|College English Exams|
The material covered in the CLEP exams in English composition (which is reflected in the lecture notes and study guide which follow) is generally considered equivalent to a two semester lower division college course.
There are two CLEP exams that cover the subject matter of the first year of college English. These exams reflect the diversity with which the courses are taught -- probably no two colleges present the information in exactly the same way. Each exam has a different emphasis and you will have to chose which one meets the requirements of the college of your choice. It is doubtful if you would be given additional credit for successfully completing two of these exams.
Many colleges also require an additional written essay.
CLEP: English Composition:
Version 1 - 90 multiple choice questions in 90 minutes
Version 2 - 50 multiple choice questions in 45 minutes plus one essay question to be completed in 45 minutes (evaluated by The College Board)
In both Versions 1 and 2 the multiple choice questions include: identification of ambiguous wording, choice of a phrase that best conveys intended meaning, and choice of a version of a sentence that has been reworded to change emphasis or improve clarity.
In Version 1, the second half of the multiple choice primarily asks questions based on short prose passages.
CLEP: Freshman College Composition:
90 multiple choice questions in 90 minutes
There is also an optional essay section (evaluated by the college)
[Please see the The College Board for more details, and to see if there have been any changes in emphasis.
NOTE: There is no on-line course that appears to relate directly to any of the CLEP Exams. I have drawn from several courses, reference files and some guest lectures that seem to reflect the content required on the CLEPs. Featured faculty and their home pages can be found at the end of this page.
(I didn't promise you a rose garden. See disclaimer.)
Many of you are familiar with the SAT verbal exam which tends to focus on vocabulary. The CLEP exams do not -- they assume you already have a good vocabulary. Therefore, you should be steadily improving your vocabulary as you study for one of these exams.
However, there is a marked emphasis on sentence stucture in these exams. You are expected to know all of the rules of punctuation and grammar associated with sentences. When do you use commas and semicolons? Can you identify incomplete and run-on sentences? Can you tell when subject and predicate do not agree? Etc. You need to know these rules cold so you can spend more time on the questions that emphasize organizational structure, style, and content analysis.
Even if you are not required to write an essay, you must understand the process so that you can better evaluate the paragraphs that you will be called upon to analyze.Start reading challenging material NOW!The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker magazine are both consistently well written and edited. You may find it less expensive to obtain a student subscription than to buy occasional copies. Both publications can often be found in every library. (They are also a joy to read.)
NOTE:The New York Review of Books recently established a web site which contains excerpts from the current issue and will eventually archive 34 years of articles. This commendable project will be a great help to those seeking to improve their vocabulary; their quality of writing, and their analytical abilities. Bookmark this site New York Review and refer to it often.
(If you haven't read a general step-by-step guide, this might be a good time. See also How to Budget Your Time)
The basics of punctuation and grammar are readily available on the Internet (see links in the Study Guide below), courtesy of a few generous professors and the writing centers of some colleges and universities.
The basics of writing essays are also available on the Internet and we provide samples from several disciplines.
Collections of college level readings however, are still only available in book form. (I have been able to build a large, and inexpensive, library by haunting thrift shops, yard sales and used books stores.) The most useful readers contain thought-provoking questions following each selection. (Don't spend full price for a new book of readings unless it has these questions.)
You can utilize selected articles available from magazines and newspapers on-line to supplement those in books. For example:
- The New York Review of Books
- The Atlantic check out archives site map
- The New York Times
- The Boston Globe
- The Washington Post
- The Economist
An early version of Strunk's Elements of Style is readily available for download on the Internet. An expanded version by Strunk and White is only available in book form. Many used book stores carry this paperback. While this slim volume does not contain everything you need to know, it is certainly an excellent place to start.
A wide variety of books also exist on rhetoric and analysis. You are required to understand basic logic -- both the logical organization of sentences into meaningful paragraphs and the logic of pursuasive argument. See the Study Guide for links to a few sites on logic and a review of logical fallacies.
The publishers of Webster's Dictionary maintain a site where you can search an on-line dictionary and thesaurus. You can also sign up for a word-a-day e-mail and look at archives of their two-minute radio programs.
Additional Vocabulary Building sites are linked in the Study Guide.
A special section of the Study Guide contains links to sites that will help you understand poetry.
Using the Free University Project Study Guide
1) Read the Introductory Material suggested in the Study Guide.
2) Build your study sessions so that they include some vocabulary drill, review of basic grammar and sentence stucture, and readings. Leave enough time to write down your own thoughts about what you have read.
3) Take any on-line quizes and do a sampling of exercises, both on-line and from your book of readings.
Periodically take time to review your notes; take a practice CLEP exam, and review areas of weakness.
Remember to keep your journal up to date.
Every person browsing this site comes with a unique background of knowledge so it is difficult to prepare a one-size-fits-all study guide. I am dividing the guide into four groups and you should include something from each of the four in each of your study sessions:
plus two exam-specific groups
- Vocabulary, Capitalization, Punctuation, Grammar and Sentence Construction
- Rhetoric and Logic
- Construction of Essays
- How to use standard resources, and history of English
The amount of time you spend on each group, of course, depends on the knowledge and capabilities you bring to the subject. As suggested above, every study session should include a few minutes of continuing vocabulary development. You should also read a selection from a book of readings or online articles at every session and do at least one writing exercise in each.
Before you begin, you should download the following three references:
- Elements of Style early version by Strunk
- Grammar and Style Notes by Prof. Jack Lynch
- Purdue Resources for Writers OWL (online writing center). Click on index of handouts
Spend about a half an hour familiarizing yourself with the content of each of these files. As you develop your study session plan you will want to incorporate a portion of each in every study session. (If you save the file in HTML format you will be able to use the FIND button on your browser to locate specific topics. You can use a browser off-line when you want to see a file you have saved in HTML format. Click on File then on Open File and Browse, or type in the file name.) <\BLOCKQUOTE>
VocabularyBuild your vocabulary in a systematic way. For instance, while reading an article make a list of all words that you are unsure of, or don't know. Look up each word in the dictionary and write a short definition on the list. Say the word several times while you are writing the definition. Then about three days later review the list - blocking out the definition. Make a flash card for every word you don't know and keep the cards next to your computer. Review them during long downloads.
(If you've never used flash cards: Write the word on one side of a blank 3x5 card and the definition on the other. Go through the deck with the word side up and mentally define it; then turn the card over to see if you are right. Then shuffle the deck and turn it over so the definition side is up. Read the definition and say the word. Turn the card over to see if you are right. After you have gone through the deck a few times set aside the cards with the words you know. Add the cards with the words you still don't know to your next set of words and continue the process. Every once and awhile go through the deck of discards to make sure the words are still familiar. This technique also works when studying foreign languages or building a vocabulary of technical terms.)
Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis (Pocket Books, ~$7.00) is such a classic that the publishers haven't changed a single word on either front or back covers from the 1979 edition I picked up for 50 cents at a garage sale to the one I purchased at a book store in 2003. I prefer books of this type to be organized by word groups or topics rather than in alphabetical order. The book, divided into 46 sessions, can fit nicely into any study plan.
Other on-line sources of vocabulary drill include:
- Vocabulary Builder from Wooseob Jeong; set up in multiple choice quiz format (thousands of words)
- Study Web's grammar page; click on Vocabulary Building
- Kellee Weinhold's Grammar for Journalists; click on Word Choices List and Spelling List
Capitalization and PunctuationYour government dollars at work: check out Chapters 3 and 4 of this NASA site: A Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors by Mary K. McCaskill, Langley Research Center.
They were prepared for writers of technical reports, and provide a good review.
You can use the list and flashcard technique to help you remember each rule of capitalization or punctuation that you don't know.
Grammar and Sentence Construction
For a basic review of parts of speech in English see this site maintained by Anthony Hughes
Paradigm Online Writing Assistant has a section on grammar in this file.
Use the Checklist for Grammar and Writing Style as a useful quick guide to edit your own writing.
Again from NASA click on Chapters 1 (Grammar) and 2 (Sentance Structure) from: A Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors.
On-Line Writing Centers
There are at least a dozen good on-line writing centers in addition to Purdue University's cited above. Take some time to familiarize yourself with each of them. When you find a topic (like misplaced modifier) that causes you trouble, you can see several different examples by reviewing what each has to say.
A well organized place to start is A Guide to Grammar and Writing Capital Community College Foundation
Other sites you should at least review are:
- Texas Tech On-Line Writing Center
- Univ. of Victoria Writer's Guide
- Empire State College Learning Resources and click on The Writer's Complex
- LEO (literacy education online) from St. Cloud St. University takes a different approach that you might find interesting.
- Rensselaer Writing Center, a very complehensive set of handouts
- Univ. of Texas Writing Center
- Univ. of Michigan OWL
- The Interactive Quizzes developed by Don Hardy, Northen Illinois University.
- Other approaches from Bellevue Community College include: FAQs on grammar and style in Q&A format, Twenty common Errors, and Sentance structure and mechanics
Rhetoric and LogicOne definition of rhetoric could be "the power of eloquent speech combined with the force of logic". Read the entries on Rhetoric and Logic in a good encyclopedia. (However you won't need to know the logic formulas for the CLEP.) .
Definitions of major rhetorical terms can be found at the Literary and Rhetorical Terms section of the University of Victoria Writer's Guide.
A brief review, with additional links, can be found on Marla Dinchak's pages Tools to Create Effective Arguments
For a short paper on contemporary ideas about rhetoric see Doug Brent's site and click on Rogerian Rhetoric: An Ethical Alternative to Traditional Argumentation.
Construction of EssaysRobert Gwynne, University of Knoxville, TN, offers a course on Public Speaking (click on Class Stuff) which contains a great deal of information on communication theory, rhetoric, understanding your audience, and a chapter on How to Research A Speech that contains sections on how to use the library and how to develop a topic. This is a very rich site and worth exploring.
A very good short course on essay writing can be found at Paradigm Assistant
Another very good site is English 1301 On-line produced by Dr. Geoffrey A. Grimes, Mountain View College of the Dallas Community College District. Click on Units 1 through 5. Plan to spend some time going through the exercises. However, please do not send assignments to Dr. Grimes, they are only for those enrolled in his class.
You can play the role of virtual student in the English 101 course by Marla Dinchak-DeSoto, instructor, Glendale Community College. Go to Assigments (in the right hand column). Each assignment is for a different type of essay. Follow her instructions (except those reserved for her registered students), and write a few practice essays. You can check your work by visiting the Writing Center at the University of Richmond.
Most of the Writing Centers listed above also have pages that discuss essays.
Always wanted to go to Harvard? Go to their Writing Center and look at the General Guides under Writing Tools. Then link to the hypertext book in processWriting at Harvard.
Critical ThinkingThe process of critical thinking helps both your reading and your writing. The CLEP exam implictly assumes that if you can see the structure and flaws of another person's writing, then you will be able to detect the same in your own writing.
See this virtual course on critical thinking Mission Critical at San Jose State University.
For an even more detailed look at logic and fallacies see Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies
PoetryFor an introductory series of short lectures, including How to Read a Poem go to Andrew Cantrell's Poetry Course . Click on Reference Material
See the Poetry Page at Mike Jackman's Introduction to creative writing site. Click on Introduction to Poetry
See also the section on Poetic Tools in the University of Victoria Writer's Guide.
The Atlantic Unbound archives link to a special poetry section.
>A guide is provided as part of the Learning Skills program at the University of Victoria. See also Improving research literacy Dakota State University
Overwhelmed ?That's not surprising. It is not an easy task to build a study plan that meets your personal needs from a wide array of sites . Following is one suggested strategy to break the task down into manageble parts. (Any suggestions from you are warmly welcomed.):
First, prepare a loose leaf notebook and number pages 1 through 20 in the upper right hand corner. On each pages you will write the specific steps you will take/have taken in that study session.
- Study sessions 1 through 3:
- Familiarize yourself with the basic sites noted above. Bookmark those you think you will probably visit again.
- (Build a file of sites you have visited by printing out the first page or two of each site [The print dialogue box give you the option to do this.])
- Study sessions 4 through 8:
- Divide your study session into four (probably unequal) parts and spend time on each of the four main sections noted above.
- Study session 9:
- Take a practice examination - don't guess, but take as long as you need. (Don't mark in the book. Use a separate answer sheet as you will be retaking this exam again.)
- Study session 10:
- Review your answers to the exam and make notes about the kinds of questions you either couldn't answer, or where your answers were incorrect.
- Plan the content of the next seven sessions, emphasizing your areas of weakness.
- Study sessions 11 through 18:
- Implement your plan.
- Study session 19:
- Retake the first examination - this time within the required time frame.
- Study session 20:
- Review the exam; make notes of your areas of weakness, and plan the next seven sessions.
- You might want to start incorporating information from the following site:
Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies
And/or one or more of your own choosing.
- Following sessions:
- Repeat the pattern of session 4 through 20, but take a different sample exam.
Links to faculty home pages
NOTE: Please don't bug the professors. They have been generous enough just by taking the time and effort to put their material on the Web. And please don't e-mail responses to their tests. Such responses are limited to students actually enrolled in the class.
Geoffrey A. Grimes,Ph.D, professor of English and Humanities, Mountain View College.
--- more to come ---
Related On-Line Texts
--- more to come
- On-Line Dictionaries
- Roget's Thesaurus (searchable, maintained by Univ. of Chicago)
- Bartlett's Quotations (Columbia Univ.)
Additional Internet Resources -- to come
Good Luck!and let us know how you are doing.
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