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English Composition CLEP
Free Study Guide!

Free English Composition CLEP Study Guide

Name of Exam: English Composition CLEP

Number of Questions: 90

Time Limit: 90 Minutes

ACE Recommended Passing Score: 50

Practice Test Available?: Yes - Click here

Cost: $80 + Sitting Fee (Usually no more than $20) at your testing site. Military can take CLEPs for free with Tuition Assistance. Check with your Educational Officer!

Difficulty 1-5 : 2
(One being the easiest, and five being the hardest)

Alternatives: StraighterLine English Composition I and II

Exam Description:

The English Composition CLEP tests your ability in identifying errors in existing sentences and passages.

You will need to have a basic understanding of good sentence structure, but will not necessarily be asked to explain "why" you chose the answer you did.

Personal Thoughts:

Looking at what I just typed under "Exam Description" makes me wonder if I need to take this CLEP again myself. Not very clear is it? It's a hard exam to explain, but I'll see if I can't do better here.

The English Composition CLEP tests your knowledge of how to put together a sentence/paragraph. "How" is the key word there. It tests you on "How" you put the sentences and paragraphs together, not "Why" you put them together. So, first it will give you a sentence like:

"Bob and Mary, went to the mall because he wanted to buy shoes but didn't have enough money so they play video games instead."

The English Composition CLEP will then give you a list of choices with various corrections made to the previous sentence. It will be your task to choose the correct choice that inserts the proper punctuation and correct any syntax errors that may have been included.

You've probably taken exams like this before. It will give you a list of sentences and paragraphs, and you must correct what's wrong. So to hit you with a bunch of grammatical terms; you'll be asked to correct errors in the following: sentence boundaries, active and passive voice, diction and idiom, clarity of expression, and verb tense.

Now here's the important part about the English Composition CLEP - You won't just be asked to define those terms. You will need to understand what they are so you can use them to correct the example work you're given on the test. So it's not enough to know what they are. You have to know how they're used too. Is that explanation any clearer? I certainly hope so.

In the non-essay version of the English Composition CLEP, the object is to correct someone else's writing rather than your own. You will often be asked to read a passage or paragraph written by an author. A series of questions will then test your ability to improve that work and make it more readable. If you read in your spare time, most of the errors will jump off the page. If you don't read that much, you'll probably need some brushing up.

Exam breakdown:

According to the College Board website, the English Composition CLEP (without essay) exam is broken down as follows:

Types of questions:

55%Correcting Sentences
Identifying sentence errors
Improving sentences
Restructuring sentences (to improve clarity)
The main idea of the work, or it's thesis
Organization of ideas (putting the ideas in order)
Coherence within and between paragraphs (the "flow")
Logic of arguments (does it make sense?)
Sustaining point of view (switching from 1st to 3rd)
Relevance of evidence (does the author have any?)

Areas of Study

  • Critical Reasoning
  • Proper Use of Punctuation
  • Proper Verb Tense
  • The use of Capital Letters
  • Subject/Verb Agreement
  • Independent and Dependent Clauses
  • Pronouns
  • Active and Passive Voice
  • Parallelism
  • Dangling Modifiers
  • Prepositions

Free study resources

Click on the titles to go to the study resource.

Connecticut Community College - There used to be a website hosted on Yahoo that had over 50 sample questions. I used it for my own study, and it was great. Unfortunately it vanished. The good news is that I found this one instead and it has a TON of outstanding quizzes. Literally start at "1" and work your way down.

If you can answer these backwards and forwards, you should feel ready to take the exam! I'm jealous that I didn't find it sooner. :P

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) - Some very good information here. Don't get too far down in the weeds with the reading. Stick to the more basic topics on the right side of the screen.

The Grammar and Mechanics section will probably be your best bet for the non-essay version of the English Composition CLEP. Reviewing this section will make spotting the errors in the example sentences all the easier.

How to Identify the Argument of an Essay - A great document that walks you through the steps of identifying an argument. (clicking the link will download the word document) A hat tip to Dr. Ron Milon for posting this on his site.

Commas, Colons, and Semicolons, Oh My! Also a good article on how to put together a decent paragraph. It deals with subject ordering, and making smooth transitions. Know this because you'll be asked to critique and fix a few paragraphs.

The Elements of Style - A book originally written in 1918, it covers most of the common mistakes people make while writing. I only used it for chapters 9 through 18, as those applied to paragraph construction. Glancing briefly through the first half of the book; it appears to be just as valuable as the latter half.

Recommended bargain-priced study resources

Always check your library first! You may be able to find some of these for free. You don't have to buy the officially recommended resources all the time. If you're the type of person that prefers to study from a textbook source however, then please see below.

CLEP Freshman College Composition (REA) - The Best Test Prep for the CLEP Exam (Test Preps) - Library on base for the win! Make sure you check your local library before laying down the money for this one, but it does a great job preparing you.

The material for the Freshman College Composition CLEP is almost an exact match with the English Composition CLEP. The true value lies in the included practice exams.

InstantCert Academy - English Composition Specific Exam Feedback - Five pages of study notes, specific topics of study, and after action reports from returning test-takers. The community has done a great job with this particular thread. Definitely check out the Flashcards! Sections two and three are set up in the same format as the English Composition CLEP. It's great practice for the real thing!

If you don't know what InstantCert is, then click here for the scoop as well as a discount code: **InstantCert Academy**

You'll find an InstantCert link for every exam here if that gives you an idea of the amount of information they have available. It's an outstanding resource.

Closing Thoughts

It's not a terribly hard exam. Make sure you know the grammatical rules for punctuation. I found the questions dealing with verb tense, point of views, and coherence pretty simple. If you've ever thought to yourself, "This isn't written very well" while reading a book, then you'll probably be fine on this exam as well. In the end, it's about identifying what's wrong, and making it right again.

One of the downsides of typing this study guide is that it forced me to review all the writing resources I had copied down from last year. Now I'm counting how long my sentences are and making careful use of commas again. /grumble.. See how I suffer for you? ;)

This exam is worth six credits, though many schools will only award the full amount if you've completed the essay portion. See the English Composition with Essay CLEP Study Guide if you plan on going that route.

Best of luck!

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