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It has been my impression that the GRE Lit Subject test has been slowly falling out of fashion.  Despite that, we still have to play the game, don't we?  From what I've seen, very few schools require it.  Does anyone have a list of the schools that do?  When I applied to UVA for my Masters, they accepted me without receiving my score, but since they technically required it, I needed to send my score anyway for administrative purposes.  That sent a message to me: "We require this, but it is not that important."  That being said, my score was...uh, not very good.  I feel compelled to retake it before I apply for PhDs next cycle.  But at the same time...maybe my poor score doesn't matter that much?  Maybe it's just a formality?  We know it's the writing and personal statement that stand out more to committees, but then why should we even bother?  

What are others' perspective on the importance of the Lit test?  

What were the best ways to prepare?  How long did you study?  Did you rely mostly on coursework/background, or additional study materials?  

Perhaps it would be more beneficial to have a separate thread for listing programs that require it, but I thought I'd give this a shot first.  

 

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Woof. I loathed the Subject Test. Here's my thinking, and please take it with lots of grains of salt. If you scored over 50 percentile, don't retake it. Even if you scored under, I'd warn against a retake. I mean, if it won't require a lot of stress or distraction from other parts of your app, then go for it. But I found it to be a huge waste o time. I tracked my study hours (thanks Toggl!) and came in around 100 total hours. I took the usual route of study, with notecards and timelines and reading important (short) texts. 

Come game day, it did no good. There was very little on the test that had to do with recognition. It was, instead, 230 comprehension questions. Ok, that's probably hyperbolic. But truly, I was only asked to name an author or text a handful of times. I bet at least 180 questions were the kind of reading comprehensions comparable to the general GRE. SO. If you do decide to retake, focus on reading quickly but thoroughly. And answer every single question. I thought I'd have time to do at least two passes (shakes fist at Princeton) but no such luck.

As for what schools require it, I'm sure there's a list already floating around this forum somewhere. But, UVA, Stanford, USC, Indiana (?), are the few that come to mind. 

Best of luck!

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The following post from @Warelin has which schools did and did not require the Subject test. But even since this was posted a year ago some of these yes's have fallen off. I think BU Chestnut Hill is now "recommended" but not required, same with WUSTL. (If you want to find the original, just search "cheat sheet")

 

 

On 11/2/2016 at 3:07 PM, Warelin said:
Name "Rank" Website GRE? GRE LIT? Deadline APP FEE?
UCA-Berkeley 1 http://english.berkeley.edu/graduate/requirements Y Y 15-Dec Y; 90
Harvard 2 http://english.fas.harvard.edu/programs/graduate Y Y 4-Jan Y; 105
Stanford 3 http://english.stanford.edu/index.php Y Y 8-Dec Y; 125
Columbia 4 http://www.columbia.edu/cu/english/grad_index.htm Y N 16-Dec Y; 105
Princeton 4 http://english.princeton.edu/graduate/program Y Y 15-Dec Y; 90
U PA 4 http://www.english.upenn.edu/Grad/ Y REC 15-Dec Y; 80
Yale 4 http://english.yale.edu/graduate-program Y Y 2-Jan Y; 105
Cornell 5 http://www.arts.cornell.edu/english/graduate/ Y Y 15-Dec Y; 95
U Chicago 5 http://english.uchicago.edu/graduate/ Y N 15-Dec Y; 90
Duke 10 http://english.duke.edu/graduate Y N 8-Dec Y; 80
UCA - LA 10 http://www.english.ucla.edu/academics/graduate/ Y Y 1-Dec Y; 90
UVA 10 http://www.engl.virginia.edu/graduate/ Y Y 15-Dec Y; 85
Johns Hopkins 13 http://english.jhu.edu/graduate/ Y Y 5-Dec Y; 75
UM- Ann Arbor 13 http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/grad/ Y N 15-Dec Y; 70
Brown 15 http://www.brown.edu/academics/english/doctoral-program-english Y N 15-Dec Y; 75
UNC- Chapel Hill 15 http://english.unc.edu/graduate/index.html Y N 16-Dec Y; 85
Rutgers 17 http://english.rutgers.edu/graduate Y Y 15-Dec Y; 65
UT Austin 17 http://www.utexas.edu/cola/english/ Y Y 15-Dec Y; 65
UW- Madison 17 https://www.english.wisc.edu/graduate.htm Y REC 8-Dec Y; 56
NYU 20 http://english.fas.nyu.edu/page/graduate Y REC 1-Dec Y; 100
Northwestern 20 http://www.english.northwestern.edu/graduate Y REC 1-Dec Y; 95
CUNY (New York, NY) 22 http://web.gc.cuny.edu/English/ Y N 1-Jan Y; 125
Indiana-Bloomington 22 http://www.iub.edu/~engweb/gradStudies/degrees.shtml Y Y 2-Jan Y; 55
UC - Irvine 22 http://www.humanities.uci.edu/english/programs/grad.php Y N 15-Dec Y; 90
UI - Urbana-Champaign 22 http://www.english.illinois.edu/graduate/ Y Y 4-Dec Y; 70
Emory 26 http://www.english.emory.edu/graduate/index.htm Y N 2-Dec Y; 75
OSU 26 http://english.osu.edu/graduate-studies Y N 7-Dec Y; 60
PSU - University Park 26 http://english.la.psu.edu/graduate Y N 1-Jan Y; 65
UC - Davis 26 http://english.ucdavis.edu/graduate/phd-literature Y N ? Y; 90
UC - Santa Barbara 26 https://www.english.ucsb.edu/ Y Y 15-Dec Y; 90
Vanderbilt 26 http://www.vanderbilt.edu/english/graduate Y N 15-Dec N!!!
UI (Iowa) 32 http://www.english.uiowa.edu/graduate-program/phd-english Y N 1-Jan Y; 60
UM (Maryland) 32 http://www.english.umd.edu/graduate Y N 8-Dec Y; 75
UW (Washington) 32 http://depts.washington.edu/engl/grad/ Y N 1-Dec Y; 85
WUSTL 32 http://artsci.wustl.edu/~english/ Y Y 7-Jan Y; 50?
Rice 36 http://www.english.rice.edu Y N 14-Dec Y; 85
UM (Minnesota) 36 http://english.cla.umn.edu/grad/ Y N 15-Dec Y; 75
USC (California) 36 http://dornsife.usc.edu/engl/graduate/ Y Y 1-Dec Y; 85
Carnegie Mellon 39 http://english.cmu.edu/degrees/index.html Y N 15-Dec Y; 75
Notre Dame 39 http://english.nd.edu/graduate-programs/ Y REC 1-Jan Y; 75
UC - Santa Cruz 39 http://literature.ucsc.edu/graduate/ Y N 10-Dec Y; 90
UC - San Diego 39 http://literature.ucsd.edu/grad/index.html Y N 1-Dec Y; 90
U Pittsburgh 39 http://www.english.pitt.edu/graduate/index.html Y N 10-Dec Y; 50
Boston 44 http://www.bu.edu/english/graduate Y Y 15-Dec Y; 95
Brandeis 44 http://www.brandeis.edu/departments/english/phdprogram/index.html Y Y 5-Jan Y; 100
Claremont (CA) 44 http://www.cgu.edu/pages/1090.asp Y N 1-Feb Y; 80
Buffalo (SUNY) 44 http://wings.buffalo.edu/academic/department/AandL/english/graduates.html Y N 15-Dec Y; 75
UI - Chicago 44 http://www.uic.edu/depts/engl/phd/intro.htm Y N 15-Dec Y; 70
UC - Boulder  50 http://english.colorado.edu/ Y N 31-Dec Y; 70
UM - Amherst, MA 50 http://www.umass.edu/english/graduate/index.html Y Y 15-Dec Y; 75
Boston 52 http://www.bc.edu/schools/cas/english/graduate.html Y Y 2-Jan  Y; 75
Tufts (MA) 52 http://ase.tufts.edu/english/graduate/prospectiveStudents.htm Y Y 15-Jan Y; 75
UA (Arizona) 52 http://english.arizona.edu/lp/graduate-studies Y N 11-Jan Y; 75
U Florida 52 http://www.english.ufl.edu/programs.html Y N 15-Jan Y: 30
U Oregon 52 http://english.uoregon.edu/graduate Y N 15-Dec Y; 50
U Rochester 52 http://www.rochester.edu/College/ENG/grad/ Y N 15-Jan Y; 60
UW - Milwaukee 52 http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/English/ Y N 15-Dec Y; ?
Arizona State 59 http://english.clas.asu.edu/graduate Y N 15-Jan Y; 70
             
A &M (TX) 59 http://www.english.tamu.edu/graduate Y REC 15-Dec Y; 50
U Georgia 59 http://www.english.uga.edu/grad/home.html Y N 2-Dec Y; 75
Binghamton (SUNY) 63 http://www2.binghamton.edu/english/graduate/index.html Y N 15-Feb Y; 75
Fordham (Bronx, NY) 63 http://www.fordham.edu/academics/programs_at_fordham_/english/graduate/index.asp Y N 6-Jan Y; 70
George Washington (DC) 63 http://www.gwu.edu/~english/grad_programs.html Y N 5-Jan Y; 75
Michigan State 63 http://www.english.msu.edu/graduate/ - - - -
Purdue 63 http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/graduate_studies/index.html - - - -
Stony Brook (SUNY) 63 http://www.sunysb.edu/english/grad/grad.html Y N 15-Jan Y; 100
Syracuse 63 http://english.syr.edu/graduate/index.html Y N 9-Jan Y; 75
Temple 63 http://www.temple.edu/english/ Y N? 15-Dec Y; 60
U Connecticut 63 http://english.uconn.edu/graduate/index.html Y Y 1-Jan Y; 75
U Delaware 63 http://www.english.udel.edu/programs/grad/Pages/default.aspx Y N 1-Jan Y; 75
U Kansas 63 http://www.english.ku.edu/graduate/ Y N 31-Dec Y; 65
U Missouri 63 http://english.missouri.edu/grad/ Y N 1-Jan Y; 45
U Nebraska - Lincoln 63 http://www.unl.edu/english/phd N N 7-Dec Y; 50
U Utah 63 http://www.hum.utah.edu/english/?pageId=24 Y N 15-Dec Y; 55
Miami University 77 http://www.units.muohio.edu/english/Graduate/index.html Y Y 2-Jan Y: 50
U - NM 77 http://english.unm.edu/graduate/graduate-admissions.html Y Y 15-Jan -
U - OK 77 http://www.ou.edu/cas/english/programs/graduate/gradprogindex.htm Y N 5-Jan Y; 50
U - SC (South Carolina) 77 http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/engl/grad/index.html Y Y 15-Dec Y; 50
UT - Knoxville 77 http://english.utk.edu/graduatestudies/ Y N 15-Dec Y; 60
Case Western 82 http://www.case.edu/artsci/engl/GradProgram/GradProgIndex.html Y N 15-Jan Y; 50
Florida State  82 http://www.english.fsu.edu/graduate/gradmain.htm Y N 17-Dec Y; 30?
LSU 82 http://www.english.lsu.edu/GraduateProgram/index.html - - - -
Northeastern (MA) 82 http://www.northeastern.edu/english/graduate/ Y N 10-Jan Y; 75
Ohio  82 http://www.english.ohiou.edu/grad/default/ Y N 15-Jan Y; 50
Tulane (New Orleans) 82 http://tulane.edu/liberal-arts/english/graduate/index.cfm - - - -
UKentucky 82 https://english.as.uky.edu/PHD-admissions - - - -
U Miami 82 http://www.as.miami.edu/english/graduate/ Y N 1-Jan Y; 65
UNC-Greensboro 82 https://www.uncg.edu/eng/graduate/PHD/overview.html Y N 1-Jan Y; 60
Howard (D.C.) 91 http://www.coas.howard.edu/english/programsgraduate.html Y N don't care Y; 45
Loyola (Chicago)  91 http://www.luc.edu/english/graduate.shtml Y Y 15-Jan   0
Albany (SUNY) 91 http://www.albany.edu/english/phd_program.php Y N 15-Jan Y; 75
U Alabama 91 http://english.ua.edu/grad Y N 31-Dec Y; 50
U Houston 91 http://www.class.uh.edu/English/gradprgs.asp Y N 15-Jan Y; 50?
U Mississippi 91 http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/grad/index.htm Y N 15-Jan Y; 40
Wayne State (Detroit) 91 http://clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/english Y N 15-Jan     0
         
           
           
I'm aware that there are more programs listed but I got tired after looking through various sources for so long. I've checked and programs seem to have the same deadline as they have in the past. I hope you find this useful in some way.          
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
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Hi, everyone -- long-time lurker here, finally coaxed out of the shadows! 

I was fortunate enough to do well (97th percentile) on the Lit subject test, but my after-graduation circumstances made preparing much easier. I decided against law school pretty late in my senior year (triggering a quarter-life crisis, but that's for another day), so applying for a PhD as an undergrad was impossible. Instead, I found a job in health care that involved a fair amount of downtime I used for self-study. It also helped that my hours were from 2:30 pm to 10 pm, so I had mornings free.

About ten months before I took the test last October, on the recommendation of my English advisor, I bought all the Norton anthologies (English and American -- there went like two weeks pay). Since my undergrad English department was small, and I (initially) triple majored, then double majored, and studied abroad, I didn't have time to take every single English course, so the anthologies played a huge role in bringing me up to speed in literature that I completely missed. What helped the most, though, was taking copious notes (~250 pages) on everything that I encountered in the anthologies. The process of underlining important passages, copying them over to my computer, and detailing as much as I could in a Word doc vastly improved my comprehension of the anthologized works, some of which appeared on my test. It also helped with identification, but, as others have noted, that aspect of the test has been eclipsed by what ETS vaguely calls "Literary Analysis" [read: comprehension]. I also regularly reviewed these notes, so most of the material stayed in my head. In addition, I found that studying for the verbal section of the general GRE went a long way toward giving me a solid understanding of how ETS asks "analytical" questions. The content is obviously different, but the style of question-asking on both tests is, in my opinion, similar.

In terms of test materials, I used the notorious Princeton Review, the awful REA books, and six past tests that I found in the tenebrous reaches of the Internet. Like others here, I think the Princeton Review book is probably worthwhile to read but not terribly relevant anymore. Neither the frequency nor format of identification questions (i.e. those block quote sections followed by a list of titles) on PR's practice test reflects the modern iteration in any sense. Still, I found some of PR's comprehension and grammar-analysis questions useful, so if you've got the time and money, buying the book wouldn't hurt. On the other hand, REA's book is inaccurate, aesthetically repulsive, poorly bound, and fucking dumb in all respects, so I wouldn't bother. The other real practice tests I found ranged in utility. I'm still shocked at how identification-heavy the early tests were (especially '82). Again, if you have the time, I'd complete those tests (under time constraints, perhaps to learn how to pace yourself and get a feel for comp questions), but you must be mindful that the modern test, as Pezpoet said, is more or less all comprehension. Nevertheless, considering the dearth of prep materials, I'd take what you can get (except REA). Ironically, the test ETS offers online is probably the closest to the actual version (although, looking at it now, it seems a little out of date). 

Ten months passed, and after having learned a ton of literature, crammed a lot of titles/characters/authors, and made offerings to the Pantheon, there I found myself in a cramped lecture hall, butterflies a-flutter. Luckily, one of my friends was taking the chemistry test, so it was a huge help to see a friendly face. We joked around like idiots for a half hour, which helped lighten my anxiety. If you can arrange to take the test with a friend, I'd do it. At any rate, despite having studied for nearly a year, I still found the actual test a sordid affair. Somebody on GC once said that it was "akin to being mugged." Couldn't have said it better myself. An hour or so in, my pacing was fine until I got bitch slapped by a really long Middle English passage, and thereafter I went into survival mode. The test over, my friend and I drank all the beer we could find, agreed that English and Chemistry are stupid, and wondered what exactly ETS does with our broken dreams and $4000 test fees. I duly received my score 5 weeks later and found out that I did better than expected. It's quite possible that fight-or-flight nerves simply made a difficult situation worse. I'm sure our hunter-gatherer ancestors would get a good chuckle out of that. 

As to whether the subject score matters, I have no idea. My uncontroversial, unoriginal guess is that the general GRE (verbal/AW) matters more for first-cut, and then maybe subject test carries a little weight later on, especially for deciding between comparable candidates. But I have no solid evidence (empirical or anecdotal) to back this up, so my conclusion is do the best you can, and if your score isn't too high, don't give up. If I were on the committee, I'd put much, much, much (did I say much?) more weight on writing sample, SOPs, and rec letters. As we all know, a test that attempts to grill undergrads on literature ranging over 4000 years is equal parts absurd and sad. I hope it's done away with in the future. I don't feel proud that I scored well. Rather, I feel lucky that I got a version of the test that somewhat matched what I studied, and also that I kind of learned how ETS asks questions. That said, it was simply a joy to read the Norton anthologies, and I'd recommend doing so regardless of whether you're taking the test (if you have time). 

That's all I got, and if you have any questions, feel free to PM me! And good luck to all of you on your admissions! 

Edited by FreakyFoucault
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Let me provide a slightly different perspective on the exam. It's been a few years since I took it -- I'm in the third year of my PhD -- so my information could very well be out of date, but I did well (99th percentile) on the exam at the time.

FreakyFoucault is right: dipping in and out of the Norton is a lovely experience and to be heartily recommended for one's own personal pleasure, and if you're reading this almost a full year in advance of submitting your PhD applications, then sure, feel free! And it's certainly tempting to want to pour a lot of effort into the exam, since it's one area of the application that, unlike other materials, receives not only a clear evaluation -- you get a score! --  but one that also shows you where you are relative to other applicants -- you get a percentile! But I would strongly, strongly urge moderation (bordering even on considered apathy, past a certain point) in studying for the exam, for a few reasons.

The first is because it is not actually a test of your knowledge of English literature. It's a test of something that's sort of, but not quite, like that knowledge, a test of general litteratus-ness. The knowledge looked for is cursory and impressionistic. Even when the test was heavier on IDs, the best way to study for the exam wasn't to grok the entirety of English literary production since Cædmon; the level of detail you need is what will get you through a moderately highbrow cocktail party where people are discussing a book you haven't read, not that which will get you through your qualifying exams. (Although... ) Now that the test has shifted away from IDs, it's even more the case that reading massive amounts of primary texts will do you less and less good. I specialized hard as an undergrad -- of the fourteen or so English classes I took, I think roughly four were on non-medieval topics. I didn't start studying for the exam until the summer before I applied, and so considering much of that fall was caught up with classes and other portions of the application, I only studied for the equivalent of a few months rather than the better part of the year. I too bought all the Nortons to prep for the GRE, but never cracked the last volume of the British, or any of the American ones, really, for lack of time. (They made great gifts!) In the end, even though there were only a couple medieval questions on the test (and the only Old English question asked for the definition of wergild!), it wasn't an issue. Again, you should definitely read some selected, major texts in the Norton to fill in broad gaps in your knowledge (and let me be absolutely pellucid: you really should!), but realize that plot summaries and the headnotes will do you almost as much good with both the identification and comprehension questions of the exam as reading and taking notes on massive swaths of the literature itself. In terms of comprehension questions specifically, it's true that what you need is ostensibly not the sort of fact-based knowledge from days of yore. But that sort of cocktail-party knowledge is, I think, underrated as comprehension-question prep, and that's why I think (some) of the criticism of the Princeton Review guide is misplaced. For example, let's say you see a prose passage describing someone who's obsessed with botany, and you remember reading the summary of novel one of whose characters is obsessed with botany, and also that the novel was a gentle satire. That's just the sort of thing that can give you a quicker sense of what sorts of interpretive maneuvers the question writers will be expecting you to make in terms of tone, etc etc etc.

The second reason not to stress out about or over-prepare for the exam is because, past a certain point, effort that you put into it would be almost infinitely better spent on your other materials. If your score is low then sure, do what you can to make it better, or if it's not what you would like and you've got all the other parts of your app squared away, then sure, spend some time studying. But if, say, your score is just unideal, and you're sort of okay with it anyway,  and you'd rather take the time to focus on other things, then just move on. I know people in very competitive programs who got abysmal subject scores, and I've talked to plenty of professors who are upfront about the fact that while yes, it may be required (often simply as a way to weed out unserious applicants), it's far and away the least important part of the application.

Because it's a test it's the easiest part of the application (along with "fit") to fetishize, but ultimately, it is just a test. Like any other exam (and just think: it's the second-to-last test you'll ever take!), there will be things on it that you know, and things on it that you don't know, no matter how much you study. There will be questions you only get right because you happened to read something the night before (it certainly happened to me!); and questions you get wrong but would have gotten right if you'd just put in that extra hour. I realize it's easy to sit here on the other side and wave my hand and say "Oh, don't worry about the test, there are so many more important things," but don't worry: there are so many more important things.

I have two more concrete pieces of advice, both of which stem from the fact that I lied earlier when I said the exam was a test of general literary-like knowledge. It is, of course, not even that: like all tests, it's a test of your test-taking ability. If you can eliminate even one of the choices as a possible answer to a question (usually relatively easy since they often throw in one wackadoodle answer), leaving only four or fewer possible answers, it is mathematically absolutely to your advantage to guess, even at random, and you should do so aggressively rather than leave questions blank. Also, while (as mentioned above) the Princeton Review book gets a lot of (somewhat deserved) flak since the test's format has moved on, people tend to discount what is actually the most helpful section of the book: the discussions of the answers, right and wrong, to the practice test in the back. Aside from being a goldmine of little nuggets of info that may appear on the test (I only got my Tender Buttons points because of it!), it also provides a useful snapshot into how questions work, and the best ways for eliminating and selecting answers when you may be unsure.

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I completely agree with @unræd. I'd again emphasize that my situation was unique in that I had a lot of time to spend on preparation, so I didn't need to worry much about prioritizing other aspects of my applications. If, however, you have only a few months (especially if those few months are during your senior year), I'm not sure what I'd recommend other than the Princeton Review book, Norton's headnotes, and maybe a prep test or two. Definitely take the most recent prep test, and try your best to understand the correct answers from ETS's point of view (you'll have to make up the rationales since ETS doesn't explain them). If you're taking a year or two off after graduation, don't procrastinate.

As I said before, even after reading the anthologies, I still found the test difficult and frustrating. I came to the test center with an inordinate amount of confidence; I left it deflated and grumpy. I know this will come off as reflection bias, but when you encounter a tough passage(s), you really have to try to maintain your composure and press on. For example, for a good part of my life, I played concert piano, and the first rule of performing is that you spend exactly zero seconds worrying about making or having made a mistake. Your pink slipped over B flat and hit B natural? Orchestra starts playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 when you prepared a different one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fS64pb0XnbI)? Oh well, keep playing.

Also, I do agree that Princeton Review's book is more helpful than not, but the format of their practice test is not illustrative of the modern exam. If anything, like @unræd mentioned, you should try to learn PR's strategic process of narrowing down choices based on inferences, context clues, and your overall knowledge of different literary eras. In addition, I'd recommend becoming a natural at speed reading. I got a long passage from a well-known critical theorist who's essentially a latter-day Heidegger, and it would've taken too much time to break it down. You read what you can, and move on to the answers. Oh well, keep playing. 

 

Other than that, I think @unræd covered everything. Don't feel bad if you got a lower score. I agree that the test certainly tests something (besides the tautological test-taking acumen), but you're not less of an English major if you do poorly on it. At the end of the day, there's not a whole lot you can do. I wouldn't have been surprised to have scored below the 50th percentile, based on my perception of how I performed. In fact, even if you memorized all the literature in the world, I'm reasonably sure that you could still get tripped up on the pacing or the format. Further, the test offers no real measure of your ability to do research, but that's what the PhD is all about. Maybe the purpose of the test is to teach irony? I wouldn't be surprised. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I really liked the Princeton Review book. For one, it was cheap! Second, I felt like it gave me a good enough overview of things covered, which was crucial because my literature background is lacking, and even more importantly, gave very valuable tips on test/guessing strategy. It is outdated on some key things like test format though and I don't think it gives a perfectly representative picture of topics and time periods.

I had a lot of nasty surprises on the real test. But I only had one week to study, and I think reading the whole PR book through once, then borrowing the Norton anthologies from the library and skimming as much of the "recommended reading" as possible was probably the best preparation I could have gotten in that short a time. The funny thing is that I found myself really enjoying the selected texts, so the studying wasn't that bad.

I think, more than any other standardized test I've taken, this one came down to testing skills. The broad range of really superficial knowledge from PR/Norton was enough for me to guess my way through the test and the score came out decent. It's not a low-stress method though - I started off the test fine but, because of the guessing, I had to read every answer, fell behind on time, and felt sick the whole time I was scrambling to catch up.

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for the input, lurkers!  I'm pretty familiar with the strategies for studying.  I did all that when I took the first test... it just kind of didn't matter that much!  My undergrad definitely did not aim to prepare students for a test of that breadth.  No amount of studying that summer could have really made that much of a difference.  

I think I will have to retake it.  I plan on applying to programs of varying levels of "prestige," but definitely those in the top crust.  I would be more confident with my applications if I can put a score that's at least around the 50th percentile--if that tells you anything about the score I'm working with now.  :rolleyes:

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On 1/4/2018 at 7:24 PM, Pezpoet said:

Woof. I loathed the Subject Test. Here's my thinking, and please take it with lots of grains of salt. If you scored over 50 percentile, don't retake it. Even if you scored under, I'd warn against a retake. I mean, if it won't require a lot of stress or distraction from other parts of your app, then go for it. But I found it to be a huge waste o time. I tracked my study hours (thanks Toggl!) and came in around 100 total hours. I took the usual route of study, with notecards and timelines and reading important (short) texts. 

Come game day, it did no good. There was very little on the test that had to do with recognition. It was, instead, 230 comprehension questions. Ok, that's probably hyperbolic. But truly, I was only asked to name an author or text a handful of times. I bet at least 180 questions were the kind of reading comprehensions comparable to the general GRE. SO. If you do decide to retake, focus on reading quickly but thoroughly. And answer every single question. I thought I'd have time to do at least two passes (shakes fist at Princeton) but no such luck.

As for what schools require it, I'm sure there's a list already floating around this forum somewhere. But, UVA, Stanford, USC, Indiana (?), are the few that come to mind. 

Best of luck!

I definitely second all of this. To be very, very honest, only one or two schools I applied to required the test, so I definitely did not study as much as I probably should have. I ended up with a score in the 55th percentile, and just chose not to re-take it. (My experience was also that it was mostly comprehension questions so no amount of studying will really help.) Despite not having a great score, I ended up getting accepted to IU-Bloomington, which was one of the few places that required it. So, I think even schools that do require the test take it with a grain of salt.

Edited by agunns
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Like others here, I legit bombed the subject test when I took it as an undergrad applying to MA programs. I didn't retake it when I was applying for PhD programs since only one school required it--and I only realized at the last minute that they did. Despite having a terrible score, I was still accepted into that school with a TAship and additional funding. I also didn't do great on the general GRE--not terrible, but not great--and consider this application season to have been pretty successful. All in all, I really do believe it has more to do with your overall package. Sure, some schools may look more closely at those scores than others, but it isn't necessarily a make-it-or-break-it deal. 

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2 hours ago, JustPoesieAlong said:

Like others here, I legit bombed the subject test when I took it as an undergrad applying to MA programs. I didn't retake it when I was applying for PhD programs since only one school required it--and I only realized at the last minute that they did. Despite having a terrible score, I was still accepted into that school with a TAship and additional funding. I also didn't do great on the general GRE--not terrible, but not great--and consider this application season to have been pretty successful. All in all, I really do believe it has more to do with your overall package. Sure, some schools may look more closely at those scores than others, but it isn't necessarily a make-it-or-break-it deal. 

That's what I'm hoping is true for me!  Congrats and goodluck!

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UCLA and USC English require it - those are the only two schools I applied to this season that required it.

I am very glad it is falling out of fashion, as the focus (both times I took it), was largely British lit, which is not my forte. 

I bombed the subject test both times I took it (once before my MA and once after). 

As far as retaking goes, I suggest retaking the regular GRE to improve scores on that rather than retaking the subject test - it took me three times (for three different app seasons) to get decent scores in writing and verbal (third time I took it I had taken a prep course beforehand).

However, I am terrible at standardized tests and believe the subject test and general GRE should be optional rather than required.

Good Luck!

 

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  • 1 month later...

Hey! I took the exam today and I found it was indeed less ID-heavy than the Princeton Review book suggests. However, there is some useful advice in there. They explain how test writers can't expect that you know everything ever written in English (and a bunch of other stuff) by heart, which I guess is pretty obvious, but it's important to really keep it in mind, because it leads to the only advice you need: LOOK FOR CLUES. The PR is also useful in all the other ways mentioned above (I'm from Argentina so the timeline and lists really helped fill in the blanks left by my somewhat patchy English Literature knowledge), but I think Parts I and II were the most useful, so don't go straight for those A-B-C lists.

Edited by plainblacktights
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This is JUST my opinion and I am sure others on here will disagree but I do not think this test is worth spending time on. Only the tippity top schools require it, and I think that by the time the committee even looks at the score, it is well after they have read SOPs and WSs. I think the general GRE is more of a factor. One of my schools required the subject test, and I wasted a lot of time and energy to study for a difficult test, receive an abysmal grade, and reel from self-doubt for the rest of the application cycle. 

After my general scores came back, I actually emailed a POI who recommended retaking it to get my writing score up a bit-point is, they look at that. Incidentally, I retook it and did worse and still got in to the program! 

But, I get it-if you have to take the test, you want to do your best-just keep in mind that the general test AND more importantly all of your written material are much more important.

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