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College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) - Testing for Credit

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The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) are tests that grant college credit. They are based on knowledge learned through professional experience, independent study, adult courses, or advanced high school courses. Students usually take CLEP tests to fulfill classes taken at the freshman or sophomore levels. Most students who take the CLEP are older returning students. 34% of those taking CLEP exams are older than 30.

There are 34 different tests in a variety of subjects. You choose which particular test or tests to take depending on what type of college credit you wish to earn. Tests are offered in the following categories:

  • Composition and Literature (American Literature, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature, English Composition, Freshman College Composition, and Humanities)
  • Foreign Languages (French Language, German Language, and Spanish Language – all levels 1 and 2)
  • Social Sciences and History (American Government, Human Growth and Development, Introduction to Educational Psychology, Introductory Psychology, Introductory Sociology, Principles of Macroeconomics, Principles of Microeconomics, Social Sciences and History, U.S. History I Early Colonization to 1877, U.S. History II 1865 to present, Western Civilization I Ancient Near East to 1648, Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present)
  • Science and Mathematics (Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, College Algebra, College Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Precalculus)
  • Business (Financial Accounting, Introductory Business Law, Information Systems and Computer Applications, Principles of Management, Principles of Marketing)

There are numerous benefits to CLEP tests. They provide an opportunity to earn college credit in a short amount of time. This saves tuition costs and shortens your time in college. Instead of paying full tuition for classes about a subject you already know, you can take a CLEP test and start with more advanced classes.

Ask your college whether they recognize CLEP test results, and if they do, which tests they recognize. The CLEP is recognized by about 2,900 colleges and universities. Most colleges that accept CLEP results will give credit only for certain tests. Almost all colleges limit the number of CLEP credits they will grant.

Individual colleges vary in terms of how much credit they will grant on each test. Some colleges may give you credit for a certain course. Other colleges may allow you to apply the credit to your choice of courses. Some schools grant exemptions on a course without giving you credit. In some situations there may be a stipulation that you pass another class in order for the CLEP credit to count. Other possible stipulations include being enrolled at the college where you will apply your credit, filling out additional forms through your college, or passing a departmental test through the college itself.

Each CLEP test will cost $65. There is an additional fee of $10 for the optional essay portion of some of the exams.This is much less expensive than tuition and fees for a traditional class. CLEP exams are given free of charge for any qualifying US military personnel. All branches of service are considered eligible including: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Navy Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army and Air National Guard.

The CLEP is computer-based and each exam is 90 minutes long. You receive test results immediately following each exam. Exam questions are primarily multiple-choice, although some tests have questions that are fill-in-the-blank. For the English Composition with Essay test, you will have to wait one to three weeks to receive your final scores while the essay portion is scored. Each exam is unique in its subject matter but they all test your general knowledge and skills within that field of study. As an example, below is a breakdown of the knowledge tested on a U.S. History exam:

U.S. History I – 35% political institutions, behavior and public policy; 25% social developments; 10% economic developments; 15% cultural and intellectual developments; 15% diplomacy and international relations

The tests are scored on a scale from 20 to 80. There are no deductions for wrong answers. Guessing will not cost you any points, so it is to your advantage to answer every question. Each individual college decides where to place the score cutoff in order for a CLEP test to count toward credit. The American Council on Education recommends a minimum score of 50 on most tests.

At the time you take your test, you can send your score to any school, employer or agency you wish. You can also send your scores at a later date for an additional cost. Scores are kept on file for 20 years.


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