Answering multiple choice questions about short excerpts from larger literary works may seem like a strange way to sharpen literary analysis skills. But compelling passages and thought-provoking questions challenge readers to re-read for deeper meaning. The questions are best used to spark discussion, debate, and disagreement among your students (and even with me and my “correct” answers) in order to advance their thinking about the passage.
In 2010, I wrote McGraw Hill’s first edition of this exam guide while teaching AP English Literature & Composition at Brooklyn Technical High School, one of New York City’s five specialized public high schools. It provides 50 passages of prose fiction and poetry, along with 500 multiple choice questions that simulate the real exam.
Given the changes to the AP English Literature exam coming in 2021, the third edition of this study guide (available in early 2021) includes fifteen new passages, most of which are excerpted from modern and contemporary texts, and over 300 new questions.
The questions in my book have been designed to direct the reader back to key words and phrases that warrant close analysis. The plausible answer choices compel readers to consider multiple interpretations of a text’s craft and structure and its potential themes.
Every question in the third edition directs students to carefully consider the function or effects of symbolism, imagery, and word choice; the function of the narrator or speaker, character, setting, comparisons, plot, and structure; and draw conclusions about the passage’s overall meaning that are substantiated by the text.
All high school students can benefit from practicing the passages and questions in this study guide, not just AP students.
If you are looking to develop your reading comprehension skills, contribute more meaningfully to class discussions about poetry and fiction, think more critically about how a text is constructed, or become familiar with a larger collection of texts and authors, then this study guide will help.
I used this book during the COVID-19 pandemic to supplement my high school son’s English Honor’s class (online school was lacking rigor). It was a great bonding experience (for me) and thorough preparation for when he takes the test, in the future. Discussing our answers and the ideas raised in the passages was illuminating; not only did I remember how much I loved studying literature in high school and college, my son showed me new ways of interpreting the text. I highly recommend this book for students and parents.Sona Hamilton, 2020
Submit your feedback
With each edition, I incorporate feedback from students and teachers around the country. If you have practiced with any of the passages in this book and would like to share your thoughts about specific questions and answers, please fill out the form below.
Teachers, if you and your students believe an answer or interpretation offered in the book is incorrect, please share your reasoning. I will consider it as I revise the book.