What is CLEP? A Student’s Guide to Affordable College Credits

CLEP stands for College Level Examination Programs and is a convenient, more affordable way to get college credit without actually having to take the college course. When you take a CLEP test and pass it, you’ll be able to receive credit for the class like you would if you actually took the class for the whole semester. Though it may sound like it’s a great way to skip a ton of classes in college, we don’t suggest students use it in that way. If you want to get ahead on some college courses and test out of intro-level college course material you may already know, this is your guide to College Level Exam Programs!

Who should take the CLEP test?

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Taking a CLEP test is perfect for those who need to complete a prerequisite for a class that they already have a lot of knowledge about. For example, if you’re ready to take Calculus I in college and already took Pre-calculus in high school, your school may still require you to take pre-calculus again. If you still have that knowledge from pre-calculus, you can take the CLEP test to receive the college credit for pre-calculus without actually having to take the class. It’s a great option for students who took an Advanced Placement (AP) course in high school but did not receive a passing score for college credit. We also love CLEP exams for adult students who want to test out of those introductory courses. 

Who shouldn’t take the CLEP test?

Skipping courses can seem tempting but not everyone should CLEP test out of classes. Some students can CLEP test out of a class and still have enough background knowledge for the next level of courses, while others can’t. If your major revolves around certain classes like biology, we do not suggest testing out of a biology class since you’ll need that knowledge for the rest of your college career. CLEP testing out of your class shouldn’t be your go-to option for getting your degree and students may even miss out on parts of the college experience when they skip classes. 

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Considerations of Taking CLEP Tests

1. Affordable

Each CLEP exam fee is $90 which is significantly cheaper than taking a college course. At a 4-year university, you can pay an average of $390 per credit hour, or $1,170 for the typical 3-credit hour class. At a local community college, you pay an average of $141 per credit hour, or $423 for the typical 3-credit hour class. You could end up saving over $1,000 if you take one of these tests for college credit. Imagine the money you would save if you CLEP out of multiple courses! Receiving college-level achievement is more accessible with this option. If you’re eligible military personnel, you may even be able to take the test for free! 

2. Topic Variety

There is a variety of topics you can take a CLEP exam for. Subjects like history, social sciences, language, composition, literature, science, mathematics, and business are all covered. As long as your school recognizes CLEP exams as college credit, you can test out of a lot of introductory classes and save thousands of dollars.  

3. Degree Completion

Since you don’t have to spend an entire semester to pass a class, you can get your degree much quicker. Even if you CLEP test out of 4 or 5 classes, you can be ahead by an entire semester. This can help jumpstart your career and save you money on housing and school supplies. You’ll also receive your CLEP exam scores immediately if there was no writing portion included. 

4. Recognition

Not every college will recognize passed CLEP exams as college credit. If your college does accept CLEP exams as college credit, be sure to check that the class you want to CLEP test out of is accepted and what score you need to get for the acceptance. Speak with your academic advisor about the CLEP exam before purchasing one to ensure you will receive the credit you need for your degree. 

5. Motivation

Since there are no classes to take for your CLEP exam, you must study on your own with your own material. This can be difficult for students who have no prior knowledge of the course and minimal study of college-level material. Students have to be self-motivated to study for the CLEP tests and follow through with taking them. 

6. GPA

CLEP exams are popular because you receive college credit but they will not affect your GPA which may be an issue for some students. For those who would like classes to contribute to your GPA, these exams may not be the best choice for you. 

Preparing for Exam Day

Don’t go into your CLEP exam unprepared. When you sign up for your test, pick a test appointment where you can have enough time to prepare for it. If you’re not prepared for your test day, it would be a waste of money and you wouldn’t be able to retake the test for another six months. If you’re properly prepared for your CLEP test, you’ll be able to pass it on the first try and receive the college credit that you need. There are plenty of resources available to help you pass your test on the first try. College Board, which makes the CLEP exams, has official study guides, practice questions, and practice tests to help you prepare for your test. Since they are the creators of the test, their resources would be the most reliable option for you to use. 

Overall, CLEP exams are a great resource for a variety of students. You can get ahead on your bachelor’s degree or associate degree and skip classes you already have prior knowledge of. Ensure that your college accepts these exams before signing up and you’ll be on your way to getting your college degree! Visit the College Board website to find your official CLEP test centers near you and browse the list of subject areas you can test out of. 


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