What Are CLEP Exams and Why Should You Take Them?

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CLEP exams let you earn college credit for knowledge you already have so that you can earn your degree faster.

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The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a series of tests students can take to earn college credit instead of taking a course.

CLEP tests cover history and social sciences; composition and literature; science and mathematics; business; and world languages. Taking CLEP exams can save you time and money and give you credit for what you already know.

What are CLEP exams?

CLEP exams are multiple-choice exams that college professors develop. They design the question based on the material commonly taught in lower-level college courses and establish the passing score for the exam. 

The CLEP collection includes 34 tests covering a broad range of subjects. Each test will take between 90 and 120 minutes to finish. Since the tests are computer-based, you see your score immediately after completing the exam, unless you took an exam that included a writing section.

Types of CLEP exams

CLEP exams cover a variety of subjects commonly found in lower-level college courses. Many of these courses are introductory and survey courses students take during their first or second year of college.

The list below includes each of the current CLEP exams [1]:

  • American Government

  • American Literature

  • Analyzing & Interpreting Literature

  • Biology

  • Calculus

  • Chemistry

  • College Algebra

  • College Mathematics

  • College Composition

  • College Composition Modular

  • English Literature

  • Financial Accounting

  • French Language

  • German Language

  • History of the United States

  • Human Growth and Development

  • Humanities

  • Information Systems

  • Introduction to Educational Psychology

  • Introductory Business Law

  • Introductory Psychology

  • Introductory Sociology

  • Natural Sciences

  • Precalculus

  • Principles of Macroeconomics

  • Principles of Management

  • Principles of Marketing

  • Principles of Microeconomics

  • Spanish Language

  • Western Civilization (Part 1: Ancient Near East to 1648 and Part 2: 1648 to the Present)

Which schools accept credit from CLEP exams?

Thousands of colleges and universities accept CLEP credit. If you're not sure whether your college accepts this credit, the College Board offers a helpful tool on the CLEP website. Choose your state and school from a drop-down menu to see if it's on the list.

Each school sets its own criteria for CLEP credit. Criteria include the tests they accept, the courses they apply the credit to, and the minimum score you need.

Benefits of taking CLEP exams

Taking CLEP exams offers two primary benefits to students. The program makes it possible to save time and money while earning a degree [2]. It also lets students earn credit for knowledge they already have, either from independent study or experience.

Save time

Students pursuing a bachelor's degree can save up to 10 months by taking CLEP exams [3]. Those in an associate degree program can save up to four and a half months. Not only could you earn a degree in less time, but you could also have the advantage of starting your advanced studies sooner. This means spending less of your college career in introductory courses.

Save money

Saving money on college education can be a significant advantage. CLEP exams cost $89 plus the cost of facilities fees [2]. Even with those fees, the cost of the exam is a fraction of what you'd pay for a college course.

Get credit for what you already know

Spend your time (and tuition money) on courses that are new and interesting rather than those that cover topics you already know. If you're a history buff, you may be able to pass the US history exam and avoid taking the intro-level class in college. Similarly, if you're already fluent in French, German, or Spanish, you can get credit for that knowledge.

How to take CLEP exams

You can choose to take a CLEP exam in a test center or opt for home testing with a remote proctor. To qualify for remote proctoring, you must be at least 13 years old, located in the United States, and have a testing room that meets the technical requirements for the test [4]. Students funded by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) may be able to test in other countries.

How to register for CLEP exams

You can register for CLEP exams on the program's website:

  1. Choose the exam you want to take.

  2. Sign in to your CLEP account (or register for a new account if you don't have one).

  3. Select a test center and where to send your score report.

  4. Place your order.

  5. Schedule your exam with the test center search tool. 

Tips for taking CLEP exams

When test day arrives, show up early at the testing center so you won't feel rushed and build up anxiety before the test.

Follow all instructions about where to store your belongings, where to sit, and how to handle restroom breaks.

During the test, take your time. Read each question and all of the possible choices carefully.


Choosing which exams to take

Before you choose which CLEP exams to take, answer these questions:

  • Which exams does the school accept?

  • What is the minimum score the school accepts?

  • How many credits will the school award for the test?

  • What is the maximum number of hours you earn for CLEP exams? 

Answering these questions will help you decide which exams are best for you. There's no need to pay and sit for an exam the school won't accept.

Preparing for the exam

As you prepare for your CLEP test, take advantage of free and paid test prep materials available. You can take practice tests, such as the CLEP Spanish practice tests, to get an idea of what to expect on test day.

Some of these practice tests may come with explanations that let you know why the correct answer is correct. That may help you understand the thought process you should follow when answering questions on the test.

Here are more tips for getting ready for the exam:

  • Set goals. Choose SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

  • Schedule study sessions. You need time and space to focus without distractions.

  • Avoid cramming for the test. Give yourself time to space out your study sessions over time.

  • Try mind-mapping. After your study sessions, use this helpful tool to review the information and remember it.

Next steps

Get a head start on your bachelor's degree with the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of North Texas. If you have between 30 and 90 credit hours from CLEP exams, community college, technical institute, or another university, you could be able to transfer them toward this flexible degree from a top research school in Texas.

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Article sources

1. College Board. "Earn College Credit with CLEP, https://clep.collegeboard.org/." Accessed February 4, 2022.

2. College Board. "CLEP Benefits for Everyone, https://clep.collegeboard.org/clep-benefits-for-everyone." Accessed February 4, 2022.

3. BestColleges. "What Is the CLEP Exam?, https://www.bestcolleges.com/blog/what-is-the-clep-exam/." Accessed February 4, 2022.

4. College Board. "Take a CLEP Exam with Remote Proctoring, https://clep.collegeboard.org/about-remote-proctoring/take-clep-exam-remote-proctoring." Accessed February 4, 2022.

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