(Subject Test) GRE Subject Test Notes For Literature in English

GRE Subject Test Notes For Literature in English

  • Each edition of the test consists of approximately 230 questions on poetry, drama, biography, the essay, the short story, the novel, criticism, literary theory, and the history of the language.

  • Some questions are based on short works reprinted in their entirety, some on excerpts from longer works.

  • The test draws on literature in English from the British Isles, the United States, and other parts of the world. It also contains a few questions on major works, including the Bible, translated from other languages.

  • The test emphasizes authors, works, genres, and movements. The questions may be somewhat arbitrarily classified into two groups: factual and critical.

  • The factual questions may require a student to identify characteristics of literary or critical movements, to assign a literary work to the period in which it was written, to identify a writer or work described in a brief critical comment, or to determine the period or author of a work on the basis of the style and content of a short excerpt.

  • The critical questions test the ability to read a literary text perceptively. Students are asked to examine a given passage of prose or poetry and to answer questions about meaning, form and structure, literary techniques, and various aspects of language.

The approximate distribution of questions according to content categories is indicated by the following outline.

  1. Literary Analysis:      40-55%
    Questions that call on an ability to interpret given passages of prose and poetry. Such questions may involve recognition of conventions and genres, allusions and references, meaning and tone, grammatical structures and rhetorical strategies, and literary techniques.

  2. Identification:      15-20%
    Recognition of date, author, or work by style and/or content (for literary theory identifications see IV below).

  3. Cultural and Historical Contexts:     20-25%
    Questions on literary, cultural, and intellectual history, as well as identification of author or work through a critical statement or biographical information. Also identification of details of character, plot, or setting of a work.

  4. History and Theory of Literary Criticism:      10-15%
    Identification and analysis of the characteristics and methods of various critical and theoretical approaches.

The literary-historical scope of the test follows the distribution below.

1. Continental, Classical, and Comparative Literature through 1925    


2. British Literature to 1660 (including Milton)


3. British Literature 1660-1925


4. American Literature through 1925


5. American, British, and World Literatures after 1925


Courtesy : Greexplorer.com