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GRE literature subject test is like jeopardy for dorks


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it's a lot of fun to study for! although not in the same way that English classes are fun. no slow reading, no savouring. this is trivia dork game show fun. I feel like Vana White will give me a free trip to Hawaii if I can name Beowulf's sword.

but anyway. a question for those of you who have taken the exam. How useful was the practice test which is sent to you when you register? Is it an accurate indication of what will be on the exam? In short...how should one tackle this beast?

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Take as many practice tests as you possibly can while doing your other note-taking/re-reading/general studying. The tests and practice tests alike seem to be a real crapshoot as to content, but, in my experience, the simple act of taking as many practice tests as possible is key for success.

My method:

1. Find every practice test available, even the ones in the review books that barely resemble the actual exam. Take them ALL, grade them, and assess your weaknesses (for example, did you miss a lot of 18th c. drama?). Study extra hard on those areas.

2. Read, read, and thrice read. And take notes to ensure that you're absorbing what you're reading. Carry your Nortons around with you.

I actually really enjoyed studying for the GRE lit test, too! The fact that I enjoyed studying for a horrible and painful standardized test just because it had to do with literature made me think that yes, I really and truly should go to grad school. Now I just have to get in! Fun next few months. Who's with me??

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Take as many practice tests as you possibly can while doing your other note-taking/re-reading/general studying. The tests and practice tests alike seem to be a real crapshoot as to content, but, in my experience, the simple act of taking as many practice tests as possible is key for success.

My method:

1. Find every practice test available, even the ones in the review books that barely resemble the actual exam. Take them ALL, grade them, and assess your weaknesses (for example, did you miss a lot of 18th c. drama?). Study extra hard on those areas.

2. Read, read, and thrice read. And take notes to ensure that you're absorbing what you're reading. Carry your Nortons around with you.

I actually really enjoyed studying for the GRE lit test, too! The fact that I enjoyed studying for a horrible and painful standardized test just because it had to do with literature made me think that yes, I really and truly should go to grad school. Now I just have to get in! Fun next few months. Who's with me??

Thanks!!

I'm with ya. Hip, hip, hooray, and all of that noise. I've finally gotten my statement of purpose to a place that doesn't make me gag! It only took seven bloody drafts and three months. Christ, this experience is something else.

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Agreed that the subject test is like Jeopardy, not only for the dorky trivia factor but also because both are based on asking you general questions about very specific topics. For instance, the subject test will ask you about many obscure texts and authors, but it'll ask you the most obvious fact about them--they're looking for broad familiarity rather than nuance, so, for instance, they won't ask you to distinguish between a line of T.S. Eliot and a line of Pound but they'll want you to know that they're both high Modernists.

As for the practice tests, I found the ones written by ETS (including the one that's in the Princeton Review book, which is actually an old ETS test) to be VERY helpful. Especially if you don't have a ton of time to study (you're starting now, so you do, but I gave myself only a few weeks for subject-test preparation), looking over old tests is, in my mind, the most important thing you can do. Here's why:

a) These tests give you a feel for the format you'll face on test day.

B) It's really hard to write subject test questions, so ETS only has a limited pool of questions available. They tend to repeat questions--unbelievably, a friend of mine took a real test two years ago that was identical to one of the practice tests she had taken (a hard-to-find practice test, not, obviously, the one that ETS sends you for free). That scenario, of course, is extremely rare; more likely, you might see one or two questions you've seen before. And even more likely than that, ETS tends to reuse passages even if they ask different questions--for instance, one of the the sets of quotations-from-books answer choices on my test was identical to one of the sets from a question in the Princeton Review book, even though the actual question prompt was different. In sum: there's less variation between different editions of the test than you might expect, so the practice tests are useful not only for practice but, with a little luck, as more-accurate-than-you-might-expect predictors of what you'll see on test day.

Do a google search for old practice tests, and a couple will pop up that you can download as .pdfs.

Good luck!

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