. satire: type of literature that exposes idiocy, corruption, or other human folly through humor, exaggeration, and irony

23. understatement: saying less than is warranted by the situation in order to emphasize reality

24. verb phrase: the verb and its object and modifiers

25. vernacular: the ordinary, everyday speech of a region

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