Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

The Analyzing and Interpreting Literature exam includes questions on passages taken from American and British literature.

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The Analyzing and Interpreting Literature exam covers material usually taught in a general undergraduate course in literature. Although the exam does not require familiarity with specific works, it does assume that test takers have read widely and perceptively in poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. The questions are based on passages supplied in the test. These passages have been selected so that no previous experience with them is required to answer the questions. The passages are taken primarily from American and British literature.

The exam contains approximately 80 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 98 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored.

Knowledge and Skills Required

Questions on the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature exam require test takers to demonstrate the following abilities:

  • Ability to read prose, poetry, and drama with understanding
  • Ability to analyze the elements of a literary passage and to respond to nuances of meaning, tone, imagery, and style
  • Ability to interpret metaphors, to recognize rhetorical and stylistic devices, to perceive relationships between parts and wholes, and to grasp a speaker's or author's attitudes
  • Knowledge of the means by which literary effects are achieved
  • Familiarity with the basic terminology used to discuss literary texts

The exam emphasizes comprehension, interpretation, and analysis of literary works. A specific knowledge of historical context (authors and movements) is not required, but a broad knowledge of literature gained through reading widely and a familiarity with basic literary terminology is assumed. The following outline indicates the relative emphasis given to the various types of literature and the periods from which the passages are taken. The approximate percentage of exam questions per classification is noted within each main category.


  • 35%–45% Poetry
  • 35%–45% Prose (fiction and nonfiction)
  • 15%–30% Drama

National Tradition

  • 40%–50% British and Postcolonial Literature
  • 40%–50% American Literature
  • 3%–10% Works in Translation


  • 3%–7% Classical and pre-Renaissance
  • 20%–30% Renaissance and 17th Century
  • 30%–40% 18th and 19th Centuries
  • 30%–40% 20th and 21st Centuries

Score Information

ACE Recommendation for Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

Credit-granting Score 50
Semester Hours 3

Note: Each institution reserves the right to set its own credit-granting policy, which may differ from the American Council on Education (ACE). Contact your college to find out the score required for credit and the number of credit hours granted.

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CLEP Analyzing and Interpreting Literature Examination Guide

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Study Resources: Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

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Sample Questions: Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

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ACE Credit Recommendations

Recommendations for credit-granting scores from the American Council on Education.