231 English Language Arts and Reading 7-12 Practice Questions

Questions 1-4 are based on the following excerpt:

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay,
brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

1. This is the opening sentence of…
A. Ulysses.
B. Finnegans Wake.
C. Adventures in the Skin Trade.
D. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

2. In the excerpted sentence, the word “vicus” represents which of the following?
A. Vicinity
B. Vico Way
C. Giambattista Vico
D. All of the above

3. Why does this opening sentence begin with an uncapitalized word?
A. This was to make it stand out to the reader as different.
B. It is really the continuation of the author’s previous novel.
C. It forms the completion of the novel’s unfinished last sentence.
D. A typesetting error in the original edition was preserved in perpetuity.

4. The author of the excerpted work is famous for using a literary technique known as…
A. Stream-of-consciousness.
B. The unreliable narrator.
C. First-person narration.
D. The author surrogate.

Questions 5-7 refer to the following excerpts:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

5. Who is the author of this poem?
A. John Donne
B. Andrew Marvell
C. George Herbert
D. Henry Vaughan

6. This poem reflects a thematic tradition known as…
A. Carpe diem.
B. Classicism.
C. Cinquain.
D. Conceit.

7. What is the meter of the couplets in this poem?
A. Pentameter
B. Heptameter
C. Hexameter
D. Tetrameter


1. Answer: B
This is the opening sentence of James Joyce’s last novel, Finnegans Wake (Copyright © 1939 by James Joyce, renewed George Joyce and Lucia Joyce, 1967; Great Britain: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1939; USA: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1939; Viking Compass Edition 1959; Reprinted 1961-1975; Published in Penguin Books 1976). He published Ulysses (A) previously, in 1922; and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (D) even earlier, in 1916. Adventures in the Skin Trade (C) was not written by Joyce but by Dylan Thomas (1938).

2. Answer: D
Joyce used the word “vicus” because it means “vicinity” (A) or “lane” in Latin; to refer to Vico Way (B), the name of the shore road running alongside of Dublin Bay; and to allude to Giambattista Vico (C), an Italian philosopher living from 1688-1744 who espoused the cyclic theory of history, a theme in Joyce’s novel.

3. Answer: C
The lower-case initial letter of the first word was not an error (D). It did not continue Joyce’s previous novel (B). And he did not use it to make the opening stand out as different to the reader (A). Rather, it is uncapitalized to show that it completes the book’s last sentence fragment, “A way a lone a last a loved a long the—”. By having the end of the book be completed and continued only by the beginning, Joyce embodied the cyclical nature of history and of the novel within its sentence structure.

4. Answer: A
Joyce is famous for using stream of consciousness in his novels, as he did in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. The unreliable narrator (B) is a technique used often in murder mysteries, as by Edgar Allan Poe in The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of the Amontillado and many other stories and by Agatha Christie in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Joyce is not famous for using it. He used third-person narration and often included soliloquies, but is not famous for using first-person narration (C. An example of the author surrogate (D) is Socrates in Plato’s works; Joyce is not known for using this technique.

5. Answer: B
The author of the excerpted poem, To His Coy Mistress, is Andrew Marvell. Marvell, Donne (A), Herbert (C), and Vaughan (D) were all members of a group of mainly 17th-century poets known as the Metaphysical Poets for their common time period, themes, content, and style.

6. Answer: A
Carpe diem is Latin for “seize the day.” This tradition reflects the theme that time flies and that life is fleeting, and thus we should take advantage of the present moment. The tradition of classicism (B) reflects ancient Greek and Roman ideals of beauty and principles of form and discipline (as opposed to Romanticism’s principles of emotional impact), as reflected in the works of Alexander Pope and John Dryden. The cinquain (C) is a five-line type of poem in which line 1 is a one-word title, line 2 contains two words describing the title, line 3 has three words telling the action, line 4 contains four words expressing the feeling, and line 5 reverts back to one word that recalls the title. The conceit (D) type of poetry uses a metaphor, simile, or image comparing two very dissimilar things, such as Shakespeare’s Sonnet # 18, also known as Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

7. Answer: D
Tetrameter means four beats per line, which is the meter of the rhymed couplets in this poem. Pentameter (A) means five beats per line. Heptameter (B) means seven beats per line. Hexameter (C) means six beats per line. Also, beats are only the stressed syllables, not total syllables.