AP English Language and Composition Exam Multiple-Choice Questions

April 9, 2024
AP English Language Exam Multiple Choice Questions

The AP English Language and Composition Exam's multiple-choice questions separate well-qualified students from those who are less qualified. To earn a “5” on the exam you must answer most of the questions correctly and write good essays. To earn a “3,” you need to get about 50 or 60 percent of the short-answer questions right—provided that your essays are generally acceptable.

Each correct answer is worth one point. In scoring the test, each wrong answer and each answer left blank will be deducted from the total number of questions. If, for example, you were to leave two blanks and answer four questions incorrectly, a total of six points will be deducted from 45—the usual number of questions on the exam—making your short-answer score 39.

This scoring procedure means that it always pays to guess, even when a question stumps you completely. By guessing at random, you still have a one-in-four chance of getting it right, and by eliminating one or more choices, you dramatically increase the odds of picking the correct answer. In short, DON’T LEAVE BLANKS. ANSWER EVERY QUESTION.

When a question gives you trouble, and you can’t decide among three choices, conventional wisdom says you should go with your first impulse. You may be right. Testing experts and psychologists agree there’s a better than average chance of success if you trust your intuition. There are no guarantees, however. Because the human mind works in so many ways, relying on your initial choice may not always work.

Types of Multiple-Choice Questions on the AP English Language and Composition Exam

AP English Language and Composition Exam Practice Questions

Based on the fourth paragraph of the passage (lines 1–16), the writer introduces a hypothetical rhetorical situation in order to

(A)   illustrate the need for public support 

(B)   inject a plea for adherence to the rule of law 

(C)   contrast the modes of communication in two different wars 

(D)   prepare the reader for the anecdote that follows in lines 17–21 

Lines 22–30 could be used to support which of the following claims about the writer’s tone? 

(A)   His tone when discussing Bengston’s art is mocking. 

(B)   His tone when evaluating Ruscha’s photos is respectful. 

(C)   He adopts a sarcastic tone when commenting on art auctions. 

(D)   He adopts a reverent tone when describing Renaissance paintings. 

The writer wants to add the following sentence to the second paragraph of the passage to provide additional support to the essay’s thesis:

Researchers often study groups of children with different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Where would the sentence best be placed?

(A)   Before sentence 3

(B)   After sentence 3

(C)   After sentence 4

(D)   After sentence 5

Unhappy with the transitional phrase at the start of sentence 9, the writer plans to replace it with one that sets up a comparison with the idea in sentence 8. Which of the following best achieves that goal?

(A)   Furthermore,

(B)   To be sure,

(C)   For instance,

(D)   On the other hand,

The foregoing questions represent only a few of the many types of reading and writing questions on the exam. The following list will give you an idea of other kinds that have appeared on recent exams.

  1. IDENTIFY the relationship of a sentence in the first paragraph to the passage as a whole. 
  2. SELECT the rhetorical strategy or device used in a particular section of the passage. 
  3. IDENTIFY the function of a sentence within a paragraph, or a paragraph within the whole. 
  4. DISCERN shifts in theme, tone, style, sentence structure, diction, syntax, effect, or rhetorical purpose between the two sections of the passage. 
  5. DETERMINE how unity (or point of view, emphasis, contrast, or other feature) is achieved in all or part of the passage. 
  6. RECOGNIZE the author’s exigence in the passage. One or more multiple-choice questions may ask about the author’s “exigence,” a word that refers to a problem or situation that needs attention. A rhetorical exigence is whatever has prompted the writing of the given passage. 
  7. INFER the implied or stated purpose of particular words, images, figures of speech, sen- tence structure, or other rhetorical feature. 

Many of the questions direct you to particular lines of the passage. To answer most of those questions you need to read the specified lines and respond. Some questions, however, require more than that. Some raise broad issues that can’t be addressed without a fuller understand- ing of the context in which the lines appear. In such cases, you must read at least the two or three lines that precede the lines designated by the question and the two or three lines that follow. 

For multiple-choice questions, AP test writers ordinarily choose passages written between the 17th century and the present, although they might occasionally toss in a passage from ancient Greece or Rome. Passages are nonfiction and are composed by essayists, historians, journalists, diarists, autobiographers, political writers, philosophers, and critics. You won’t find simple passages that leave little room for interpretation, nor will you find passages comprehensible only to those with sky-high IQs. 

Authors and titles of the passages are not given, although the source of each passage may be briefly identified: “a nineteenth-century memoir,” “a twentieth-century book,” “a contemporary journalist’s diary,” and so on. By and large, if you’ve taken an AP English class, you’ll probably understand the passages and correctly answer the majority of questions. A robust reading background, both in school and on your own, as well as practice in close textual analysis, will serve you well.