The college level examination program or “CLEP Test” offers a way for you to prove that you already learned enough about a particular subject, through previous schoolwork, job training, independent study or just about any other avenue, to get college credit for that knowledge. CLEP tests provide what’s probably the biggest opportunity for an adult learner to save money on a completion degree, by eliminating the need to take certain courses in a major.
The CLEP opportunity is quite large, as there are tests offered in 33 different subject areas. The tests, which are administered by The College Board, are widely accepted, particularly by the online schools that specialize in career-oriented completion degrees.
CLEP tests cost just $77. each to take, a whole lot less than the average cost of a college course. Depending on your score and your school’s policy on CLEP, each test can earn you anywhere from 3 to 12 college-level credits. The tests can help you earn a much faster degree, or just graduation on time if that’s your goal. But they can also make your college experience more enjoyable and interesting by allowing you to avoid taking classes in basic subjects you are already familiar with, and concentrating on more exciting advanced classes.
The four categories of CLEP tests are:
- Composition and Literature – 5 different tests
- Foreign Language – French, German or Spanish
- History and Social Sciences – 12 different tests
- Science and Mathematics – 7 test in math, chemistry and biology
- Business – 5 tests including accounting, marketing and management
A good starting point is to figure out if your school accepts CLEP credits. Here’s a search tool you can use to find out.
CLEP test centers exist all over the country – mainly at colleges and universities. A list of centers is available from The College Board. It’s in your interest to study for as many tests as you think you can possibly pass. A couple of key tips to maximizing your success on the tests:
- Read the instructions carefully. It sounds basic, but many people answer questions incorrectly because they have not done this
- If you don’t know the answer, make your best guess. You are only scored on the number of correct answers you give. There’s no penalty for wrong answers
- On essays, take an organized approach. The English and Literature tests involve essays. Before you write your answers, organize your thoughts carefully and jot down a quick outline on a piece of scrap paper. It will help you finish your answer more quickly and concisely
- Ask for any special accomodation you need ahead of time. CLEP tests are given on a computer. If you need to do them in a unique way because of a learning or physical disability, or must take them on paper, contact your CLEP center before testing day and make sure they are aware of your needs
- Don’t try to cheat. There are tremendous limitations on what you can bring in to the CLEP test, and penalties can include explusion or having your acceptace revoked by your college
- Lastly, make a point of studying for the test. If you want to know what is the CLEP test exactly, take a look here for individual test descriptions, and take practice tests. Your local bookstore (or Amazon.com) can provide you with printed CLEP test guides. If you look online you’ll find numerous providers of practice tests, including:
John O’Brien has been a writer, editor and consultant in higher education for over 14 years. His background includes writing for insidehighered.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education. As editor of College Degree Complete, he has advised hundreds of adult students on how to transfer colleges without wasting the credits they’ve already accumulated, to finish their degree programs in the fastest and most affordable way.