AP English Language

Develop Strategies for Success


Section I of the Exam—The Multiple-Choice Questions

Types of Multiple-Choice Questions

Is the Structure the Same for All of the Multiple-Choice Questions?

No. There are several basic patterns that the AP test makers employ. These include:

1. The straightforward question.

• The passage is an example of

C. a contrast/comparison essay

• The pronoun “it” refers to

B. his gait

2. The question that refers you to specific lines and asks you to draw a conclusion or interpret.

• Lines 52–57 serve to

A. reinforce the author’s thesis

3. The ALL … EXCEPT question requires more time, because it demands that you consider every possibility.

• The AP English Language and Composition exam is all of the following except

A. It is given in May of each year.

B. It is open to high school seniors.

C. It is published in the New York Times.

D. It is used as a qualifier for college credit.

E. It is a 3-hour test.

4. The question that asks you to make an inference or to abstract a concept not directly stated in the passage.

• In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the reader can infer that the speaker is

E. religious

5. Here is the killer question. It even uses Roman numerals! This question is problematic and time consuming. You can be certain that each exam will have a couple of these questions lurking within it.

• In the passage, “night” refers to

I. the death of the young woman

II. a pun on Sir William’s title

III. the end of the affair

A. I only

B. I and II

C. I and III

D. II and III

E. I, II, and III

This is the type of question to skip if it causes you problems and/or you are short on time.

6. The footnote question: This is the question that requires you to abstract, interpret, or apply information contained in footnotes attached to passages.

• The purpose of the footnote is to

A. cite a primary source

B. verify the writer’s assertions

C. direct the reader to other sources

D. cite a secondary source

E. provide the writer’s additional commentary

What Kinds of Questions Should I Expect on the Exam?

The multiple-choice questions center on form and content. Naturally, the test makers are assessing your understanding of the meaning of the selection as well as your ability to draw inferences and perceive implications based on the given work. They also want to know if you understand HOW an author develops his or her ideas.


The questions, therefore, will be factual, technical, analytical, and inferential. The brief chart below illustrates the types of key words/phrases in these four categories you can expect to encounter.

Note: DO NOT MEMORIZE THESE TABLES. Likewise, do not panic if a word or phrase is not familiar to you. You may or may not encounter any or all of these words or phrases on any given exam. You can, however, count on meeting up with many of these in our practice exams in this book.



A WORD ABOUT JARGON: Jargon refers to words unique to a specific subject. A common language is important for communication, and there must be agreement on the basic meanings of terms. Although it is important to know the universal language of a subject, it is also important that you NOT limit the scope of your thinking to a brief definition. All of the terms used in the above chart are categorized only for easy reference. They also work in many other contexts. In other words, THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX.