CLEP English Literature Exam

The CLEP: English Literature examination was developed by the College Board as a way for individuals to demonstrate undergraduate-level knowledge and skills in English Literature. 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.

The content of the exam is broken down as follows: knowledge of literary background, significant authors, metrical patterns, literary references, and literary terms (35-40% of the exam); and the ability to analyze elements of form, perceive meanings, identify tone and mood; follow patterns of imagery, identify characteristics of style, and comprehend the reasoning in an excerpt of literary criticism (60-65%). The English Literature exam consists of 95 multiple-choice questions and must be completed within 90 minutes. There is an optional essay section that will be graded by each institution that requests it. The essay section will require students to write on two themes over the course of 90 minutes.

After the exam is complete, an unofficial score report will be made available. 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 Literature Practice Questions

1. Donne, Marvell, and Herbert are among those known as the ______ poets.
A: metaphysical
B: realist
C: imagist
D: impressionist
E: surrealist

2. Which of the following was NOT considered one of the four humours in medieval England?
A: black bile
B: phlegm
C: yellow bile
D: blood
E: tears

3. Why does Iago hate the title figure in Shakespeare’s Othello?
A: He despises Desdemona’s father.
B: He is in love with Desdemona.
C: Othello put Iago’s father in prison.
D: Othello accidentally killed Iago’s brother.
E: He has been passed over for promotion.

4. Which of the following novelists wrote Middlemarch?
A: Jane Austen
B: Charles Dickens
C: George Eliot
D: Herman Melville
E: Walter Scott

5. What is Swift’s Modest Proposal?
A: The Irish should win their independence.
B: England should invade Ireland.
C: All of the Irish should be sold into slavery.
D: The Protestant and Catholic churches should combine.
E: Irish children should be fattened and eaten by their parents.

6. What is the name given to a humorous poem with a rhyme scheme of AABBA?
A: sonnet
B: limerick
C: panegyric
D: epigram
E: paean

Read this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins and answer the questions that follow.

Spring and Fall

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

7. Which is the most likely description of the relationship between the poet and Margaret?
A: The poet is Margaret’s husband.
B: The poet is much younger than Margaret.
C: The poet is older than Margaret.
D: The poet is Margaret’s brother.
E: The poet is a gardener on Margaret’s estate.

8. What is the “blight man was born for”?
A: leaves
B: love
C: ghosts
D: death
E: autumn

9. The line “Sorrow’s springs are the same” is an example of which literary device?
A: irony
B: assonance
C: alliteration
D: personification
E: allegory

10. In this poem, leaves function as a _____.
A: reference
B: metaphor
C: compost
D: simile
E: allegory

CLEP English Literature Answer Key

1. A. The metaphysical poets are so called because of their mixture of theologic, philosophic, and mundane imagery.
2. E. Each of the four humours was thought to promote a certain temperament or mood.
3. E. Iago feels that he, rather than Cassio, deserved the post of chief lieutenant.
4. C. Eliot’s novel is considered one of the finest of the 19th century; it explores the conflict between idealism and reality in provincial England.
5. E. Swift’s ironic essay satirized the suggestion by British economists that the people are the wealth of the nation.
6. B. Limericks are typically bawdy and are used frequently in doggerel or satiric verse.
7. C. It seems apparent that the poet has acquired some insight that Margaret has yet to achieve.
8. D. Specifically, Hopkins suggests that mankind is cursed by its awareness of mortality.
9. C. Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds.
10. B. Hopkins uses leaves as a metaphor for the inevitable decline and death of all mortal things.