Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648

The Western Civilization I exam covers Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Near East; the Middle Ages; Renaissance and Reformation.

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The Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648 exam covers material that is usually taught in the first semester of a two-semester course in Western civilization. Questions deal with the civilizations of Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Near East; the Middle Ages; the Renaissance and Reformation; and early modern Europe. You may be asked to choose the correct definition of a historical term, select the historical figure whose political viewpoint is described, identify the correct relationship between two historical factors, or detect the inaccurate pairing of an individual with a historical event. Groups of questions may require you to interpret, evaluate, or relate the contents of a passage, a map, or a picture to other information, or to analyze and utilize the data contained in a graph or table.

The exam contains approximately 120 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. This exam uses the chronological designations b.c.e. (before the common era) and c.e. (common era). The 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 Western Civilization I exam require candidates to demonstrate one or more of the following abilities:

  • Understanding important factual knowledge of developments in Western civilization
  • Ability to identify the causes and effects of major historical events
  • Ability to analyze, interpret, and evaluate textual and graphic historical materials
  • Ability to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant
  • Ability to reach conclusions on the basis of facts

The subject matter of the Western Civilization I exam is drawn from the following topics. The percentages next to the main topics indicate the approximate percentage of exam questions on that topic.

Ancient Near East (8%–10%)

  • Political evolution
  • Religion, culture, and technical developments in and near the Fertile Crescent

Ancient Greece and Hellenistic Civilization (15%–17%)

  • Political evolution to Periclean Athens
  • Periclean Athens through the Peloponnesian Wars
  • Culture, religion, and thought of Ancient Greece
  • The Hellenistic political structure
  • The culture, religion, and thought of Hellenistic Greece

Ancient Rome (15%–17%)

  • Political evolution of the Republic and of the Empire (economic and geographical context)
  • Roman thought and culture
  • Early Christianity
  • The Germanic invasions
  • The late empire

Medieval History (23%–27%)

  • Byzantium and Islam
  • Early medieval politics and culture through Charlemagne
  • Feudal and manorial institutions
  • The medieval Church
  • Medieval thought and culture
  • Rise of the towns and changing economic forms
  • Feudal monarchies
  • The late medieval church

Renaissance and Reformation (13%–17%)

  • The Renaissance in Italy
  • The Renaissance outside Italy
  • The New Monarchies
  • Protestantism and Catholicism reformed and reorganized

Early Modern Europe, 1560-1648 (10%–15%)

  • The opening of the Atlantic
  • The Commercial Revolution
  • Dynastic and religious conflicts
  • Thought and culture

Score Information

ACE Recommendation for Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648

Credit-granting Score 50
Semester Hours 3

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 Western Civilization I Examination Guide

The Western Civilization I exam deals with Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Near East; the Middle Ages; Renaissance and Reformation.

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Study Resources: Western Civilization I

A study plan and list of online resources.


ACE Credit Recommendations

Recommendations for credit-granting scores from the American Council on Education.