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So you’re thinking about taking the Information Systems CLEP exam? Awesome! Here’s what you need to know.

When most people hear of information systems, especially with regards to tests and examinations, they tend to imagine the most difficult technical questions possible being asked. Even though it is not necessarily a walk in the park, it is not impossible either, with proper preparation, anyone can pass the examination and get a decent grade. The information systems examination focuses on evaluating the learner’s understanding of knowledge, terminologies, fundamental concepts about information systems and the application of the knowledge.

Information Systems
Study Guide

The examination focuses on seven primary sections listed below:

  • Office applications (10%)

    This section focuses on the fundamental utilities in an information system including productivity software such as word processors, office systems such as conferencing and collaboration platforms and operating systems. Most people have a decent understanding of productivity software, but only a few have a good grasp of operating systems and office systems. The best way to get a good grasp of productivity software is to go through some practical tutorials to understand the basic concepts. For operating systems, you will need to do a bit of reading on types of operating systems, types of memory and memory management in a computer system. You will also need to read on how computers manage files and what interfaces operating systems have. Additionally, you should also look at office/work systems such as email, and conferencing platforms; understand how they work and their application and relevance to daily tasks or operations.

  • Internet and the World Wide Web (15%)

    Most people today use the internet so am sure a good number of the questions here will be natural. Nevertheless, it would be good if you read well on a couple of topics. Key topics to read up on include web protocols such as HTTP and HTTPS, cloud computing concepts such as types of clouds and the different types of cloud computing concepts and solutions available. You should also read on how browsers work and understand browser related aspects like cookies, URLs and industry standards. Finally, make a point of reading on web technologies and website technologies. Understand technologies such as HTML, XML, JavaScript, and CSS. You should also have a good understanding of analysis, design, and functionality with regards to web development.

  • Technology Applications (15%)

    This is not meant to scare you, but this section covers a broad section of subjects and therefore will require you to sharpen your knowledge in many sections. You will need to understand e-commerce concepts and business models. You will need to know about a bit about enterprise systems such as ERPs and CRMs. You will also have to read up on business strategies and understand concepts like process modeling and quality management. Additionally, learning about data management dimensions such as data warehousing and mining, storage, networking, and security will go a long way in getting your ready for this section. And finally, an understanding of information processing techniques such as batch and real-time processing will be critical.

  • Hardware and Systems Technology (15%)

    This section evaluates your understanding of the physical components of information systems and their related dimensions. You will be examined on various types of devices and the category under which they fall in the information system ecosystem. An understanding of network architectures and wireless technologies will be required. Don’t fret, you will not be asked about wavelengths and spectrums, but a high-level understanding of these technologies will go a long way in helping to get you ready for your test. For this section you will also need to learn about computer architectures such as client/server setups and mainframes; and the functions of the main components (computer, network hardware, telecommunication hardware) that make up an information system.

  • Software Development (10%)

    Am sure you are now thinking about how you are going to have to learn to code and understand one or more programming languages to pass this section. But don’t let the title fool you, this segment just requires you to have an understanding of the frameworks and process that go into the software development process. You will need to know about software development methodologies such as SDLC, Agile, JAD and a few others. The software development processes of feasibility study, analysis, design, development and project management will also have to familiar to you. Furthermore, you will need to understand software implementation techniques and post-implementation activities and reviews. Finally, you will need to read up on the two software distribution standards, the proprietary model and the open source model.

  • Programming Concepts and Data Management (10%)

    This section delves a little deeper into software development. The segment explores programming logic and its concepts such as Boolean operations, arithmetic operations and structured query language (SQL). You will need to learn about conventional programming methodologies such as structured programming and the object-oriented model. You will need to research on many concepts relating to data including, types, structures, and representation. Another area interest in this segment is database management systems. You should make a point of reading up on relational databases, hierarchical databases, networking and database management strategies. Last but not least, you will need to know about file types and file structures.

  • Social and Ethical Implications (25%)

    This individual segment carries a quarter of the total marks in the exam. To score highly in this segment, you will need to understand many different concepts. You will need to appreciate the economic effects of information systems by looking at issues such as transactional security, viruses and malware and the cost of security. You will also need to have a reasonable understanding of privacy concerns and property rights. The segment will touch on the effects of information technology on jobs and workforce strategies in the society. You will need to know about computer security and controls relating to system applications, personal computers, and disaster recovery strategies. To wrap it up, you will also need to understand social networking, the technology that powers it, its benefits, risks, and ethical issues.

Information Systems
Practice Quiz

Ready to give it a shot?  Dive into the 10 question quiz below to get a feel for how prepared you are! Once you’ve written down your answers, hover over (or tap on a phone) the question to see the answers and explanations.

Please do keep in mind that we can’t guarantee the accuracy of this quiz, so we do recommend you also run through a full-length practice exam.  The CollegeBoard offers a good one that we’ll share in the resources section below.

Q1: What is a browser cookie?

a) The bookmarks button on a browser.
b) A small piece of information that a browser stores on your machine.
c) Temporary storage of web documents
d) A browser’s history.

Answer: (b) A small piece of information that a browser stores on your machine.

Cookies are small bits of information kept on a user’s machine during browsing to store various types of information about the user’s browsing session. The standard uses of cookies are storage of login state information, storage of user’s preferences on websites and personalized content.

Q2: The best protocol for transferring files is…

a) FTP
c) DNS

Answer (a) FTP.

From the list above, the file transfer protocol (FTP) is the best for file transfers. FTP uses the client-server model to facilitate the transfer of files from one computer to another. The source computer acts as the server while the destination computer serves as the client.

Q3: A _______________ is a computer application for analysis and tabular storage of data.

a) Word processor
b) Publisher
c) Spreadsheet
d) SQL

Answer (c) Spreadsheet.

A spreadsheet is an office productivity application that enables users to organize, store and analyze data in tabular form. One of the most common spreadsheet applications in the market today is Microsoft’s Excel.

Q4: Which of the following is not a web programming language?

b) C++
c) CSS
d) JavaScript

Answer (b) C++.

C++ is a general-purpose programming language that is used mostly for developing desktop applications and other backend systems. The Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard programming language for developing web pages. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is used to define the presentation (look and feel) of web pages. JavaScript, on the other hand, is used to add interactivity to web pages.

Q5: Software whose source code is made available with a license that allows the study, change, and distribution of the said software freely is said to be?

a) Freemium
b) Off-the-shelf.
c) Custom
d) Open-source

Answer (d) Open-source.

Open-source software is computer software whose source code has been made freely available to the public by the copyrights holder with rights to study, modify and redistribute. The open source software movement has made significant contributions to the advancement of information technology through many collaborative and private software creation initiatives. Some of the most popular open source licenses include the Apache License 2.0, the MIT license, the Mozilla Public License 2.0 and GNU General Public License (GPL).

Q6: Which of the following is not a form of wireless technology?

a) Bluetooth
b) NFC
d) Infrared

Answer (c) FDDI.

The Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) is not a wireless network technology because it is a network setup standard that uses optical fiber. It is based on the token ring topology and is mainly used as a backbone network in wide area network (WAN) setups.

Q7: A specialized system used for capturing, storing, analyzing, managing and displaying geographical data is called…

a) BI system.
b) MIS system.
c) CRM system
d) GIS system

Answer (d) GIS System.

A geographic information system is used for collecting, storing, manipulating, analyzing and presenting spatial data. GIS information can be used in many different industries including management, insurance, engineering and transport and logistics.

Q8: ________ is a technology used to secure websites and web applications using encryption certificates.

a) SSL
b) FTP

Answer (a) SSL.

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology provides mechanisms for securing web communications by encrypting data being transmitted from one point to another. The technology works using an SSL certificate and two cryptographic keys, one public and one private. The technology is mainly deployed on e-commerce websites and other high-security platforms to safeguard the user and company information.

Q9: What is the difference between a spreadsheet and a word processor?

a) Spreadsheets are used to manage numeric data and run formulas and calculations on the data while Word processors allow users to compose documents such as letters and memos.
b) Spreadsheets are used to manage relational database while a word processor is used for tabulation, storage, and manipulation of numeric data.
c) Spreadsheets are used for data storage while word processors are used for designing publications.
d) Spreadsheets are used for broadcasting audio and video content while Word processors are used for editing video and audio content.

Answer (a) Spreadsheets are used to manage numeric data and run formulas and calculations on the data while Word processors allow users to compose documents such as letters and memos.

In today’s environment, spreadsheets are mainly used to manage, analyze and present datasets. In many cases, spreadsheets and word processors come as separate applications in one software suite. A good example is the Microsoft Office suite which has Microsoft Word as its word processor and Microsoft Excel as its spreadsheet application.

Q10: __________ is an architecture where many computers request and receive resources from a centralized computer.

a) Mainframe
b) Client-Server
c) Workstation
d) Peer-to-peer

Answer (b) Client-server.

Client-server architecture is a computing model in which one central computer with a high amount resources serves multiple requests from other connected computers with fewer resources. An excellent example of such a scenario is a web server. A web server hosts a website or web application that gets requests for different resources from multiple clients. Other examples of setups that adopt this model include print servers, file servers, and proxy servers.

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 Information Systems: 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 Information Systems 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.