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AP Language and Composition » AP Exam Test Prep » AP Language: Multiple Choice Overview

AP Language: Multiple Choice Overview

Overview of AP Multiple Choice Section

Notes from Five Steps to a Five


  1. You are allotted 1 hour to answer between 45 and 60 objective questions on four to five prose passages.  The selections may vary from works of fiction to nonfiction and from different time periods, of different styles, and of different purposes.  These are NOT easy readings and representative of college-level work. 
    1. You will be expected to:

                                                               i.      Follow sophisticated syntax

                                                             ii.      Respond to diction

                                                            iii.      Be comfortable with upper-level vocabulary

                                                           iv.      Be familiar with rhetorical terminology

                                                             v.      Make inferences

                                                           vi.      Be sensitive to irony and tone

                                                          vii.      Recognize components of organization and style

                                                        viii.      Be familiar with modes of discourse and rhetorical strategies

                                                           ix.      Recognize how information contained in citations contributes to the author’s purpose

  1. The selection is self-contained.  If is about the Irish Potato Famine, you will NOT be at a disadvantage if you know nothing about Ireland before the exam.  Frequently, there will be biblical references in a selection.  You are expected to be aware of basic allusions to biblical and mythological works, but the passages will never require you to have any particular religious background.  Believe it or not, there are Cliff Notes for the Bible J.
  2. Take no more than a minute and thumb through the exam looking for the length of the selections, the number of questions asked, the type of selections, and the type of questions.  This will help you to be aware of what is expected of you.
  3. Always maintain an awareness of time and wear a watch.  Although the test naturally breaks into 15-minute sections, you make take more or less on time on particular passages (12 minutes per passage for 5 passages, 15 minutes per passage for 4 passages).  The test does not become more difficult as it progresses. Work at a pace of about one minute per question. Don’t stress out about extremely difficult questions; remember that there has to be a bar to separate the 5’s from the 4’s.
  4. Reading the text carefully is a must.  Do not waste time reading questions before reading the text. Read the text carefully by doing the following as you read:
    1. Underline, circle, and annotate the text.
    2. Pay close attention to punctuation, syntax, diction, pacing, and organization
    3. Read the passage as if you were reading aloud paying close attention to emphasizing meaning and intent
    4. Hear the words in your head
    5. Trace the words with your finger; it will force you to slow down and comprehend the words you are reading
    6. Use all of the information found in the passage such as title, author, date of publication, and footnotes
    7. Be aware of organization and rhetorical strategies
    8. Be aware of thematic ideas
    9. Practice these techniques with all readings.  A good pace is 1 ½ minutes per page
  5. Structure of the Multiple Choice Questions:
    1. Straightforward Question

                                                               i.      “This passage is an example of”

                                                             ii.      The pronoun “it” refers to

    1. Interpretation and Conclusion Questions

                                                               i.      “Lines 52-57 serve to”

    1. All and Except

                                                               i.      “The AP Language and Composition exam is all of the following except”

    1. Inference or Abstract concept not directly stated

                                                               i.      “In ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ the reader can infer that the speaker is”

    1. Roman Numerals

                                                               i.      “In the passage night refers to”

1.      I. the death of the young woman

2.      II. A pun on Sir William’s title

3.      III. The end of an affair


A.     I only

B.     I and II only

C.     I and III only

D.     II and III

E.      I, II, and III

    1. Footnote

                                                               i.      “The purpose of the footnote is to”

  1. Scoring: Number of questions right = raw score.  The raw score is 45% of your total and is combined with your composition score.  Your Multiple Choice can impact your essay score. The essay scorers already have your MC score and therefore have a “prediction” of the score that your essay should receive. Good test takers cannot "blow off" the essay section; good writers cannot fluff through the MC section.  A psychometrician at the scoring table makes sure that essay and MC scores are in sync with each other.
  2. General Guidelines:
    1. Work in order; you will not lose your place on the scan sheet
    2. Write on the exam booklet; interact with the text
    3. Do not spend too much time on any one question
    4. Do not be mislead by the length of passages; length does not equal difficulty
    5. Consider all the choices; remember they are looking for the BEST answer
    6. Remember that all parts of an answer must be correct
    7. Don’t forget to carefully bubble answers.  Mark your answer in the book as you read.  DO NOT wait until the end to transfer answers in book to bubble sheet.  You may bubble in “chunks” of 4-5 questions.  Once you approach the end of the test or time limit, bubble each question as you answer it.
    8. When in doubt, go back to the text

                                                               i.      Specific Techniques

1.      Process of Elimination-eliminate any obviously wrong answers, eliminate choices that are too broad or too narrow, eliminate illogical choices

2.      If two answers are close, find the one general enough to contain all aspects of the question or find the one limited enough to be the detail the question is seeking

3.      Use “Fill in the Blank”-Rephrase the question leaving a blank where the answer should go.  Use each of the choices in the blank to figure out the best choice.

4.      Use Context-locate the given word, phrases, or sentence and read the sentence before and after

5.      Anticipation-As you read the first time, mark any details that you would ask questions about

6.      Intuition/Educated Guess.

7.      Survival Tip-If you’re running out of time and have not finished the test, scan the remaining questions and look for the shortest questions and/or the questions that point you to a line. Look for specific detail/definition questions.  Look for self-contained questions, “The jail sentence was a bitter winter for his plan” is an example of. Also answer questions on tone and attitude.

8.      Guess. As of May 2010, you will NOT lose points for incorrect answers...hooray!

9.      You must answer at least 38 questions correctly (aim for 40) if you want a high score.

  1.   The MC questions center on form and content.  You are expected to understand meaning, draw inferences, and understand how an author develops his or her ideas. 
    1. Types of Questions

                                                               i.      Factual: Words refer to, allusions, antecedents, pronoun references

                                                             ii.      Technical: Sentence structure, style, grammatical purpose, dominant technique, imagery, point-of-view, organization of passage, narrative progress of passage, conflict, irony, function of…

                                                            iii.      Analytical: rhetorical strategy, shift in development, rhetorical stance, style, metaphor, contrast, comparison, cause/effect, argument, description, narration, specific-general, general-specific, how something is characterized, imagery, passage is primarily concerned with, function of…

                                                           iv.      Inferential: effect of diction, tone, inferences, effect of description, effect of last paragraph, effect on reader, narrator’s attitude, image suggests, effect of detail, author implies, author most concerned with, symbol

                                                             v.      Categories: Use this to Make Sample Questions

1.      the main idea/theme/attitude

a.       The author would most likely agree with which of the following?

b.      The narrator’s/writer’s/speaker’s attitude can be described as

c.       The author would most/least likely agree that

d.      The writer has  presented all of the following ideas except

e.       We can infer that the author values the quality of

f.        The attitude of the narrator helps the writer create a mood of

g.       In context, lines “..” most likely refer to

2.      the author’s meaning and purpose (Why did the writer…)

a.       “…” can best be defined as

b.      The purpose of lines “…” can best be interpreted as

c.       The writer clarifies “…” by

d.      The writer emphasizes “..” in order to

e.       By saying “..” the author intends for us to understand that

f.        By “..” the author most likely means

g.       The purpose of the sentence/paragraph/passage can be summarized as

h.       The passage can be interpreted as meaning all of the following except

3.      the language of rhetoric (syntax, diction, figurative language, tone, etc.)

a.       A shift in point of view is demonstrated by

b.      The repetitive syntax of lines “…” serves to

c.       “..” can best be said to represent

d.      The second sentence  is unified by the writer’s use of ….. rhetorical device?

e.       The word “…” is the antecedent for

f.        The style of the passage can best be characterized as

g.       The author employs “…” sentence structure to establish

h.       The tone of the passage changes when the writer

4.      the speaker or narrator

5.      the attitude (of the narrator or author)

6.      word choice and selection of details (connotation)

7.      sentence structure (syntax)

8.      rhetorical reasoning

9.      inferences

10.  general conclusions

11.  organization and structure (is their contrast, deduction, spatial description, etc.)

a.       The shift from “…” to “….” Is seen by the author’s use of…

b.      In presenting the author’s point, the passage utilizes all of the following except

c.       The speaker has included “…” in her argument in order to…

d.      The type of argument employed by the author is most similar to which of the following?

e.       The can be said to move from “….” To “….”

f.        The “…” paragraph can be said to be … in relation to …

g.       The structure of this passage is primarily one of ….

12.  rhetorical modes (narration, description, argumentation, etc.)

a.       All of the following modes can be found within the passage except

b.      The rhetorical mode that best describes this passage is

c.       The author uses cause and effect in order to

d.      Which of the following best describes the author’s method of presenting the information

e.       The author combines retrospection with which other rhetorical mode within this passage?

13.  documentation and citation

a.       Which of the following is an accurate reading of footnote…

b.      The purpose of footnote… is to inform the reader that the quotation in line

c.       Taken as a whole, the footnotes suggest that…

d.      From reading footnote…, the reader can infer that…



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