DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Study Guide

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DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction Study Guide

Candidates who have studied the Civil War and Reconstruction era on their own can take the Defense Subject Standardized Test (DSST) on The Civil War and Reconstruction to earn 3 lower-level college credits in the subject. On the day of the DSST test, examinees will have to answer 100 questions in 2 hours. The 100 questions on the exam include some pretest questions that will not be included in the DSST test scores. All of the questions fall into one of 7 different content areas that explore major aspects and dates of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Learn more about what will be tested in each content area using this Study Guide for DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction.

Content Areas % of Questions
Causes of the War 16% (≈ 16 questions)
1861 11% (≈ 11 questions)
1862 17% (≈ 17 questions)
1863 19% (≈ 19 questions)
1864 15% (≈ 15 questions)
1865 7% (≈ 7 questions)
Reconstruction 15% (≈ 15 questions)
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Causes of the War

The DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction exam will evaluate test takers' understanding of the various causes of the Civil War. They will need to know how the North and the South differed and how the South depended on the institution of slavery. They should be able to explain society as a whole in the United States during the mid-19th century and specifically the political issues during 1860. Questions in this content area will also explore aspects of the Anti-Slavery and Abolition movement. Candidates need to understand the issues associated with slavery and westward expansion as territories determined if they would be free or utilize slavery. Knowledge of specific events may also be tested, such as the raid on Harper's Ferry led by John Brown.

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Examinees will have to be familiar with the major events of 1861. They must be able to explain how succession occurred and the Confederacy formed. They need to be aware of the differences between the Confederate Army and the Union Army and Lincoln's call for volunteers. Questions may ask about specific locations, such as Fort Sumter, or specific battles, like the first battle at Bull Run. Examinees also need to be able to compare the differences in leadership styles between Lincoln and Davis.

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Questions covering the events of 1862 will test candidates' knowledge of major battles throughout this year and the general strategy taken by the South. Candidates must understand what was happening in the war in both the East and the West and be able to describe the political circumstances in the North and South. They need to be familiar with the different parts of and impact of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Test takers will need to demonstrate their awareness of the casualties of the Civil War up to and through 1863. This includes knowing the events of the major battles of this year and being familiar with the role that different groups played in the war. For instance, they should be able to explain how Black Americans and women participated.


The DSST The Civil War and Reconstruction test will examine topics of the Civil War from 1864. Examinees must know what the political atmosphere of the time was and what events were taking place during the war in both the East and the West.


Candidates will need to be familiar with several different events that took place in 1865, including Lee's surrender. They should know about the Fall of Richmond, Sherman's Carolina campaign, and how the Confederacy ended. Candidates will need to be able to describe and analyze the various costs of the Civil War. Questions may also ask about the assassination of Lincoln.


The final content area will explore topics in the period of Reconstruction. Test takers must know the different plans for Reconstruction that both the President and Congress had and how the Civil Rights Act was developed. They should be aware of the South's response to these different plans. They also need to understand the reconstruction of the military and how the end of Reconstruction came about.

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