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Amended Reading List for GRE Literature Subject Test


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Hi folks,

 

I've been working on this for my own use for the past few days, but I figure it might be of help to some of you as well:

 

List of recommended reading for the GRE Literature Subject Test.

 

What I've done is taken the UCSB list that was posted about a year ago, then separated out the works that are considered the most pertinent to the GRE lit test. I then went ahead and systematically went through all of the books (I own most of them at this point) and recorded the page count (or in the case of most plays and long poems, the line count). This should help to give you a good idea of what you can manage in terms of reading vs. finding SparkNotes editions or summaries.

 

For instance, I've been going through most of the shorter works, as they're obviously more manageable. Fortunately I had already read about half of the works on here, so knocking off one or two of the short ones each day is making good progress. Works like Don Quixote and Middlemarch are clearly going to take a long time to read, and given that the subject test is more about breadth of knowledge than depth, I figure that it's more prudent to skip those until I've got most other stuff out of the way...then find decent summaries if I simply don't have the time to read them (which I almost certainly won't).

 

Anyhow, the list probably isn't perfect (note the lack of Biblical passages) and there may be a typo or accidental omission or two in the list, but I'm hoping that some of you will find it beneficial.

 

Oh, and a note on the page numbers: since most of these were done manually, there's naturally going to be some variance between different editions. Generally speaking, I have made every effort to calculate the page count based on the text alone, not including introductions, forewords, afterwords, appendices etc. There are a few books on the list I don't own, and in those cases I have just resorted to the page count listed on a typical edition on Amazon.

 

If at least ONE of you finds this helpful, my efforts will have been worthwhile!

 

Good luck!

 

Shaun

 

 

 

Edited to add: I see that the formatting is indeed a little bit wonky, but everything should still be completely legible.

Edited by Wyatt's Torch
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Don't get me wrong, it's great to share resources, and it's great you're reading so much, but this test is not designed to be a comprehensive exam like you will have after you finish coursework in a Ph.D. program.  It is designed to measure breadth of exposure, so if you spend all your prep time reading books rather than becoming familiar with major characters, basic plot, and major quotations from central texts (check out vade mecum and hapax legomenon in addition to the UCSB list) and preparing to handle theory questions or very specifically framed reading comprehension questions, you're not preparing for the test itself.  Make sure to take the time to do practice tests, as many different ones as you can find, as the actual test will not be the same for everyone and is scored in comparison to other tests of the same year and prior.  Reading texts is great, but this test isn't really designed to measure how well you know/understand a text.  I scored in the 92nd percentile and my main mistake (prior practice tests were in the 98th and 99th percentiles) was that I was thrown off by a different format.  I focused on reading texts and knowing intricate details of plot, character, and quotations for recognition.  Some tests will reward (some of) that, but not all.  It's really important to learn how to take the test.  I wasn't prepared for that aspect because I just took the GRE without preparing for it because I was really busy at the time and did well because my learning/testing style is similar to the way the GRE is designed.  I got a 6 on the analytical because I wrote basically the essay equivalent of a logical proof and a 97% on the verbal because of vocab (note to you if you don't know--I didn't since I didn't have time to prepare--you can't go back and fill in answers on the actual GRE, which messed my score up).  The subject test isn't like that, or at least it wasn't like other standardized tests for me.  The above-recommended sites have quite a bit of advice on strategizing for the test, and I'd spend a good chunk of time on that as well as general reading.

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Thanks for that, Lyonessrampant. Indeed, I assembled the list more as a way to have the majority of the reading recommendations in one place, with approximate page counts there as a "time management" guage. It's certainly not the be-all, end-all of test prep!

 

Personally, my plan is to get as much of the reading done as possible by the end of July. I'll treat August as a combination of prep for my Senior semester, and prep for the subject test using the resources you've listed. Basically, since I've got time off this summer, I figure it can't hurt to get as much core reading done as I can, as it will undoubtedly help my chances at the subject test in some way, as well as help to broaden my knowledge of key works of literature in general. It doesn't preclude other application and test prep (after all, I've never been someone who can sit down with a book and read for six hours straight).

Edited by Wyatt's Torch
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Princeton Review has a useful prep book that also includes a practice test. The book lays out the simple but practical concept of evaluating what to read by "points-per-page." E.g. Keats Odes, taken together, are as likely to turn up on the test as is, say, Joyce's Ulysses, which means the points-to-page ratio of the odes is something around 1:10 where Joyce's p-to-p is 1:1000!!! So it makes much more sense to save time you would spend on works like Ulysses for works like the Odes.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Literature-English-Graduate-Preparation/dp/0375429719/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403375498&sr=8-1&keywords=princeton+review+gre+literature

 

I took 2 practice tests and the GRE itself, and all 3 had a question about Gray's "Elegy in a Country Churchyard." I also remember that most of the Chaucer questions were from the General Prologue. 2 had questions about Pope's Rape of the Lock. I also think they all refered to one or other of TS Eliot's famous critical ideas: his idea of the "objective correlative" and the theses laid out in "Tradition and the Individual Talent."

 

Good luck!

Edited by davidipse
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Yup...I just bought this book the other day, as a matter of fact! The "points per page" idea is sort of what I was thinking about when listing the page counts for all the books in that list above. There's simply no way I'm going to be able to make it through Don Quixote in under ten days, while I was able to knock off eight other works on the list in a mere week.

 

Glad to hear that Gray's work is a staple. I don't have the whole poem memorized, but have certainly had a few lines memorized since high school. That said, I'm sure I'll need to poke my nose into it again before exam time.

 

Thanks for the tips!

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Yup...I just bought this book the other day, as a matter of fact! The "points per page" idea is sort of what I was thinking about when listing the page counts for all the books in that list above. There's simply no way I'm going to be able to make it through Don Quixote in under ten days, while I was able to knock off eight other works on the list in a mere week.

 

Glad to hear that Gray's work is a staple. I don't have the whole poem memorized, but have certainly had a few lines memorized since high school. That said, I'm sure I'll need to poke my nose into it again before exam time.

 

Thanks for the tips!

 

I realize that I just sent you a PM about this Wyatt - but I concur with davidipse, Princeton's prep book seems to be a nice start to studying! I'm loving how witty the author is - it really makes you feel like he's on your side. ^_^

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Also - if anybody has any tips for how they studied for the GRE English Subject Test (timeline, study schedule/day, books tackled, etc.), I'm sure that all of us would love to hear! (I certainly know I would, at least!)

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The subject test is generally viewed as the devil in that it's impossible to fully prepare for it and your results have minimal influence on your admission to a program. It's more a matter of getting a baseline score that is acceptable for administrative purposes, as is the case for the GRE general exam. And as always, other aspects of your application will balance out scores. My subject test and general scores were fair, but not stellar. Anecdotal evidence, but certainly not the only instance of it happening.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Though I didn't get my act together in time to do the kind of preparation for the subject test that I intended to do -- rereading whole works and/or reading things I hadn't yet come across -- the one thing I did do was reread the critical introductions to the Norton anthologies used in some of the survey courses I took as an undergrad (British Lit I and II and American). On the test that I took, there was a lot of earlier British literature -- an area of strength for me, happily enough -- anonymous Middle English lyrics, a Shakespeare sonnet or two, some Milton (Paradise Lost), Spenser I believe (Faerie Queene), and some questions about Shakespeare's plays in general. Also, questions about the broad outlines of literary theory were asked (New Criticism, Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, New Historicism) that required general familiarity with major theorists. The biggest mistake I made -- a problem I didn't have when taking practice tests -- was budgeting my time appropriately on the actual test day. If I were doing it again, I'd go through and answer all the questions I could very quickly and then go back through for ones that required close reading. I did passably well (or well enough), but I think better time management would have increased the score by a fair amount. But I agree that the test is a gamble and think it tends to screen for breadth as opposed to depth.    

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Yes, one of my big gaps at the moment is literary theory, though I'll be starting an undergrad survey course on it next month, which I hope will give me enough of an overview over four weeks to fill in that gap.

 

Over the past week, I've watched some BBC miniseries (which are generally quite true to the books, as opposed to movie versions) on some of the key 19th century classics, like the two big Austen works, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre, and have Tom Jones and Middlemarch lined up for the near future. I feel it's a little sacrilegious to do this rather than read the books proper, but for the sake of the GRE alone, it's probably a more prudent use of my time than doing the reading.

 

I certainly intend to go through the "knowable" stuff as quickly as I can, though I'm typically not really a "fast" person when it comes to reading and writing, unfortunately. I also recall reading that it's better not to answer anything you don't know (or have a strong hunch about), as you don't get points deducted from what you don't answer, but DO get 1/4 point deducted for each wrong answer. That's important to keep in mind.

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Yes, one of my big gaps at the moment is literary theory, though I'll be starting an undergrad survey course on it next month, which I hope will give me enough of an overview over four weeks to fill in that gap.

 

I am struggling so much with motivation for this GRE, I think probably because I'm so burnt out from finishing undergrad and the GRE general! Are most people using flashcards and summaries to study? I'm pretty positive this is going to be the Sparksnotes version of the entire English canon in three months type of exam for me; feeling pretty burnt out at the moment! Good luck to everyone else who's starting to slog through all of this material, hope you all aren't struggling as much as I am!!

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I am struggling so much with motivation for this GRE, I think probably because I'm so burnt out from finishing undergrad and the GRE general! Are most people using flashcards and summaries to study? I'm pretty positive this is going to be the Sparksnotes version of the entire English canon in three months type of exam for me; feeling pretty burnt out at the moment! Good luck to everyone else who's starting to slog through all of this material, hope you all aren't struggling as much as I am!!

 

Ah, I feel your pain...and I have the summer OFF, for the most part! I'm trying not to think of everything all at once and break the various aspects into their constituent parts...but that's wishful thinking. I'm getting a little paralyzed by trying to finish a second draft of my SOP, practice for a second sitting of the GRE general next week, figuring out what to do with my WS (whether I should take two essays, expand upon each, and fuse them into a larger essay OR write something from scratch OR cobble three similar essays together OR...), not to mention reading and studying for the GRE subject test which takes place in a mere 2.5 months! Starting my final year of undergrad next month doesn't help matters either.

 

Incidentally, I'm glad you asked about flashcards. I found a pre-made set for sale on Amazon...but they're $40. I can't find them cheaper anywhere else. I know (as Lyonessrampant has mentioned) Vade Mecum and Hapax Legomena have some great resources, but I'm still tempted to buy those flashcards for some reason. If nothing else, it will give my wife hours of entertainment I'm sure! :rolleyes:

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Incidentally, I'm glad you asked about flashcards. I found a pre-made set for sale on Amazon...but they're $40. I can't find them cheaper anywhere else. I know (as Lyonessrampant has mentioned) Vade Mecum and Hapax Legomena have some great resources, but I'm still tempted to buy those flashcards for some reason. If nothing else, it will give my wife hours of entertainment I'm sure! :rolleyes:

 

WT (I can call you WT, right?)--If you do end up getting those cards, will you let me know how they work out? I was scared off them by the one Amazon review that talked about the many (admittedly minor) typos. Having found some (once again, mostly minor) typos in the Princeton Review book, I'm a bit wary of something that's reviewed as having a larger quantity of them.

Edited by unræd
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WT (I can call you WT, right?)--If you do end up getting those cards, will you let me know how they work out? I was scared off them by the one Amazon review that talked about (admittedly minor) typos. Having found some (once again, mostly minor) typos in the Princeton Review book, I'm a bit wary of something that's reviewed as having a larger quantity of them.

 

Will do. Once I get around to taking a practice test I'll know whether or not I'll want / need them...and if I do, then I'll let you know how they work out!

 

And you can call me WT, Wyatt, Wyatt's Torch, Shaun, or anything else that comes to mind, so long as I know you're talking to me!

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I certainly intend to go through the "knowable" stuff as quickly as I can, though I'm typically not really a "fast" person when it comes to reading and writing, unfortunately. I also recall reading that it's better not to answer anything you don't know (or have a strong hunch about), as you don't get points deducted from what you don't answer, but DO get 1/4 point deducted for each wrong answer. That's important to keep in mind.

 

For what it's worth, the Princeton Review book recommends guessing if you can get the answer options narrowed down to four choices. And if you think about the math of it, it makes sense why they do: even just guessing randomly (and presumably you can usually narrow down the field to less than four choices, and usually it's not actually a truly random, wild, shot-in-the-dark, one-chance-in-four guess, anyway), you'd get 1/4 of such questions correct. Assume you guess on four questions; that'd be one point added to your score for the right answer, and 3/4 of a point removed for the three inaccurate guesses. You still end up 1/4 of a point ahead of just not answering the four questions and taking a zero.

 

Not that I'm going to just walk around blithely filling in circles for questions I have zero idea about, but I think it is a strong enough argument to push me over the edge to guessing when I've got a hunch.

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I recommend this kindle book:  http://www.amazon.com/Smart-Students-Guide-Literature-English-ebook/dp/B008FWO6MS/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1405179484&sr=8-4&keywords=gre+literature

 

Having taken the test before, I was surprised by how many questions dealt with close reading.  Cramming Vade Mecum into my head didn't help that much when almost every other question didn't seem to care about identification.  Rather, many questions asked comprehension and close reading inquiries such as, "What would the author most likely think about _____," or "What is the tone of this passage?"

 

While it's good to read all of the classics, to prepare for the exam, only read a chapter of each, and focus on close reading daily.

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  • 1 month later...

Wyatt's Torch - I'm interested in the flashcards you mention but can't find them, could you provide a link perhaps? Thanks :)

 

Sure...here you go.

 

The picture shows the Psychology test, but all the information refers to the English Lit test...go figure.

Edited by Wyatt's Torch
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Wyatt - I tried to quote your signature, but for some reason this system won't let me. Either way, the fact that it's now changed to "Officially Applied to" both excites and nauseates the crap out of me: here we go! :unsure::D

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Wyatt - I tried to quote your signature, but for some reason this system won't let me. Either way, the fact that it's now changed to "Officially Applied to" both excites and nauseates the crap out of me: here we go! :unsure::D

 

Ha! Yes indeed! It may have been slightly more prudent to wait awhile longer, but I'm happy with both my SOP and WS, and neither institution needed the GRE subject test...so I went ahead and did it! Yale and Cornell's admissions sites are technically open as well, so I've done all I can with those...but they require the subject test, so I'm not going to officially apply until I can plug those scores into the appropriate boxes. I emailed an admin person at Yale about whether or not I should submit and just skip filling out the scores, since they'll receive them anyhow, but she (rightly) pointed out that the application window is open for four more months, so I might as well just wait to avoid any technicalities. And don't think a tiny, overzealous part of me didn't think about hitting "submit" anyhow....

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WT - Thank youu :) I think I've decided not to get them, primarily because Amazon UK don't stock them so it means waiting for an Amazon Marketplace version, which could take ages. I'm speedily making my own flashcards :)

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WT - Thank youu :) I think I've decided not to get them, primarily because Amazon UK don't stock them so it means waiting for an Amazon Marketplace version, which could take ages. I'm speedily making my own flashcards :)

 

Well, don't forget that both Hapax Legomena and Vade Mecum can help with that too! Good luck either way. I'm still slacking on my GRE lit prep, which concerns me a bit with my next semester starting next Thursday...

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I just looked this over and it seems a lot more manageable than what I was expecting. I think I have a good 50% of these covered without studying, just from coursework. Thanks for the confidence boost! And the reading list!

Edited by jhefflol
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