AP English Literature Practice Test 1

Directions: The AP English Literature multiple choice section consists of selections from literary works and questions on their content, form, and style. After reading each passage or poem, choose the best answer to each question and then click on the corresponding answer. Click on the right arrow to move on to the next question. Start your test prep now with our free AP English Literature practice test.


Questions #1-11 are based on the following passage from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?

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Question 1
What is Hamlet NOT contemplating in this soliloquy?

A
Is there life after death?
B
Should I commit murder?
C
Should I commit suicide?
D
Why should he stay alive if his life is so miserable?
E
What point is there in working hard in life?
Question 1 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Hamlet questions the nature of existence, the mystery of whether there is an afterlife after death, and the idea that committing suicide can end a miserable existence. There is no evidence of him contemplating murder in this passage.
Question 2
How can the conflict in this speech by Hamlet best be described?

A
An internal conflict about whether it is better to live or to die.
B
An internal conflict about whether to kill his stepfather or not.
C
An external conflict with his friends and family who are opposed to his taking up arms to fight the enemy.
D
An external conflict with his priest about whether it is moral to take another person's life or not.
E
An external conflict with Ophelia about whether or not she should commit suicide.
Question 2 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). In this speech Hamlet struggles to come up with an answer to the question, "To be, or not to be." He is internally conflicted about whether it is better to live or to die. By the end of the speech he is still internally conflicted and has not come to a conclusion.
Question 3
What character traits are revealed through the author's use of imagery in this speech given by Hamlet?

A
Hamlet reveals that he is lazy, sleepy, and unhappy.
B
Hamlet reveals that he is angry, violent, and vengeful.
C
Hamlet reveals that he is thoughtful, confused, and indecisive.
D
Hamlet reveals that he is indifferent to what other people say or think about him.
E
Hamlet reveals that he is impassioned, forthright, and confident.
Question 3 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Hamlet contemplates whether it is better to live or die and does not come to a conclusion. He is indecisive about his viewpoint throughout the speech. For example, the author uses the image of taking arms against a sea of troubles. This metaphor produces an image of taking the necessary measures to attack and fix one's problems that arise.
Question 4
Which of the following is NOT a function or meaning of this speech from Hamlet?

A
To demonstrate an internal conflict in the character.
B
To describe an external conflict between the character and the outside world.
C
To spark empathy in the reader for Hamlet's situation.
D
To create loathing for the character in the reader.
E
To demonstrate the thematic elements of the play.
Question 4 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). In this speech, Hamlet demonstrates an internal conflict about whether it is better to live or die because life has become so unbearable. He mentions several conflicts with the outside world that have contributed to his unhappy state. His desperate thoughts create empathy in the reader for Hamlet's situation. The soliloquy is not meant to make the reader loathe Hamlet; in fact, the opposite is true.
Question 5
The line, "To be, or not to be," from Hamlet's soliloquy is one of the most famous lines in history. What is the most likely reason this line has lived through history to become so famous?

A
The line refers to suicide, a taboo topic.
B
The author ponders life and death, a topic that is memorable.
C
The author avoids using any imagery in this specific line and follows it with many images.
D
The author uses imagery in this line to illustrate his point.
E
The line’s use of monosyllables is unique in all of Shakespeare.
Question 5 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). The lack of imagery in the main line, "To be or not to be," is in stark contrast to the following vivid images. That contrast between the void of images and the descriptive images that follow makes the line memorable. Even if you are unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s work, it is unlikely this line is unique in its use of monosyllabic words, as (E) states.
Question 6
What does Shakespeare most likely mean by the phrase “take arms”?

A
To wrap one’s arms around oneself
B
To reach out for help from a friend or ally
C
To steal a weapon in order to inflict suffering on others
D
To raise a fight against the things that are oppressive
E
To help others to overcome their depression
Question 6 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). The full line is “to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.” Hamlet is describing a metaphorical battle: himself versus the things that trouble him.
Question 7
This speech is an example of what type of poetry?

A
iambic meter
B
limerick
C
elegy
D
cinquain
E
haiku
Question 7 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Shakespeare’s verse was written in ‘iambic pentameter,’ consisting of five “feet,” each foot made up of one unstressed and one stressed syllable.
Question 8
The phrase “when we have shuffled off this mortal coil” most likely refers to

A
deep sleep
B
lucid dreaming
C
the moment of death
D
the afterlife
E
nightmares
Question 8 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Immediately prior to that phrase, Hamlet discusses death and likens it to sleep. The “dreams” that will come are most likely whatever would come after death.
Question 9
What rhetorical device is used in the lines quoted below?

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?

A
personal anecdote
B
rhetorical question
C
purposeful repetition
D
subtle understatement
E
pointed hyperbole
Question 9 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). This entire section is one long rhetorical question. Hamlet is not looking for an answer, rather he is posing a philosophical question.
Question 10
The tone of this speech can best be characterized as

A
accusatory
B
balanced
C
pensive
D
calculated
E
conservative
Question 10 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). This speech is one of deep reflective contemplation. The word “pensive” best matches this description.
Question 11
The phrase “insolence of office” is an example of

A
personification
B
metaphor
C
simile
D
irony
E
motif
Question 11 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). The word “insolence” means rude and disrespectful behavior. “Office” is not a person, however, and so cannot have that type of description. Here, Shakespeare is personifying an abstract idea.
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