College Composition

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”—Ernest Hemingway

To communicate with clarity and style is the goal of any writer. Writing for academic success is a vitally important skill for every college student. The College Composition CLEP exam will assess writing skills typically taught in a first year composition class. The exam measures the student’s ability to think, organize and express their ideas. Knowledge of grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and understanding of the conventions of standard written English will be tested. The College Board provides the parameters for the exam which are listed below.

The exam contains approximately 50 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 50 minutes with some pretest questions that will not be scored.

The exam also requires two essays to be written in 70 minutes. Students have 30 minutes to write the first essay and 40 minutes to read the two sources and write the second essay. The essays must be typed on the computer.

SpeedyPrep prepares its subscribers for the question portion of the exam, but not the essay portion.

Please consult the College Board College Composition page to learn what the essays will require.


The exam measures the student’s knowledge of the fundamental principles of rhetoric and composition and their ability to apply the principles of standard written English. The exam requires familiarity with research and reference skills. The College Board provides the parameters for the exam which are listed below.


Measures understanding of a variety of logical, structural and grammatical relationships within sentences:

  • Syntax (parallelism, coordination, subordination)
  • Sentence boundaries (comma splice, run-ons, sentence fragments)
  • Recognition of correct sentences
  • Concord/agreement (pronoun reference, case shift, and number; subject-verb; verb tense)
  • Diction
  • Modifers
  • Idiom
  • Active/passive voice
  • Lack of subject in modifying word group
  • Logical comparison
  • Logical agreement
  • Punctuation

REVISION SKILLS: 40% of the exam

Measures revision skills in the context of works in progress/early draft of essay:

  • Organization
  • Evaluation of evidence
  • Awareness of audience, tone and purpose
  • Level of detail
  • Coherence between sentences and paragraphs
  • Sentence variety and structure
  • Main idea, thesis statements and topic sentences
  • Rhetorical effects and emphasis
  • Use of language
  • Evaluation of author’s authority and appeal
  • Evaluation of reasoning
  • Consistency of point of view
  • Transitions
  • Sentence-level errors primarily relating to the conventions of standard written English


Measures familiarity with elements of the following basic reference and research skills, which are tested primarily in sets but may also be tested through stand-alone questions:

  • Use of reference materials
  • Evaluation of sources
  • Integration of resource material
  • Documentation of sources (including, but not limited to, MLA, APA and Chicago manuals of style)

RHETORICAL ANALYSIS: 25% of the exam

Measures ability to analyze writing. This skill is tested primarily in passage-based questions pertaining to critical thinking, style, purpose, audience and situation:

  • Appeals
  • Tone
  • Organization/structure
  • Rhetorical effects
  • Use of language
  • Evaluation of evidence

Each college sets their own credit-granting policies for the exam, so check with your college admission office, test center, or academic adviser before taking the test.


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