AP English Language

Determine Your Test Readiness


A Walk Through the Diagnostic/Master Exam


Summary: Familiarize yourself with the diagnostic exam.


Key Ideas

image Examine the multiple-choice section in Section I of the exam.

image Peruse the essay questions in Section II.

What follows is our version of an AP English Language and Composition exam we use throughout this book to demonstrate processes, examples, terms, and so forth. We call this our Diagnostic/Master exam. You will not be taking this exam at this point, but we would like you to “walk through” the exam with us, now.

The first part of this 3¼-hour exam is always going to be the multiple-choice section, which lasts 1 hour. It comprises both fiction and nonfiction. The multiple-choice section of the Diagnostic/Master exam contains several passages from different time periods and of different styles and purposes. It may include letters, essays, journal entries, editorials, speeches, and excerpts from longer works. The multiple-choice questions for each selection were developed to provide you with a wide range of question types and terminology that have been used in the actual AP English Language and Composition exams over the years.

To begin to know how the exam is structured, take some time now to look through the multiple-choice section of the Diagnostic/Master exam. Do not try to answer questions; just peruse the types of passages and questions.

“You know, from my experience with AP exams, I’ve learned never to assume anything.”

—Jeremy G., AP student

• Review all of the pages of the test and familiarize yourself with their format.

• See where the long and short readings are.

• Check the total number of questions and know what you are facing.

• Check out the essay prompts.

A Word About Our Sample Student Essays

We field-tested each of the essay questions in a variety of high schools, both public and private. We could have chosen to present essays that would have “knocked your socks off”; however, we chose to present samples we feel are truly representative of the essays usually written within the time constraints of the exam.

These essays are indicative of a wide range of styles and levels of acceptability. We want you to recognize that there is not one model to which all essays must conform.

“To Thine Own Self Be True” (Polonius–Hamlet)

This well-known caveat is always the very best advice and especially appropriate for the writer. Listen to your teacher’s advice; listen to our advice; listen to your own voice. That’s the voice we want to “hear” in your writing. Use natural vocabulary and present honest observations. It is wonderful to read professional criticism, but you cannot adopt another’s ideas and remain true to your own thoughts. Trust your brain—if you’ve prepared well, you’ll do well.


Section I

Total Time—1 hour

Carefully read the following passages and answer the accompanying questions. Questions 1–12 are based on the following passage from “Samuel Johnson on Pope,” which appeared in The Lives of the English Poets (1779–1781).


1. The passage is primarily a(n)

A. character sketch of Pope

B. discussion of poetic style

C. criticism of Dryden

D. model for future poets

E. opportunity for the writer to show off his own skills

2. The passage discusses a contrast among all of the following except:

A. prose and poetry

B. Pope and Dryden

C. body and mind

D. poverty and wealth

E. body and soul

3. “If the flights” (35) means

A. Pope’s writing will outlast Dryden’s

B. both Pope and Dryden are equal

C. Pope is not idealistic

D. Pope is more wordy

E. Pope is not as bright as Dryden

4. The character of Pope is developed by all of the following except:

A. examples

B. comparison

C. contrast

D. satire

E. description

5. According to the passage, Pope and Dryden are

A. rivals

B. equally intelligent

C. outdated

D. equally physically attractive

E. in debt

6. From the passage, the reader may infer that Pope

A. was extravagant

B. was a man of the people

C. was jealous of Dryden

D. had a desire to be popular

E. had a bitter, satirical nature

7. The tone of the passage is

A. informal and affectionate

B. formal and objective

C. condescending and paternalistic

D. laudatory and reverent

E. critical and negative

8. Lines 20–24 indicate that Dryden was what type of writer?

A. one who labored over his thoughts

B. one who wrote only for himself

C. one who wrote only for the critics

D. one who wrote to please Pope

E. one who did not revise

9. Using the context of lines 27–29, “punctilious” means

A. precise

B. timely

C. cursory

D. scholarly

E. philosophical

10. In the context of the passage, “until he had nothing left to be forgiven” (29) means

A. Pope outraged his readers

B. Pope suffered from writer’s block

C. Pope exhausted his subject matter

D. Pope’s prose was revised to perfection

E. Pope cared about the opinions of his readers

11. “Shaven” and “leveled” in line 34 indicate that Pope’s style of writing was

A. natural

B. richly ornamented

C. highly controlled

D. mechanical

E. analytical

12. Based on a close reading of the final paragraph of the passage, the reader could infer that the author

A. looks on both writers equally

B. prefers the work of Pope

C. sees the two writers as inferior to his own writing style

D. indicates no preference

E. prefers the work of Dryden

Questions 13–23 are based on the following excerpt from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Politics and Warfare,” which appears in The Man-Made World: Our Androcentric Culture (1911).


13. The author’s main purpose in the passage is to

A. argue for women being drafted

B. criticize colonialism

C. present a pacifist philosophy

D. criticize the male-dominated society

E. protest tariffs

14. In paragraph 2, the author maintains that men support their position on equality for women based upon which of the following approaches?

A. begging the question

B. a syllogism using a faulty premise

C. an appeal to emotion

D. circular reasoning

E. an ad hoc argument

15. Using textual clues, one can conclude that “androcentric” most probably means

A. robot-centered

B. world-centered

C. female-centered

D. self-centered

E. male-centered

16. In addition to indicating a direct quotation, the author uses quotation marks to indicate

A. the jargon of politics and warfare

B. the coining of a phrase

C. a definition

D. the author’s scholarship

E. that the author does not take responsibility for her words

17. In paragraph 4, “increasingly injurious as society progresses” is reinforced by all of the following except:

A. “ill effects already touched on” [paragraph 4]

B. “active war” [paragraph 4]

C. “weaker nations to be ‘conquered’ and ‘annexed’” [paragraph 5]

D. “illegitimate expenses of fighting” [paragraph 6]

E. “Women do not understand politics” [paragraph 8]

18. According to the author, men view the primary purpose of government to be

A. educating the people

B. solving the “mass of public problems”

C. obtaining as much power as possible

D. economics

E. health

19. The argument shifts from a discussion of warfare to a discussion of politics in the first lines of which of the following paragraphs?

A. paragraph 4

B. paragraph 5

C. paragraph 6

D. paragraph 7

E. paragraph 9

20. The tone of the passage is best described as

A. ambivalent

B. reverent

C. condescending

D. accusatory

E. indifferent

21. The style of the passage can best be described as

A. poetic and emotional

B. editorial and analytical

C. mocking and self-serving

D. preaching and moralistic

E. authoritative and pretentious

22. To present her argument, Gilman primarily uses which of the following rhetorical strategies (techniques/modes of discourse)?

A. process

B. definition

C. cause and effect

D. narration

E. description

23. “It,” as used in paragraphs 4, 5, and 6, only refers to

A. “Fighting is to them the real business of life” [paragraph 3]

B. “evil effects” [paragraph 4]

C. “man-managed nation” [paragraph 4]

D. “preferential tariffs” [paragraph 5]

E. “spoils system” [paragraph 6]

Questions 24–33 are based on the speech “On the Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Robert F. Kennedy.


24. The primary purpose of RFK’s speech is most probably to

A. inform the people of the event

B. praise the accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr.

C. offer condolences to King’s family

D. call for calm and unity between blacks and whites

E. offer condolences to the black community at large

25. Which of the following paragraphs does not contain examples of parallel structure?

A. paragraph 3 beginning with “In this difficult …”

B. paragraph 6 beginning with “My favorite poet …”

C. paragraph 7 beginning with “What we need …”

D. paragraph 9 beginning with “We can do well …”

E. paragraph 10 beginning with “But the vast majority …”

26. Paragraph 5 contains an example of

A. understatement

B. figurative language

C. sarcasm

D. logical fallacy

E. analogous example

27. The tone of the speech can best be described as

A. elevated and conciliatory

B. angry and inflammatory

C. formal and detached

D. informal and emotional

E. accusatory and bitter

28. To keep his speech from leading to violence, RFK makes use of which of the following?

I. constantly repeating King’s name and his desire for unity between races

II. an ethical appeal based on the power of religion

III. emphasizing a common bond to show the connection between himself and his audience

A. I



D. I and III

E. I, II, and III

29. All of the following paragraphs give support to the inference that RFK expected violence to follow the assassination except:

A. paragraph 3 beginning with “In the beginning …”

B. paragraph 4 beginning with “Or we can …”

C. paragraph 6 beginning with “My favorite …”

D. paragraph 7 beginning with “What we need …”

E. paragraph 9 beginning with “We can do well …”

30. RFK most probably chose to refer to the Greeks in paragraph 11 for all of the following reasons except:

A. to impress the audience with his scholarship

B. to concisely restate the theme of the speech

C. to provide a healing thought for the people to remember

D. to elevate the level of discourse

E. to reinforce the ideals of democracy with which the Greeks are associated

31. Paragraphs 7 and 8 are constructed around which of the following rhetorical strategies?

A. analysis

B. definition

C. narration

D. process

E. cause and effect

32. The quotation given in paragraph 6 can best be restated as

A. the process of healing is inevitable

B. time heals all wounds

C. sleep numbs those in pain

D. God is the source of humankind’s grief

E. sleep is the only escape from pain

33. All of the following are effects of the repetition in paragraphs 11 and 12, except that it

A. links the speaker with the audience

B. refers to paragraph 2 and King’s dedication

C. emphasizes dedication so that the audience will remember it

D. reinforces the tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

E. elevates the occasion to one which is worthy of honor

Questions 34–44 are based on the following letter.


34. In both paragraphs 2 and 3, Einstein makes use of the dash

A. to emphasize the words set off

B. as an exception to the point immediately before it

C. to sound more scholarly and formal

D. as an informal aside to what was said previously

E. to summarize

35. The omission of a cordial opening and identification of the credentials of the writer imply all of the following except:

A. Einstein expects his name alone will identify him

B. Einstein assumes that the information he presents is compelling enough to command a response

C. Einstein believes himself too busy and important to waste time on pleasantries

D. As a scientist, Einstein was accustomed to having the facts speak for themselves

E. They’ve had previous contact

36. The purpose of the listing in paragraph 5 is to

A. secure Einstein’s role as Roosevelt’s “permanent contact”

B. suggest a plan of necessary action to ensure American security

C. increase research funding for further nuclear experimentation

D. end scientific research leading to the construction of nuclear bombs

E. send a letter of warning to Germany

37. Einstein’s attitude can best be described as

A. confrontational

B. deferential

C. cautionary

D. complacent

E. antagonistic

38. Einstein’s first paragraph suggests all of the following except:

A. FDR is not staying abreast of important scientific developments

B. Einstein is concerned about how the administration is handling the new developments in uranium research

C. Einstein is concerned that the administration may be unaware of important developments in the scientific community

D. Einstein is an authority in the use of uranium

E. FDR is familiar with the work of Fermi and Szilard

39. Which of the following best identifies Einstein’s primary mode of discourse in his letter to FDR?

A. narration

B. process

C. analysis

D. persuasion

E. exposition

40. To illustrate the gravity of the situation, Einstein uses all of the following except:

A. “call for watchfulness” [paragraph 1]

B. “it is my duty” [paragraph 1]

C. “appears almost certain” [paragraph 2]

D. “in the immediate future” [paragraph 2]

E. “obtaining the cooperation” [paragraph 7]

41. Einstein understates the urgency of developing “chain reactions” in America

A. with the repetition of the words might and may

B. by excluding a fatalistic prediction

C. by mentioning “other countries repeating America’s work”

D. with the phrase “though much less certain”

E. all of the above

42. To persuade Roosevelt to consider his recommendations, Einstein uses all of the following approaches except:

A. discussions with other members of the scientific community

B. appeals to fear

C. presentation of evidence

D. making predictions

E. offering a plan

43. In his letter, Einstein’s own assumptions are all of the following except:

A. his interpretation of the manuscript is accessible

B. his reputation as a scientist lends weight to his opinion

C. his plan can be implemented quietly

D. his urgency concerning the situation is apparent

E. Germany recognizes the urgency of the situation

44. After a careful reading of the letter, which of the following inferences is not valid?

A. Einstein understood the urgency of addressing the nuclear problem.

B. Einstein assumed FDR would react to the letter.

C. Einstein viewed the private sector as a means of circumventing a possible governmental impasse.

D. The Germans could have possibly misunderstood the significance of this scientific discovery.

E. Einstein is suspicious of German espionage.

Questions 45–56 are based on the following passage entitled “Reading an Archive,” by Allan Sekula, which appeared in Blasted Allegories, a collection of contemporary essays and short stories, published by MIT Press in 1987.



45. The first sentence (lines 1–3) does all of the following, except:

A. to indicate that material appears in this essay prior to this section

B. to indicate scholarly research

C. to indicate a cause/effect relationship

D. to state the thesis of the piece

E. to establish that the essay is based on the opinion of the author

46. The word oversight in line 12 refers to

A. “pictures from a company public relations archive” (10–11)

B. “without calling attention to the bias” (11)

C. “construct a pictorial history” (9–10)

D. “coal mining in Cape Breton” (10)

E. “present interests” (12)

47. An accurate reading of footnote 7 informs the reader that the author based his material on

A. Society of the Spectacle, rev. ed. 1977

B. Society of the Spectacle, 1970

C. La société du spectacle, 1967

D. The Black and Red, 1970

E. Buchat-Chastel, 1967

48. The author directly involves the reader using which of the following linguistic devices?

A. direct address

B. exhortation

C. metaphor

D. direct quotation

E. rhetorical question

49. “initial contexts” in lines 35–36 refers to

A. “our second option” (28)

B. “historical explanation” (28–29)

C. “inventory of aesthetic achievement” (30)

D. “contemporary vanguard art” (33)

E. “disinterested aesthetic perusal” (31)

50. The main concern of the passage is contained in which of the following lines?

A. “Since the 1920’s … and so on.” (4–8)

B. “The viewer … critical evaluations.” (13–14)

C. “In retrieving … geographical mobility.” (14–16)

D. “I can imagine … of the fine arts.” (37–39)

E. “The former … mechanical medium.” (45–48)

51. The most probable implication of this passage is that

A. historians are cynical

B. historians are naïve

C. readers/viewers must be aware of the bias inherent in source material

D. viewers/readers are ill equipped to make critical evaluations

E. dealing with photographs demands a combination of the mechanical and the aesthetic

52. The purpose of footnote 9 is to

A. enhance the reputation of the writer

B. cite a primary source

C. direct the reader to opposing positions

D. compare differing cultures

E. provide a historical context

53. The tone of the passage can best be described as

A. argumentative and scholarly

B. romantic and artistic

C. philosophical and didactic

D. informative and sarcastic

E. informal and playful

54. According to the author, the power of photography as historical illustration is found in the

A. historian

B. spectator

C. picture press

D. image itself

E. camera

55. The last paragraph is primarily developed using which of the following rhetorical strategies?

A. cause and effect

B. comparison and contrast

C. definition

D. description

E. narration

56. The reader may infer from the footnotes that the author is a(n)

A. photographer himself

B. journalist reporting on photography

C. fan of Leni Reifenstahl

D. established authority in this field

E. art critic


The second part of the test is the 2¼-hour essay writing section. This is taken after the break following completion of the multiple-choice section of the exam. You will be required to write three different essays: analysis, synthesis, and argument.

Before you begin your essays, you will be given 15 minutes to read a packet containing all of the sources for the synthesis essay, plus each of the individual prompts. During this 15 minutes you can read and annotate the texts. You will not be permitted to begin writing the essays until the 15 minutes are up and you are told to open your test booklet.

Again, we do not want you to write any essays at this time; just take a careful look at each of the questions to get an idea of the types of writing assignments you are expected to produce. Essay questions are called prompts by the AP.

Section II

Total Time—2¼ hours

Question 1

(Suggested time—45 minutes. This question counts
as one-third of the total score for Section II.)

The following paragraphs are from the opening of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. After carefully reading the excerpt, write a well-organized essay in which you characterize Capote’s view of Holcomb, Kansas, and analyze how Capote conveys this view. Your analysis may consider such elements as diction, imagery, syntax, structure, tone, and selection of detail.



Question 2

(Suggested time—45 minutes. This question counts
as one-third of the total score for Section II.)

English Language and Composition

Reading Time: 15 minutes
Suggested Writing Time: 40 minutes

A recent Supreme Court decision has provoked much debate about private property rights. In it, the court ruled that the city of New London was within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution when it condemned private property for use in a redevelopment plan. This ruling is an example of the classic debate between individual rights versus the greater good.

Carefully read the following sources, including any introductory information. Then, in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the sources for support, take a position that supports, opposes, or qualifies the claim that the governmental taking of property from one private owner to give to another to further economic development constitutes a permissible “public use” under the Fifth Amendment.

Make certain that you take a position and that the essay centers on your argument. Use the sources to support your reasoning; avoid simply summarizing the sources. You may refer to the sources by their letters (Source A, Source B, etc.) or by the identifiers in the parentheses below.

Source A (U.S. Constitution)

Source B (60 Minutes)

Source C (Kelo decision)

Source D (Koterba, political cartoon)

Source E (Broder)

Source F (Britt, political cartoon)

Source G (CNN and American Survey)

Source A

“Amendments.” The United States Constitution, 1787.

The following is a section from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Note: This is known as eminent domain, which refers to the power of government to take private property for “public use” if the owner is fairly compensated. Eminent domain has been used to build roads, schools, and utility lines. Cities also have used it to transfer property from unwilling sellers to developers who want to build shopping malls, offices, or other projects.

Source B

Adapted from the July 4, 2004, edition of 60 Minutes. Available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/26/60minutes/main575343.shtml.

The following is part of an interview conducted for the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes. In it, the audience is introduced to a couple whose house had been taken by the local government for development of condos.

Jim and Joanne Saleet are refusing to sell the home they’ve lived in for 38 years. They live in a quiet neighborhood of single-family houses in Lakewood, Ohio, just outside Cleveland. The City of Lakewood is trying to use eminent domain to force the Saleets out to make way for more expensive condominiums. But the Saleets are telling the town, “Hell no! They won’t go.”

“The bottom line is this is morally wrong, what they’re doing here. This is our home. And we’re going to stay here. And I’m gonna fight them tooth and nail. I’ve just begun to fight,” says Jim Saleet. “We talked about this when we were dating. I used to point to the houses and say, ‘Joanne, one of these days, we’re going to have one of these houses.’ And I meant it. And I worked hard.”

Jim Saleet worked in the pharmaceutical industry, paid off his house, and then retired. Now, he and his wife plan to spend the rest of their days there, and pass their house on to their children.

But Lakewood’s mayor, Madeleine Cain, has other plans. She wants to tear down the Saleets’ home, plus 55 homes around it, along with four apartment buildings and more than a dozen businesses.

Why? So that private developers can build high-priced condos, and a high-end shopping mall, and, thus, raise Lakewood’s property tax base.

The mayor told 60 Minutes that she sought out a developer for the project because Lakewood’s aging tax base has been shrinking, and the city simply needs more money.

“This is about Lakewood’s future. Lakewood cannot survive without a strengthened tax base. Is it right to consider this a public good? Absolutely,” says the mayor, who admits that it’s difficult and unfortunate that the Saleets are being asked to give up their home.

The Saleets live in an area called Scenic Park, and because it is so scenic, it’s a prime place to build upscale condominiums. With great views, over the Rocky River, those condos will be a cinch to sell. But the condos can’t go up unless the city can remove the Saleets and their neighbors through eminent domain. And, to legally invoke eminent domain, the city had to certify that this scenic park area is, really, “blighted.”

“We’re not blighted. This is an area that we absolutely love. This is a close-knit, beautiful neighborhood. It’s what America’s all about,” says Jim Saleet. “And, Mike, you don’t know how humiliating this is to have people tell you, ‘You live in a blighted area,’ and how degrading this is.”

“The term ‘blighted’ is a statutory word,” says Mayor Cain. “It is, it really doesn’t have a lot to do with whether or not your home is painted…. A statutory term is used to describe an area. The question is whether or not that area can be used for a higher and better use.”

Source C

Kelo v. New London. U.S. Supreme Court 125 S. Ct. 2655.

The following is a brief overview of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.

Susette Kelo, et al. v. City of New London, et al., 125 S. Ct. 2655 (2005), more commonly Kelo v. New London, is a land-use law case argued before the United States Supreme Court on February 22, 2005. The case arose from a city’s use of eminent domain to condemn privately owned real property so that it could be used as part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan.

The owners sued the city in Connecticut courts, arguing that the city had misused its eminent domain power. The power of eminent domain is limited by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment, which restricts the actions of the federal government, says, in part, that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation”; under Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, this limitation is also imposed on the actions of U.S. state and local governments. Kelo and the other appellants argued that economic development, the stated purpose of the Development Corporation, did not qualify as public use.

The Supreme Court’s Ruling: This 5:4 decision holds that the governmental taking of property from one private owner to give to another in furtherance of economic development constitutes a permissible “public use” under the Fifth Amendment.

Source D

Koterba, Jeff, Omaha World Herald. Available at http://cagle.msnbc.com/news/EminentDomain/4.asp.

The following political cartoon appeared in an Omaha, Nebraska, newspaper.


Jeff Koterba, Omaha World Herald, NE

Source E

Broder, John M, “States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes.” New York Times, February 21, 2006.

The following passage is excerpted from an article published in the New York Times.

“Our opposition to eminent domain is not across the board,” he [Scott G. Bullock of the Institute for Justice] said. “It has an important but limited role in government planning and the building of roads, parks, and public buildings. What we oppose is eminent domain abuse for private development, and we are encouraging legislators to curtail it.”

More neutral observers expressed concern that state officials, in their zeal to protect homeowners and small businesses, would handcuff local governments that are trying to revitalize dying cities and fill in blighted areas with projects that produce tax revenues and jobs.

“It’s fair to say that many states are on the verge of seriously overreacting to the Kelo decision,” said John D. Echeverria, executive director of the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Institute and an authority on land-use policy. “The danger is that some legislators are going to attempt to destroy what is a significant and sometimes painful but essential government power. The extremist position is a prescription for economic decline for many metropolitan areas around the country.”

Source F

Britt, Chris, The State Journal-Register. Available at http://cagle.msnbc.com/news/EminentDomain/4.asp.

The following political cartoon appeared in a Springfield, Illinois, newspaper.


Chris Britt, Springfield, IL — The State Journal-Register

Source G

Andres, Gary J., “The Kelo Backlash.” Washington Times, August 29, 2005.

CNN Pollserver, “Local governments should be able to seize homes and businesses.” Quick Vote, June 23, 2005. Available at http://www.cnn.com/POLLSERVER/results/18442.exclude.html.

The following are the results of two surveys/polls. The first appeared in a Washington Times article, and the second was commissioned by CNN.

American Survey | July 14–17, 2005

An American Survey of 800 registered voters nationwide shows 68 percent favoring legislative limits on the government’s ability to take private property away from owners, with 62 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 70 percent of Republicans supporting such limits.


This QuickVote is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate. The results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of Internet users in general, nor the public as a whole.

Question 3

(Suggested time—45 minutes. This question counts
as one-third of the total score for Section II.)



“Even though I was ‘turned off’ by the thought of having to read old-fashioned writing, I was really proud of myself once I found out that I could make sense out of it when I concentrated and focused the way my teacher showed us.”

—Sean V.S., AP student

So, that’s what the Advanced Placement English Language exam looks like.

If you’re being honest with yourself, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point. GOOD! This is primarily why we are going to deconstruct this entire Diagnostic/Master exam for you and with you throughout this book. By the time you reach Practice Exams 1 and 2, you should be feeling much more confident and comfortable about doing well on the AP English Language and Composition exam.

As you progress through this book, you will:

• take each section of the Diagnostic/Master exam;

• read the explanations for the answers to the multiple-choice questions;

• read sample student essays written in response to each of the three prompts;

• read the rubrics and ratings of the student essays; and

• evaluate your own performance in light of this information.