The Humanities exam tests general knowledge of classical to contemporary literature, art, and music and other performing arts.
The Humanities exam tests general knowledge of literature, art, and music and the other performing arts. It is broad in its coverage, with questions on all periods from classical to contemporary and in many different fields: poetry, prose, philosophy, art, architecture, music, dance, theater, and film. The exam requires test takers to demonstrate their understanding of the humanities through recollection of specific information, comprehension and application of concepts, and analysis and interpretation of various works of art.
Because the exam is very broad in its coverage, it is unlikely that any one person will be well informed about all the fields it covers. The exam contains approximately 140 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored.
For test takers with satisfactory scores on the Humanities exam, colleges may grant credit toward fulfillment of a distribution requirement. Some may grant credit for a particular course that matches the exam in content.
Note: This exam uses the chronological designations b.c.e. (before the common era) and c.e. (common era). These labels correspond to b.c. (before Christ) and a.d. (anno Domini), which are used in some textbooks.
Knowledge and Skills Required
Questions on the Humanities exam require test takers to demonstrate the abilities listed below, in the approximate percentages indicated. Some questions may require more than one of the abilities.
- Knowledge of factual information (authors, works, etc.) (50% of the exam)
- Recognition of techniques such as rhyme scheme, medium, and matters of style, and the ability to identify them as characteristics of certain writers, artists, schools, or periods (30% of the exam)
- Understanding and interpretation of literary passages and art reproductions that are likely to be unfamiliar to most test takers (20% of the exam)
The subject matter of the Humanities exam is drawn from the following topics. The percentages next to the topics indicate the approximate percentages of exam questions on those topics.
- 10% Drama
- 10%–15% Poetry
- 15%–20% Fiction
- 10% Nonfiction (including philosophy)
The Arts (50%)
- 20% Visual arts: painting, sculpture, etc.
- 5% Visual arts: architecture
- 15% Performing arts: music
- 10% Performing arts: film, dance, etc.
The exam questions, drawn from the entire history of art and culture, are fairly evenly divided among the following periods: Classical, Medieval and Renaissance, 17th and 18th centuries, 19th century, and 20th century. At least 5–10% of the questions draw on other cultures, such as African, Asian, and Latin American. Some of the questions cross disciplines and/or chronological periods, and a substantial number test knowledge of terminology, genre, and style.
ACE Recommendation for Humanities
Note: Each institution reserves the right to set its own credit-granting policy, which may differ from the American Council on Education (ACE). Contact your college to find out the score required for credit and the number of credit hours granted.
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CLEP Humanities Examination Guide
This guide provides practice questions for the CLEP Humanities Exam only.