We shall continue with our Common Core standardized exam, provided by the testing consortium Smarter Balanced. Recall that this is an eleventh-grade English Language Arts examination.
Much Ado About Much Ado About Nothing
It was the first day back at school after the holiday break. Our drama teacher, Mrs. Kent, handed out our next assignment: an in-depth study of a scene from one of Shakespeare’s plays. I was so excited to see that I had been assigned a scene from Much Ado About Nothing. Finally, here was my long-awaited opportunity to act out a comedy scene from Shakespeare! My joy was short-lived, however, because moments later I saw Luke shuffling my way with that mocking grin on his face that I find so infuriating. Of course, Mrs. Kent had assigned Luke to be my partner! Even worse, we were to play Beatrice and Benedick, two of Shakespeare’s most famous lovers. Where was Macbeth’s dagger when you needed it?
. . . As soon as we sat down to look at the scene, Luke was pompously proclaiming himself an expert.
“Beatrice and Benedick are obviously in love here at the beginning of the play. Anyone with a brain could see that, Kate,” he said.
“I have brain enough for both of us, Luke, which is good, since you seem to be in need. Beatrice and Benedick only fall in love because they’re tricked into it. They would never have fallen in love otherwise—that much is obvious to anyone with a pulse.”
“Oh, really? I’ll speak slowly so you can understand,” Luke said. Etc.
Sample question from the exam:
Click on two sentences that summarize the main idea of the text.
a) Luke and Kate are both very knowledgeable about Shakespeare.
b) Luke and Kate present arguments to their teacher and defend their points of view.
c) Luke and Kate realize that people can have different interpretations of characters in a play. Etc.
Who most likely wrote the foregoing passage? Support your answer in two-three sentences.
a) an underpaid testing-hack
b) an overpaid testing-hack
c) a graduate student in English literature strapped for cash and willing to sell his soul
d) William Shakespeare
Which description least fits the foregoing banter between Kate and Luke:
c) perfectly natural; just how two star-crossed, teenage lovers of Shakespeare would talk to each other
d) comically unrealistic
Questions on the examination as a whole (for advanced readers):
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