CLEP / History of the United States I

Free Practice Test: CLEP History of the United States I

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So you’re thinking about taking the U.S. History I CLEP exam? Awesome! Here’s what you need to know.

US History I covers equivalent content to the first semester of a two-semester US History program; the second sister is covered in the sibling exam: US History II. The period that will be tested in US History I begins with early European colonization in North America, includes colonial Independence and the Civil War, and ends with Reconstruction, with the majority of the questions on the period of 1790–1877. In the part covering the 17th and 18th centuries, emphasis is placed on the English colonies.

The test itself is roughly 120 questions and you’ll have exactly 90 minutes to answer them.

Fast History of the United States I Study Guide

The exam will be divided into five major sections:

Political institutions, political developments, and public policy (35%)

Upon first glance, this section appears like it could be difficult and it also covers 35% of the material. Once you understand what the heading is getting at, you can break this section down to into three parts: 1) The reasoning for European exploration and expansion into the Americas, 2) The reasons behind the colonies wanting independence from Britain, and 3) The formation of the U.S. Government. Yes, you will need to have some basic understand of what is in the U.S. Constitution and some of the “better known” amendments but this test is more about the “why”. The test is going to want to know why Constitution was written the way it was, why there were amendments made to the constitution, and why there was a formation of political parties.

Social developments (25%)

When you take a look at this time period, the two major issues that most people convey with this time period in American History are the fight for independence and slavery. While these are two major social issues of this time period, do not overlook some of the other social developments of this time period. While the Civil War itself brought major changes to American History, the years around the Civil War also brought about changes in women’s rights and the creation of labor unions. Fun Fact: The women’s rights movement actually began in 1848 at a convention in Seneca Falls, New York.

Economic developments (10%)

This is a fairly easy section to cover. While under Britain’s rule, the colonies had a lot of restrictions and taxes placed on their goods. Once the colonies gained their independence and the United States began to grow, so did the importance of economic growth. Topics like the elimination of things like interstate tariffs and a reduction (but not elimination) of taxation of goods. It also led to the creation of the First Bank of the United States and a need for a common form of currency. You are also going to want to familiarize yourself with the major expansions of U.S. territory and the economic effects of this growth, plus the start of the shift from agricultural to industrial America, along with the formation of major cities.

Cultural and intellectual developments (15%)

This is possibly the easiest section. The United States was founded on immigration. Only a handful of native peoples make up the U.S. population. With immigration brings new cultural influences (including religion) and while there are many, focus on those brought about by a mass influx of new peoples.Also included in this section are the intellectual developments of the time. With the expansion westward creating new challenges and an influx of immigrants, developments in the U.S. were more about applied sciences to “solve a problem” rather than experimental sciences.

Diplomacy and international relations (15%)

Diplomacy and international relations have always been a major part of U.S. History, dating back to before the Revolutionary War. One example is the involvement (or neutrality) in the French Revolution, due to the relations with the two countries involved. You should focus on the major conflicts both in the United States and abroad during this time and pay close attention to the shifts in diplomacy.

History of the United States I Free Practice Test

So, are you ready to test the waters? Take this practice quiz and judge your preparation level before diving into deeper study. All test questions are in a multiple-choice format, with one correct answer and four incorrect options. The following are samples of the types of questions that may appear on the exam.
Question 1: The disagreement between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson regarding the economic policy of the United States can best be summarized as a contrast between:

  1. Remaining part of the British Commonwealth or aligning with the French colonial system
  2. Proslavery economic system or an economic system free of slavery
  3. A centralized system based on trade and manufacturing and a system that relied on independent farmers and agriculture
  4. A system in which workers share in the principal means of industrial production and one in which selected officials control economic policy
  5. Old World economy in which land ownership is taxed and a New World system in which high tariffs are assessed on industry

Correct Answer: C. A centralized system based on trade and manufacturing and a system that relied on independent farmers and agriculture

Explanation: Like most Americans in the 1790s, Jefferson was a “country man”. He believed that the nation's future was with plain, farm folk and opposed any growth of business and manufacturing. Hamilton, on the other hand, wanted to expand the nation's economy and increase the nation's wealth by using the power of the federal government to promote business, manufacturing, and trade.

Question 2: What did the United States gain as a result of Pinckney's Treaty?

  1. The Louisiana territory
  2. A massive loan from the British
  3. Access to the Mississippi River
  4. The cooperation of the French navy
  5. Alaska

Correct Answer: C. Access to the Mississippi River

Explanation: Pinckney's Treaty, also known as the Treaty of San Lorenzo, was an agreement between the United States and Spain. No only did it declare that the 31st parallel would be the boundary between Spanish West Florida and the United States, but it also gave the people of the United States freedom of navigation of the Mississippi River through Spanish territory. It also granted Americans a tax-free deposit, or temporary storage of goods, in New Orleans. It also included that both sides would agree to protect both sides from Native American attacks within the borders, along with provisions respecting freedom of the seas.

Question 3: Which of the following was acknowledged as a clear advantage held by the Union over the Confederacy during the U.S Civil War?

  1. A more highly trained and experienced military leadership
  2. A sense of purpose in the conflict that unified all Northerners
  3. Control over the Mississippi River from the outset of the war
  4. A better understanding of the terrain on which the majority of the battles were fought
  5. An industrial capacity to produce most of what it needed for the war

Correct Answer: E. An industrial capacity to produce most of what it needed for the war

Explanation: The Northern states had numerous factories and industrial organizations, while the South depended on agriculture and slave labor. Before the Civil War began, the economy of the North was made up of industries like guns, textiles, pig iron, and boots that were sold in both the North and the South. In fact, when the war began, the South had no rifle factories to speak of. For this reason, while the Northern soldiers were supplied with the latest rifle technology, many of the men in the South went to battle using their own, personal weapons.

Question 4: Where did General Robert E. Lee surrender his forces in 1865, effectively ending the war?

  1. Appomattox, Virginia
  2. Atlanta, Georgia
  3. Charleston, South Carolina
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Correct Answer: A. Appomattox, Virginia

Explanation: Surrounded and with desertions mounting daily, on April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. On that day, arriving in his muddy uniform was Grant while Lee had cam in full dress attire, which included sash and sword. When Lee asked for the terms, Grant hurriedly wrote them out. The terms included were that all officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property, most importantly, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. It was also agreed that officers would we able to keep their side arms, and Union rations would be give to Lee's starving men.

Question 5: What was the name of the Thomas Paine pamphlet that gave reasons for the American split with Great Britain?

  1. Birth of a Nation
  2. Declaration of War
  3. Plain Talk
  4. Common Sense
  5. Uncle Tom's Cabin

Correct Answer: D. Common Sense

Explanation: Originally published anonymously, “Common Sense” is considered one of the most influential pamphlets in American history, advocating for the independence of the American colonies from Britain. “Common Sense” is credited with uniting the average citizens and the political leaders of Colonial America. He changed the way people thought by pointing out that the people of the colonies came from Europe, and not just Britain, to escape persecution, and by allowing British rule, that persecution was continuing.

Question 6: What was the greatest problem of the Washington administration?

  1. Continual skirmishes with Native Americans
  2. Massive wildfires
  3. Insufficient natural resources
  4. Economic turmoil
  5. Political infighting

Correct Answer: D. Economic turmoil

Explanation: After the Revolutionary War, the United States struggled to build a healthy economy due to the $52 million in total that was owed to the French and thousands of merchants, bankers, and citizens that had loaned Washington money during the war. Some American politicians wanted to renege on these debts, or only pay part of them off, but Washington and his Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, recognized that in order to maintain integrity and credit internationally, the U. S. had to pay back the creditors all was owed to them.

Question 7: How was the United States affected by the Great Famine of Ireland in the 1840s?

  1. It led to a massive wave of Irish immigrants to the United States.
  2. It led American scientists to pool their skills in finding a cure for the potato blight.
  3. It led to a decline in the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.
  4. It forced the Americans to import potatoes from other sources
  5. Intermarriage between Irish immigrants and native-born US citizens decline

Correct Answer: A. It led to a massive wave of Irish immigrants to the United States.

Explanation: Between 1845 and 1855 more than 1.5 million adults and children left Ireland and immigrated to America. The reason for the immigration was disease has devastated Ireland's potato crops, leaving millions without food, desperately poor, and many were suffering from starvation and disease. The Potato Famine killed more than 1 million people in five years and generated great bitterness and anger at the British for providing too little help to their Irish subjects.

Question 8: What did George Washington warn the country about during his Farewell Address?

  1. Women's suffrage
  2. Abolition of slavery
  3. Native Americans
  4. A Jefferson presidency
  5. Permanent foreign alliances

Correct Answer: E. Permanent foreign alliances

Explanation: Because George Washington was a good student of history, he had seen how most of the wars in Europe and their colonies started out as a quarrel between two powers, but they quickly dragged in their allies into the fight, which had nothing to do with how it started. Washington did not want the United States to be dragged into someone else's wars every decade or so, like it had been during it's colonial status.

Question 9: Which president oversaw the Louisiana Purchase?

  1. John Adams
  2. John Quincy Adams
  3. George Washington
  4. Thomas Jefferson
  5. James Madison

Correct Answer: D. Thomas Jefferson

Explanation: One of Jefferson's most notable achievements as president was the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the bargain price of less than three cents an acre. American expansion westward into the new lands began immediately. On April 30, 1812, exactly nine years after the Louisiana Purchase agreement was made, the first state to be carved from the territory, Louisiana, was admitted at the 18th state.

Question 10: What book did Harriet Beecher Stowe release in 1851 that sentimentalized slaves and helped to sway public opinion against slavery?

  1. Pride and Prejudice
  2. Uncle Tom's Cabin
  3. War and Peace
  4. Great Expectations
  5. Sense and Sensibility

Correct Answer: B. Uncle Tom's Cabin

Explanation: Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom's Cabin” as a direct response to the passing of the Fugitive Slave Bill. The Fugitive Slave Bill established strict requirements for all states and territories to arrest runaway slaves and return them to the South. Infuriated by the Bill, abolitionists, like Stowe, were upset that they were forced to comply with something in which they opposed. The writing style and plot of the book were intensely emotional for contemporary audiences, leading to many people who had previously been apathetic and even hostile toward blacks and abolitionists to become more receptive towards antislavery views.

More CLEP History of the United States I Study Resources

Looking for a study guide to fill a couple gaps, or just want a full length practice exam? You can find a few of my favorite resources below. Note that some of the links are affiliate – meaning I’ll make a few dollars if you purchase, but I’m only sharing those resources that were genuinely helpful during my own CLEP journey.
Official CLEP Study Guide

While quite short on the study side of things, the official CLEP book is the go-to final practice test. Since this is the only official practice test available, I normally use it as my final spot check before taking the test.

Powerhouse Prep: Full Practice Test Bundle

For students who want a full length practice exam, our practice test bundle includes 2 full length CLEP practice tests with a total of 240 realistic questions and detailed answer explanations. We've also thrown in a short study guide for free. Our practice test series is designed for students who want to build on our free resources here by taking their study to the next level.


REA offers a great combination of CLEP study tips, exam study materials, and detailed practice tests. This book functions well as the central pillar of a strong CLEP prep strategy, with resources like the Official CLEP Study Guide (above) providing a great final practice test at the end.

InstantCert Academy

The website looks like it was made before the internet, but it’s legitimately the single most useful study guide I’ve found yet. Basically it’s a series of flashcards that help you study in a fast paced and fun way.

Plenty of other resources exist – just do a quick internet search – but these are the three that I’ve personally found the most helpful back when I did CLEP.