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The GRE in Literature

The Graduate Record Exam is a challenging test of a wide range of literature in English. It is often necessary for those wanting to go to graduate school for an advanced degree in English.

If you are headed in that direction, it’s never too early to begin preparing! And the English major at Southern will be key to your success.

According to the helpful (and free) test-prep site called Varsity Tutor, the GRE in literature focuses on areas in English that students are likliest to have studied in English departments across the country. Since there is no standard curriculum for the study of English, the GRE in literature still covers texts from the entire history of English literature.

The exam is multiple choice—230 questions. Questions fall into various categories: (1) identification of who wrote what when (2) literary analysis (3) historical context (4) literary criticism. The most important of these categories is literary analysis, which makes up about half of the exam.

By literary periods, the questions are spread around this way: (1) literature from other languages up to 1925, 5-10 percent (2) British literature up to 1660, 25-30 percent (3) British literature from 1660 to 1925, 25-30 percent (4) American literature to 1925, 15-25 percent (5) literatures after 1925, 20-30 percent.

While the exam casts a wide net, it is possible to prepare successfully if you engage in some obvious kinds of study—knowing key terms, key authors, key outlines, and key quotations. Southern’s English faculty is determined to help you have as comprehensive a view of English literature as possible.