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If you are fascinated by different cultures and are considering learning more about the world around you by taking the Introduction to World Religions course, here are the basics that you will need to know.

This 100-question exam has been designed to be like a freshman single semester course. It’s a basic introduction into World Religions and will give you a flavour of the content, structure, and assessment.

The most important questions of what exactly is a religion and why people worship will be discussed before moving on to more concrete topics like the first religions, major religions of Asia, the Abrahamic faiths, and modern religious movements. If you want to learn about why people believe in different things and to figure out what makes religions tick, then this is the course for you!

Introduction To World Religions
Study Guide

Although many of us are already familiar with some form of religion, whether it’s going to your local church on Sunday or hearing about your friend’s Bar Mitzvah, Introduction to World Religions will help you to dive into the complexity of human life and experience in every corner of the world. Introduction to World Religions will give you the opportunity to take a step back from personal faith and try to examine religions with an unbiased eye.

The exam will be based on information from these 11 sections:

  • (5%) Definitions and Origins Of Religion

    This introductory section will get you thinking about what exactly is a religion and how can we define it. It will look into what are the most important parts of religion and faith such as ethics, rituals, and teachings. You will also examine the different ways that scholars have approached the issues surrounding religion and faith over the centuries.

  • (5%) Indigenous Religions

    Indigenous religions are religious that are usually only associated with one particular area and people. Examples of this include the native religions of the American Indian peoples in both North and South America, as well as the religions found in West Africa. In this section we will look at how the ancient Canaanite and Mesopotamian religions of the Middle East went on to influence the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

  • (11%) Hinduism

    Hinduism isn’t so much a name for the religion practiced in India, but is better seen as a name for the many different but closely related religions practiced in India. This section will look at the many different forms of Hinduism as well as the ancient practices of yoga, meditation and the colourful religious festivals like Diwali that have become popular in the Western World.

  • (11%) Buddhism

    Buddhism is a religion that many of us feel familiar with. But scratch beyond the surface and you will find a complex and beautiful ancient religion. Starting with the life of the Buddha, the history and development of the three major traditions of Buddhism will be examined. The fascinating collection of practices and beliefs that are found all over East Asia from India to Japan will also be discussed.

  • (6%) Confucianism

    Confucianism is an ancient philosophical and religious tradition from China, founded by the great teacher Confucius. It has been hugely influential all over East Asia, and is an important part of many Asian cultures today. This section of the course will look into the turbulent and violent time period that Confucius was born into and how it affected his teachings on ritual and proper behaviour in relationship.

  • (4%) Daoism

    Daoism is a Chinese religion and philosophy that began at the same time as Confucianism. The founder Laozi was famous for riding around on a water buffalo! Daoism is quite different to any Western religion because of its teaching of ‘inaction’ which are all really about going with the flow. Daoist religious ideas will be examined as a well it’s ancient religious book, the Tao Te Ching which can be read in about two hours, but discussed for a lifetime.

  • (4%) Shintoism

    Shintoism is the ancient native religion of Japan. Unlike a lot of other religions on this course, it has no founder, no start date, and no commonly agreed upon holy books. Nevertheless, it’s emphasis on cleanliness, respect for nature, and caring for others has had an enormous impact on Japanese society and culture that can still be seen today. If you’ve ever watched any Anime, you’ve seen Shinto ideas! This section will examine the ancient traditions and beliefs of Shintoism.

  • (11%) Judaism

    Judaism is the oldest of the three Abrahamic faiths. It’s founder Abraham is considered by these religions to be the first person to worship the one true God. Although it is a relatively small religion of 14 million people, the impact of Ancient Judaism is enormous and there is a huge diversity of beliefs and practices within the faith. The holy books of Judaism, their lively festivals, and ancient practices will be examined, as will the traumatic tragedy of the Holocaust and the impact of modern Judaism.

  • (18%) Christianity

    Christianity is the world’s largest religion and undoubtedly the most influential in the Western World. This section will look into the life of Jesus of Nazareth and how Christianity developed quickly despite violent suppression by the Roman Empire. The wide variety of major traditions and beliefs within Christianity from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism will be discussed as will the highly influential holy book that is unique to Christianity, the New Testament.

  • (16%) Islam

    Islam is the world’s second largest religion with about 1.8 billion followers, and is the youngest of the Abrahamic faiths. It’s founder Muhammad is remembered for his message of taking care of the poor and weak, and convincing people to worship the one true God. This section will examine how Muhammad overcame his difficult upbringing to preach the teachings of Islam and spread the importance of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam. The festivals, beliefs, and practices of Islam such as Ramadan will also be discussed.

  • (9%) New Religious Movements and Syncretism

    The final section will look at Syncretism which is when a new religion is formed out of teachings and practices from older different religions. The ancient faiths of Jainism of India and Zoroastrianism of Persia will be examined. More modern religions like Sikhism and the Bahá’í faith will also be discussed as will new religious movements like Mormonism, Scientology, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Introduction To World Religions
Practice Quiz

Do you feel confident to give the practice test a try? The format of the test will be nice and familiar for most as it will be multiple-choice with only one correct answer. When you write your answer make sure to tap (or hover over) the question to give you the answer and an explanation.

All test questions are in a multiple-choice format, with one correct answer and three incorrect options. The following are samples of the types of questions that may appear on the exam.

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.  We’ll recommend some good options in the resources section at the bottom of this page.

Question 1: What is the title for the head of the Roman Catholic Church?

a) The Pope
b) The Vicar of Mary
c) The Great Father
d) The Teacher

Answer: b) The Pope

The head of the Roman Catholic Church is the bishop of Rome but you might know him better as the Pope. The current Pope is Pope Francis who was born in Argentina. He is the first Pope to have been born outside of Europe in over 1000 years! He is considered the spiritual leader to over 1.2 billion Catholics all around the world.

Question 2: The Buddha taught that people can achieve enlightenment if they follow the…

a) The Fourfold Path
b) The Sevenfold Path
c) The Eightfold Path
d) The Tenfold Path

Answer: c) The Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path is the Buddhist guide to end suffering. It gives eight different areas we must concentrate on to reach enlightenment. Buddhists use the Dharma Wheel to teach the Path and remind themselves of it. You might have seen the Dharma Wheel before in pictures and drawings because is one of the most important symbols of Buddhism.

Question 3: Jesus Christ was born in…

a) The country of Iraq
b) The country of Iran
c) The Province of Palestine
d) The City of Rome

Answer: c) Palestine

Jesus of Nazareth was born a province of the Ancient Roman Empire called Palestine. The Romans conquered Jesus’ homeland a few decades before he was born. Most Jewish people hated living under the Romans and there were constant rebellions. The Monty Python film ‘The Life of Brian’ pokes fun at how the Jewish people viewed the Roman Empire.

Question 4: The Adi Granth is the holy text of which faith?

a) Hinduism
b) Sikhism
c) Mormonism
d) Confucianism

Answer: b) Sikhism

The Adi Granth is the sacred text of Sikhism. It is also known as the Guru Granth Sahib because Sikhs consider it to be like an eternal living guru. A guru is a holy teacher. Sikhs call their sacred text a guru because they believe that it gives them constant guidance and help in their personal and spiritual lives. The book is very sacred and is kept on a special platform like a throne.

Question 5: The holiest day of the Jewish year is…

a) Rosh Hashanah
b) Hanukkah
c) Pesach
d) Yom Kippur

Answer: d) Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish Year. It is also known as the Day of Atonement because this is the day that all Jewish people are to atone for the sins to God and to other people throughout the year. Jewish show their commitment to atonement by fasting for the day and going to a special service at the synagogue.

Question 6: Which of these is one of the five pillars of Islam?

a) Fasting at Ramadan
b) Attending the Mosque every Friday
c) Helping family.
d) Reading the Quran everyday

Answer: a) Fasting at Ramadan.

Although the other answers are some things that many Muslims do every day, only fasting at Ramadan is one of the Pillars of Islam. During Ramadan Muslims do not eat during daylight hours for 29-30 days depending on the year. Usually it makes people very grumpy! Children, the elderly, the sick, and pregnant women do not have to fast.

Question 7: In what language were the Tripitaka written in?

a) Sanskrit
b) Pali
c) Urdu
d) Tamil

Answer: b) Pali

The Tripitaka (this word means ‘three baskets’ because that’s where the scrolls were kept in by the first Buddhist monks) is the oldest sacred writings of Buddhism. They are also known as the Tipitaka or the Pali Canon because of the language they were written in. Pali is an ancient language from India. This one is easy to remember if you know that ‘tri’ means three!

Question 8: What story is found in ancient Mesopotamian writings and in the Old Testament?

a) The Great Flood
b) The Garden of Eden
c) The Tower of Babel
d) The Battle of Jericho

Answer: a) The Great Flood

The Great Flood is a story that is found in Ancient Mesopotamian writings. The Epic of Gilgamesh tell a story about how the gods sent a great flood to destroy humanity for their sins. Although this story does not include Noah and the Ark and other familiar elements found in the Old Testament story, it shows how the stories are related to one another and how they possibly all descended from a single prehistoric event or common religion.

Question 9: For most Christian denominations, how do new converts become a Christian and join the church?

a) Confirmation at the age of 12.
b) Being born into a religious family.
c) Baptism at any age.
d) Baptism as a small baby.

Answer: c) Baptism at any age

Baptism can be received by babies, children, or adults at any stage of their lives. Although faith is an important element, for most Christian denominations baptism is the only way to become a Christian. Although this is the belief held by the majority of Christian denominations, not all Christians agree with this idea however, and some reject baptism all together and argue that it is only your belief in God and His son that makes you a Christian.

Question 10: Which of these Hindu divine beings is usually shown as a female in art?

a) Shiva
b) Vishnu
c) Ganesha
d) Kali

Answer: d) Kali

The Hindu divine being Kali is usually shown as a female in pictures and sculptures. Often, she is shown with black or blue skin and with several arms, all with their own special objects. Many people view her as the goddess of death and destruction, but she is also seen as a goddess of liberation who will help the weak. She is often depicted with her tongue sticking out and covered in blood!

More DSST Study Resources

Are you at the beginning of your study process, or just looking for a couple more practice questions to finish prepping for your exam? In either case, you can find some of my favorite resources below. Some of the links below are affiliate (Amazon for instance), which means they’ll pay us a few bucks for every purchase through the link. Feel free to use those links if you want to support the site, but you can also just Google the title or pick the book up at your local library.

Official DSST Practice Test: Ok, so the DSST website isn’t the most inviting, but it will give you the best approximation of the real exam experience. Also, the official practice test is quite affordable (currently just $5 per practice exam).

Mometrix DSST Intro To World Religions: Textbooks are great as far as they go, but I’d generally recommend you opt for the Mometrix guide instead. It tends to cut through the confusion and help you accelerate your learning process.

InstantCert Academy: Another website with a very dated design, but as ancient as it looks, this is actually an incredibly valuable resource. Basically, you get a massive set of flashcards that you can use to learn World Religions and to really solidify that knowledge so you’re ready for the exam.

Plenty of other resources exist – just do a quick internet search – but these are a fantastic start, and probably all you really need. I’ve personally done some exams with just InstantCert and the official practice test.

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