American Government

Course is recommended for college credit by the American Council on Education's Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT)



American Government
Course is recommended for college credit by the American Council on Education's Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT)

In many ways, our government provides the basis for many things we deal with in our everyday lives. From paying taxes to providing critical services, the government affects us in many ways.

So, it’s important to have a solid base of knowledge about how the government runs, its individual pieces, and even the history of how it was formed. Introduction to American Government gives keen insight into all these topics, and more.  

Of course, no American Government course would be complete without the nuts and bolts of how the government works. This course details everything you need to know about the inner workings of the federal bureaucracy. It looks at how leaders are elected House, Senate, and president and their important tasks once they’re in office’ everything from how a bill becomes a law, to how the president uses the media, and how interest groups wield influence.

Having knowledge of our government’s history and how it works today is crucial. Introduction to American Government provides this knowledge, and a solid base for further study on the topic.

In the course you will learn how our government was established, how it functions, and much more!

American Government
Sample Syllabus Sections 1 & 2


1.1 Should We Care About Politics? - America is still rather young, in the scheme of world politics. But even in this relatively short time, we’ve seen many changes that get to the heart of why politics is so important.

1.2 Democracy and Everyday Life - What is Democracy?

1.3 Making Democracy Practical - Do the democratic ideals that our politicians tend to praise really work in America? Does the government act inappropriately, simply because its principles don’t fully translate to real world conditions?

1.4 Buying in to Authority - For a democracy—or any political system—to function effectively, we have to buy in to the basic principles it’s based on. That’s not always so automatic, especially in a large and diverse country like ours where we often disagree on what government should do and even on what society should look like.

1.5 Inherited Legitimacy - If you’re the type of person who thinks governors should wear suits (or at least shirts), then seeing Ventura in feathers might make you respect him less as governor. Although that does nothing to undermine his formal authority to act as governor, it could diminish his legitimacy, the widespread acceptance of his actions.

1.6 Earned Legitimacy - In order for our elected officials to act effectively—whether it be in addressing terrorist threats or trying to get Congress to approve a budget—we have to accept their actions as appropriate, even if we don’t always approve of them.

1.7 Power Surge - The ideas of authority and legitimacy—two of the most important principles in any type of government—are based on the concept of power.

1.8 Facts and Judgments - When we evaluate data or information, we make empirical or factual observations about the world around us.

1.9 Pluralism vs. Elitism - Everyone has resources—which are an integral component of power and, therefore, politics. But some people have more resources than others, and this affects the political process.

1.10 Equality - Would it have been different if you and everyone else had been given the choice to stay in class or go?

1.11 Social and Economic Equality - Some countries, like Norway and Sweden, place more emphasis on the equality of outcome—through the ideas of economic Some countries, like Norway and Sweden, place more emphasis on the equality of an outcome than the United States does. These countries are more likely to make choices that value economic and social equality.

1.12 Liberty and Equality - How much of your income would you be willing to pay in taxes if you received government benefits in return? Twenty percent? Thirty? Fifty? Eighty?

1.13 Liberty and Social Responsibility - We’re constantly faced with situations where we are asked voluntarily by others or involuntarily by government to give up some of our liberty to act in order to benefit others.


2.1 Background for Revolution - For the better part of a hundred and fifty years, the British colonies in North America were allowed to rule themselves, to a certain degree. But, after a while, this situation became untenable, and led to revolution.

2.2 Ground Rules for Revolution - Think back for a second to grade school. Try to remember what your classroom and playground felt like. For many, these places provided our first encounter with rules and structures in social situations.

2.3 Ground Rules for Independence - What gave Americans the right to separate from Great Britain? Those in favor of the Revolution believed the British had forfeited their right to govern the colonies when they began to deny colonists their liberty.

2.4 The Articles of Confederation - Shortly after declaring independence, the colonists realized that they needed to consider where to go from here. So, the Continental Congress started to create a framework for collective government.

2.5 The Constitutional Convention - The structure of the first U.S. government, as it was established under the Articles of Confederation, turned out to be a bit problematic for the new nation. Most nations don’t establish a con federal system, where individual states create a weak central government that’s ultimately subservient to the states.

2.6 State Plans - Despite widespread support to modify the Articles of Confederation, the convention nearly fell apart over two central issues: large versus small state representation in the new federal government and the legality of slavery.

2.7 Safeguards of the Constitution - Some of the most important aspects of the U.S. Constitution are the safeguards it provides against any one person or organization having too much power over the country.

2.8 The Constitution—The Underpinnings of American Democracy - For something so important, the Constitution is a simple document. It consists of seven main sections—known as articles—and twenty-seven amendments, the first ten of which constitute the Bill of Rights.


3.1 This course contains 15 more sections teaching you about American Government, including Public Opinion, Political Culture, the Role of Mass Media, Political Parties, Campaigns and Elections, Interest Groups, the Branches of Government, Foreign and Domestic Policy. -

Sample Questions
Test Your Current Knowledge of American Government

CLEP American Government Exam Study Guide with Sample Questions

The following sample questions do not appear on an actual CLEP examination. These questions are intended to give test-takers an indication of the format and idea of what to study!

  1. personal investment
  2. ethics
  3. civil disobedience
  4. civic responsibility

  1. appellate jurisdiction
  2. final jurisdiction
  3. absolute jurisdiction
  4. original jurisdiction

  1. enforce laws
  2. pass laws
  3. interpret laws

  1. payroll taxes
  2. personal income taxes
  3. excise taxes
  4. corporate taxes

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Credit-by-Exam Prep Course

This American Government course contains 17 course units. Each unit is broken down into sections,which include educational videos, lecture notes, interactive quizzes and a quiz at the end of each section to get you ready to pass the CLEP exam and earn college credits.


ACE Course

Course + online, proctored final exam. Each course unit is broken down into sections, which include educational videos, lecture notes, interactive quizzes and a practice test at the end of each section. Be prepared to pass the final exam and earn college credits all at your own pace and on your own time!
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Practice Test

Buy our American Government practice exam with over 300 questions to test your knowledge and prepare yourself for the final exam.


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Example Lecture Videos

Campaigns and Elections

The Presidency