Free CLEP Analyzing Interpreting Literature Exam Practice Questions

Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ozymandias”

I met a traveller from an antique land 
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, 
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown 
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. 
And on the pedestal these words appear: 
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: 
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’ 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, 
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

1. What is the rhyme scheme of the first eight lines?
2. What is the central image of the poem?
  1. A collapsed statue in the desert
  2. A wounded king
  3. A face and inscription on a coin
  4. A plaque near a WWII battle site
  5. The Sphinx

Excerpt from Sir Philip Sidney, “An Apology for Poetry”

Therefore compare we the poet with the historian and with the moral philosopher. . . . . The philosopher therefore and the historian are they which would win the goal, the one by precept, the other by example; but both not having both, do both halt. For the philosopher, setting down with thorny arguments the bare rule, is so hard of utterance and so misty to be conceived, that one that hath no other guide but him shall wade in him till he be old, before he shall find sufficient cause to be honest. For his knowledge standeth so upon the abstract and general that happy is that man who may understand him, and more happy that can apply what he doth understand. On the other side, the historian, wanting the precept, is so tied, not to what should be but to what is, to the particular truth of things, and not to the general reason of things, that his example draweth no necessary consequence, and therefore a less fruitful doctrine.

Now doth the peerless poet perform both; for whatsoever the philosopher saith should be done, he giveth a perfect picture of it in some one by whom he presupposeth it was done, so as he coupleth the general notion with the particular example. A perfect picture, I say; for he yieldeth to the powers of the mind an image of that whereof the philosopher bestoweth but a wordish description, which doth neither strike, pierce, nor possess the sight of the soul so much as that other doth. For as, in outward things, to a man that had never seen an elephant or a rhinoceros, who should tell him most exquisitely all their shapes, color, bigness, and particular marks; or of a gorgeous palace, an architector, with declaring the full beauties, might well make the hearer able to repeat, as it were by rote, all he had heard, yet should never satisfy his inward conceit with being witness to itself of a true lively knowledge; but the same man, as soon as he might see those beasts well painted, or that house well in model, should straightways grow, without need of any description, to a judicial comprehending of them; so no doubt the philosopher, with his learned definitions, be it of virtues or vices, matters of public policy or private government, replenisheth the memory with many infallible grounds of wisdom, which notwithstanding lie dark before the imaginative and judging power, if they be not illuminated or figured forth by the speaking picture of poesy.

3. What is the author’s primary criticism of the philosopher?
  1. The philosopher communicates only general, abstract ideas.
  2. The philosopher can make an untrue argument seem true.
  3. The philosopher cannot know truth beyond the five senses.
  4. The philosopher is difficult to understand.
  5. The philosopher cannot attain true wisdom.
4. What is the author’s primary criticism of the historian?
  1. The historian considers only abstract precepts.
  2. The historian may distort events to reflect political preferences.
  3. The historian deals only with particular events, not general principles.
  4. The historian can see only the past through the lens of the present.
  5. The historian is difficult to understand.
5. The author praises poets primarily for their ability to:
  1. Preserve the highest values of the past.
  2. Write both abstract ideas and particular details.
  3. Communicate more clearly than the philosopher.
  4. Entertain and instruct.
  5. Speak of the present as a historian speaks of the past.
6. Which of the following best captures the meaning of the final sentence in the above passage?
  1. A poet can make the philosopher’s wisdom appeal to the imagination of the reader.
  2. The philosopher’s ideas appeal to the imagination of the audience, but not to the intellect.
  3. The philosopher is wiser than the poet in matters of public policy and private government.
  4. The painter can illuminate the ideas of the philosopher best of all.
  5. The imagination is of no use in acquiring wisdom.

Excerpt from Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once–somewhere–far away–in another existence perhaps. There were moments when one’s past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect. I got used to it afterwards; I did not see it any more; I had no time. I had to keep guessing at the channel; I had to discern, mostly by inspiration, the signs of hidden banks; I watched for sunken stones; I was learning to clap my teeth smartly before my heart flew out, when I shaved by a fluke some infernal sly old snag that would have ripped the life out of the tin-pot steamboat and drowned all the pilgrims; I had to keep a look-out for the signs of dead wood we could cut up in the night for next day’s steaming. When you have to attend to things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality–the reality, I tell you–fades. The inner truth is hidden–luckily, luckily. But I felt it all the same; I felt often its mysterious stillness watching me at my monkey tricks, just as it watches you fellows performing on your respective tight-ropes for–what is it? half-a-crown a tumble–”

7. The punctuation marks that open and close this passage indicate that it is taken from:
  1. A novel.
  2. Dialogue.
  3. The early 1900s.
  4. The author’s point of view.
  5. A soliloquy in a play.
8. In the last sentence of this passage, what does the pronoun “it” refer to?
  1. “The inner truth”
  2. “Mysterious stillness”
  3. “Mere incidents of the surface”
  4. “The reality”
  5. “Monkey tricks”
9. When the character in this passage says, “And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. . . . It looked at you with a vengeful aspect,” what literary device is being employed?
  1. Metaphor
  2. Allusion
  3. Personification
  4. Metonym
  5. Symbolism
10. What is the setting of the story the character is telling?
  1. On a river
  2. In an aircraft
  3. In a horse-drawn carriage
  4. On large ocean vessel
  5. On the Thames River in London