SAT Literature Subject Test

Part II

Cracking the SAT Literature Subject Test

Chapter 10

Final Thoughts

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.


•   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.

Great Literature

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.


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.

Don’t Forget

•   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!


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