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How to improve the GRE subject in lit results and FAST?


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I decided quite at the last minute to take the GRE subject in literature this month. I studied intensly for a week and took the practice test (in the Princeton Review book). I got a measly 450 score (that is the 21 percentile). Now I have a week left to somehow raise it up at least by a hundred... any advice is welcome?

Obviously I plan on studying hard, but is there anything else to consider? How bad is this score anyway, should I just give up on taking this test now, will it hurt my phd applications greatly if the score is in the 450-500 range? Keep in mind I'm not a native English speaker but I AM applying to US colleges.

Thanks guys!

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I just glanced at the Lit subject test, and it seems that you'd be best served by focusing on reading comprehension questions. You're not going to get the "What play is this from"/"Who wrote this poem", but you can get the questions that are testing your ability to think.

Additionally, third-party test materials seem to be notorious for knocking your score down around 100 points. Take a real practice exam: http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/GRE/pdf/LiteratureinEnglish.pdf

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I've been studying for weeks and am still not optimistic about doing as well as I want. I mean, ALL the literature written since Beowulf?? Really???

But my recommendation is to at least read the Princeton Review GRE Lit book. It can't hurt!

Good luck. I'll be suffering along with you on Saturday morning. : )

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  • 5 months later...

hi everyone, I've just registered here.

I'm a MA student in English Lit. and wish to continue my studies in PhD in USA. so, as a matter of fact, gotta take the GRE subject exam. and as you all know it's terribly difficult! :mellow: it naturally takes a couple of years to study the contemporary era, let alone the past ones! anyway, I wanna know how should I start? I mean dunno even a single book for starting studying ... are the Norton Anthologies enough? I mean beside all other plays, novels, poems... :wacko:

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le-ciel, below are two excellent resources I used together and raised my Eng. lit. score and knowledge of this area a good bit. Others have posted them on this forum. There is also a Princeton Review book that serves more as a primer which contains a practice test. I took the subj. in Eng. lit. last October and would give you this advice:

1) train yourself to work fast & accurately on the exam: there are 240-something questions on the test and a limited time in which to read and answer them.

2) study systematically over time; don't cram in the 2 weeks before the test. Give yourself 2 months at least.

3) study broadly, then deeply: survey and master all the major periods & authors, then deepen your knowledge of each.

4) study the basic forms & mechanics of literature: what's a curtal sonnet? what's a Petrarchan sonnet? a Shakespearean sonnet? a Spenserian stanza? a villanelle? a sestina? what's tetrameter, pentamenter, hexameter, etc.? what's a quatrain? a sestet? an octave? what's a heroic couplet? what are some major works in heroic couplets? what's rhyme royal? some major works in rhyme royal? other rhyme schemes? who invented these/is most associated with these? It's as important for English majors to know the parts of English lit. as it is for science majors to know the Periodic Table of Elements.

5) study lit. theory. Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory is a good place to start with the major movements, critics, and works, but also read the major works themselves. I remember the test having several direct quotes from critics with specific questions.

The study guides below should help with the rest.

Vade Mecum: http://www.duke.edu/~tmw15/

Hapax Legomena: http://lasr.cs.ucla.edu/alison/hapaxlegomena/index.html

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