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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.

Human Growth and Development
Study Guide

human growth and development clep

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:

  • Theoretical Perspectives (10%)

    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.

  • Research Strategies and Methodology (6%)

    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.

  • Biological Development Throughout the Life Span (12%)

    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.

  • Perceptual Development Throughout the Life Span (6%)

    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.

  • Cognitive Development Throughout the Life Span (12%)

    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.

  • Language Development (8%)

    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).

  • Intelligence Throughout the Life Span (6%)

    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.

  • Social Development Throughout the Life Span (12%)

    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.

  • Family, Home and Society Throughout the Lifespan (8%)

    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.

  • Personality and Emotion (8%)

    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.

  • Schooling Work and Intervention (6%)

    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.

  • Developmental Psychopathology (6%)

    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).

Human Growth and Development
Practice Quiz

Are you ready to see just how knowledgeable you are of Human Growth and Development? Take the following, 10-question quiz and find out. Click or tap on the answer bar to reveal the correct answer and explanation.

The following exam questions may or may not accurately reflect the CLEP exam content. We recommend using the official CollegeBoard practice test (linked below) for further review.

Question 1: Jean Piaget was known for what theory influencing the study of Human Growth and Development?

a) social interaction theory
b) cognitive development theory
c) behavioral theory
d) hierarchy of needs

Answer: B

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.

Question 2: From a research methods standpoint, what is true about the following statement?

Statement: “37 subjects participated in the study, which included intervention, pre- and post-intervention follow-ups over the next 10 years.”

a) This is a longitudinal study
b) This is a correlational study
c) This is a cross-sectional study
d) This refers to a qualitative case study

Answer: A

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.

Question 3: According to Bronfenbrenner’s theory of ecological systems, which term best describes the family:

a) Macrosystem
b) Exosystem
c) Microsystem
d) Chronosystem


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.

Question 4: What is “concrete operation” according to cognitive development theories?

a) the development of sensorimotor skills in infancy
b) the ability to understand abstract thought
c) the ability to create basic friendships
d) the development of logical thought


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.

Question 5: A person who can speak two languages is considered…

a) talented
b) foreign
c) bilingual
d) none of the above


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.

Question 6: In what order to the following structures go, from beginning stages of conception to implantation?

a) blastocyst, zygote, morula, embryo, fetus
b) embryo, blastocyst, zygote, morula, fetus
c) zygote, morula, blastocyst, embryo, fetus
d) None of the above options are in the right order


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.

Question 7: Kaitlyn is a student at Parker High School, a cashier at a local diner, a gymnast for a community team, and an aunt of 2 nephews. These would all be examples of…

a) tasks
b) roles
c) obligations
d) activities


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”.

Question 8: What disorder is characterized by periods of euphoria followed by depression?

a) Autism spectrum disorder
b) Bipolar Disorder Type 1
c) Cyclothymic disorder
d) Attachment disorder

Answer: B

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).

Question 9: The process by which a person or people explain behavior and events in the way in which they do is called:

a) emotional regulation
b) social development theory
c) attachment
d) attribution


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.

Question 10: Which of the following tests have been frequently used to measure intelligence?

a) Mini Mental State Exam
b) Stanford Binet Intelligence Quotient
c) Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale
d) B and C are both correct


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.

More CLEP 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: It’s quite short on the study side of things, but this is the go-to practice test bank.  I don’t think I’ve done a single CLEP test without taking the practice test in this book first.

REA CLEP Human Growth and Development: I’m not huge on reading, but this book series is fantastic if you’re into that kind of thing. It also includes some nifty online practice tests, though I always found the official practice tests (above) more reassuring.

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. Basically it’s a series of flashcards that help you learn about Human Growth 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.

Congrats on starting your CLEP study journey! Study hard, earn credit, and most of all remember to have fun.