Praxis Elementary Education Exam—Poetry - dummies

By Carla C. Kirkland, Chan Cleveland

If you encounter a poetry question on the Praxis Elementary Education exam, it will probably involve rhyme schemes. A rhyme scheme is a pattern to the rhyme that runs throughout a poem.

Some poems with rhyme schemes include the following:

  • Ballad. This often tells a story, is written in quatrains (four lines per stanza), has multiple stanzas, and is meant to be sung. It usually has a rhyme scheme of abcb, defe, and so on.
  • Couplet. This consists of two lines, often rhyming.
  • Limerick. This consists of five lines with a rhyme scheme of aabba; it is meant to be funny.
  • Ode. This is a lyric poem, traditionally in three long stanzas. It is usually dedicated to someone or something.
  • Quatrain. This is a general description of a verse consisting of four lines (quarto- means four).
  • Sonnet. This consists of 14 lines, usually structured in one of two ways: a Shakespearean sonnet has three quatrains plus a couplet and a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg; a Petrarchan sonnet has an octave (eight lines) plus a sestet (six lines) and a rhyme scheme of abba abba cdecde.
  • Villanelle. This consists of five tercets (three lines) plus a quatrain, all with an intricate use of repeating rhymes and of repeating lines. The tercets all rhyme aba and the quatrain abaa.

Free verse lacks a rhyme scheme or regular meter (rhythm pattern).

To describe the rhyme scheme, you assign the first rhyming words the letter a, the next b, and so on. This little poem has a rhyme scheme of aabba:


If another verse followed using new rhymes (in other words, not rhyming with today or measure), that stanza (verse) would have a rhyme scheme of ccddc, following the pattern established in the first stanza.

Practice question

  1. Which rhyme scheme best describes the following poem?

“The Purple Cow” by Gellett Burgess

I never saw a Purple Cow,

I never hope to see one,

But I can tell you, anyhow,

I’d rather see than be one!

A. limerick; rhyme scheme aabba
B. ode; rhyme scheme abba
C. ballad; rhyme scheme abba
D. quatrain; rhyme scheme abab

Answer and explanation

  1. The correct answer is Choice (D).
    The poem is not a specific type but rather falls into the general category of quatrain and has an a (cow) b (see one) a (anyhow) b (be one) rhyme scheme. Choice (A) is wrong because a limerick has five lines with an aabba rhyme scheme. Choice (B) is wrong because an ode has much longer stanzas; the rhyme scheme here is wrong. Choice (C) is wrong because a ballad tells a story and has multiple stanzas; the rhyme scheme here is wrong.