CLEP exams saved me hundreds of dollars and shaved several months off my pursuit of a college degree.
CLEP (the College Level Examination Program) is a standardized, multiple-choice test that assesses your college-level knowledge in more than 30 study areas.
See the complete CLEP exams list.
Simply put, by taking a CLEP test:
- You can turn your own personal knowledge into real college credit.
- You could save hundreds (even thousands!) of dollars and many months of college courses that you won’t have to take.
- You can earn CLEP credit in as few as 3 or 4 hours.
I took the College Mathematics CLEP Exam, which helped me graduate several months sooner and kept me from spending several hundred dollars on earning college credits — simply because of what I already knew from my life experience.
CLEP tests aren’t for everyone, but I’ll share with you how they helped me and how they can help save you time and money, too.
What You Need To Know About CLEP Exams
CLEP exams are ideal for people who have tons of knowledge on various college subjects that was obtained from information they’ve learned outside the classroom.
I was probably a good candidate for taking a CLEP test because I was homeschooled, spent many hours each week reading all kinds of books, and am an independent learner.
If you’re somebody who doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable taking tests on subjects that you haven’t formally studied, then a CLEP exam might be intimidating — to say the least.
But if you’re pretty confident in your knowledge base, are up to taking CLEP practice tests, and don’t have exam anxiety, then you’ll probably do just fine taking the CLEP!
Some specifics you may be wondering about:
- Nearly 2,000 colleges, universities, and military sites offer CLEP exams.
- Approximately 3,000 colleges give course credit for CLEP scores.
- The College Board has its recommendations on how much course credit you should earn for a given CLEP exam. However, the amount of CLEP credit awarded varies — depending on individual school policy and the exact CLEP score you receive.
- CLEP exam scores are scaled from 20 to 80 points.
- College course credit is usually awarded at around 50 or 60 points and up.
- You may earn as few as 3 college credits in a subject area such as humanities, or as many as 12 college credits in a foreign language area like Spanish or French.
PROS – Reasons To Take A CLEP Test
I really can’t sing the praises of CLEP exams enough — because a CLEP test helped me save time & money and I earned college credits for the information I already knew!
#1 – Taking the CLEP is a way to cash in your knowledge for college credits.
I’m no mathematical genius, but I know enough of the basics to get by. Need me to calculate the square footage of your home? No problem — I can do it. Oh, your house is circular? Well, you’re in luck, because I know how to use pi (and eat pie!) in real life, too.
Triangles? No sweat, I love the pythagorean theorem. (Note a trend? I’ve always been strong in basic geometry.)
Oh, but you want to throw a trigonometry problem my way? Um, better ask my sister. She’s better at trig than I am.
Logic problems are no problem for me. And in probability I have a 9 in 10 chance of correctly answering the problem.
See… I’m pretty comfortable with basic math. So why would I spend a 3rd of a year and hundreds of dollars to earn course credit when I could do the same for less than a 5th of the cost by taking a College Mathematics CLEP Exam?
#2 – CLEP exams cost less than college tuition.
When I took my CLEP exam, it cost $65 — plus $20 in exam room fees.
At the time, my college tuition was running about $400 for a 3-hour course. So taking a CLEP test saved me more than 80%. Imagine paying “Closeout Sale” prices for your college credits!
As of December 2017, it costs $85 to take a CLEP exam, and site fees range from about $20 to $40 — but that’s still a mere fraction of college tuition!
#3 – A CLEP test won’t affect your GPA — which is great if you already have a good GPA.
The CLEP test appears on your transcript as Pass/Fail, so it doesn’t affect your GPA at all.
My CLEP credit was awarded to me as a “S” grade (for “Satisfactory”) — which didn’t ding my 4.0 GPA in the least.
Obviously, if you need to improve your GPA, taking the CLEP won’t help.
But, in my case, the goal was to keep it where it was. You can never go back to a 4.0 GPA!
#4 – Taking a CLEP test saves valuable time.
In my case, taking the CLEP knocked off half of the 6 college credits that I needed to satisfy the mathematics requirement for my college degree.
That’s a huge amount of time saved!
But what if you’re feeling rusty on some of the topics that you want to take a CLEP test for?
Thankfully, you can take CLEP practice tests and read CLEP exam study guides to improve your chances of doing well on the exam. It’s worth it… I think a few weeks of preparing for a CLEP exam surely beats the time and money spent taking a college course!
CONS – Reasons NOT To Take A CLEP Test
Like I said, CLEP exams aren’t for everyone. Not all that glitters is scholarly gold.
#1 – Every school has its own unique CLEP policy.
I saw firsthand that CLEP college credits aren’t always awarded the same way — even between 2 schools in the same city.
I took my CLEP test while enrolled at a very popular community college in Central Florida. They awarded me 3 credits for College Mathematics 1 — the first in a series of 2 college math courses to be taken in succession.
The school I was transferring to for my bachelor’s degree (a very well-known Florida university in its own right) also awarded 3 credits for the College Mathematics CLEP Exam — except they didn’t award the same credits. Instead, they granted credit for College Mathematics 2 — the other college math course that I needed to take.
What to do? Well, advisors at both schools told me that so long as I graduated from my community college with CLEP credit for College Math 1, then the school I was transferring to would recognize it the same way.
Of course, that was my experience. I recommend consulting with your college advisors who can help you understand the current guidelines. That way, you’ll know exactly how your CLEP credit will be counted and under what circumstances that could be negotiated.
#2 – Retaking CLEP exams is a costly waiting game.
If you don’t get the score you want on your CLEP exam, it’s going to cost you in time and money.
It probably isn’t a surprise that it’ll cost you to retake a CLEP exam. That’s pretty much a standard policy for many kinds of academic tests.
But you’ll also need to wait at least 3 months to retake your CLEP exam.
So, if you’ve got to earn CLEP credit by a certain date and you’re not sure if you can pass your CLEP test on the first try, you might be better off taking the college course for credit instead.
See the upcoming CLEP exam dates up (important scoring and mailing dates).
#3 – If your GPA could use a boost, taking CLEP exams won’t help.
CLEP scores don’t impact your GPA.
CLEP credit only gives you college credits — period.
In most cases, successful completion of a college course will net you at least a “C” grade and, possibly, a much better final grade.
So, if you’re looking for an easy “A” or “B” to raise your GPA, then a CLEP exam isn’t the way to go — especially if you’re super confident in the study area.
In that case, maybe you could better use your knowledge to earn some good marks in a college course where you’ll earn grades that will help raise your GPA.
#4 – Studying for a CLEP test will still take hours.
I may have known a few things about basic math, but there was no way I was going risk spending $85 and having to wait 6 months (the waiting period for retaking a CLEP exam) on not passing!
I read and re-read CLEP study guides many times in the weeks leading up to my CLEP exam, and I also took a few practice tests to brush up on the areas where I was consistently weaker.
If you’re an independent learner, then nothing I’m saying here probably fazes you.
But if you don’t feel very comfortable studying without the aid of a teacher or instructor — or if you learn better in a more traditional classroom environment — then you’re probably better off investing those days or weeks of CLEP practice study in a classroom earning college credits.
Before You Take A CLEP Test…
Is taking a CLEP exam is the right thing for you?
Before you take the plunge and begin preparing for your upcoming CLEP college test, there are a few things you should check first:
- Absolutely make sure that your school awards CLEP credit. Not all schools accept CLEP for college credits — so don’t waste your time studying and taking the CLEP if it won’t help you!
- Make sure that you won’t be duplicating credit for courses you’ve already taken.
- Verify that prior courses you’ve already taken don’t preclude you from earning college credit from your CLEP test.
- See if you qualify for discounts or free CLEP exams. For example, eligible military service members get 1 free CLEP test attempt per subject. You may also be eligible for free CLEP tests for other reasons.
- Check out the free CLEP prep websites and look for free CLEP prep guides online and at your local college.
- I can’t stress it enough: take some practice tests. CLEP practice tests helped me get a feel for the test and also improve on the areas I needed to work on.
- Buy CLEP flashcards (or make your own) — and use them! The goal is to make the information you’ll need to pass the CLEP exam become so rote that you’ll know the answers right away when you see them. CLEP flashcards help you do that.
- Reserve a seat at the CLEP test center as soon as possible. If you wait until the last minute to reserve your CLEP testing site, it may not be available when you need it.
Here’s a list of CLEP testing centers.
More Tips For Taking CLEP Exams
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you determine if taking a CLEP test is the right choice for you:
- CLEP Test FAQs
- 4 Questions To Ask Before Pursuing CLEP Credit
- 10 Things You Need To Know To Pass A CLEP Test
I’m a roller coaster junkie, a weather enthusiast, a frequent traveler, and a numismatist. My love for coins began when I was 11 years old. I primarily collect and study U.S. coins produced during the 20th century. I’m a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG). I’ve also been studying meteorology and watching weather patterns for years. I enjoy sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about coins, weather, travel, health, food, and living green… on a budget. I work from home full-time as a journalist, reporter, and author.