The College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, is a way for you to earn college credit by taking tests. It is a program of the College Board (purveyors of the SAT and other examinations). While there are certain other credit-by-exam programs available (and we will discuss those in future posts), CLEP is the largest. It is accepted by 2,900 universities and testing centers are available in 1,800 locations.
So where’s the cheap? Consider what a college class costs. Consider that a CLEP exam is $80. There’s the cheap.
Is it a Good Choice for You?
Whether or not this is a good place to invest your time and energy toward earning that cheap college degree depends upon three factors including:
- Are you a good test-taker? Obviously, this is one key component for doing well. There are people in the world who naturally have a gift for doing well on standardized examinations; and
- Do you retain information well information from previous courses and experiences? It doesn’t matter how you learned it. Can you dredge it back up in a testing environment; and
- Are you good at studying textbooks and other information independently? Certainly you can commit yourself to learning new information without taking a course. This could be through textbooks, CLEP study guides, or the Internet. A good resource on the Internet could be Wikipedia.
Notice that it is a combination of all three factors. The thinking here is that with some of these tests, you can bluff your way through, with some you have actually studied the material in the past (in a variety of ways), and with some, you would study in present-day to attain the knowledge necessary to pass. Will my College accept CLEP Exams?
While there is a standard way for colleges to accept these exams for credit, not all colleges allow for the use of CLEP and, of those that do, not all accept them in the same way. That being said, there are close to three thousands schools that do allow for CLEP in some manner. So where do you begin? It is important that, before you take any tests, that you make sure your college is one of those that does accept them. Conveniently, the College Board proves a tool for exactly that purpose. The CLEP Institution Search tool tells you everything you need to know to make wise decisions.
Getting College Credit and How Much Credit
The simplified version of the possible number of credits available for passing a CLEP exam is that you could earn from three to twelve credits. That is a potentially large number of credits for passing some tests. That being said, there are mitigating factors including:
- A particular institution’s CLEP acceptance policy; and
- Minimum qualifying scores (which can vary by school); and
- Whether or not there is a limit on the total number of credits that can be earned via CLEP (or via all credit-by-exam programs).
You will want to use the CLEP Institution Search tool to determine this information.
Notice above that I have mentioned a minimum qualifying score. Many colleges print this information in their catalogs. Given that many college catalogs are solely online, this information is now easier to find.
It is also important to understand how CLEP is used. At some colleges, you can use CLEP to fulfill General Education (“core”) requirements. It would look like “6 units English Credit.” Note that it is not applied, necessarily, to particular courses, but to the requirement itself.
Also, make sure that you are not taking a CLEP exam in an area where you have already earned (or, possibly, attempted to earn) credit. And, if you want to do so, check with the college first to see if you can earn credit for doing so.
There are thirty-three CLEP exams available (as of April 2014) divided up into five content areas. They include:
- History & Social Sciences (American Government, History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877, History of the United States II: 1865 to the Present, Human Growth & Development, Intro to Educational Psychology, Introductory Psychology, Introductory Sociology, Principles of Macroeconomics, Principles of Microeconomics, Social Sciences & History, Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648, Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present)
- Composition & Literature (American Literature, Analyzing & Interpreting Literature, College Composition, College Composition Modular, English Literature, Humanities)
- Science & Mathematics (Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, College Algebra, College Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Precalculus)
- Business (Financial Accounting, Information Systems & Computer Applications, Introductory Business Law, Principles of Management, Principles of Marketing)
- World Languages (French Language Levels 1 & 2, German Language Levels 1 & 2, Spanish Language Levels 1 & 2)
If you do not pass a CLEP exam, you are required to wait six months before making another attempt. However, they will not stop you from taking the exam again earlier than that. It’s one of those situations where they catch you after the fact and all sorts of bad things happen (Don’t receive credit if you pass, fees forfeited, etc.).
If you are looking for study guides to help you in passing exams, here is the Amazon search for you: CLEP Study Guides