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2022 CLEP Official Study Guide

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This study guide provides practice questions for all 34 CLEP exams. The ideal resource for taking more than one exam. Offered only by the College Board.

CLEP® Social Sciences and History Examination Guide

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The Social Sciences and History exam covers a wide range of topics from the social sciences and history disciplines.

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Social Sciences and History


The Social Sciences and History examination covers a wide range of topics from the social sciences and history disciplines. While the exam is based on no specific course, its content is drawn from introductory college courses that cover United States history, Western civilization, world history, economics, geography, and political science. The primary objective of the exam is to give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you possess the level of knowledge and understanding expected of college students who meet a distribution or general education requirement in the social sciences and history areas.

The Social Sciences and History examination contains approximately 120 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of them are pretest questions that will not be scored. Any time candidates spend on tutorials and providing personal information is in addition to the actual testing time.

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

The Social Sciences and History examination requires candidates to demonstrate one or more of the following abilities.

  • Familiarity with terminology, facts, conventions, methodology, concepts, principles, generalizations, and theories
  • Ability to understand, interpret, and analyze graphic, pictorial, and written material
  • Ability to apply abstractions to particulars and to apply hypotheses, concepts, theories, and principles to given data
  • Ability to assess evidence and data, to make comparisons, and to draw conclusions

The percentages below reflect the approximate coverage for each subject area of the exam. The main topics covered within each subject are also listed.

History (40%)

Requires general knowledge and understanding of time- and place-specific human experiences. Topics covered include political, diplomatic, social, economic, intellectual, and cultural material.

13-15% United States History

Covers the colonial period, the American Revolution, the early republic, the Civil War and Reconstruction, industrialization, the Progressive Era, the First World War, the 1920s, the Great Depression and the New Deal, the Second World War, the 1950s, the Cold War, social conflict in the 1960s and 1970s, the late twentieth century, and the early twenty-first century.

13-15% Western Civilization

Covers ancient Western Asia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome as well as medieval Europe and modern Europe, including its expansion and outposts in other parts of the world, its imperial contraction, and new economic and political forms.

13-15% World History

Covers Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America from prehistory to the present, including global themes and interactions.

Economics (20%)

  • Economic measurements
  • International trade
  • Major theorists and schools
  • Monetary and fiscal policy
  • Product markets
  • Resource markets
  • Scarcity, choice, and cost

Geography (20%)

  • Key geographical skills
  • Cultural geography
  • Physical geography
  • Population
  • Regional geography
  • Rural and urban land use
  • Spatial interaction

Government/Political Science (20%)

  • Comparative politics
  • International relations
  • Methods
  • United States
    • Civil rights and liberties
    • Constitution and its interpretation
    • Institutions
    • Parties, interest groups, and media
    • Voting and political behavior

Study Resources

Most of the textbooks used in college-level social sciences and history courses cover the topics in this test, but the approaches given to certain topics may differ. To prepare for the Social Sciences and History exam, it is advisable to study one or more college textbooks for related courses, which can be found in most college bookstores. Among the topics included are United States and world history, Western civilization, economics, political science, and geography. When selecting a textbook, check the table of contents against the knowledge and skills required for this test. In addition, many college faculty members post their course materials on their schools’ websites.

The materials suggested for preparing for other CLEP exams may also be helpful. Study resources for these CLEP exams are particularly relevant: American Government, History of the United States I and II, Principles of Macroeconomics and Principles of Microeconomics, and Western Civilization I and II.

Online Resources

These resources, compiled by the CLEP test development committee and staff members, may help you study for your exam. However, none of these sources are designed specifically to provide preparation for a CLEP exam. The College Board has no control over their content and cannot vouch for accuracy.

Score Information

Credit-Granting Score for Social Sciences and History

ACE Recommended Score*: 50
Semester Hours: 6

Each institution reserves the right to set its own credit-granting policy, which may differ from that of ACE. Contact your college as soon as possible to find out the score it requires to grant credit, the number of credit hours granted, and the course(s) that can be bypassed with a satisfactory score.

*The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated CLEP processes and procedures for developing, administering, and scoring the exams. The score listed above is equivalent to a grade of C in the corresponding course. The American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, seeks to provide leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues and to influence public policy through advocacy, research, and program initiatives. Visit the ACE CREDIT website for more information.