SAT Literature Subject Test
Cracking the SAT Literature Subject Test
You’re almost ready for the big day! Now here are some tips for the day of the test and some things you should be SURE to remember. Also, we included a complete list of all the terms we mentioned in this book, to make it easier for you to study them.
You’ve already covered quite a lot of information in reading about the ways to analyze poetry, prose, and drama. Before you take a practice test, do a quick review of the previous chapters, concentrating on information you might have missed or forgotten since you first read it. After taking the practice tests, review your performance, and see where your study time can best be spent. Don’t waste a lot of time on one or two little things that you’ve missed. Rather, look for the bigger trends.
Also, review the scoring chart (Chapter 4) before your exam. Keep track of your goals. Write them down. Often, you don’t need to get that many more questions right to get a really great score.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
• Put the passages in order before you begin. Which one will you do first? Last? Feel free to write numbers on the test booklet.
• If you skip questions, make sure you circle or star the number to make it very obvious that you need to go back to that question.
• Tackle specific/line-reference questions first. Read a few lines before and after for context.
• Do general questions next.
• Save weird questions for the end.
• Put answers in your own words before you go back to the answer choices.
• Pick a bubbling method, and adhere to it like glue (simile alert!).
• Slow down!
A Word on Vocabulary
Although the SAT Literature Subject Test does not necessarily test vocabulary, if you don’t know the words in the answer choices, it’s hard to answer the questions. As you take these tests, and as you read in general (books, newspapers, magazines, etc.), keep a list of vocabulary words that pertain to the SAT Literature Subject Test. Adjectives will be especially useful for this test; words that describe tone or attitude will also help. Make flash cards of your lists, and memorize these words. Even if they don’t appear on the test, they’re useful for the SAT, and they’ll also impress your English professors in college.
As you read, whether for pleasure or for school assignments, keep in mind the techniques we’ve discussed. While you’re in the middle of the book, stop and think about tone, theme, literary devices, etc. It will help you do well on the test and on any essays you might have to write in the future.
Obviously, reading An American Tragedy will help more than the latest unauthorized celebrity bio, but even mind candy has themes.
SOME THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE TEST
Register early for the test. Make sure you know exactly where the test site is and how you’re getting there. Don’t forget: The test is administered on the weekend, when public transportation and traffic patterns might be different from your weekday routine.
Plan to reward yourself. You’ve worked really hard, and you deserve a little reward, whether it’s a night out with your friends or that new CD you’ve been coveting. You might ask a parent to cook your favorite food for dinner. Or you may want to go see the latest Judd Apatow flick. Whatever. In other words, plan something for after the test so that when you are midway through the test and contemplating trading in your college plans for a career as a summer lifeguard (anything to get out of the test!), you can remember your reward and make it through the next half hour.
What will be your reward? Write it down here.
The Day of the Test
On the morning of the test, set multiple alarms. Eat a little breakfast, even if you’re not normally a morning muncher (toast will do). Follow your normal morning routine—for example, if you usually have coffee, have coffee. If you’re not a coffee drinker, stay away from it. Organize the things you need into a pile the night before.
• a plethora of No. 2 pencils with high-quality erasers
• a reliable watch
• some light reading, such as a magazine or book, to occupy your mind in case you have to wait
• a small snack, such as a granola bar or an energy bar
• a bottle of water
• layers of comfortable clothing (the test site may be hot or cold, so wear a T-shirt and take long sleeves, just in case)
• a hair tie if you have long hair
• tissues if you have a cold or allergies
• your glasses, if you wear them (duh!)
Visit the restroom before the test starts. Try to leave anything of value at home, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the test site. Different test sites have different rules and accommodations for your personal belongings, and you don’t want to be worried about your MP3 player out there in the hallway when you should be thinking about metaphors.
Relax. You’ll do great!
After the Test
Stretch, breathe a big sigh of relief, refuse to talk about how you did, and … enjoy your reward! Your score should be posted online in about two weeks. Because you’ve prepared yourself well for the SAT Literature Subject Test, you can wait with supreme confidence for your well-deserved scores. Have fun at the college of your choice!
REVIEW OF TERMS
allegory a story with underlying symbols that really represent something else
alliteration the use of a repeated consonant sound, usually at the beginning of a series of words
allusion a reference to something or someone, usually literary
anachronism the placement of a person or object in an inappropriate historical situation
analogy a comparison of something to something else
anecdote a short narrative, story, or tale
antagonist the major character opposing the protagonist
anthropomorphism the assignment of human attributes, such as emotions or physical characteristics, to nonhuman things. Anthropomorphism is similar to personification, but usually anthropomorphism is applied to animals, while personification is applied to all types of things (objects, buildings, abstract concepts).
argument a summary or short statement of the plot or subject of a literary work
aside a device through which the character addresses the audience directly
blank verse an unrhymed poem with a regular meter
character a person in a drama or novel
comedy a play that is primarily for amusement or meant to provide laughter
diction the author’s choice of word and sentence structure, taking into account correctness, clearness, and effectiveness. Typically, there are four levels of diction recognized: formal, informal, colloquial, and slang. (In general, formal vs. informal.)
elegy a mournful and melancholy poem or song, usually to pay tribute to a deceased person
emphasis special forcefulness of expression that gives importance to something singled out
fable a story that has a moral, usually involving animals as the main characters
farce a satire that’s bordering on the silly or ridiculous
figurative language language characterized by figures of speech, such as metaphors and similes, as well as elaborate expression through imagery
form the physical structure of a poem, including line length, rhythms, and repetition. Examples include sonnets, blank verse, pantoum, and more.
free verse a poem without regular meter or line length
genre a type, or category, of fiction or nonfiction
hyperbole a deliberate exaggeration
imagery an author’s use of descriptive and figurative language used to create a picture in the reader’s mind’s eye
indirect dialogue language which communicates what was expressed in the dialogue, without using a direct quotation
irony an expression of meaning that is the opposite of the literal meaning
meaning something that one wishes to convey, especially by language
metaphor a comparison that does not use the words “like” or “as”
meter the rhythm of a poem
monologue a long passage during which only one person talks
narrative a literary representation of an event or story—the text itself
onomatopoeia a word intended to simulate the actual sound of the thing or action it describes
oxymoron a phrase in which the words are contradictory
paean an expression of joyful praise
parable a story that has a moral
paradox a phrase that appears to be contradictory but which actually contains some basic truth that resolved the apparent contradiction
parallelism the repetition of sounds, meanings, or structures to create a certain style
parody a literary work in which the style of an author is imitated for comic effect or ridicule
pastoral a work that deals with the lives of people, especially shepherds, in the country or in nature (as opposed to people in the city)
pathos something that evokes a feeling of pity or sympathy
personification the assignment of human attributes to something nonhuman
perspective the viewpoint from which the narrator or character sees things
plot the events that happen in the story
point of view the vantage point from which a story is presented to a reader
protagonist the main character, usually the hero
rhyme scheme the way a poem’s rhymes are arranged
rhythm the beat or meter of a poem
satire the ridicule of a subject
simile a comparison of two things using the words “like” or “as”
soliloquy a speech addressed to the audience where one character expounds upon his predicament
stage directions authorial instructions inserted in parentheses to tell the actor or director how to act, move, or speak
stanza a section of lines in a poem
structure the framework of a work of literature; the organization or overall design
style the author’s unique manner of expression; the author’s voice
surrealism/Theater of the Absurd a style of play that doesn’t have a logical progression of narrative or a clear sequence of events or theme
syntax the ordering of words into meaningful patterns such as phrases, clauses, and sentences
tense time perspective from which a piece is written (past, present, or future)
theme the central meaning or dominant idea in a literary work; theme provides a unifying point around which the plot, characters, setting, point of view, symbols, and other elements of a work are organized.
tone the style or manner of expression
tragedy a play that is sad or addresses sorrowful or difficult themes
voice the perspective from which a piece is written, most often first-person or third-person