Does Excellence in Literature Have an Answer Key?
No, this is a literature and writing course — there are no multiple choice questions. Because the Excellence in Literature courses are designed to prepare students for college-level thinking, the essay questions are college-style prompts — narrow and deep, often with multiple parts. Each question is answered in essay format, and each student will write from his or her own base of knowledge. A rubric is provided so that evaluations will be consistent and constructive.
In a college literary analysis class, a professor would expect to get as many different interpretations of the focus text as there were students. Writing prompts direct students to consider something specific about the text, but just as on the SAT essay, they are to use all of their knowledge, experience, worldview, and reading in the creation of a plausible analysis. This obviously results in a wide variety of responses. EIL contains no trivia-style comprehension questions which test only student memory.
But if there are a variety of possible responses, how can you tell if a student answered the essay question correctly?
Analytical essays usually contain phrases such as, “The author seems to imply that….” It’s impossible for a reader to know exactly what an author intended (unless the author has left a documentary statement, and even then, the reader has to judge if the statement is reliable), or exactly why certain plot elements exist, but the point of it all is to closely read the text, consider the writing prompt, come up with a reasonable thesis in response, and provide textual evidence to support it.
There is no one “right” answer, just as there is no “wrong” answer. An essay can be badly written or poorly supported, but if the essay prompt is answered, and the response is convincingly supported by quotations from the text and possibly the context or other resources, it’s a valid thesis. After that, it’s a matter of evaluating each of the items on the rubric (the rubric is included in each book, with instructions for how to use it), which makes the feedback useful to the student.
You might also find it helpful to learn why Excellence in Literature doesn’t have a teacher’s manual, and find out more about the Excellence in Literature curriculum.