Multiple-Choice Analysis

by Renee Shea

Bowie State University

Bowie, Maryland

Commentary on the Choices for Items 1-12: "My Garden" by Mary Abigail Dodge (1862)

1. Answer = (D)

This item requires synthesis of the entire passage but is fairly straightforward. The correct answer, (D), captures the speaker's pride in being a woman ("I am a woman" is repeated several times as an assertion) and a woman who writes. The word "pride" makes this option stand out because it describes the tone of the overall passage. Although the speaker explains her difficulties in being recognized and valued, she does not discuss problems with publication as described in choice (A). While she points out that women's writing is often not taken seriously, she does not discuss the "advisability of . . . careers in writing" in (B). Choice (C) is attractive because it is half-true: she discusses her writing style, but she does not describe its development. Like (A), (E) raises an issue outside the passage: the speaker does not address what inspired her writing.

2. Answer = (A)

Items that call attention to a word whose meaning seems clear usually reflect an unusual use of the term. In this case, the closest synonym to "clumsiness" is "awkwardness" -- in distracter (B) -- but in context the meaning is not awkward, certainly not the "awkwardness of a young boy." Analyzing this item's choices requires including the sentence before the one containing the word "clumsiness." The correct answer, (A), recognizes the confusion of a reader who expects one thing (a man's voice) and realizes it is a woman's. Choice (C) is attractive because it articulates a point that the speaker makes in the passage; it is not, however, an accurate description of the reference "clumsiness" makes in this specific sentence. Both (D) and (E) are external to the passage, which is not focused on the displeasure or boredom that results from reading poor writing.

3. Answer = (A)

This item is similar to the previous one in that it's based on a term whose meaning most exam-takers know, so they must look within the passage to answer correctly. In context, the speaker is calling for an end to the clumsiness that causes confusion by proper identification -- rather than subterfuge or outright deceit -- of a writer's gender; thus (A) is the correct answer. Choice (B) plays on the general association of "christened" with religion, but the speaker of this passage is not discussing religion. Both (C) and (D) draw on associations of being "christened" with new beginnings, yet this passage is not about launching a journey, literal or metaphorical, or teaching writing. Option (E) is the least likely to be correct because the speaker is calling for direct disclosure, which is the opposite of force.

4. Answer = (D)

This item is simple in that it requires only close reading and synthesis of the passage's second paragraph. In fact, the frame of the opening and closing sentences might bring to mind the word "undaunted." The speaker is confident, clear, and strong in her recognition of the difference between others' perception of her and her self-perception. No wonder that 91 percent of the examinees chose (D) as the correct answer. The two different perceptions might make option (B) attractive, but the speaker clearly is not weighing them and certainly is not "torn between" them. Choices (A), (C), and (E) indicate misreadings, though (A) might appeal to a student who did not read beyond the word "aware": the speaker is acutely aware of many things, but revenge is not a part of her discussion.

5. Answer = (E)

This item might have been easier if the passage had read "that arrow" instead of "the arrow" because the speaker refers directly to the previous sentence in which "assumed superiority" "hurl[s]" their "poisoned shafts" against her. Although it's not a good idea for an exam-taker to ignore the other choices when one of the five seems correct, the combination of "criticism" and "men" is so completely correct that it would be tempting not to go through the logic to exclude the others. Nonetheless, the most appealing distracter might be (C) because the speaker's words "humble and deprecating" (lines 34-35) suggest doubt, but a close reading confirms that this reference is not about doubt. Both (A) and (B) are external to the passage. Choice (D) is attractive only to the nonchalant reader who associates the wound of an "arrow" with "a painful memory," a common enough association, but not one that is within the context of this passage.

6. Answer = (B)

This item requires the exam-taker to paraphrase the opening sentence. This task is not likely to be difficult unless vocabulary, such as "magnanimity," is a problem. The appearance of the word "easily" in both the passage and the correct answer is an unusual coincidence in an AP Exam; it is not a situation that students can rely on. The word "repetition" appears in distracters (C) and (D), as well as a synonym for "reiteration" in the passage, yet neither (C) nor (D) is correct. Distracter (A) might appeal to students who associate "magnanimity" with "generously," but the speaker does not use the term to refer to her or anyone else's generosity. The passage as a whole might suggest that (E) applies to the speaker, but it is not the point she makes in her opening sentence.

7. Answer = (A)

Not surprisingly, this is the most difficult item in the set. It requires drawing an inference from the long final paragraph about a writer's purpose. A careful reading yields, first of all, an understanding that the speaker is focusing on herself as she makes a series of statements about her work: she has a "serious style," she "march[es] straight on" with "keen eye and strong hand," and she makes the "unmistakable assertion" that she is a woman. The tone is assertive, and the content focuses on her qualifications, so (A) is the correct answer. Choice (C) might be tempting because the speaker does use analogies (for example, the dyspeptic alderman, the hungry newsboy, the locusts and wild honey), but that is also why it's incorrect: she uses several analogies, not one "elaborate analogy," and the technique of analogy is not her "primary purpose" in the paragraph. Option (B) is a link with her call for honesty in acknowledging that a woman is writing, but her primary purpose is not to argue for more honesty in writing in general. Choice (D) is incorrect because she does not introduce a new topic as another layer to her discussion of gender issues. The only way that (E) might appeal to students is if they read her analogies as "hypothetical situation[s]," but she does not present them as such. Both (D) and (E) play on the introduction of a new point when, in fact, she makes the point that she is repeating, "I am a woman."

8. Answer = (C)

This item turned out to be more difficult than might be expected, perhaps because (A) states the most common definition of "wanting" -- that is, "desiring." Within the context of the passage, however, the less common definition -- (C), "lacking" -- is accurate. Exam-takers can quickly eliminate the other choices by putting them in the sentence and hearing the confusion of both meaning and syntax: for example, "Not 'hunting' in a certain . . . ." The sentence itself is complex (and the next item also focuses on it), so the students might select an inappropriate word because they do not grasp the meaning sufficiently to interpret the participial phrase.

9. Answer = (C)

This is a straightforward, pronoun-reference item, but the complexity of the sentence increases the difficulty. Students must determine what it is that possesses "concentrativeness" and such -- it is (C), the speaker's "serious style." Exam-takers who understand the participial phrase in the previous item will be likely to identify the subject "it" as a reference to "my serious style." (It is worth noting that students with scores of 5 and 4 had an easy time with items 8 and 9, while those with lower scores, especially 2 and 1, had a great deal of difficulty.)

10. Answer = (B)

This one somewhat resembles the analogy items on the old SAT®. The speaker writes, "It is not self-sacrifice, but self-cherishing, that turns the dyspeptic alderman away from turtle-soup." The logic must be as follows: the dyspeptic alderman chooses to avoid eating rich soup because he does not want to get indigestion (thus self-interest) rather than because he has a larger goal or purpose. The trouble might be vocabulary -- both dyspeptic and turtle soup, the latter hardly a modern-day staple. Choice (B) captures this logic. Option (A) is wrong because the alderman is not "one who succumbs"; rather, he chooses. Choice (C) is incorrect because the alderman is the antithesis of an innocent victim. Option (E) is not the right answer because the alderman is depicted as relatively unconcerned about his conscience; the references to "empty stomach" and "clear conscience" in line 73 might confuse a careless reader into making this choice. Choice (D) is a complete misreading because the behavior is neither "admirable" nor "unrecognized."

11. Answer = (A)

Students unfamiliar with the term "antithesis" might have difficulty with this item. Even with only a rudimentary understanding that the term has something to do with opposition, however, they could determine that the speaker would hardly suggest a "weak-minded man," (B), as an opposite to a weak-minded woman. The "hungry newsboy" from the previous sentence has scant connection apart from proximity. Since the speaker has not evaluated the reader in any way before this sentence, (C) is not likely to be the correct answer. Choice (E) would be contradictory because engaging exclusively in pursuits considered the domain of the female seems the same as "weak-minded." "The speaker" herself, (A), is the opposite of a weak-minded woman not just by process of elimination but because all along the speaker has been building her case that, paradoxically, she asserts her womanhood directly and openly to assert her strength of purpose and mind.

12. Answer = (E)

In many ways, this item synthesizes other items in the set. Although not directly, several call attention to the speaker's repetition ("reiteration") of "I am a woman." Other items focus on both analogy and direct comparisons. Item 5 emphasizes the "criticism from men." Although some students might interpret the "Classical Dictionary" or even the quotation as authorities, these references make no real appeals to authority to support the speaker's argument. "Except" items can be a little tricky; each is essentially five true/false statements presented as one multiple-choice item. The one that is not correct is the answer -- in this case, (E).







































Multiple-Choice Analysis

by Renee Shea

Bowie State University

Bowie, Maryland


Commentary on the Choices for Items 13-28: "The Poetry of Pope" by Thomas De Quincey (1848)

13. Answer = (C)

Another purpose item, this requires an understanding of the overall passage. One way to approach such items is to consider the verbs first: "propose," "describe," "explain," "criticize," and "praise." By doing that, the careful reader can eliminate two choices fairly easily: that is, the speaker is neither proposing, (A), nor praising, (E). The other three possibilities require further scrutiny. Students should be able to tell from the tone that the writer is not being critical; he is certainly not criticizing his readers' taste. So (D) is not correct. The opening sentence should help determine whether the correct answer is (B) or (C). Since the writer opens by focusing on a "sharper distinction" and then proceeds to analyze the distinction between two "separate offices" of literature, his focus is more an idea than a process. Choice (C) is the correct answer because he is explaining his idea of literature of knowledge and literature of power.

14. Answer = (E)

This item should be fairly straightforward if the exam-taker remembers the examples in the latter half of the passage of Milton's epic poem and a cookbook -- quite different pieces of writing. Those alone eliminate "works of poetry and prose fiction" in (A), "all the writing in one particular field" -- (D), and probably (B) because most cookbooks are not destined to become "classics." Even if students are unfamiliar with Paradise Lost, the passage clearly indicates that it is a work that goes beyond "entertainment" ("the divine poem," line 59). The speaker makes the distinction between literature of knowledge and literature of power in terms of "written works in general"; thus (E) is the correct answer.

15. Answer = (E)

This is a fairly difficult item; only 46 percent of examinees answered it correctly. One reason might be lack of familiarity with the language used to describe rhetorical strategies. Each answer choice is presented in terms of rhetorical intent. Although there are few ways around a careful reading of each option, it is worth noting that the passage opens with the word "But" -- suggesting a turn of some sort. The qualification "more important" supports this turn by indicating a hierarchy of importance. The first sentence of the passage continues: it is "not so much" one thing as "a sharper distinction" -- again including words that rank and qualify. Choice (E) incorporates all of these points. The opening sentence "dismiss[es]" one "topic" ("correction") as being "less promising" ("not so much") than another subject -- that topic which is "central" to this passage. Option (A) is incorrect because the writer does not ask the reader to take sides. Choice (B) is wrong because the details follow this opening sentence. Option (C) is incorrect because there is no discussion of "flaws"; a careless reader might, nonetheless, select this distracter because of the repetition of "common" from the sentence in the passage. Choice (D) is wrong because the speaker does not reference his credentials implicitly or explicitly.

16. Answer = (B)

This item requires students to determine a word's less common meaning from context. Some may remember the usage from the last line of Robert Hayden's poem "Those Winter Sundays," when the speaker wonders what he knew of "love's austere and lonely offices." Students who ignore the context within the passage might consider (D), which is the ordinary definition of the term as "buildings in which business affairs are carried out," or (C), "positions of trust or authority." Choice (E) is easy to dismiss because it does not fit into the sentence. Option (A) is likely the most attractive distracter, yet it makes no sense in the sentence itself. Even for those readers who have never seen "offices" used with this rather anachronistic meaning, (B) makes perfect sense because it refers to the "functions" of literature; furthermore, a deft reader will notice that line 4 mentions the "two functions," which the speaker alludes to again as "separate offices."

17. Answer = (E)

Slightly more than half of the examinees answered this item correctly, although its only difficulty lies in its complex syntax. The sentence runs from line 5 to line 9, and the item focuses on lines 7-8, where the connection is made elliptically rather than explicitly. The best approach to such an item is to plug in the suggested options: "In that great social organ which, collectively, we call literature, there may be distinguished two separate offices, that may blend and often do so, but ['as if' / 'becoming more' / 'by being' / 'which were' / or 'that are'] capable, severally, of a severe insulation, and naturally fitted for reciprocal repulsion." That exercise narrows the choices to the final two. Option (D) makes it a nonrestrictive clause in past tense -- but tense alone rules that choice out because the rest of the sentence is in present. Thus (E) is the correct answer -- restrictive (with "that" repeating the previous "that" in line 7) and present tense.

18. Answer = (A)

This item can be a bit time-consuming; in order to rule out only one choice, exam-takers might go through every option. On the other hand, once they eliminate (A), the item's "except" construction means that (A) has to be the correct answer -- that is, (A) is the only choice that is not correct. In lines 8-9, "severe insulation" is joined with an "and" to "reciprocal repulsion," which indicates that these qualities might apply to the literatures of both power and knowledge. In other words, the "separate offices" -- or functions -- of the two literatures may "blend," but they may also insulate -- and repel. Choices (B), (C), and (D) are presented with tension-and-contrast words, indicating what "the first" is, then "the second." Option (E) is a bit more difficult, but in the passage, the literature of power transcends the "dry light" of the literature of knowledge, reaching "humid light."

19. Answer = (B)

This item seems to require paraphrase, but it actually asks the exam-taker to interpret, not just restate, a difficult concept. The writer says that people have "so little reflected" on the literature of power that they find it a seeming contradiction (paradox) that books might do more than give information. Essentially, that is the statement in the correct answer, (B). Getting to that choice requires an understanding of paradox. Selecting (A) is clearly wrong because suspicion has little to do with what "Men" -- or the public -- do; ignorance does. Choice (C) is easy to dismiss as incorrect because it contradicts the factual content of the passage. Option (D) is, perhaps, most tempting, particularly since it contains the word "paradoxical," but a careful reading shows that no one is dismissing paradoxical thinking but rather finding the thinking paradoxical. Choice (E) is an obvious misreading that plays on the passage's phrase "little reflected": the public having "little reflected" on an issue does not mean that the people have "understood" it, nor does the phrase mean that the public does not discuss the issue.

20. Answer = (C)

Nearly half of the examinees missed this item, which is a straightforward pronoun reference -- though in a complicated sentence that has three "it" references. The "it" that "exists eternally," however, is "all truth" in line 31. There's no trick here, just a need for experience with different uses of "it" as a pronoun ("The house was for sale, and I bought it for a song") and as a general way to open a sentence ("It is important to save money").

21. Answer = (E)

Puzzling out this item requires an intense focus on the specified lines, which define the metaphor. The writer makes the point that the "grandeur of all truth" is that even the weakest or smallest minds have some inkling of it. The metaphor explains how the truth exists (note that the boldface in the following quotation doesn't appear on the exam): "by way of germ or latent principle . . . needing to be developed but never to be planted. To be capable of transplantation . . . ." The "lower scale" in the next sentence is a literal description and not part of the metaphor. Thus, all of the options are correct "except" (E), which makes (E) the right answer.

22. Answer = (A)

The most challenging item of this set (38 percent answered it correctly), this one requires synthesis and interpretation of a fairly difficult section of the passage, lines 40-52. The speaker defines power as "deep sympathy with truth" and then -- in a lengthy sentence -- asserts that the "primal affections" are strengthened and the qualities that are "most alien from the worldly" are renewed "[b]y the pity, by the tenderness, and by the peculiar modes of admiration" that are linked to children. Readers can infer that "primal affections" and unworldly qualities are linked with emotion rather than reason. Thus (A) is the correct answer because emotions (available more to the innocence of children than to adults) link us with truth. Choice (B) is not correct because the speaker is not discussing "the redemptive power of innocence." Option (C) is wrong because the speaker does not make the point that power and weakness are paradoxically related; a careless reader might associate innocence with weakness or be drawn to "paradoxical" because of the earlier reference to a paradox. Choice (D) is incorrect because the speaker never suggests that understanding the literature of power demands "instinct rather than experience"; readers could infer quite the contrary. Option (E) is easy to identify as a misreading.

23. Answer = (A)

This item focuses on the answer to the question about the value of Paradise Lost and requires a fairly simple inference. One "learn[s] . . . [n]othing" because the point is not to convey or provide information; thus (A) is the correct answer. Students can exclude (B), (C), and (D) by noting that in the immediately following lines, the speaker points out what can be "learn[ed]" from a "cookery-book." The point is to juxtapose the two types of literature, not to address anything about literary critics -- (B), difficulty of style -- (C), or "moral purpose" in the work -- (D). Choice (E) plays on the proximity of this section to the previous one that references children but makes little sense as an explanation of the meaning of "[n]othing at all."

24. Answer = (A)

This difficult item requires understanding of a substantial block of text. Exam-takers can exclude (B) because the speaker's point is neither to define "good literature" nor to show how Paradise Lost teaches anything about literature per se. They can rule out (C) because Paradise Lost teaches "[n]othing at all," according to the speaker, thus making "instruction" incorrect. Choice (D) is flatly wrong since the speaker makes the distinction between "discursive" and "higher" understanding, and Paradise Lost is the latter. Option (E) is incorrect because, while Paradise Lost may "inspire," it does not provide information or "inform." The correct answer, (A), captures the function of literature of power, as the speaker defines it: in lines 63-64, he says that what the reader owes to Milton is "exercise and expansion to your own latent capacity of sympathy with the infinite." Choice (A) paraphrases that point as "enlarg[ing] one's deep sympathy with truth."

25. Answer = (D)

This easy item requires basic comprehension. The cookbook contrasts with Paradise Lost, so it is clearly an example of the literature of knowledge, which provides information. The correct answer is (D). Choices (A), (B), and (C) -- all criticisms -- are misreadings. Option (E) -- "innovative" -- brings in another issue that the speaker does not address in the literature of either knowledge or power.

26. Answer = (A)

As long as students know the terms that make up the options for this item, it should be fairly straightforward. The writer refers to "steps of knowledge," alluding to Jacob's ladder and developing an analogy of ascension from earth; thus (A) "An extended analogy" is the correct answer. Exam-takers can exclude the other choices by definition. A student might consider selecting (E) under the assumption that the reference to Jacob's ladder is an appeal to biblical authority, but (E) is hardly the best answer.

27. Answer = (C)

Slightly more than 50 percent of the examinees answered this item correctly; nevertheless, it is not that difficult. Scanning the first word of each option excludes three immediately. The speaker's confidence alone rules out (A) and (B) (first words: "tentative" and "detached"). Several items in this set refer to the writer's awareness of criticism, yet none of those options has been correct: he nowhere defends himself or refutes a counterargument after the opening sentence where he states that he will explain "a far more important correction" and then analyzes "a sharper distinction of the two functions" of literature. Thus (D)'s first word, "defensive," makes it incorrect. It takes a stretch to say that the writer is "supportive and reassuring" because one must ask, "Supportive of what? Reassuring to whom?" Again, the first item in the passage excludes this response as the right answer. The writer never indicates that he is supportive of another person's analysis, of a charge leveled against literature, of Milton or cookery-books. Rather, his engaged and spirited explanation, filled with examples and analogy, is both "fervent and emphatic"; so (C) is correct.

28. Answer = (B)

Another inferential item that proved difficult for examinees (43 percent answered it correctly), this one requires an understanding of how the relationship among audience, writer, and subject determine the style and structure of a text. Choice (D) -- "professional poets" -- might be the easiest to exclude because the speaker does not refer exclusively to poetry or "classic" literature. In the same vein, (C) is incorrect because "amateur writers" might aspire to literature of either information or power. In any event, this passage has no earmarks of a how-to text. Option (E) seems unlikely since the writer indicates that both types of literature he analyzes are important (and thus publishable). Choice (A) seems a bit odd since avid readers might well be the correct answer, yet "pious" restricts the audience of readers too much. Given both the style and content of the piece, maturity of experience and training seem necessary, so "educated adults" -- option (B) -- are "most probably" the intended audience.































Multiple-Choice Analysis

by Renee Shea

Bowie State University

Bowie, Maryland


Commentary on the Choices for Items 29-43: "On Bird, Bird-Watching, and Jazz" by Ralph Ellison (1953)

29. Answer = (C)

Once again the first item of the set is a purpose item that requires synthesis and interpretation of the entire passage. In this case, the verbs alone -- "analyze," "describe," "probe," "compare," and "explore" -- don't offer any cues. Students can exclude (A) and (B) because the piece is not about jazz alone or a methodology or technique of jazz; the person Parker must be part of any statement of purpose. Choice (E) might be tempting because it includes Parker's name, yet the piece does not discuss specific musical "influences." Deciding between (C) and (D) is a matter of "primary purpose" (bold added): although the speaker does "compare jazz music and birdsong," he does so with the purpose of probing the origin and appropriateness -- "association" -- of Parker's nickname "Bird." Thus (C) is the correct answer.

30. Answer = (B)

Tone items are frequently among the most difficult of the set; in this case, only 35 percent of examinees answered correctly. There is little in the passage to support options (C), "Defensiveness," or (E), "Cynicism," because the speaker seems more playful in his approach. Choice (A) holds little attraction because the speaker does not refer to himself, so "modesty" of any form seems beside the point. Option (D) might be attractive because the writer goes through a process of weighing and revising in his thinking, yet the ending sections (starting with line 54) are quite confident, even assertive, not indecisive at all. The correct answer -- "(B) Mock solemnity" -- requires the exam-taker to note the playfulness of the tone, the understated humor that comes from his approaching this topic -- a jazz musician's nickname -- with the seriousness of a researcher who consults history and science. That is, the student must detect the irony in such juxtapositions as "ornithological designation" with "chicken yard" and "[r]andy roosters and operatic hens" with "European devotional paintings" and the Latin names of birds.

31. Answer = (B)

Since this is an excerpt, students can read the opening sentence as a transition from one point of a larger text to the passage under scrutiny. The item, then, asks which rhetorical strategy or technique the speaker uses to make that transition. The subordinate conjunction "while" signals contrast with the independent clause: that is, while some have made claims, nothing has been proven conclusively about those claims. The correct answer, (B), captures this thinking with "establishing the status of a situation." Choice (A) is incorrect because, although the opening sentence points out what is not known, it only states that fact without rebutting anything. Likewise for (C): the speaker refers to several "explanations" or claims, but he does not dismiss any as "fallacious"; he only says that "none is conclusive." Students can exclude (D) and (E) because the writer does not promote a "theory," nor is there a statement to qualify.

32. Answer = (A)

Another item on rhetorical strategy, this one requires exceedingly careful reading and inference. Exam-takers might note the word "however," which signals contrast -- the speaker is making one statement in contrast to something else. In this case, he is (A), "dispens[ing] with a possible explanation" -- this explanation being that the nickname has anything to do "with the chicken yard." Choice (B) might be true of the passage as a whole, but it is not an accurate explanation for the "function" of the second sentence. Option (C) is tricky because the speaker does cite "internal evidence" that proves, ostensibly, one association the nickname does not have; examinees reading quickly might mistakenly see this sentence as the speaker "discount[ing] the significance" of specific evidence. Both (D) and (E) are based on misinterpretations of the speaker's intent, which is not related to "documenting claims" or a "volume of research."

33. Answer = (E)

This is the first of several items that lead the student to see the humor in the passage. Exam-takers might want to select an option whose quotation appears close to "[r]andy roosters and operatic hens," but the contrast is most effective when drawn from similarities: thus roosters, hens, and songsters all make music. Choice (D) might be a tempting distracter, since "[r]andy roosters and operatic hens" contrast with what the more formal "terminology" would be, yet this choice does not work in the context of the passage. "Randy roosters and operatic hens" are pretty laughable in terms of their shrill sounds in contrast to the "true songster" -- so (E) is the correct answer.

34. Answer = (E)

This is a straightforward comprehension item that also focuses on transition. What is this "failure"? The answer lies in the previous paragraph, where the speaker has explained (E), "an inability to ascertain definitively" the origin of Parker's nickname. In both content and tone, (A) and (B) are too dramatic to fit the passage. Defeats and mistakes are not a part of this passage, nor is (C)'s "audience response." Choice (D) begs the question: whose experience? The speaker is neither identifying obstacles nor suggesting a failure to surmount them.

35. Answer = (D)

Part of the difficulty of this item (only 44 percent answered it correctly) is the need to consider a substantial block of text. It also requires an inference about the "primary effect" on the audience. Choice (A) is attractive because there is specific imagery, especially visual images, but the intended effect is not so much immediacy as gentle humor. Although the speaker does use first-person plural, his personal voice is not central to these paragraphs, so (B) is not correct. Option (C) is a misreading because there is precious little sentimentality; if the student reads the religious references in the second paragraph as sentimental, then he or she misses the irony. Choice (E) is also a misreading because the speaker's loyalties, conflicting or otherwise, are not at issue in these paragraphs. Items 30 and 33 already suggest the "subtle humor" of irony, and the description "contrived nature of the argument" captures the basis for that humor. The speaker ranges from "[r]andy roosters" to "late-Renaissance art" and symbols of the "soul's immortality" all in the same paragraphs; thus (D) is the correct answer.

36. Answer = (C)

The difficulty of this item (55 percent answered it correctly) may derive from examinees' unfamiliarity with the terms of the choices. The initial three paragraphs offer a kind of conversational consideration with the speaker suggesting "[L]et us . . . consult" and "Let us note." It almost seems as though the reader were inside the speaker's head as he explores this point, turns to another, describes this, links to that: essentially "discursive musings." After line 41, he begins building a more linear case for Parker's resemblance to the mockingbird: "direct argument." Thus (C) is the correct answer. Choice (A) is out: the last paragraph doesn't contain an "unqualified assertion" and cannot be characterized as any kind of "narrative." Even if a case could be made for the first part of option (B) -- the "affectionate nostalgia" for Bird's legend -- the last paragraph is too factual and specific to be considered "exaggerated pathos." Choice (D) would be a misreading because the passage does not move from the present to the past -- that is, from "a contemporary perspective to a historical one." Option (E) might be attractive because of the speaker's initial skepticism, but the ending of the passage has too much confidence and assertion to be "naïve."

37. Answer = (C)

This inferential item is challenging with its speculative stem that includes "most likely suggests." Students must hypothesize why the speaker rejects the song of the goldfinch by comparing it with that of a canary. The reason is that neither "sing[s] with much variety" -- (C). Choice (A) contradicts the speaker's point. Option (B) is external to the passage because the speaker has not focused on the sound of the saxophone itself but on Parker's playing. Choice (D) may seem logical in a paragraph about religious associations, yet the speaker has not set such associations as a requirement. Although the speaker draws a comparison between the two birds, their "symbolic significance" (or lack of it) is not the reason for the reference to the canary, so (E) is incorrect.

38. Answer = (E)

This "except" item requires knowledge of certain literary terms. The passage's lengthy penultimate sentence includes (A), "parallel structure" (see the "by" phrases); (B), "alliteration" ("mocking mimicry" and "dazzling display"); (C), "onomatopoeia" ("rebopped bebops"); and (D), many details describing the music. There is not one "oxymoron," (E), in the sentence.

39. Answer = (D)

Having two items about the same sentence gives exam-takers the opportunity to study it well. The previous item calls attention to the speaker's use of a variety of stylistic devices in one long and complex sentence. Although (A) may be true, it is too abstract to explain the effect of the sentence in this specific passage. Choice (B) is easy to dismiss because there are more specifics ("swoops, bleats, echoes") than abstractions (possibly "interpolations of motifs from extraneous melodies"). Option (C) is half-right because it focuses on the "complexity of Parker's music," but the sentence is not ironic. Choice (E) is incorrect because the repetition and parallel structure serve a different purpose than "underscor[ing] the repetitiveness of Parker's style." The correct answer, (D), captures the form-and-content quality of the sentence: its complexity mirrors that of Parker's music.

40. Answer = (C)

This item offers an opportunity to take a breath. It's essentially a vocabulary item that asks the exam-taker to identify the most accurate of several usages of a common term. Parker sent forth -- (C) "emit[ed]" -- his improvisations from "the dense brush" and the "extreme treetops." The only other tempting option is (A) -- "emerging" -- but that usage is awkward at best.

41. Answer = (D)

This item requires synthesis of the entire passage and asks why the speaker explores the genesis of the nickname Bird. Students can easily reject (B) and (C). Choice (B) raises an issue ("uncomplimentary estimations of Parker ") that the passage does not. Option (C) verges on silly and would likely appeal only to someone who did no more than quickly scan the passage. Choice (A) is more tempting because the nickname is, in fact, a symbol of Parker, but it is not a symbol of the comfort fans got from his memory. Option (E) is appealing because the passage as a whole contains humor, but the nickname cannot be characterized as a "means of interjecting humor" and certainly not to "temper" the emotional reaction to Parker. Choice (D) is absolutely right: the speaker uses his investigation into the origin of the nickname as a means -- a "pretext" -- to analyze Parker and his music.

42. Answer = (D)

Analogies such as this one are unusual on the AP Exam, though not necessarily difficult. (71 percent of the examinees answered this item correctly.) Essentially, the task is to identify a situation that is similar in concept, though not in the particulars, to that of the passage. As the speaker considers different possibilities, explores different evidence, and draws conclusions, he resembles (D), a scholar investigating theories. It's important to remember that the similarities are always limited, so the question is which one is "most similar" or the closest to the situation in the passage. The speaker is not developing a case for his readers to support him, so (A) is not correct. He is not reproaching anyone or challenging "improper" thinking, so (B) is not compelling. He is not weighing alternative possibilities with the objective of taking action, so (C) doesn't work. Since he is not being instructional in either tone or intent, (E) is wrong.

43. Answer = (A)

Nearly as difficult as the tone item (number 30 above), this one takes its cue from item 39 and goes a step further. It's a challenging task of inference. Perhaps its difficulty is increased by the correct answer's reference to "disparate elements" when so much of the passage has to do with mimicry. Or perhaps examinees did not understand that the stem is actually asking how the speaker's writing style resembles Parker's musical style. Regardless, the passage is indeed characterized by the juxtaposition (a term exam-takers must know) of different elements -- such as field guides and Renaissance art, religious symbols and "[r]andy roosters," beatnik phrases and Latin names -- that resemble the mimicry and transformation through "wit, satire, burlesque, and pathos" of Parker's improvisational technique. Thus (A) is correct. Choice (B) refers to one technique of the speaker but does not address the resemblance of the speaker's sense of Parker's style. Option (C) is a misreading because the speaker does not discuss or even allude to other writers' techniques. Choice (D) is incorrect because the speaker makes the point that Parker is "most inventive," hardly a musician whose work reflects a "single theme." Option (E) is wrong because the passage does not rely on (though it includes) "staccato phrases" any more than Parker's music with its "long-continued successions of notes and phrases" depends on such rhythms.





































Commentary on the Choices for Items 44-54: "The Decline of Grammar" by Geoffrey Nunberg (1983)

44. Answer = (C)

Once again, the initial item in the set requires synthesis and interpretation of the entire passage. The correct answer, (C), captures the entire "discussion of differing attitudes toward linguistic change," attitudes of different time periods as well as different groups. The only option that seems close is (E) because the speaker does offer both "admonitions and predictions," but that description is not the main point. Choice (A) is incorrect because it is one small part of the passage, and the speaker does not actually "critique . . . bureaucratic prose" so much as he refers to its infelicities. Option (B) is wrong because, although the style is certainly erudite, the passage is not "technical" in terms of "linguistic theory." Choice (D) is only partially correct because there are "concrete examples," but that is hardly a strong description of the overall passage.

45. Answer = (B)

This is the most difficult item on the entire exam; only 26 percent of the examinees answered it correctly. It requires meticulously careful reading and inference. Lines 8-10 refer to ads and academic papers and memos that are the sources cited by those predicting the demise of English. The speaker then discusses earlier writings that have survived to be held up as exemplary. Such are not written by "their hacks and bureaucrats" -- that is, by the ad writers and academics of the earlier time. The italics serve to link the references in lines 8-10 with those in line 16; thus (B) is the correct answer. Choice (C) is probably the strongest draw because italics commonly signify a tongue-in-cheek attitude -- a shift in voice that can mean the writer is using the term "facetiously" -- though that is not the case in this passage. Option (A) is a straightforward misreading. Choice (D) is a judgment ("contempt") that the speaker does not make. Option (E) is incorrect because the italicization does not seem to be related to whether or not the speaker is "repeating valid accusations that have been made by others."

46. Answer = (D)

The speaker draws a comparison between claiming that today's English prose has degenerated and arguing that two more contemporary baseball players are inferior to two from an earlier era. He concludes that "there is no more hard evidence" for one than the other. Thus (D) is the correct answer: "declining standards are difficult to support." (A) is incorrect because, even though the speaker does make the point that many have joined the chorus of criticism of declining standards, he does not draw a comparison to baseball, a national pastime, to suggest that linguistic discussions are also a popular pastime. Choice (B) contradicts one of the speaker's points, which is that people tend to glorify the past. Option (C) is wrong because "pessimistic attitudes" have nothing to do with the comparison. Since the speaker does not seem to favor the older baseball players over the more contemporary stars, readers should not attribute (E) to him, the opinion that "respect for traditions has declined in many areas."

47. Answer = (A)

This type of item requires careful attention to each line being cited. On the other hand, if the student is confident that (A) is correct, then there's no need to go through the others. The speaker uses "apocalyptically" in the opening two lines as an exaggeration, deliberate hyperbole, to poke fun at those who predict the ultimate doom of language -- clear evidence that he is trying to "mock an attitude toward linguistic change." Choice (B) -- "anecdotal evidence" -- is entirely serious and literal as is (C) -- "careful selection." Option (D)'s "hacks and bureaucrats," as seen in item 45, might indicate a playful tone, but the phrase does not constitute mockery. Choice (E) -- "understandable" -- is literal and straightforward, not mocking.

48. Answer = (A)

The previous item has already called the exam-taker's attention to the way the passage begins with mockery of an attitude toward linguistic change. The passage then proceeds to explain that criticism -- "The standard jeremiads of the Sunday supplements" -- is being leveled at the English of the late-twentieth century and how it is misguided. Thus he "discredit[s]" what he sees as "invalid views on the topic," and (A) is the correct answer. Choices (B) and (C) are wrong because the speaker nowhere "berate[s]" or "alarm[s]" the reader; his tone is not that aggressive, and in fact, rather than berating or alarming, he advises a calmer, more sanguine attitude.

49. Answer = (C)

Another "except" item, this one is five true/false statements posing as a single multiple-choice question. Choice (A) is true because the speaker refers to his "fellow linguists," (B) is a correct statement because the speaker develops the point throughout the paragraph that language change is more neutral than good or bad. Option (C) is false -- and thus the right answer -- because the opening sentence of the second paragraph supports rather than contradicts the end of the previous paragraph, where the speaker claims a lack of evidence for "general linguistic degeneration." Choice (D) is true because the claim that "it is absurd even to talk about a language changing for the better or the worse" answers the initial question of whether or not the English language is "in a bad way." Option (E) is true because this paragraph details the approach of linguists, that is, "one approach."

50. Answer = (D)

Essentially a comprehension item, this one focuses on coherence. In the previous sentence, the speaker refers to the viewpoint of one who has "the historical picture before you" and then opens the next sentence with "From this Olympian point of view." Thus the correct answer is (D), the perspective of one who is "aware of the 'historical picture' (lines 25-26)." Choices (A), (B), and (C) are factually incorrect; perhaps (B) and (C) play on the meaning of "Olympian" as august or powerful, but the speaker uses the term to refer to the larger view from above. Option (E) would draw only careless readers who assume that the proximity of "continental drift" and "Olympian point of view" means that the latter refer to the former.

51. Answer = (B)

This is another "except" item, five true/false statements serving as a single multiple-choice question. In the passage, the speaker develops a rather fanciful analogy between the "tirades" of grammarians through centuries and the "prattlings" of landscape gardeners bent on an absurd task. Since that task refers to "Alaska . . . bumping into Asia," the speaker does continue the analogy of continental drift, which makes sentence (A) true. Option (C) is also true because the speaker points out similarities between the tirading grammarians and the prattling gardeners. Choice (D) is a correct statement because the foolishness of tirading grammarians is similar to the "standard jeremiads" found in the Sunday newspapers. Sentence (E) is true because the hyperbolic nature of the analogy shows the "futility" of the effort to oppose inevitable change. Option (B) is the only one of the five that is false -- and thus the correct answer -- because the image of landscape gardeners does not reappear later in the passage.

52. Answer = (A)

The stem of this item asks which of the choices is "most directly" referred to by the phrase "current critics." While (B)'s "authors of 'current plays or novels,'" (C)'s "'college deans,'" and even (D)'s "'hacks and bureaucrats'" of today might criticize the language, the speaker points out that the examples of decline in language are usually based on the work of "college deans" and "hacks and bureaucrats" rather than the writings of contemporary playwrights and novelists. Choice (E) is wrong because the sentence in lines 39-40 contrasts the views of linguists and "current critics." The phrase that most directly refers to the critics -- "standard jeremiads" -- is found in the opening lines; thus (A) is the correct answer. This item depends upon the exam-taker's understanding of the passage as a whole.

53. Answer = (B)

The speaker alludes to a comment made by the Italian novelist and journalist Ignazio Silone that our "glory" or good fortune is that we are not bound by the judgments of the history that follows us. That comment supports the previous sentence in which the speaker observes that, when he finds changes in the language personally distasteful, he does not base this response on whether history will show that these modifications are lasting and thus that he is wrong. Option (B) is the correct answer because this allusion to Silone works to "justify the statement in the preceding sentence." Choice (A) is incorrect because the attitude toward history that Silone espouses does not "undercut" the points in the concluding paragraph about language usage as "[l]inguistic manners" and "moral accomplishment." Option (C) is wrong because it presents a viewpoint that supports rather than opposes the speaker's. Choice (D) is incorrect because Silone's point supports the speaker's "conviction" that adopting certain changes in language usage is wrong for him and therefore is not "neutral." Option (E) is wrong because the Silone comment supports and strengthens the speaker's point rather than "digress[es]" from it.

54. Answer = (E)

This item requires a general inference drawn from an understanding of the specifics of the entire passage. From the outset, the speaker points out the futility of making judgments about and predicting the demise of the English language, and his discussion shuttles between centuries of history and current criticism. The correct answer, (E), captures that larger issue: "immediate and long-term views of language changes." Choice (A) is incorrect because the speaker does not present "anticipated . . . instances of language change," nor is the "central contrast" between anticipated and actual changes. Option (B) is wrong because the speaker's purpose is not to direct "future language changes" or even to discuss such direction. Choice (C) is incorrect because the speaker does not contrast philosophical and psychological approaches at any point in the passage, not even when he refers to his "fellow linguists." Option (D) is wrong because English -- not "various languages" -- is the focus of the passage, even though the speaker refers in the second paragraph to other languages that have influenced English.

Renee H. Shea is a professor of English at Bowie State University in Maryland, where she was the director of freshman composition and currently teaches courses in autobiography, composition, rhetoric, women's studies, and world literature. A former high school AP English teacher as well as a Reader and Question Leader for both the AP English Language and Literature Exams, she is the content advisor for AP English Language. Shea edited the last two sets of workshop materials for the course, first on the topic "rhetoric" for the 2004-05 school year, and second on "writing persuasively" for 2005-06. In conjunction with the College Board's online events program, Shea has interviewed Rita Dove, Eavan Boland, and other writers; in February 2005, she conducted the first all-day, online workshop in AP English Language. Shea has written many features for Poets and Writers Magazine, including profiles of Sandra Cisneros, Edwidge Danticat, and Maxine Hong Kingston. She publishes in literary and academic journals, such as Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, and Women in the Arts. Shea's most recent books are Marcia Myers: Twenty Years; The Art of Invisible Strength: Amy Tan in the Classroom, which she coauthored with Deborah Wilchek as part of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) High School Literature Series; and Teaching Nonfiction in AP English: A Teachers' Guide, which she coauthored with Larry Scanlon. Shea is a member of the NCTE Commission on Literature.