AP English Literature Multiple Choice Help (MCQ)

5 min readnovember 15, 2020

lani

Lani Himegarner

brandonwu

Brandon Wu


Hey-o! What’s poppin? Today we are going to be talking about one of the scariest parts about taking APs: the exam itself. 😨
Taking exams can be overwhelming and stressful regardless of if you feel prepared and confident with the material. If this is the case, don’t worry, because we have you covered!

Exam Format 💯

The AP Lit exam consists of two parts: the multiple-choice section (or MCQs) and the free-response sections (FRQs). This post will give you our top three strategies for doing your best on the AP Lit multiple-choice section!
Before we begin with our tips, let’s cover some basics.
  • You will have 60 minutes to complete the multiple-choice section.
  • There will be passages and questions corresponding to each one.
  • The section as a whole may contain between 50-55 questions, allowing for the inclusion of up to 5 passages.
Now, without any further ado, let’s get into our top 5 tips for how to ace the AP Lit multiple-choice.

1. Feel Free to Skip Around (or Skip Entirely!)

You'll have four or five passages that collectively make up the multiple-choice section, though not in any particular order. (So you won’t necessarily start with the “easiest” passage and end with the “most difficult” one, or vice versa). However, you are free to skip around within the multiple-choice section as much as you please.
If a particular question is giving you trouble, don’t spend too much time on it. It would be better to skip it and come back to it at the end when you have more time to concentrate. In the meantime, markdown whatever answer you think is correct but put a star next to it so you know not to forget about it.
https://media.giphy.com/media/3PALWdoswkiLJyQvdl/giphy.gif

Skipping away from my problems....I mean the tricky passages. Image courtesy of Giphy

If you feel the need to skip an entire passage, you can do that, too! In this case, it is super important to remember to revisit that section later, because leaving 10-12 answers blank would be detrimental to your score. 😔
As soon as you finish this section, double-check that you marked down an answer for every single question. Don’t review your answers just yet; this is to ensure that each question is accounted for. With any extra time remaining, feel free to revisit starred questions to evaluate your answers.

2. Manage Your Time!

These first two tips go hand in hand when it comes to being successful on the multiple-choice section of the AP Lit exam. Many students feel an added pressure when considering the time limit on the section. It can be stressful, but it shouldn’t hold you back!
This is why it is super important to not let a single question take up too much of your time. With 60 minutes to complete the section, it breaks down to about 12-15 minutes per passage (with variation depending on the number of questions).
This includes reading time for the passage and questions, as well as having to answer the questions. ⏲️
This is not meant to scare you, so please do not rush your way through the questions! Just be aware of how much time you have left as you go through the section. Many students like to wear a watch during the exam so that they can monitor their progress. ⌚
https://media3.giphy.com/media/KyCFtZE3LvGom5Imdj/giphy.gif

Hurry up! Don't lollygag! Image courtesy of Giphy

This is also why it is not a bad idea to skip around and not linger on the problem questions. It is better to answer every question (even if some are wrong) than to get all the answers correct but only make it halfway through the section.
If you’re running out of time and can’t properly complete the section, your best bet is to pick a letter and fill in the remaining questions. For example, if you have 5 questions left with one minute remaining, just fill in “C” for those last five. Odds are you’ll get at least one point!

3. Beware of Tricky Answer Choices ⚠️

Alright, so here is when we get into the actual ~ methodology ~ of multiple choice. This is where you hone your skills so that you can get a 5!
Don’t worry if you’re a bit overwhelmed at first, just keep this in mind and do plenty of practice and you’ll be a pro in no time!
Ok, so here are four mini-tips to consider when it comes to taking in all of the answer choices:

1. If any part of the answer is wrong, it is all wrong. 🚫

Especially in a class like AP Lit, there will be some complex questions with some complex answers. There will be answer options that have a part to it that seems like the right answer, but the other part will be a little bit questionable.
Odds are, it’s wrong and the exam is trying to trick you. Don’t fall for it! The whole answer has to be right!

2. Which answer is the most right? ✅

This kind of “tricky question” is similar to the one we just talked about. However, in this case, multiple answer options could be correct, and you are struggling to figure out which one is the right answer.
In this case, the best thing to do is to think about which answer most closely aligns with the question. Sometimes a “right” answer will seem like a good option but doesn’t really answer the question, or at least not in its entirety. Beware of this especially with multi-part and/or complex questions.

3. Wrong and Distractor Answers ⛔

Sometimes, the exam will provide an option that is simply not correct. These are great because you can cross them out and ignore them as you further consider the options. Distractor answers are those that may seem like a good option at first glance, but turn out to be wrong as well.

4. Irrelevant Answers 🤦‍♂️

Irrelevant answers are those that technically are correct, but they don’t answer the question at all. The most important thing to remember when picking out answers is its relevance to the question! Just because the question technically is correct doesn’t mean it is the right answer (see #2!)

4. Go With Your Gut! 🤔

Now that I have crammed your head with the technical parts of how to handle the multiple-choice section, I just have one last piece of general advice:
Go With Your Gut!
When you’re stuck, go with what you think is right. Don’t go back and second guess yourself and change it, because odds are, your gut instinct was correct! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go back to the basics. Use the process of elimination and go from there.

Closing

At the end of the day, the multiple-choice section won't be so bad as you might think. All it takes is for you to persevere through the multiple-choice section, which I know you will! Remember that your score is just a number and your hard work matters more.
Take a deep breath. Stay focused, be confident, and get that 5️⃣!

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