E T S Praxis Series

English Language, Literature, and Composition: Essays (0042)

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Sample Test Questions

Current section: Essay 1> Interpreting Literature

This section presents sample questions and responses along with the standards used in scoring the responses. When you read these sample responses, keep in mind that they will be less polished than if they had been developed at home, edited, and carefully presented. Examinees do not know what questions will be asked and must decide, on the spot, how to respond. Readers take these circumstances into account when scoring the responses.

Interpreting Literature

Below is a sample of the first question in the test, which presents a poem and asks examinees to analyze some of the literary elements in the poem. The second question in the test is similar in format, except that it will ask examinees to analyze literary elements in a prose selection instead.

Read carefully the following poem by Louis MacNeice. Then discuss how MacNeice uses imagery and diction to convey the qualities of what the narrator calls "world." Be sure to use at least THREE specific examples from the poem to support your points about MacNeice's use of imagery and diction.


The room was suddenly rich and the great
bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes —
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears
in the palms of one's hands —
There is more than glass between the snow
and the huge roses.

From The Collected Poems of Louis MacNeice, ed. by E. R. Dodds copyright © 1966 by The Estate of Louis MacNeice. Reprinted by permission of Faber & Faber Ltd. and David Higham Associates, agent for The Estate of Louis MacNeice.