Grade 12 English Provincial Exam: Breaking Down the Multiple Choice

Many students find the English 12 provincial difficult to study for. The texts and theme are different for each exam, so unlike knowledge-based tests, there is nothing to memorize (aside from a laundry list of literary terms and devices). Students can prepare, however, by familiarizing themselves with the exam format and types of reading passages and response questions, which remain consistent for each exam. Below is a detailed break-down on what to expect from the multiple choice.

Skills Assessed

The multiple choice questions are designed to evaluate your skills in four reading comprehension categories. The most basic is the ability to retrieve information, which involves answering questions by locating the pertinent information within the text. You must also be able to recognize meaning by understanding how to reformulate information in the text and identifying a range of literary terms and devices. More challenging is the ability to interpret texts, inferring ideas or linking concepts that are not explicit in the reading. Finally, you will be required to analyze texts, evaluating elements such as purpose, viewpoint, and character, and synthesizing information from more than one source.

How to Recognize Question Types

Retrieve information – These questions have no particular form or clue words, and may start with any of the ‘5 Ws.’ However, they will be quite straightforward, such as “What caused…” or “Why did X…”

Recognize meaning – Most of these questions will ask you to identify a literary device used in a part of a passage. Another question commonly asked is about the form of the poem. Examples of typical questions are “What sound device is used in line 3?” and “What term best describes the style of the poem?”

Interpret texts – These questions tend to ask you to draw an inference from a quotation about a character, or character’s beliefs, or purpose. Clue words to watch for are “imply” and “suggest.” For example, a question may ask “What do lines 2-4 imply about character Y?”, or “What does sentence 3 suggest about the purpose of Z?” Other common questions require you to identify the central idea of the text, or conclusion that can be drawn, or the mood of a passage.

Analyze texts – These questions usually ask about the similarities or differences between some aspect of the synthesis passages, such as how the character’s goals differ, or in what respect two characters are the same. Another common question is how one character would “most likely respond” to another character’s situation.

Frequency of Question Types

Each multiple choice question assesses your skills in one of the above categories. A look at the multiple choice questions from past provincial exams available on the BC Ministry of Education website ( reveals that the number of questions from each category has remained fairly stable over the last several years. Here are some patterns that arise:

  • There will be 22 or 23 total multiple choice questions.
  • You can expect 2 or 3 questions testing your ability to retrieve information.
  • There will be around 7 questions testing your ability to recognize meaning.
  • Interpreting texts will be a focus of the multiple choice sections, comprising around 11 questions.
  • There will be 2 or 3 multiple choice questions testing your ability to analyze meaning.
  •  There will be 5-8 questions that ask you to choose the “best” answer (meaning that more than one answer may seem plausible).
  • There will be 1 question on a graphic image (e.g. chart, timeline etc.) that accompanies one of the reading passages.
  •  You should expect 1 or 2 questions about tone or mood.
  • There are generally 5 or 6 questions that require you to identify literary terms and devices.
  • At least 1 or 2 questions will touch upon your existing knowledge of vocabulary.