Humanities is the study of human culture as shown through philosophy, architecture, literature, music, religion and art. Essentially, the humanities explore what makes us human by learning about what cultures have created and believed throughout history.

The Humanities exam covers a broad range of topics to test general knowledge of philosophy, art, architecture, performing arts (music, dance, film and theatre) and literature (poetry and prose). Specific information will be tested. The examinee will demonstrate their understanding of the humanities through the application of concepts. The analysis and interpretation of meaning in various works of art and literature will be tested.

The Humanities exam pulls from primarily Western history from the Classical period through the 20th centuries. (Includes the Medieval and Renaissance eras, and 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.) Approximately 5-10% of the exam relates to other cultures: African, Asian and Latin American. Students can expect some questions to cross disciplines and/or chronological periods. Knowledge of terminology, genre and style will be tested.

The humanities exam uses the current identification for chronology of b.c.e. (before the common era) and c.e. (common era) to replace the previous use of b.c. (before Christ) and a.d. (anno Domini).

The exam contains approximately 140 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. The College Board provides the parameters for the exam which we have listed below.


  • Knowledge of factual information (authors, works, etc.) (50% of the exam)
  • Recognition of techniques such as rhyme scheme, medium, and matters of style, and the ability to identify them as characteristics of certain writers, artists, schools, or periods (30% of the exam)
  • Understanding and interpretation of literary passages and art reproductions that are likely to be unfamiliar to most students (20% of the exam)

The subject matter of the Humanities exam is drawn from the following topics classified into two main categories.

LITERATURE: 50% of the exam

  • Drama 10%
  • Poetry 10% – 15%
  • Fiction 15% – 20%
  • Nonfiction (including philosophy) 10%

THE ARTS: 50% of the exam

  • Visual Arts: Painting, Sculpture, etc. 20%
  • Visual Arts: Architecture 5%
  • Performing Arts: Music 15%
  • Performing Arts: Film, Dance, etc. 10%

Each college sets their own credit-granting policies for the exam, so check with your college admissions office, test center, or academic adviser before taking the test.