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1. About this Course

This course will prepare you to pass the "College Composition" CLEP exam by reviewing fundamental principles of rhetoric and written English. This exam contains multiple-choice questions and two essays that will test your skills in analysis, argumentation and synthesis. 

The goal of the creator of this course – Modern States Education Alliance, a non-profit organization – is to provide you with an accessible and affordable pathway to higher education.

Tufts University's Professor Dr. Dana (Dean) Simpson will offer guidance and review materials intended to improve both students' awareness on a variety of logical, structural and grammatical relationships with sentences and skills to use authentic materials and perform rhetorical analysis. All of those areas are taught in most first-year college writing courses.  

This course is organized into four modules that contain short video lessons, exercises and readings. It will take you less than 25 hours to prepare for the exam.

The "College Composition" course is completely self-paced. There are no prerequisites to take this course, and it is entirely free. Any student who wants to save time and money while completing freshman year in college can take it.

2. About the College Composition CLEP Exam

The exam contains approximately 50 multiple-choice items to be answered in 50 minutes and two mandatory, centrally scored essays to be written in 70 minutes, for a total of 120 minutes of testing time.

Both essays – typed on the computer – measure students' ability to write clearly and effectively. 

Note that colleges set their own credit-granting policies and therefore differ with regard to their acceptance of the College Composition examinations. Most colleges will grant course credit – usually six credits – for a first-year Composition or English course that emphasizes expository writing; others will grant credit toward satisfying a liberal arts or distribution requirement in English.

College English faculty from throughout the country convene twice a month to score the essays via an online scoring system. Each of the two essays is scored independently by two different readers, and the scores are then combined. 

• Directions and Scoring Guide for the Two Essays

3. Required Knowledge and Skills

The exam measures candidates' knowledge of the fundamental principles of rhetoric and composition and their ability to apply the principles of standard written English.

In addition, the exam requires familiarity with research and reference skills.

In one of the essays, candidates must develop a position by building an argument in which they synthesize information from two provided sources, which they must cite. The requirement that candidates cite the sources they use reflects the recognition of source attribution as an essential skill in college writing courses.

The skills assessed in the College Composition examination, along with percentages of the exam’s questions, are described in the following chapter. 

4. Course Modules

1. Conventions of Standard Written English (10%)

1.1 Syntax (Parallelism, Coordination, Subordination)

1.2 Sentence Boundaries (Comma Splice, Run-Ons, Sentence Fragments)

1.3 Recognition of Correct Sentences

1.4 Concord/Agreement (Pronoun Reference, Case Shift, and Number; Subject-Verb; Verb Tense)

1.5 Diction

1.6 Modifiers

1.7 Idiom

1.8 Active/Passive Voice

1.9 Lack of Subject in Modifying Word Group

1.10 Logical Comparison

1.11 Logical Agreement

1.12 Punctuation 

2. Revision Skills (40%)

2.1 Organization

2.2 Evaluation of Evidence

2.3 Awareness of Audience, Tone and Purpose

2.4 Level of Detail

2.5 Coherence Between Sentences and Paragraphs

2.6 Sentence Variety and Structure

2.7 Main Idea, Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences

2.8 Rhetorical Effects and Emphasis

2.9 Use of Language

2.10 Evaluation of Author's Authority and Appeal

2.11 Evaluation of Reasoning

2.12 Consistency of Point of View

2.13 Transitions

2.14 Sentence-Level Errors Primarily Relating to the Conventions of Standard Written English 

3. Ability to Use Source Materials (25%)

3.1 Use of Reference Materials

3.2 Evaluation of Sources

3.3 Integration of Resource Material

3.4 Documentation of Sources (Including, but not Limited to, MLA, APA and Chicago Manuals of Style)

4. Rhetorical Analysis (25%)

4.1 Appeals

4.2 Tone

4.3 Organization/structure

4.4 Rhetorical effects

4.5 Use of language

4.6 Evaluation of evidence

5. The Essays: Our Guide

6. Review and Tips

       6.0 Review and Tips

       6.1 Review Part 1

       6.2 Review Part 2

       6.3 Things to Remember

5. About Dana (Dean) Simpson

Dr. Dana "Dean" Simpson is a university lecturer and educational consultant from the Boston area. He teaches college composition in the United States and China with a variety of strategies and in different contexts. He also teaches language and literature in Spanish, English and French, as well as courses in linguistics, communication, art history, literacy and pedagogy.

He holds Masters and Doctorate degrees from Middlebury College, and a Masters in Higher Education from the Harvard School of Education. In the US, he has taught at Tufts, Boston University, Bentley, Brandeis, Harvard and MIT. Abroad, he regularly teaches in China and in Southeast Asia.

As a consultant, he has worked in the USA, Latin America and Asia with teachers and professors on curricular development, assessment and methodology. His research interests include Vanguard and Symbolist poetry, Medieval Studies, Gender Studies, Basque studies and Innovations in Teaching. He has also published four books of poetry in Spanish, as well as numerous scholarly articles in Spanish and English.  

6. How CLEP Works

Developed by the College Board, CLEP (College-Level Examination Program®) is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program.

CLEP’s credits are accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities, according to the College Board. These tests assess college-level knowledge in 33 subject areas.

Modern States Education Alliance is the non-profit organization behind these edX-style courses. Its project is called “Freshman Year for Free” and its mission is to make college more accessible and affordable through free, high-quality online education.

• CLEP® College Composition: at a Glance

• 'Passing the CLEP and Learning with Modern States' orientation course