English Literature

The English Literature exam is primarily concerned with major British authors and literary works.

Register for $95.00


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.

Score Information

ACE Recommendation for English Literature

Credit-granting Score50
Semester Hours6

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.

Add Study Guides

CLEP English Literature Examination Guide

This guide provides practice questions for the CLEP English Literature Exam only.

  • PDF
  • $10.00



Study Resources: English Literature

A study plan and list of online resources.


ACE Credit Recommendations

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