Western Civilization I

Western Civilization traces it roots from Greek antiquity to the present day. From Ancient Greece and the Roman empire, to the rise of Christendom and the transforming eras of the Renaissance and Reformation, Europe emerged prepared establish the modern era and become one of the dominant cultures of the world.

The Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648 exam covers material that is usually taught in the first semester of a two-semester course in Western civilization. Students will need to have knowledge of the influence of the Greek, Roman, Medieval, Renaissance and Reformation eras which all lead to the birth of ‘modern’ Europe.

The exam will ask questions relating to historical terms, historical figures and their notable actions, or understanding the cause and effect between historical events. The student may be asked questions about a literary passage, map, picture or graph.

The exam contains approximately 120 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.

The Western Civilization I 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).


  • Understanding important factual knowledge of developments in Western civilization
  • Ability to identify the causes and effects of major historical events
  • Ability to analyze, interpret, and evaluate textual and graphic historical materials
  • Ability to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant
  • Ability to reach conclusions on the basis of facts

The subject matter of the exam is drawn from the following topics.

ANCIENT NEAR EAST: 8-10% of the exam

The Fertile Crescent is known as the cradle of civilization whose region includes the modern day countries of Iraq, Syria, lebanon, Jordan, israel, Palestine Egypt and parts of Turkey and Iran.

  • Political evolution
  • Religion, culture, and technical developments in and near the Fertile Crescent


Ancient Greece has heavily influenced Western cultures in the areas of politics, philosophy, the arts, literature, science and language. Its legacy is foundational to European civilization.

  • Political evolution to Periclean Athens
  • Periclean Athens through the Peloponnesian Wars
  • Culture, religion, and thought of Ancient Greece
  • The Hellenistic political structure
  • The culture, religion, and thought of Hellenistic Greece

ANCIENT ROME: 15-17% of the exam

Ancient Rome was a civilization that rose along the Italian Peninsula, centered on the city of Rome. Its Empire was one of the largest of the ancient world, encompassing much of Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa.

  • Political evolution of the Republic and of the Empire (economic and geographical context)
  • Roman thought and culture
  • Early Christianity
  • The Germanic invasions
  • The late empire

MEDIEVAL HISTORY: 23-27% of the exam

The Middle Ages are commonly dated from the fall of the Roman Empire to the 15th century. It is marked by the rise of power of the Catholic Church and feudalism.

  • Byzantium and Islam
  • Early medieval politics and culture through Charlemagne
  • Feudal and manorial institutions
  • The medieval Church
  • Medieval thought and culture
  • Rise of the towns and changing economic forms
  • Feudal monarchies
  • The late medieval church

RENAISSANCE and REFORMATION: 13-17% of the exam

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that heavily influenced literature, philosophy, the arts, politics, science and religion. The Protestant Reformation began as a schism from the Roman Catholic Church and directly changed the politics and power structures throughout Europe.

  • The Renaissance in Italy
  • The Renaissance outside Italy
  • The New Monarchies
  • Protestantism and Catholicism reformed and reorganized

EARLY MODERN EUROPE, 1560-1648: 10-15% of the exam

The early modern period in European history saw the rise of secularized civic politics and the nation state.

  • The opening of the Atlantic
  • The Commercial Revolution
  • Dynastic and religious conflicts
  • Thought and culture

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.