Natural Sciences

“In nature's infinite book of secrecy a little I can read.” (William Shakespeare) . . . Natural Science is a branch of science focused on understanding the natural world. It covers a range of subjects divided into two broad categories: Life (or biological) Science and Physical Science.

The Natural Sciences exam covers a wide range of topics taught in a one semester course. Generally, the Natural Science CLEP exam will fulfill a science requirement for non-science majors. Covering the knowledge of many natural phenomena, the exam requires an understanding of the basic principles and concepts of science. Of interest, is the interdisciplinary aspect of the exam. Questions will occasionally address not just the ‘facts’ of science, but also the philosophy of science and its history and the relationship of science to addressing problems in our world.

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.


  • Knowledge of fundamental facts, concepts, and principles
  • Interpretation and comprehension of information presented in the form of graphs, diagrams, table, equations, or verbal passages
  • Qualitative and quantitative application of scientific principles, including applications based on material presented in the form of graphs, diagrams, tables, equations, or verbal passages; more emphasis is given to qualitative than quantitative applications

The subject matter of the Natural Sciences exam is drawn from the following topics classified into two main categories.

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE: 50% of the exam

Biological science is the study of living organisms.

  • Origin and evolution of life, classification of organisms (10%)
  • Cell organization, cell division, chemical nature of the gene, bioenergetics, biosynthesis (10%)
  • Structure, function, and development in organisms; patterns of heredity (20%)
  • Concepts of population biology with emphasis on ecology (10%)

PHYSICAL SCIENCE: 50% of the exam

Physical science is the study of the nature and properties of energy and nonliving matter.

  • Atomic and nuclear structure and properties, elementary particles, nuclear reactions ( 7%)
  • Chemical elements, compounds and reactions, molecular structure and bonding (10%)
  • Heat, thermodynamics, and states of matter; classical mechanics; relativity (12%)
  • Electricity and magnetism, waves, light, and sound ( 4%)
  • The universe: galaxies, stars, the solar system ( 7%)
  • The Earth: atmosphere, hydrosphere, structure features, geologic processes, and history ( 10%)

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.