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CLEP Exams: Save Time and Money by Skipping College Courses

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Advanced Placement exams and dual enrollment programs are both great ways to earn college credit before you actually start college, but there’s another alternative that you might not be aware of. The College Level Examination Program—or CLEP, as it’s commonly called—is a group of tests that assess college level knowledge in multiple subject areas.

CLEP exams are offered by the College Board, the not-for-profit organization that’s probably best known for the SAT. If you earn a qualifying score on a CLEP exam, you can earn college credit without taking the required college course. CLEP gives students the opportunity to receive college credit for things they already know—knowledge that was acquired through things such as on-the-job training, internships, or even personal courses of study.

Who Can Take CLEP Exams?

CLEP exams have become a popular alternative to taking college courses that are unnecessary for a particular student. Many people even use the test as a verb, such as “I clepped out of that class,” even though the word is technically a brand name.

People opt to take CLEP exams for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Homeschooled students that are accustomed to learning without formal classes may have studied above and beyond the traditional high school curriculum and would prefer to skip classes that are unnecessary for their knowledge level.
  • Working adults might have enough knowledge of particular subjects from spending years on the job.
  • People that fluently speak a foreign language can earn college credit for this skill without sitting through beginner language courses.
  • Members of the military have often gone through training or programs that are equivalent to a college course.

What are Some Benefits of CLEP Exams?

There are plenty of benefits to using CLEP exams to avoid sitting through unnecessary college courses:

  • You can save a lot of money. As of July 1, 2010 the cost to take a CLEP exam is $77—significantly cheaper than tuition, fees, and books for the corresponding college course.
  • You can save time. Students that earn college credit through CLEP exams are often able to graduate in three years instead of four or shave a semester off their college years.
  • You can graduate on time. CLEP exams can also help you earn your degree when you’re supposed to. If you’re only a few credits away from graduation, you may be able to take the proper CLEP exam and earn your degree with the rest of your class.
  • You’ll have the ability to take classes that you would have skipped otherwise. If you’re able to skip a few introductory courses in various subjects thanks to CLEP exams, you’ll have the ability to take courses for your own benefit—courses that aren’t required for graduation yet interest you.

What Classes Can CLEP Exams Replace?

As the College Board explains, CLEP exams are available in subjects that most students take during their first two years of college. Most CLEP exams correspond to one-semester courses, but some could possibly take the place of full-year or two-year courses. The number of credits issued depends on each college or university. Some colleges even place a limit on the total amount of credit you can earn through CLEP or other exams, and some schools might grant you exemption from courses but no credit toward your degree.

At the moment, there are over thirty CLEP exams available in the following subject areas:

  • Composition and Literature
  • Foreign Languages
  • History and Social Sciences
  • Science and Mathematics
  • Business

Where Can I Take a CLEP Exam?

Over 2900 colleges and universities in the United States award credit for satisfactory scores on CLEP exams. Before you decide to prepare for and take any CLEP exams, find out if your college or the colleges you’re considering attending accept CLEP exams for college credit. The College Board provides a CLEP College Search tool where you can find out if your school allows CLEP exams, but you should also check directly with the school to play it safe. Your college’s CLEP policy is probably available on their website or in their current catalog. About half of the colleges that accept CLEP exams administer the tests right on campus.


If you’re planning on taking a CLEP exam to excuse you from a college course, you should prepare for the exam just as you would prepare for any other test. A variety of CLEP study guides and CLEP practice exams are available online, and the College Board even sells “official” study guides for each exam. You might also want to study with the textbook used for the course you’d like to skip; you can usually find one or two copies of required texts in the campus library, or you might be able to buy a used copy or borrow it from a friend.

Members of the military that plan on taking CLEP exams can receive information about the tests and study guides through DANTES test centers or the DANTES website.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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