Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
The Analyzing and Interpreting Literature exam includes questions on passages taken from American and British literature.
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2020 CLEP Official Study Guide
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CLEP® Analyzing and Interpreting Literature Examination Guide
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Analyzing and Interpreting 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. Any time test takers spend taking tutorials and providing personal information is additional to actual testing time.
An optional essay section can be taken in addition to the multiple-choice test. The essay section requires that two essays be written during a total time of 90 minutes. For the first essay, candidates are asked to analyze a short poem. For the second essay, candidates are asked to apply a generalization about literature (such as the function of a theme or a technique) to a novel, short story, or play that they have read.
Candidates are expected to write well-organized essays in clear and precise prose. The essay section is scored by faculty at the institution that requests it and is still administered in paper-and-pencil format. There is an additional fee for taking this section, payable to the institution that administers the exam.
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% Prose (fiction and nonfiction)
50%–65% British Literature
30%–45% American Literature
5%–15% Works in translation
3%–7% Classical and pre-Renaissance
20%–30% Renaissance and 17th Century
35%–45% 18th and 19th Centuries
25%–35% 20th and 21st Centuries
The most relevant preparation for the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature exam is attentive and reflective reading of the various literary genres of poetry, drama, and prose. You can prepare for the exam by:
- Reading a variety of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction
- Reading critical analyses of various literary works
- Writing analyses and interpretations of the works you read
- Discussing with others the meaning of the literature you read
Textbooks and anthologies used for college courses in the analysis and interpretation of literature contain a sampling of literary works in a variety of genres. They also contain material that can help you comprehend the meanings of literary works and recognize the devices writers use to convey their sense and intent. To prepare for the exam, you should study the contents of at least one textbook or anthology, which you can find in most college bookstores. You would do well to consult two or three texts because they do vary somewhat in content, approach, and emphases.
A recent survey conducted by CLEP found that the following textbooks (first author listed only) are among those used by college faculty who teach the equivalent course. You might find one or more of these online or at your local college bookstore. HINT: Look at the table of contents first to make sure it matches the knowledge and skills required for this exam.
- Abcarian, Literature: The Human Experience (Bedford/St. Martin’s)
- Arp and Johnson, Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense (W.W. Norton)
- Booth, Norton Introduction to Literature (W.W. Norton)
- Damrosch, Longman Anthology of World Literature (Longman)
- DiYanni, Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (McGraw-Hill)
- Gardner, Literature: A Portable Anthology (Bedford)
- Gwynn, Literature: A Pocket Anthology (Penguin Academics)
- Kennedy and Gioia, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing (Pearson/Longman)
- Kirszner and Mandell, Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing (Wadsworth)
- Lawall, Norton Anthology of World Literature (W.W. Norton)
- Meyer, The Bedford Introduction to Literature (Bedford/St. Martin’s)
These resources, compiled by the CLEP test development committee and staff members, may help you study for your exam. However, none of these sources are designed specifically to provide preparation for a CLEP exam. The College Board has no control over their content and cannot vouch for accuracy.
Credit-Granting Score for Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
ACE Recommended Score*: 50
Semester Hours: 3
Each institution reserves the right to set its own credit-granting policy, which may differ from that of ACE. Contact your college as soon as possible to find out the score it requires to grant credit, the number of credit hours granted, and the course(s) that can be bypassed with a satisfactory score.
*The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated CLEP processes and procedures for developing, administering, and scoring the exams. The score listed above is equivalent to a grade of C in the corresponding course. The American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, seeks to provide leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues and to influence public policy through advocacy, research, and program initiatives. Visit the ACE CREDIT website for more information.