Description of the Examination
The Humanities examination 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 examination requires candidates 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. Any time candidates spend on tutorials or providing personal information is in addition to the actual testing time.
For candidates with satisfactory scores on the Humanities examination, colleges may grant up to six semester hours (or the equivalent) of credit toward fulfillment of a distribution requirement. Some may grant credit for a particular course that matches the exam in content.
Note: This examination 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 examination require candidates 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 percent of the examination)
- 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 percent of the examination)
- Understanding and interpretation of literary passages and art reproductions that are likely to be unfamiliar to most candidates (20 percent of the examination).
The subject matter of the Humanities examination is drawn from the following topics. The percentages next to the topics indicate the approximate percent-ages of exam questions on those topics.
- 10% Drama
- 10%–15% Poetry
- 15%–20% Fiction
- 10% Nonfiction (including philosophy)
- 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, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nineteenth century, and twentieth century. At least 5-10 percent 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.
Purchase and Prepare
Want to get a feel for the tests? Try out sample questions from actual CLEP exams in the subject of your choice.
Find out how many credits you can earn.