CLEP English Composition Exam

The CLEP: English Composition examination was developed by the College Board as a way for individuals to demonstrate undergraduate-level knowledge and skills in English Composition. Almost three thousand American colleges give credit to students who pass a CLEP exam; for this reason, many college-bound students take a CLEP exam in order to skip over introductory courses.

To succeed on the English Composition exam, students will need to master the following skills: identifying sentence errors; improving sentences; and restructuring sentences. The grammar and punctuation issues covered by the exam include sentence boundaries; clarity of expression; subject-verb agreement; verb tense; pronoun reference; active and passive voice; diction and idiom; issues of syntax like parallelism, coordination, subordination, and dangling modifiers; and sentence variety.


There are two versions of the English Composition exam. One version is entirely multiple-choice, and consists of 90 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. The other version of the exam is divided into two 45-minute sections: the first section consists of 50 multiple-choice questions, and the second section consists of an essay question.

After the exam is complete, an unofficial score report of the multiple-choice questions will be made available. Essays will be graded by college faculty and factored into the official score report. This score report will include the total score on a scale of 20 to 80; the American Council on Education recommends that students get credit if they score 50 or above. The total score is the raw score (number of correct answers) adjusted according to the difficulty of the exam version. The College Board does not distinguish between unanswered questions and questions answered incorrectly, so test-takers are encouraged to respond to every question. Some of the questions on the exam are pre-test questions, which are used to develop future versions of the exam and do not contribute to the raw score. It is impossible for test-takers to determine which questions are pre-test questions. The CLEP exams are administered in both computer and paper formats at over a thousand locations throughout the world. To register for an exam, visit the College Board website.

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CLEP English Composition Practice Questions

1. Identify the sentence which fails to meet the standards of proper English.
A: Johnson got up and stretched.
B: The rifle had turned out to be not quite as he had expected.
C: At that time the chair of English literature and history was occupied by the distinguished scholar Archibald Moon.
D: The office in which he works there is located an hour from his house.
E: His awareness of a certain risk afforded some consolation.

2. Identify the sentence that fails to meet the standards of proper English.
A: He was sitting on a rock, with his head leaned back against a tree.
B: Eventually the bucket had finally reached its limit, and Hector started back home.
C: Chandler felt a thickness all through his chest.
D: Midnight came, and he had not yet slept.
E: Actually, I didn’t open the package until late that night.

3. Identify the sentence that fails to meet the standards of proper English.
A: In the dictionary it states that the definition of corpulent is obese.
B: Several weeks later I returned to the house to retrieve a box of books.
C: Dave stood near the foot of the bed with his hands in the pockets of his robe.
D: I was just about to cross the road and speak to him when the train pulled into the station.
E: He slept until the following noon, and then lay in bed the rest of the day.

4. Identify the sentence that fails to meet the standards of proper English.
A: Then he turned and went to the telephone.
B: Virginia stared at his tall restless figure by the mantel.
C: They were looking at the ferris wheel, and he hoped they would decide to ride it.
D: The sensation woke him up like the fall at the end of a nightmare.
E: Upon noticing the roadblock, our car slammed on the brakes.

5. Identify the sentence that fails to meet the standards of proper English.
A: It seemed to take a few hours to get his possessions into the suitcase.
B: As soon as he realized his objective, he began to ache.
C: When he awakened from his nap, the world seemed quite changed.
D: Some of the most important classes are: mathematics, science, and history.
E: She had eaten a quarter of the toasted sandwich.

In the following five exercises, choose the answer that most improves the given sentence.

6. Early astronomers believed that the sun revolves around the Earth.
A: Earlier, astronomers believed that the sun revolved around the Earth.
B: Early astronomers believe that the sun revolves around the Earth.
C: Early astronomers believed that the sun revolved around the Earth.
D: Earlier, astronomers believed that the sun revolves around the Earth.
E: This sentence cannot be improved.

7. If you cook John will clean the counters.
A: You cook: John will clean the counters.
B: If you cook; John will clean the counters.
C: If you cook, John will clean the counters.
D: Cook, John, and you will clean the counters.
E: This sentence cannot be improved.

8. A list of cost-cutting measures was included with our bill; for instance, they recommended investing in better insulation.
A: A list of cost-cutting measures was included with our bill; for instance, the gas company recommended investing in better insulation.
B: List the cost-cutting measures, and they will invest in better insulation.
C: The bill included a list of cost-cutting measures, as for instance an investment in better insulation.
D: The bill included a list of cost-cutting measures; for instance, it recommended investing in better insulation.
E: This sentence cannot be improved.

9. A stack of clean laundry was lying in the corner of the closet.
A: A stack of clean laundry were lying in the corner of the closet.
B: In the corner of the closet was lying a stack of clean laundry.
C: A stack of clean laundry will be lying in the corner of the closet.
D: A stack of clean laundry would be lying the corner of the closet.
E: This sentence cannot be improved.

10. In my opinion, the best thing to do would have to be cut funding for these defunct programs.
A: In my opinion the funding for these defunct programs should be cut.
B: The funding for these defunct programs should be cut.
C: The best thing to do would be to cut the funding for these defunct programs.
D: We have to cut the funding for these defunct programs.
E: This sentence cannot be improved.

CLEP English Composition Answer Key

1. D. The word there is redundant and unnecessary.
2. B. A sentence does not need to include two adverbs expressing the same idea,
3. A. This colloquial phrasing includes the redundant pronoun it.
4. E. The participial phrase that opens the sentence does not have a clear reference.
5. D. A colon should only be used after a full independent clause.
6. C. Since the geocentric view of the universe has been discredited, it is appropriate to use the past tense.
7. C. A comma separating the two clauses in this sentence clarifies the meaning.
8. A. In the original sentence, the pronoun they seems to refer to the bill.
9. E. No correction is necessary.
10. B. As it is originally written, the sentence contains a great deal of superfluous and redundant phrasing.

CLEP English Composition Test Breakdown