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AP Lit Test Taking Tips. Keys to Success on the AP Lit Exam. The Night Before. Relax! Don’t read for the test. Read for pleasure. Watch a movie. Have dinner with your family. Drink some warm milk, get in your jammies, and go to bed early!. The Morning Of.

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Ap lit test taking tips

AP Lit Test Taking Tips

Keys to Success on the AP Lit Exam

The night before
The Night Before

  • Relax! Don’t read for the test. Read for pleasure. Watch a movie. Have dinner with your family. Drink some warm milk, get in your jammies, and go to bed early!

The morning of
The Morning Of

  • Get up early. Don’t roll out of bed and into the testing room. Take a shower. Wake up!

  • Breakfast is important! (Please make sure you have something healthy to eat. Apples are best for waking up—better than caffeine.)

  • Go to the potty before the test.

In the testing room
In the testing room

  • Dress in layers and wear socks. That way you can adjust to the temperature of the room.

  • Bring a watch and tissues.

  • Bring two pens, two sharp pencils, and highlighters (if you use them).

  • Leave backpacks, purses, cell phone in car or room 1.110.

  • Be here early -7:30a.m. Give yourself time to relax, look around, find the clock, etc.

Multiple choice section 45
Multiple Choice section (45%)

  • The first section is a set of multiple-choice questions based on a series of prose passages and poems.

  • 1 hour; usually 55 questions (about one minute per question, including reading time)

  • Receive 1 point for each correct response

  • You will not lose any fraction of a point for a wrong answer; so always guess something. Do NOT leave any question blank!

  • Divide time per passage – be ruthless! About 10-15 minutes per passage.

Multiple choice section 451
Multiple Choice section (45%)

  • Expect at least two poems, two prose passages (occasionally an extra piece of drama). Out of the four passages, 2 are British and 2 American.

  • Test only uses literature from 1575-present (no Middle English or Old English) and no translated works.

  • One passage will include a minority writer.

Multiple choice section 452
Multiple Choice section (45%)

  • Work systematically; do NOT skip around from passage to passage. Answer all the questions for a passage before continuing.

  • Skim the questions before reading the passage (works for most). DON’T read the answers yet! Find 3-4 specific ideas to search for, ignoring the “generic” questions.

  • Read the passage ONCE. Avoid rereading at this time; get the content by reading

    a. Actively

    b. Visualize (2 meanings)

    c. PARAPHRASE as you read(each paragraph and whole passage)! Write on the test! Underline key words.

    d. Analyze for theme, style, speaker, structure, tone, figurative language

  • Read the questions CAREFULLY! Many wrong answers stem from misreading the question; know what is being asked. Accuracy and efficiency count.

  • Read ALL answer choices, eliminate wrong ones as you go. Remember directions call for the BEST answer choice.

Types of questions

1. Situation

who? to whom? (poetry)

subject of 3rd Paragraph (prose)

2. Structure

poetry: how stanzas relate

what word in ______ relates back to ______

what divisions represent its structure

prose: how one paragraph relates to another

progression of thought and overall structure

3. Theme

whole and parts

Types of questions1

4. Grammar and Word Meaning

poetry: specific word choice definitions within context

pronoun references/antecedents

paraphrase word choice

prose: subject of long sentence is…

5. Diction

poetry: Use of _______ indicates

poet’s idea of _________ is suggested by _______

prose: choice of verbs in paragraph 4 suggests _______

speaker’s anger is implied by ________

Types of questions2

6. Images/ Figurative language/ Literary Technique

which one? Where else in work?

Purpose of a metaphor

analogy in 2nd paragraph

7. Tone (perhaps metrics in poetry)

8. Rhetoric (mostly in prose)

function of last sentence

effect of shift in point of view

Accessibility level of questions


phrase presents example of…

all are Figurative language except

Man in line ___ is pictured mainly in his role as ___

in line ___ the ___ is seen chiefly as …

in line ___ the speaker regards himself as …

beginning in ___ speaker does which …

excerpt is written in …

according to the speaker, …

“they” in line ___ refers to …

the object of “to” in line ___ is …

Accessibility level of questions1

2. MAIN IDEA (Did you get it? What’s the message? What is the purpose of the passage?)

______ hated ______ because _____

parable of _______ serves to _______

_______ believed human nature is ________

which best describes ______ at the end


which describes how ____ felt about …

passage is concerned with …

relation between line ____ and line ___ is best described as …

main point about ___ is …

line ___ speaker attempts to …

style is characterized by …

irony rests chiefly on ______

Accessibility level of questions2

3. HIDDEN IDEA (go deeper)

____ interpreted to mean

phrase evokes ______

image of _______ refers to …

________ most likely represents ______

can be inferred

in line ___ the phrase “ ____” means _____

line ___ suggests that …

can be inferred speaker would agree with …

Reasons answers are wrong

  • Irrelevant to the question

  • Contradictory to the passage

  • Unreasonable (the “Huh?” choice)

  • Too general or too specific

  • Vocabulary

  • Absolutes and/or qualifiers

  • Look for the SPECIFIC WORDS that make the answer wrong

Multiple choice1
Multiple Choice

  • Do the sections that are strongest for you, whether prose or poetry, first.

  • Look at the other two sections that are weakest and choose the easiest. Do that one next.

  • Leave the hardest section until last. Use Process of Elimination to guess aggressively: Eliminate the obviously wrong, then the half wrong, and guess from what’s left.

The seven minute passage
The Seven-Minute Passage

  • If you get to the last MC section and have seven minutes or less, do not read the passage. Go directly to the questions and answer them. Some require no reading at all and some require only reading a few lines. Answer those and guess on the rest. Since this is your hardest and/or weakest passage, you’ll probably do about as well as if you had spent time on it.

For poetry passages
For Poetry Passages

  • Read the poem twice unless it is your seven-minute passage.

  • Read for punctuation, not line readings.

  • Use visualization to get the meaning. Remember, it’s poetry. It’s word pictures. Try to make a mental image of what’s being said.

Essay section 55
Essay section (55%)

  • The second section of the exam is a 2-hours essay writing segment consisting of three different essays (40 minutes for each):

    • one on prose,

    • one on poetry, and

    • one free-response.

  • Always try to write at least 2-4 pages per essay. Those that are only 1 page virtually never get a high score because, according to the phrasing on the scoring guide, they are “unacceptably brief.” 1 page essays run the risk of getting nothing higher than a 3.

  • Remember that all scoring guides essentially address the following four points:

    • Write on the topic

    • Use clear, logical organization

    • Develop all ideas thoroughly; address all parts of the prompt

    • Use sophisticated diction and syntax

Essay section 551
Essay section (55%)

  • 2 hours; 3 essays; allow approximately 40 minutes for each.

  • Address ALL PARTS of the prompt in every paragraph! AP = Address Prompt or All Parts

  • Do NOT forget to bring up your deep “universal truth” or theme statement. If you don’t like it in the conclusion, have it somewhere! Remember, if you only write an essay on the “obvious” idea (e.g. what the speaker’s attitude or reaction is, which character has an inner conflict, etc.), you will only score a 5 at best.

  • Use a blue or black pen…no pencil or other colors.

Opening paragraph
Opening paragraph

  • Don’t ask questions

  • Don’t define the words

  • Avoid a 3-part thesis statement

  • Avoid rephrasing the prompt

  • Put thesis statement at the end of the introduction paragraph

Concluding paragraph
Concluding paragraph

  • Try to give enough time to write a concluding paragraph: a conclusion is always good.

  • BUT, if you do run out of time and can not write a concluding paragraph, make sure to write two or even three wonderful body paragraphs which will still be enough for the essay readers to grade your essay.

Body paragraphs
Body paragraphs

  • Do not force a 3-body paragraph essay

  • Two fat and good body paragraphs can get you a good score

  • Four body paragraphs, if time allows, are very good.

  • Style alone can raise your score

Essay section 552
Essay section (55%)

  • For the open topic, review the plot, characters, themes, etc. of 3-5 novels (and one play, perhaps) so that you can write on one of your chosen works.

  • Do NOT misread: author’s name, character’s name, or anything.

  • Finally, never forget the basics:

    • On topic

    • Organization

    • Development

    • Language/style

The essay questions
The essay questions

  • Read the question. Read the whole question.

  • Answer the question. Answer the whole question.

  • If you write a great essay that doesn’t answer the question, you’ll get a bad score.

  • Don’t forget to extrapolate to the work as a whole on the open question. That puts you ahead of 45% of the test taking population.

The essays
The essays

  • Choose the type of essay you’re best at—poetry or prose—and do that first. Do the open question second. Do the worst essay last.

  • Find the meaning. Find how the author gets the meaning across: images, specific words or phrases, opposition.

  • Take a position and have confidence in it. If you can prove it from the passage it is valid.

  • Intro—Universal to specific

  • Conclusion—specific to Universal

And remember
And Remember…

“Success is a consequence and must not be a goal.” --Gustave Flaubert

“This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around.”

--The Talking Heads

You know what to do so…

“Just do it.” --Nike