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1. About this Course

It reviews all of the substantive material that is usually taught in one-semester introductory course in American Government and politics at college. It covers topics such as the institutions and policy processes of the federal government, the federal courts and civil liberties, political parties and interest groups, political beliefs and behavior, and the content and history of the Constitution.

"I’ll be teaching you everything you need to know about American Government in order to pass the CLEP exam, earn college credits, and move on to upper level undergraduate courses in Political Science if you so choose. This thorough background in American Government also will give you a greater understanding of the news on politics and the government that you might get from the radio, TV, online or in print on a day-to-day basis. You’ll find out why the people around you and across the country vote the way they do. And hopefully with this additional knowledge, become part of the engaged citizenry that votes. You’ll become more aware of your rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights by the Framers of the Constitution, the rights that your predecessors have fought for, and the liberties you’re entitled to," explains our instructor, Professor Rebecca Lubot, currently with the Department of History at Rutgers University.

The exam contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

Our “American Government” course is completely self-paced. There are no prerequisites to take this course, and it is entirely free.

The goal of the creator of this course – Modern States Education Alliance, a non-profit organization – is to prepare you to pass the College Board's CLEP examination and obtain college credit for free.

2. Required Knowledge and Skills

The CLEP exam requires you to demonstrate one or more of the following abilities in the proportions indicated.

  • Knowledge of American government and politics (about 55%–60% of the exam).

  • Understanding of typical patterns of political processes and behavior (including the components of the behavioral situation of a political actor), the principles used to explain or justify various governmental structures and procedures (about 30%–35% of the exam).

  • Analysis and interpretation of simple data that are relevant to American government and politics (10%–15% of the exam).

3. Course Modules

Following are the main topics and percentages of the exam’s questions, mostly based on the College Board's description of the course:


Module 1: Institutions and Policy Processes: The Presidency, Bureaucracy, and Congress (30 %–35 %)

  1.0 Introduction  

  1.1 Congress   

1.1.1 Congress’ Enumerated and Implied Powers

1.1.2 Congress’ Power to Tax

1.1.3 Congressional Organization, Rules, and Committees

  1.2 The President   

1.2.1 The President and his Powers

1.2.2 The Vice President and the First Lady

  1.3 The Bureaucracy   

1.3.1 Origins of the Bureaucracy

1.3.2 Bodies of the Bureaucracy

  1.4 Structure, Policy Processes, and Outputs: How Legislation Works   

  1.5 Relationships Among These Institutions and the Links Between Them   

1.5.1 The Relationships Between Institutions and the Media

1.5.2 The Role and Types of Media

  1.6 Readings


Module 2: Federal Courts, Civil Liberties, and Civil Rights (15 %–20 %)

  2.0 Introduction

  2.1 Structure and Processes of the Judicial System   

2.1.1 The Supreme Court

2.1.2 Judicial Implementation and the Lower Federal Courts

  2.2 The Development of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties by Judicial Implementation   

  2.3 The Bill of Rights   

  2.4 Incorporation of the Bill of Rights   

  2.5 Equal Protection and Due Process   

  2.6 Readings


Module 3: Political Parties and Interest Groups (10 %–20 %)

  3.0 Introduction   

  3.1 Political Parties   

3.1.1 Political Parties’ Historical Development, Function, and Effects

3.1.2 Political Parties Organization and Mobilization: Campaign Finance 

3.1.3 Dissension within the Parties

3.1.4 The Role and Nature of Third Parties and the Major Third Parties

  3.2 Interest Groups   

3.2.1 Defining and Differentiating Between Interest Groups

3.2.2 Laws Governing Lobbyists

  3.3 Elections   

  3.4 Readings


Module 4: Political Beliefs and Behavior (15 %–20 %)

  4.0 Introduction

  4.1 Processes By Which Citizens Learn About Politics   

  4.2 Political Participation   

  4.3 Public Opinion   

  4.4 Beliefs That Citizens Hold About Governments and Its Leaders   

  4.5 Political Culture   

  4.6 The Influence of Public Opinion on Political Leaders 

  4.7 Readings  


Module 5: Constitutional Underpinnings of American Democracy (15 %–20 %)

  5.0 Introduction  

  5.1 Federalism   

5.1.1 Federalism in the Constitution

5.1.2 Types of Federalism

5.1.3 Tensions Between Federal and State Governments 

  5.2 Separation of Powers   

  5.3 Checks and Balances   

  5.4 Majority Rule   

  5.5 Minority Rights   

  5.6 Considerations that Influenced the Formation and Adoption of the Constitution   

5.6.1 Breaking From the British Empire

5.6.2 Philosophical Underpinnings of the National Government 

5.6.3 The Articles of Confederation

5.6.4 The National Founding

5.6.5 Ratification and Alteration of the Constitution

  5.7 Theories of Democracy   

  5.8 Readings


4. About Rebecca Lubot

Professor Rebecca Lubot teaches U.S. History and the History of American Foreign Affairs in the Federated Department of History at Rutgers University-Newark. She chose Rutgers-Newark not only because U.S. News and World Report rates it the #1 most diverse college campus in the country, but because Rutgers provides free tuition to Newark residents from low- and middle-income families. This segues with the mission of the "Freshman Year for Free" program, a philanthropic venture by the Modern States Education Alliance.

Rebecca is a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, with a defense date scheduled for September 2017. Her dissertation is a political and cultural history of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment (presidential succession and inability). This research interest stems from her professional background that began in the White House where she was an intern in the Domestic Policy Office of the Vice President. She then ran one of two counties for a U.S. Congressman’s campaign (achieving a 2:1 victory in that county and enabling him to become the first candidate reelected in that district in eight years). She was a legislative aide to a state senator, and a policy advisor to a U.S. senator. She was also the acting director for state affairs for a national nonprofit organization, doing direct lobbying and overseeing lobbyists at the state level across the country. She intends to return to higher education policy work with the goal of making college more accessible and affordable.

Rebecca holds a joint MSc in international history and international relations from The London School of Economics and Political Science in London, England. Majoring in political science, she graduated magna cum laude from Boston University.


5. How CLEP Works

Developed by the College Board, CLEP (College-Level Examination Program®) is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program.

CLEP’s credits are accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities, according to the College Board. These tests assess college-level knowledge in 33 subject areas.

Modern States Education Alliance is the non-profit organization behind these edX-style courses. Its project is called “Freshman Year for Free” and its mission is to make college more accessible and affordable through free, high-quality online education.

• CLEP® American Government: at a Glance

• 'Passing the CLEP and Learning with Modern States' orientation course