The English Literature exam is primarily concerned with major British authors and literary works.
The English Literature exam covers material usually taught in a course at the college level. The test is primarily concerned with major authors and literary works, but it also includes questions on some minor writers. Test takers are expected to be acquainted with common literary terms, such as metaphor and personification, and basic literary forms, such as the sonnet and the ballad.
In both coverage and approach, the exam resembles the historically organized surveys of British, Commonwealth, and postcolonial literature offered by many colleges. It assumes that test takers have read widely and developed an appreciation of English literature, know the basic literary periods, and have a sense of the historical development of English literature.
The exam contains approximately 95 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.
Knowledge and Skills Required
The English Literature exam measures both knowledge and ability. The percentages below show the relative emphasis given to each; however, most questions draw on both.
35%–40% Knowledge of:
- Literary background
- Identification of authors
- Metrical patterns
- Literary references
- Literary terms
60%–65% Ability to:
- Analyze the elements of form in a literary passage
- Perceive meanings
- Identify tone and mood
- Follow patterns of imagery
- Identify characteristics of style
- Comprehend the reasoning in an excerpt of literary criticism
The exam deals with literature from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present. Familiarity with and understanding of major writers is expected, as is knowledge of literary periods and common literary terms, themes, and forms. Some of the questions on the exam ask test takers to identify the author of a representative quotation or to recognize the period in which an excerpt was written.
The subject matter of the English Literature exam is drawn from the following periods. The percentages indicate the approximate percentage of exam questions from each period.
- 10% Middle Ages
- 15% 16th and early 17th Century
- 10% Restoration and 18th Century
- 20% Romantic
- 20% Victorian
- 25% 20th Century to the present
The following percentages indicate the relative emphasis given to different literary genres on the exam. The approximate percentage of exam questions per type of literature is noted.
- 15% Novels
- 10% Short stories
- 45% Poetry
- 20% Drama
- 10% Nonfiction: literary criticism, essays, memoir, etc.
ACE Recommendation for English Literature
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 English Literature Examination Guide
This guide provides practice questions for the CLEP English Literature Exam only.
2022 CLEP Official Study Guide
This study guide provides practice questions for all 34 CLEP exams. The ideal resource for taking more than one exam. Offered only by College Board.