Last winter, I decided to take a CLEP exam, and it was one of the smartest decisions I ever made in college. I was able to get credit for information I had learned and take classes that were more interesting to me in the next semester, a decision I have not regretted. Read on for my ultimate guide to CLEP exams that includes exam logistics, reasons to take CLEP exams, and study resources.
What is a CLEP exam?
College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams are similar to AP exams in that they allow students to take tests and receive college credit. However, CLEP exams can be done any time and in any place, and as long as students pass (and their school accepts the test), they are guaranteed to get credit for their exams. Students can save several hours and hundreds of dollars by taking a CLEP exam instead of a traditional class.
CLEP vs AP Test
For an AP test, students usually take a class and study specifically for the test in May. For CLEP exams, students can study at their own pace and in their own way, taking the exam whenever they are ready. The exam topics for CLEP exams focus more on core curriculum classes in college such as psychology, business, information technology, history, science, and more, as opposed to AP tests that tend to be for more random classes that may not transfer to your major or into honors programs. Students taking AP classes may also benefit from taking the CLEP exam since it is more likely to give them college credit.
I registered on the College Board website to take the CLEP exam and used information from my pre-existing College Board account. Information required includes name, address, school, and payment information. As of July 1st, exams will cost $87, not including proctoring fee. This may seem expensive, but it is still much cheaper than taking a class!
Where to take a CLEP exam
Some examples of CLEP testing locations are community colleges, military bases, testing centers, some colleges, and public schools. I took my test at a testing center about a mile from my dorm and had to schedule a time and date to take it- same day registrations were available in my case, but this isn't common. I had to fill out an additional form at the testing center and bring two forms of ID before being allowed to take the exam. I also had to pay a $35 proctoring fee, but not all testing locations have a fee.
Do I need separate disability accommodations?
Since I had been approved for College Board accommodations, I did not need any additional accommodations to take my exam. I don't remember needing to set up anything special before the exam, since everything was handled for me by the testing center. Read more about my accommodations in my SAT post here. Note that not all accommodations listed were used for my CLEP exam.
Benefits of taking a CLEP exam
Get prerequisites out of the way
I took two years of technology classes in high school where I learned a lot about computers and even became certified in Microsoft Office- read more about my Microsoft certifications here. I found out that the classes I took in high school were very similar to the entry-level IT class for my major, and I could take the Information Systems CLEP exam to receive credit for the class. This meant I was able to start taking other classes up to a semester earlier than I expected. Read more about scheduling college classes here.
Take classes related to your major
In the case of my brother, his major requires a random class as part of the core curriculum that doesn't connect to anything else he will be studying. He has decided to take a CLEP exam to free up those credits and take an elective class related to his major instead. This also helps him with making room in his schedule for an additional minor in the future.
Can be taken after high school
While AP exams can only be taken in high school, CLEP exams can be taken in high school, as well as after graduation. I took my CLEP exam as a sophomore in college during a relatively stress free time, though other friends have opted to take exams during the summer too- after all, exams are given year-round.
Know your score immediately
Unlike AP exams which require waiting, CLEP exams are digital and graded immediately so that people can know their score. Once I got the score print out, I sent it to my university and they added the transfer credits almost immediately. CLEP exams in alternative formats may take longer to grade, but it is still quicker than waiting for an AP exam.
Grade does not transfer
You don't have to get a perfect score on the test, you just have to pass it. Your college only knows if you passed, not your exact score, and some tests allow you to get as low as a 65% and still pass. If you're nervous taking a certain class and think it will affect your GPA, consider taking a CLEP exam. It's worth noting the transfer credits do not hurt your GPA, though they don't help it either since no grade is transferred in.
Accessibility-tested study resources
I used Quizlet a lot when preparing for my test because it has so many resources. Users can study flashcards, take practice quizzes and tests, and even play games in order to study infomation. Many CLEP exams have study sets available on Quizlet, or users can create their own. Read my review of Quizlet and how I use it here.
College Board practice questions
The College Board website is filled with practice questions for CLEP and AP exams so students can practice with them. I found the website easy to navigate and enlarge as needed, and appreciated that these questions were available for free.
Khan Academy practice does not provide explicit CLEP exam study guides or practices, but has several free tutorials for a variety of subjects. I recommend looking at a list of topics on the exam and then checking Khan Academy to see if there are any tutorials available. I talk more about Khan Academy in my post on math resources here.
CLEP Official Study Guide
The CLEP Official Study Guide is an official book published by the College Board that provides study guides for all of the exams offered. There are also study guides available for individual exams, but many people take more than one exam, so the full study guide can be helpful. Physical and digital copies are available for purchase when registering for the exam, or buy a physical copy on Amazon here.
CLEP resources on Bookshare
People with vision impairments or other print disabilities may benefit from CLEP exam resources on Bookshare, which provides accessible books free of charge. I can't recommend any specific book, however there are tons available for all of the different exams, and the Official Study Guide is available as well. Read more about Bookshare here.
CLEP exams are a great way to get ahead in college, save money, and give you the ability to use your time for other things. I wish you the best of luck with your CLEP exam!