I passed all of these exams except the American Civil War DSST. I did not prepare for any of them.


German: You should be comfortable listening to conversations and then answering questions about them.

American History II: You need to know a lot about McKinley , the World Wars, McCarthyism, and the Cold War. You will be asked to identify quotes and snippets of speeches. ("Which of the following was most likely to have made this statement?")

Western Civilization I: The test asks a lot about ancient Greece. You should also be able to recognize Byzantine and Germanic artwork. ("What society was most likely responsible for the following mural?") If you plan to cram, focus on Greece, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. Be familiar with the origins of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Western Civilization II: This test asks you to identify immigration patterns. In at least one question, I was asked to look at a map of South Asian immigrants within the British Empire and determine where most of them settled. (The answer was that Indians mostly settled in tropical regions of the empire.) Be familiar with the Marshall Plan in Europe.

Social Sciences : This is, by far, the easiest of the CLEP exams. It's like a cross between world history and basic human geography . Some of the same questions that appeared in the Western Civilization exams also appeared in this one. You can pass this exam without studying, if you paid attention in middle school geography . I decided to take this test on the spot.

Biology: You need to be able to identify diagrams of different sugar compounds and molecular bonds. (Think of the "saccharides.") There were several questions about the Calvin Cycle. You need to be pretty familiar with photosynthesis. At least one question asked me to identify the rain shadow effect in a diagram. You will be asked a lot about the stages of cell division. In quite a few questions, I had to identify the stages of mitosis and meiosis by looking at pictures. My major is history , and I wound up earning a better score in this subject than any of the others. I decided to take this test three hours prior to test time. I spent 30 minutes reviewing key concepts.


American Civil War: This test was surprisingly HARD. You must, must, must review the decisive battles of the Civil War. There were a lot of questions about Vicksburg, Fredericksburg, Shiloh, Shenandoah, and several other battles. You must know which generals fought for which side. A few questions asked about the use of the railroad in decisive battles. One question mentioned the Gila Valley. Several questions asked about the Mexican War. You need to be familiar with the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and situations surrounding states' entry into the Union prior to the war. One question asked about the outcome of the Dred-Scott case. One question asked about the origins of Uncle Tom's Cabin. In a lot of questions, you need to know about the Radical Republicans and their views. There were also a lot of questions about President Lincoln 's election and re-election. You need to know the circumstances surrounding Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant and how Jefferson Davis reacted to the surrender. Several questions asked about the role of Great Britain during the Civil War. Be familiar with Lincoln 's political rivals. I took this test without preparing and earned a score of 46. I needed a 47 to pass. I will be re-taking it in May.

World Religions: This exam is tricky, but not difficult. You need to know a lot about the origins of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and how they differentiate from each other. There were a handful of questions that required me to know what certain Islamic terms meant (e.g., jinn). There were more questions about Judaism. You need to know what the Talmud and the Torah are. ("The first ten books of the Old Testament are known as what in Judaism?") Several questions asked me to identify which group of Jews is most prevalent in the United States and also in Israel (e.g., Hasidic, Reform, Reconstructionist), Conservative, Orthodox). You need to know which regions of Europe and North America are predominantly Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. You need to know that the papacy is the main distinction between the Orthodox churches and the Catholic Church. One or two questions asked about Zoroastrianism and how it differs from the Abrahamic religions. The second part of the Zoroastrian god's name is Mazda--like the car. Remember that. There were quite a few questions about Hinduism. ("In Hinduism, a person of low caste can elevate his caste in the next life by accepting what?") You should be familiar with the main terms of Hinduism. Be sure you know what a bodhisattva is, and how you would describe one. Also, make sure to familiarize yourself with the concepts of Confucianism. Know about the eras during which Confucius and Gautama were born. Make sure you know the four things Gautama saw before he chose to seek enlightenment. Know how to distinguish Byzantine/Orthodox art from Catholic art. Know which regions preferred Greek and which regions preferred Latin. There were a few questions about Shinto and the Sikh religion. There was one question about the Bahai. (Basically, they view their religion as the goodness of all other religions throughout history combined into one.) Look up the origins of the word "Shinto." Look up the origins of the Confucian term "wu." There were also a few questions about filial piety.

Human Geography : This test was so easy. You need to know about population growth and retail distance. There were so many topics that it's hard to remember them all. You will be asked to look at maps of Buddhism in Asia and determine where Buddhism originated (India) and where it is no longer the predominant religion (Malaysia).