If you have considered taking the CLEP exam for “Human Growth and Development”, then the following information will provide you some basic pointers on what to expect.
The exam is comprised of 90 questions covering material from a semester’s worth of Developmental Psychology or Human Growth and Development. Test takers should be familiar with theories and research on cognitive, physical, and social development across the entire human lifespan.
Let’s try to tone down on the intimidation that comes from reading words like “entire human lifespan” by breaking down the topics covered into study areas as well as the percentage chunks:
Although theoretical roots of any discipline run the risk of being a snooze fest, it is essential for the test taker to review the material thoroughly. This includes evolution, cognitive development, learning theories, psychodynamic theories, ecology, biology, and sociocultural theories. Although you technically can review human development theories almost anywhere online, it is important to remember that theoretical interpretation of any discipline is constantly changing (thus, the defining characteristic of a “theory”). Be sure to study this section using human development texts with updated editions and other resources suggested by CollegeBoard.
This section calls for a basic understanding of research method definitions, which actually isn’t as scary as having to take a full Research Methods course AND Statistics. Such terms are applicable to human growth and development research as well as any other topic of interest out there. Be comfortable with knowing and applying terms such as: case study, cross-sectional, cross-sequential, longitudinal, observational, experimental, and correlational to name a few. Thankfully, this is only a small portion of the test that you can afford to botch if research is an uncomfortable arena for you.
This is one of the bigger chunks of the exam, and rightfully so since it outlines the origin of human growth and development. We’re talking about the physiological creation of the human body. This includes prenatal development (brain and nervous system, sex determination, hormones, teratogens, genetics, fetal substance/drug exposure, motor development, perinatal nutrition, and maturation of the developing egg.
Now we’re back to a smaller, but fascinating chunk of the exam. This includes details of sensory development (touch, taste, smell, vestibular, etc.). We’re talking about sensory development that occurs in the womb and continues on after birth. Be familiar with terms such as: habituation, sensory acuity, and sensory deprivation. Learn more about what happens when sensory and motor skills combine forces in order to help a person participate in everyday living tasks.
Again, we have one of the larger chunks of the exam that may require extra attention. Although cognitive development can be an intriguing topic, it is also complex and not even fully understood by well-versed professionals. Brush up on theories such as Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Theory and Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory. Gear your studies towards the human brain and what anatomical areas are responsible for certain cognitive functions: attention, reasoning, judgment, memory, etc. Be sure to include how both the developing person and the environment influences cognitive development.
Although a ton of cognitive elements go into language, separate that out for the sake of confusion. This section focuses on pragmatics, sound production, semantic and vocalization development. Acknowledge how genetics and culture influence language development and how language influences thought processes (expressing language AND comprehending language).
Bring yourself outside of the cognitive development box again, and focus on just the intelligence piece. Everyone is born with neurological processes for reasoning, problem-solving, and executive function, but why does it play out differently for people? Why are some people seemingly smarter than others? Study up on how intelligence and creativity change over the lifespan due to hereditary and environmental influences. Review common intelligence tests (i.e., IQ) and current research behind giftedness.
Our last, large chunk of the exam focuses on vital social development aspects that heavily influence connecting with others. Young children have to learn how to create and maintain healthy, interpersonal relationships. This involves adopting morals, modeling behavior, gender identity, avoiding maladaptive social behaviors (i.e., impulsivity, aggression), knowing where to take risks, and developing social cognition. If need be, re-examine Vygotsky’s theory on social development.
Learn how the environment, in greater detail, impacts the development of a child, for good and bad. As a newborn ages, they are automatically bombarded by family relationships and structures, socio-economic status, parenting styles, cultural perspectives, media/technology, etc. It would be beneficial to review Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory to better grasp how a child’s surroundings impact their growth and behavior.
Revisit popular personality theories posed by Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud. This section will cover the development of human emotion, where it starts and how it changes. Emotional expression can vary per person depending on developmental and environmental influences. Research definitions behind emotional intelligence, emotional regulation, attribution, emotional stability, and temperament.
This is a small, but somewhat vague, chunk of the exam. Essentially, you are putting the developmental pieces together and into something functional outside of the home. This includes work, school, daycare, and elderly care. You are learning about when and how a person starts to take on multiple roles.
This section covers examples of when typical development does not go as planned, resulting in all sorts of psychological, cognitive, and physical impairments. This includes childhood disorders (ADHD, autism, intellectual disability, Down’s syndrome, trauma-based disorders) and adulthood disorders (dementia, anti-social disorders, personality disorders, mood disorders, anxiety). All diagnoses tested on are up-to-date according to the criteria set forth by the DSM-5 (Diagnostics and Statistical Manual version 5).
Correct Answer: attribution
Explanation: Again, we have a flashcard memory answer. This refers to attribution theory, which includes fascinating assumptions about how people can attempt to understand the behavior of others. It is essential for healthy social interaction because reciprocal communication is all about anticipating and guessing how or why another person reacts in such a way.
Correct Answer: bilingual
Explanation: This could be one of the easiest questions to answer, simply by understanding what Bi- means. The rest is based on exclusion: just because your bilingual doesn't mean a person is foreign, and although learning two languages can take some talent it still isn't the exact or best answer.
Correct Answer: Bipolar Disorder Type 1
Explanation: Remember that descriptions of disorders in the exam are going to coordinate with criteria in the DSM-5. The best suitable answer would be bipolar disorder Type 1 because the qualifying criteria includes periods of euphoria and periods of depression. YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW EVERY DISORDER! Don't sit and memorize the DSM-5. Focus just on a high level understanding of childhood disorders, disorders that emerge during adolescent and young adult years, and progressive disorders in older adults (for instance dementia).
Correct Answer: Both Stanford Binet Intelligence Quotient AND Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale are correct
Explanation: We're pulling out those flashcards again, but at least the title of the tests give away the answers. The Stanford Binet and Weschler are two of the oldest intelligence tests out there that are still being used today. Both are considered Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests. The Mini Mental State Exam is actually a simple test used to gather immediate information about how alert and oriented an individual is.
Correct Answer: cognitive development theory
Explanation: A question like this comes from pure memorization of study material. You would have to be able to hand-pick a theorist from your brain and match him or her up to a noted theory of human development. Jean Piaget was one of the most influential theorists of his time, and his research behind cognitive development is still used to this day. He is responsible for coming up with the 4 stages of cognitive development: sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete, and formal.
Correct Answer: Microsystem
Explanation: Get familiar with your Latin roots, but also know that this information may just be based solely on memory. Bronfenbrenner described a “microsystem” as an ecological system (institution or group) that immediately impacts a child's development: family, religion, school, and peers.
Correct Answer: roles
Explanation: This could be a tricky question to answer, but think about which answers are relevant to topics of human development. “Tasks”, “activities”, and “obligations” can be used just about anywhere and in any discipline. “Roles” comes up a lot, especially as children age and go through “role-playing” and role-taking”.
Correct Answer: the development of logical thought
Explanation: Remember Jean Piaget? Look back at his 4 stages of cognitive development. If you think of “concrete” as immovable, stoic, or rigid you just might be able to associate “concrete operations” with logical thought. This stage usually occurs about middle childhood, and other abilities such as “conservation” and “reversibility” come into play.
Correct Answer: This is a longitudinal study
Explanation: In this case, think “long”. A longitudinal study involves observation and experimentation of the same variables over an extended period of time. Some longitudinal studies can last decades depending on what researchers are trying to accomplish.
Correct Answer: zygote, morula, blastocyst, embryo, fetus
Explanation: Okay, human biology is overwhelming when words like “zygote” and “morula” are thrown at you. A zygote is a single-celled organism, and as cells divide and the egg implants on the uterine wall the name of the organism changes. Just remember that you don't have to know everything about fetal development. However, you should probably study up on fertilization and egg development since it is the actual basis for human development.
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.
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.
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.