Literature Test Guide

Literature Test Summary
What: General literature tests are taken by students as a way of evaluating their knowledge about a particular book, literary period or type of literary analysis.
Who: Tests are given to students attending literature classes.
Where: Literature tests are administered at the school where the students are attending and learning class material.
When: Tests are offered multiple times a year and testing times vary depending on the institution.
How: Students will answer questions on the exam relating to material they have been studying. The teacher will score the test to see how well the students perform.
Type: Tests are generally given in paper-and-pencil format, but some schools may use computer tests.
Why: Tests are given to measure the progress and aptitude of students taking literature classes.
Time: The duration of the tests varies depending on the institution.
Language: English
Preparation: Students must perform close readings of the texts they are asked to study in the class. Highlighting essential passages and themes while reading may also be helpful.
Cost: No cost to students or parents.
By Jessica McNally, Tests.com

General literature tests assess students’ knowledge on particular pieces of literature which they are assigned for class. Such textual materials may include prose and/or poetry, and teachers may ask students to focus on an individual work or multiple pieces simultaneously.

Test Format
Literature test questions may take a variety of forms which may include but are not limited to short answer, fill in the blank and multiple choice styles. Most literature tests, especially at the collegiate level, require students to answer questions in the form of either multiple short essays, or one or two longer essays.

The following are a few types of questions that may appear on a literature test:
  • Literary analysis questions may call on a student’s ability to interpret a particular passage or segment of a piece. Such questions may involve recognizing references and allusions, tone and meaning, identifying genres and conventions, grammatical structures and rhetorical strategies.
  • Identification questions may require a student’s recognition of author and publishing date, as well as recalling content material such as particular elements of plot.
  • Cultural and historical context questions may ask a student to identify and further explicate the specific literary, cultural, and intellectual history of a work. Such questions may also require a student to provide biographical information about the author or give important background details regarding the piece’s setting. For instance, a student may have to classify what features define a piece that belongs to the Victorian Era or Medieval Period, or establish whether a piece is of British or American origin.
  • History and theory of literary criticism questions may include identification and analysis of the methods and characteristics of different theoretical and critical approaches.
  • Compare and contrast questions will ask students to examine two or more texts simultaneously, pointing to the similarities and differences of such elements as style, language, theme, or content.
Test Preparation
Preparing for a literature test is often somewhat challenging. The most important step students can take is to make sure they read all assigned texts carefully and thoroughly. Students should take plentiful notes and highlight significant or challenging passages when reading to ensure that they gain a deeper understanding of the piece they are reading. Including page numbers with these notes is advisable, for key passages and scenes will be easier to return to when it comes time to study or write an essay. Students should also be wary of utilizing websites that offer brief summaries and analyses of literary works, for such sites tend to glaze over key concepts and can even contain misinformation.

Looking for additional resources on Literature Test preparation? Visit our Literature Test Directory for helpful study aids.

Source: ETS.org