College Board test writers are giving increased attention to asking students to identify rhetorical devices in critical reading passages. Chapters 3 and 4 in The Essential 500 Words define and illustrate 20 key rhetorical devices. Most SATs now include passage-based questions that test 2 or more of these words.

Chapter 56 in Essential contains 10 practice questions that test your ability to recognize rhetorical devices in a critical reading passage.

Here is an example:

I remember the walk we took one morning…About halfway down the beach there was a tall wooden platform shaped like a castle turret. During the summer months lifeguards stood up there and kept an eye on the swimmers… I simply couldn’t believe that I was about to move…Because the ocean had always been there, in good times as well as the bad times of my life…the tide rising and falling just as it always did, no matter what and it seemed to me that even if you weren’t actively letting your emotions ride its surface, the ocean still went on giving you something, teaching you some sort of lesson.
(from Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto)

The author makes use of which of the following rhetorical devices?
I. Figurative Speech
II. Figurative Speech
III. Personification

(A) I only
(B) II only
(C) I and II only
(D) I and III only
(E) II and III only

The correct answer is E! In order for FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE to be the correct answer an author must use either a SIMILE or a METAPHOR or both. The author meets this test by comparing the “tall wooden platform” to a “castle turret.” In addition, the author uses PERSONIFICATION by giving the ocean the human ability to teach a lesson. The correct answer is therefore FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE (See Words 23 and 24) and PERSONIFICATION (Word 25).

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