Posted in CLEP, Sociology

CLEP Psychology

Official CLEP Psychology Page

The Psychology exam is a great first CLEP for your teen.  The content is manageable in a semester and is a great 1/2 credit elective for high school students that can yield 3 college credits.  Note- for teens applying to competitive colleges, you may instead want to consider The College Board’s other exam product:  Advanced Placement

Already confused? watch my “What is CLEP?” video

What is psychology?  It is the academic study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior.

cautionCLEP at home -vs- COLLEGE ENROLLMENT

Topics like sexual development, sexuality, gender roles, and mental health are always included in a basic Psychology 101 course -these are areas you probably want to oversee with your minor teen at this age.  College courses are based on the premise that the attendees are adults, so no consideration is given to your teen’s age.  Choosing a “more conservative” or “more liberal” college doesn’t assure that the teacher’s opinions will match yours.  As a parent, it is my opinion that your minor teen (under age 18) learn this content at home with you, and take the CLEP exam as opposed to as a dual enrollment college course with an instructor/professor.  

If you want simple:  select a college textbook and simply have your teen read it.  That will cover the curriculum.  You’ll want to follow learning with some test prep and maybe a few practice tests.  In our home, I consistently use a layering technique to teach my children subjects that will also be part of a CLEP exam.  I like to include documentaries, homework, field trips, research papers and the like- but how deep you dive is really up to you.  I put a video on youtube explaining how to layer resources.

For the curious, I took this exam March 2007 and earned a score of 64.  Jennifer Cook-DeRosa

Introductory Psychology


The Introductory Psychology exam covers material that is usually taught in a one-semester undergraduate introductory course in psychology. It stresses basic facts, concepts, and generally accepted principles in history; approaches and methods of psychology; biological bases of behavior, sensation, and perception; states of consciousness; learning; cognition; motivation and emotion; personality; psychological disorders and treatment; social psychology; and statistics, tests, and measurements.

The exam contains approximately 95 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. Any time test takers spend on tutorials and providing personal information is in addition to the actual testing time.

The questions on the CLEP Introductory Psychology exam adhere to the terminology, criteria, and classifications referred to in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Knowledge and Skills Required

Questions on the Introductory Psychology exam require test takers to demonstrate one or more of the following abilities.

  • Knowledge of terminology, principles, and theory
  • Ability to comprehend, evaluate, and analyze problem situations
  • Ability to apply knowledge to new situations

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

History, Approaches, Methods (8–9%)

  • History of psychology
  • Approaches: biological, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, psychodynamic
  • Research methods: experimental, clinical, correlational
  • Ethics in research

Biological Bases of Behavior (8–9%)

  • Endocrine system
  • Etiology
  • Functional organization of the nervous system
  • Genetics
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Physiological techniques

Sensation and Perception (7–8%)

  • Attention
  • Other senses: somesthesis, olfaction, gestation, vestibular system
  • Perceptual development
  • Perceptual processes
  • Receptor processes: vision, audition
  • Sensory mechanisms: thresholds, adaptation

States of Consciousness (5–6%)

  • Hypnosis and meditation
  • Psychoactive drug effects
  • Sleep and dreaming

Learning (10–11%)

  • Biological bases
  • Classical conditioning
  • Cognitive process in learning
  • Observational learning
  • Operant conditioning

Cognition (8–9%)

  • Intelligence and creativity
  • Language
  • Memory
  • Thinking and problem solving

Motivation and Emotion (7–8%)

  • Biological bases
  • Hunger, thirst, sex, pain
  • Social motivation
  • Theories of emotion
  • Theories of motivation

Developmental Psychology (8–9%)

  • Dimensions of development: physical, cognitive, social, moral
  • Gender identity and sex roles
  • Heredity-environment issues
  • Research methods: longitudinal, cross-sectional
  • Theories of development

Personality (7–8%)

  • Assessment techniques
  • Growth and adjustment
  • Personality theories and approaches
  • Research methods: idiographic, nomothetic
  • Self-concept, self-esteem

Psychological disorders and health (8–9%)

  • Affective disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Health, stress, and coping
  • Personality disorders
  • Psychoses
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Theories of psychopathology

Treatment of psychological disorders (7–8%)

  • Behavioral therapies
  • Biological and drug therapies
  • Cognitive therapies
  • Community and preventive approaches
  • Insight therapies: psychodynamic and humanistic approaches

Social Psychology (7–8%)

  • Aggression/antisocial behavior
  • Attitudes and attitude change
  • Attribution processes
  • Conformity, compliance, obedience
  • Group dynamics
  • Interpersonal perception

Statistics, Tests, and Measurement (3–4%)

  • Descriptive statistics
  • Inferential statistics
  • Measurement of intelligence
  • Reliability and validity
  • Samples, populations, norms
  • Types of tests

Study Resources

Most textbooks used in college-level introductory psychology 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 Introductory Psychology 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 that can be found in most psychology textbooks.

K12 Curriculum

Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op is offering 25% off HMH Psychology Curriculum a secular high school level full curriculum.


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.

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 Introductory Psychology

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.

Homeschooling for College Credit Recommends…

This free online Psychology 101 textbook is very well organized and easy to use.  It might be a good place for a parent to do a little background reading before getting started.

An excellent free video series Discovering Psychology by Annenberg Media to round out your psychology curriculum.

You can buy workbooks to go along with most subjects [Annenberg Media]. Give them a call. They have sent me any samples. -Stephanie J from Facebook

The best CLEP prep book on the market for this exam is the REA CLEP Psychology Guide (2nd edition).  It includes practice tests in the back that explain “why” an answer is right or wrong.  HIGHLY recommended.  Two different parents confirmed my experience using this book.

I used the REA second edition for the CLEP Introductory Psychology exam and she scored a 71.  -homeschooling parent from Illinois

One of my kids passed it with no background after studying only the REA book. -homeschooling dad from Texas

A fully online free course offered by St. Margaret’s Episcopal School via the edX partnership Psychology 101

A fully online free course offered by University of Toronto via the Coursera partnership Psychology 101

A fully online free course offered by MIT via the Open Courseware partnership Psychology 101

Free CLEP Prep has a study guide and a practice exam for this test!

InstantCert has an online flashcard study program and a Specific Exam Resource file where members share feedback about the exam in real time.  Use code 100150 to get $5 off the $20 cost.  *If you drop by, be sure to say hello!  I’m a daily contributing member there under the username Cookderosa.  

We used these last year when my daughter took psychology. She found the videos interesting. -Katrinka G from Facebook


Saylor Academy offers a completely free Psychology 101 online course. They offer an exam that awards college credit for $25, however, their exam is only worth 2 credits, whereas the CLEP exam is worth 3 credits.

The Modern States organization offers a completely free Psychology 101 video-based online course. As a bonus, they are currently issuing vouchers to take the CLEP exam for FREE to anyone who asks.  Reducing your CLEP cost to $0? Yes, please!

Crash Course Psychology is youtube based accelerated study series, and a good review tool!

My 17 year old daughter just passed the Psychology test with a score of 61. -Texas homeschool parent

Sparks Notes Psychology Study Guide is a free online note site that outlines all the major aspects of psychology.

If you’re looking for something on paper, I love laminated study charts like the one in this photo.  I have a ton of them covering about a dozen subjects.  You can almost always get them for under ten bucks, and they will outline and zero in on all the major topics/dates/names/etc. for the subject without fluff.   Psychology Quick Reference Guide


Content Clusters

A study strategy commonly used to make the most of learning includes forming “content clusters” and taking multiple exams that cover the same topics.  Psychology is a good subject for forming a content cluster because it is covered on more than one CLEP exam. These are separate exams that yield separate credits so a successful content cluster in psychology can reward big returns.

These 3 CLEP exams will share psychology content to some extent:

Introductory Psychology

Human Growth and Development (note that the DSST exam called Lifespan Developmental Psychology is considered the same exam by colleges, so do not add that exam to your cluster!  They won’t award credit for both)

Introduction to Educational Psychology

The DSST exam Fundamentals of Counseling doesn’t count as a psychology credit at most colleges, however, it does have its foundation in psychology and would be an added bonus if your teen is interested in pursuing fields in counseling, teaching, child development, or social work.




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