beginning of content:

Add Study Guides

2021 CLEP Official Study Guide

Book $24.99

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® Western Civilization I Examination Guide

PDF Document $10.00

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

Skip to shopping cart

Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648


The Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648 examination 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 examination contains approximately 120 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these 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. This examination 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 examination 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 examination 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

Study Resources

Most textbooks used in college-level Western civilization courses cover the topics in the outline given earlier, but the approaches to certain topics and the emphases given to them may differ. To prepare for the Western Civilization I exam, it is advisable to study one or more college textbooks, which can be found in most college bookstores. When selecting a textbook, check the table of contents against the knowledge and skills required for this test.

You may also find it helpful to supplement your reading with books listed in the bibliographies found in most history textbooks. In addition, contemporary historical novels, plays, and films provide rich sources of information. Actual works of art in museums can bring to life not only the reproductions found in books but history itself.

Many of the texts listed here are published in two-volume editions, with one volume covering Western Civilization I and the other covering Western Civilization II. Some also have one-volume brief or concise editions, designed for a less intensive review.


A survey conducted by CLEP found that the following textbooks are among those used by college faculty who teach the equivalent course. You might purchase one or more of these online or at your local college bookstore.

  • Chambers et al., The Western Experience, (McGraw-Hill)
  • Coffin and Stacey, Western Civilizations, Brief Edition (W.W. Norton)
  • Goff, A Survey of Western Civilization (McGraw-Hill)
  • Greer and Lewis, A Brief History of the Western World (Wadsworth)
  • Hunt et al., The Making of the West (Bedford/St. Martin's)
  • Kidner et al., Making Europe: People, Politics, Culture (Wadsworth)
  • King, Western Civilization: A Social and Cultural History (Prentice Hall)
  • Kishlansky et al., Civilization in the West (Pearson Longman)
  • McKay et al., A History of Western Society (Wadsworth)
  • Merriman, A History of Modern Europe (W.W. Norton)
  • Noble et al., Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries (Wadsworth)
  • Sherman and Salisbury, The West in the World (McGraw-Hill)
  • Spielvogel, Western Civilization (Wadsworth)

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 Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648

ACE Recommended Score*: 50

Semester Hours: 3

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.