DSST Art of the Western World Study Guide

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DSST Art of the Western World Study Guide

Some institutions will accept students' life experiences as college credit. In order to obtain this credit, candidates may need to pass one or more of the Defense Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). For those wishing to earn credit in the field of art, this may mean taking the exam for the DSST Art of the Western World. This test will examine candidates' knowledge of the field with 100 questions. They will have 2 hours to finish the DSST test. There will also be some pretest questions that will not be included in the DSST test scores. Questions are spread across 10 different content areas that cover various art periods, including the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and early twentieth century. Find out more about each content area with the DSST Art of the Western World study guide below.

Content Areas % of Questions
Ancient World 15% (≈ 15 questions)
Middle Ages 12% (≈ 12 questions)
Renaissance 15% (≈ 15 questions)
Baroque 10% (≈ 10 questions)
Rococo and Neoclassicism 9% (≈ 9 questions)
Romanticism and Realism 8% (≈ 8 questions)
Impressionism and Post-Impressionism 8% (≈ 8 questions)
Early Twentieth Century 12% (≈ 12 questions)
Postwar to Postmodern 6% (≈ 6 questions)
Contemporary 5% (≈ 5 questions)
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Ancient World

The first content area of the DSST Art of the Western World exam will test candidates' knowledge of art from the ancient world. They will need to understand the language that is used to describe art from this period. They must know about the genres and styles of art from specific areas of the ancient world, including Rome and Egypt.

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Middle Ages

Test takers need to understand the different artistic styles and genres that developed during the Middle Ages. Questions may ask about pieces or motifs from the styles of Early Christian to Byzantine. They should also be aware of the Gothic style and terminology used to describe art from the Middle Ages.

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Questions about art from the Renaissance period will focus specifically on art from Italy and Northern Europe. Examinees will need knowledge of the artistic methods and terminology used to describe art from 15th and 16th-century Italy. They must also know the artists and characteristics of the art from 15th and 16th-century Northern Europe.


Candidates will be evaluated on their familiarity with the artists and features of art from the Baroque period. They should be able to describe pieces using correct language and terminology and know specifically about art from Spain to Italy during this time. Questions may also explore topics in art from Holland and Flanders.

Rococo and Neoclassicism

Test takers will need to know how to identify techniques and methods used to create art in the Rococo and Neoclassical periods. They must be aware of key artists from this period and be able to describe the different genres and styles that developed over this time.

Romanticism and Realism

The periods of Romanticism and Realism will be tested on the DSST Art of the Western World exam. Examinees will have to understand the characteristics of pieces from this period and be able to describe the work of major artists. They should be familiar with artistic terminology from the periods as well.

Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

For the periods of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, candidates should be prepared to answer questions about artists and styles of the time periods. They need to understand the methods used to make art during these periods and the correct language used to describe this kind of art.

Early Twentieth Century

Test takers must be able to identify artistic styles and pieces from the early twentieth century. Specifically, they need to know about the emergence of Modernism and the characteristics of art from this time. They also need to be familiar with artists, terminology, and pieces of art from the art that developed between the two World Wars.

Postwar to Postmodern

Questions on the DSST Art of the Western World exam will also test examinees' understanding of art from the postwar period to the postmodern era. They must know about the various genres that developed, the language used to describe art from this time, and key figures who rose to fame.


Finally, candidates will need to answer questions that explore the artwork and artists of the Contemporary period. They should know how to identify pieces from specific artists and describe artwork with accurate terminology. They need to be aware of the characteristics of art and techniques that exemplify this period.

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