UCSB Santa Barbara Department of History logo

American History & Institutions Requirement | Exam Information

The American History and Institutions requirement is based on the principle that American students enrolled at an American university should have some knowledge of the history and government of their country. Students may meet this requirement in any one of the following ways:

  1. by previously achieving a score of 3 or higher on the College Board Advanced Placement Examination in American History or American Government and Politics; or
  2. by passing a non-credit examination in American history or American institutions, offered in the Department of History during the first week of each quarter for which there has been advance notice of student intent. Consult the department for further information; or
  3. by achieving a score of 650 or higher on the SAT: Subject Test in American History; or
  4. by completing one four-unit course from the approved list (see below).

This exam is used to fulfill the UCSB American History & Institutions General Education requirement. Please contact the History Undergraduate Advisor for specific questions and to register for the exam. The exam is graded Pass/Fail, though a Pass is understood to be a grade better than 75%. Students are permitted to sit for this exam no more than once. 

The current reading list to prepare for the examination can be found below. You must read and review all of the listed readings, and no sample exams are provided for reference.


  1. Howe, Daniel Walker. What hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815-1848. Oxford University Press, 2007.
  2. Kennedy, David M. Freedom from fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. Oxford University Press, 1999.
  3. McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War era. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  4. Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789. Oxford University Press, 2007.
  5. Patterson, James T. Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974. Oxford University Press, 1996.
  6. Patterson, James T. Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  7. Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America (The Penguin History of the United States, Volume 1). Penguin, 2002.
  8. White, Richard. The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896. Oxford University Press, 2017.
  9. Wood, Gordon S. Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Courses applicable to the American History and Institutions requirement are listed here:

Courses used to fulfill the American History and Institutions requirement may also be applied to General Education or major requirements, or both where appropriate. Equivalent courses taken at other accredited colleges or universities, in UC Extension, or in summer session may be acceptable. Students who transfer to UCSB from another campus of the University of California where the American History and Institutions Requirement has been considered satisfied will automatically fulfill the requirement at UCSB.

International students on a nonimmigrant visa may petition for a waiver of this requirement through the college of Letters and Science.