GRE: Lit in English

Last November I sat for the GRE Literature in English Subject Test. Going in, I had felt pretty good. I had been studying (rather intermittently) for months and had scored in the 78th percentile on the Princeton Review practice test and somewhere thereabouts on the ETS practice test. I figured I could only do better.

I was wrong. The four or so hours it took to take the test were the most confidence-shattering that I had ever experienced. I felt I knew only a handful of questions because of the material I studied. And I ended up scoring in the 68th percentile – definitely not good enough for a non-English major to prove to admissions committees that she knows her stuff.

And so here I am again: Round 2. I decided to be more structured about my studying this time around, hoping that despite the lack of resources available  to test takers of Lit in English, my strict and time-intensive approach might be enough  for a decent score.

This year I began studying in May for the October test, giving me 5 months or roughly 24 weeks. My plan of action and major resources are below. I will update resources weekly.


Work chronologically by time period through the history of literature in English, spending one week on each period.

If the period includes both British and American literature, then I will spend two weeks on the time period, on for British and one for American. In addition, I will allocate a week for: World Literature, Classical Literature, Literary Theory, and Greek/Roman Mythology. I will also study flashcards of literary terms on a daily basis. My particular areas of focus are: noting style and tone; classical lit and mythologies, character names from plays and prose; literary terms; and poetic meter and rhyme.


  • read overview of historical context of time period from the Norton Anthology
  • create list of significant figures and general trends in thought and style
  • define political, cultural and economic setting
  • post notes online

During the week (min. 1 hr per night)

  • read section in Norton Anthology

>   read each poem multiple times, noting: style of author; tone and meter/rhyme of poem

>   make flashcards for prose and dramatic works

>   cross-check information with that from notes from last year’s studying and major online resources (listed below)

  • write 2-3 short posts of anything of interest in the section
  • update resource links


  • review notes and flashcards of all periods and works studied thus far
  • revisit any authors/works/sections that I feel less comfortable with


British and American Norton Anthologies

Princeton Review GRE Literature in English prep book

Glossary of Literary terms

Vade Mecum (student website with information organized chronologically and divided into British and American Lit)

Hapax Legomena (another student website with information organized alphabetically)

Rhyme, Meter, and Scansion made easy


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s