No one wants to do it . . . but everyone has to! Passing freshman composition is a degree requirement for nearly all college students. But why sit in a classroom for fifteen weeks when you can prepare for and take the CLEP Composition Modular test!
The CLEP Composition Modular test assesses what would be covered in a first-year writing class in college. The test is divided into two parts: 90 multiple choice questions in 90 minutes and 2 essays written in 70 minutes.
The multiple-choice section covers basic concepts like The Conventions of Standard Written English (grammar, voice, punctuation, subject-verb agreement, etc), Revision Skills (organization, transitions, evaluation of author, point of view, etc.), Ability to Use Source Materials (evaluating sources, research, and documentation, including MLA, APA, and CMS), and Rhetorical Analysis (appeals, tone, use of language, evaluation of evidence, structure).
The essay section will give students the choice of prompts to write about. Each college has their own way of presenting this section of the test, so make sure you do your research about what the process is for your college.
Whether you have been an English scholar or not, remember that you have been speaking English your whole life! You undoubtedly know more than you think you do. And remember, there is no literature on this test. This is strictly about writing, how to write using research, and how to analyze writing.
The Multiple-Choice portion is divided into four areas:
This section will assess your skills in writing sentences, recognizing fragments and run-ons, agreement (pronouns, subject-verb, case and number), and recognizing things like active versus passive voice and idioms or figures of speech. You will also need to brush up on your punctuation! The two areas most students make mistakes on are in using commas (which have about 50 rules!) and using semi-colons. There are hundreds of interactive grammar quizzes and tests available online if you need some practice.
Here is where the test assesses how well you can proofread and revise a draft. It measures your ability to organize logically, evaluate evidence, your awareness of audience and purpose, your ability to recognize appropriate tone, main ideas, thesis statements, topic sentences, point of view, and sentence-level errors. This test is designed to see how well you pay attention when you are reading a draft. Are you able to see all the errors? Can you correct them properly? Try finding some drafts online to read through or go over some of your high school work and determine what mistakes you tend to make – then you will be more aware of what you are looking for.
How are your research and reference skills? This is where the test will assess how thoroughly you can integrate research, evaluate research, identify what references are the best, and how thoroughly you document sources (works cited, bibliography, in-text citations). There will be single questions to answer as well as passages where you will have to demonstrate the above skills. If you have never written a research essay before, which is happening more and more, it is in your best interest to read some researched essays and become familiar with documentation formats MLA, APA, and CMS.
When we read literature and write about it, we are usually summarizing. In freshman composition, students move from summarizing to analyzing. This section of the test has reading passages where you will demonstrate your ability to think critically, identify style and purpose, analyze your audience, and identify the context of the writing. These passages will contain the rhetorical appeals, rhetorical effects, evaluation of evidence, and evaluation of language used.
The Essay Section requires students to respond to two essay prompts; however, the topics are not known to the test taker beforehand. Be prepared to write about just about anything! Each school has its own method for applying this portion of the test. It could be completed on a computer, or it could be written by hand.
Correct Answer: After the movie, Joe and I went to visit our friends.
Explanation: “Joe and I” matches the use of the pronoun “our”. The other sentences use a mix of different points of view, making them inconsistent. For example, a) should be “she could tell it was mean”, not “you could tell it was mean.”
Correct Answer: All of the above
Explanation: The rhetorical appeals are based on an old, Greek dude named Aristotle. He identified them as ways to persuade or argue when using writing. Ethos is the credibility of the person writing the piece, pathos is an emotional appeal to the reader, and logos is the logic of facts and evidence.
Correct Answer: APA
Explanation: APA stands for American Psychological Association format. This format is used primarily in the sciences and political/historical studies. MLA, Modern Language Association, is used in the humanities. CMS, Chicago Manual Style, is used in journalism. Answers b-d are just made up ??
Correct Answer: Audience, tone, and purpose
Explanation: Anytime you are getting ready to write an essay, you really have to think about who it is you are writing for (audience) because you want to use the right tone (conversational or formal). If you are writing for friends or family, you can have that informal, conversational tone, where you don't have to worry about being too serious?? For academic writing, you need to write to your teachers and peers – so, a formal tone would be better. You also need to figure out why you are writing the essay – what is your purpose? Is it to inform, persuade, entertain, compare, or argue?
Correct Answer: EBSCO Host
Explanation: EBSCO Host is a database of scholarly, peer-reviewed journals and book reviews. The next best choice would be Google Scholar as it has similar resources. Google and Wikipedia are never a good option because their search returns are not always considered reliable.
Correct Answer: He wanted to race to the gym, climb the rock wall, and swim in the pool.
Explanation: The correct sentence shows a parallel construction. The verbs are all written in the same tense and are followed by a prepositional phrase. The other sentences do not have adequate parallel structure.
Correct Answer: However, Camren never listened to the critics.
Explanation: When you start a sentence with a subordinating conjunction, you must place a comma after it. There must also be commas between conjunctions and independent clauses (which is just a complete simple sentence). The remaining sentences are missing commas or are written in passive voice.
Correct Answer: Lucy's meeting with her father was cancelled.
Explanation: Here we have pronoun agreement between “Lucy” and “her”. The remaining sentences had errors in pronoun use, verb inconsistency, and subject-verb agreement.
Correct Answer: Standardized testing in public schools should not be allowed because students lose class time, the tests are expensive for the schools, and the tests often have errors in them.
Explanation: A good thesis statement has three parts: the topic (standardized testing in public schools), the writer's opinion (agree or disagree), and at least three arguable points to discuss in the essay (claims). Standardized testing in public schools (topic) should not be allowed (opinion) because students lose class time, the tests are expensive for the schools, and the tests often have errors in them (claims).
Correct Answer: Witnesses reported that the lion fell from a stony cliff.
Explanation: When you are using formal language, it is important to remember NOT to sound like a thesaurus! Using words like “witnesses” instead of people or “reported” instead of “saw” give your writing a formal tone without overusing pretentious words ??
Let’s say you were given a prompt like this: For many years, there has a been a debate over whether or not students should be allowed to have their cell phones on during class. Choose a side and write your point of view.
Correct Answer: Many possible answers
Explanation: This question doesn't have one single correct answer, but should demonstrate your ability to think logically and structure a grammatically correct answer. "Students should not use cell phones in class because they are distracting. When a student is using a cell phone, he or she is not paying attention to the teacher. They also may be distracting their neighbors through their cell phone use. In both cases, the student is not learning about the lesson being taught. Texting on a cell phone may seem acceptable because it doesn't make a lot of noise, but when a teacher is trying to teach a lesson, he or she is looking around the classroom to make sure everyone is paying attention. When a teacher has to stop the lesson to tell someone to put away a cell phone, that is very distracting to everyone."
While quite short on the study side of things, the official CLEP book is the go-to final practice test. Since this is the only official practice test available, I normally use it as my final spot check before taking the test.
REA offers a great combination of study guide and practice questions. This book functions well as the central pillar of a strong CLEP prep strategy, with resources like the Official CLEP Study Guide (above) providing a great final practice test at the end.
The website looks like it was made before the internet, but it’s legitimately the single most useful study guide I’ve found yet. Basically it’s a series of flashcards that help you study in a fast paced and fun way.