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GRE Literature

Literature in the GRE English Subject Test is one of the eight subject tests within the test battery. The subject tests of the Graduate Record Exam are developed with the idea of determining the capabilities of a student with respect to a particular subject. Unlike the general test, these subject tests are related with one subject only without any reference to the general abilities of a student. They are to gauge the knowledge and skills that a student must have in order to pursue a specific subject in graduation. Literature in the English Subject Test is also conducted with a similar purpose.


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All of the eight subject tests are only paper based. This means that you will have to look for a center where paper based tests are administered. Remember to register for the English Subject Test in time so that you can be contacted well in time to be informed about any changes in the test. Furthermore, if you register well in advance then you have enough time to mentally prepare yourself for the test. Then on you can plan well about what mode of preparation you should apply and you shall have sufficient time for revision. You can either register through the internet or by mail. On registering for the Literature in English Subject test you shall be provided with free test practice material.

The Literature Subject Test has 230 questions. All the questions are multiple choice questions and they are to be answered in two hours and fifty minutes. These multiple choice questions of the test typically have five answer choices out of which you have to choose the correct answer. In the questions based on descriptions some 3-5 questions will be clubbed together. The questions in this Subject Test are based on literary works in poetry, drama, biographies, essays, short stories, novels, criticisms, literary theories, and the history of English language. Since the Literature in English subject test is based on literature it does not merely refer to works of great authors but it also includes different genres and movements that are of significance with respect to the development of the language

There are broadly two categories into which the questions in the English Subject Test can be divided. There will be questions based on facts and questions based on analysis. In the factual questions of the Subject Test the facts pertaining to the development of the English language will be asked. The student has to have knowledge about the authors, their pieces of writing, the periods in history with reference to literary development etc. In the questions based on analysis the student has to analyze a piece of writing, prose or poetry and answer questions based on it. The questions can pertain to the mechanics, usage, structure, techniques, or other aspects of the English language.

The syllabus to be studied for the test is divided into four sections: Literary Analysis, Identification, Cultural and Historical Contexts and History and Theory of Literary Criticism.


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The questions pertaining to literary analysis constitute 40-55% of the Literature in English Subject Test. These questions refer to the passages of prose and poetry. The questions will be based on recognition of conventions and genres, allusions and references, meaning and tone, grammatical structures and rhetorical strategies, and literary techniques.

The questions pertaining to identification constitute 15-20% of the English test. The questions are related with the identification of date, author, or work by style and/or content.

The questions pertaining to cultural and historical contexts constitute 20-25% of the English test. The questions refer to the literary, cultural, and intellectual history, as well as identification of author or work through a critical statement or biographical information. In addition it includes the identification of details of character, plot, or setting of a work.

The questions related with history and theory of literary criticism constitute 10-15% of the English test. These questions are related with identification and analysis of the characteristics and methods of various critical and theoretical approaches.

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