What happens if I don't pass my CLEP exam?

How soon can you retake a CLEP, and how many times can you retest? If you’ve failed a CLEP test, grab these tips to get a passing score next time.

March 2023

Passing a CLEP test allows you to earn college credit for a variety of prerequisite courses, but what happens if you fail? Failing a CLEP means you’ll have to make another attempt, but how long do you have to wait to retake a CLEP test, and does a failed CLEP show up on a transcript? Learn all about what a failed CLEP means and how to prepare for your next exam.

What is a CLEP test?

CLEP—or College-Level Examination Program—enables students to test out of college courses by taking a proficiency test. This system is known as credit by examination, and helps students save time while pursuing their education. 

There are 34 CLEP tests available in a wide range of prerequisite subjects, from English, history, math, and more. Students who take full advantage of this system can save up to a year of college by testing out of these foundational classes.

What is a passing score on CLEP? 

According to the College Board, a passing score on CLEP is 50 out of 80, or 63%. 20 is the lowest possible score and 80 is the highest. 

Most CLEP exams are multiple choice, though some, such as College Composition, also have essay components. Multiple-choice scores will be delivered immediately after the test while essay results take about a month to receive. 

Is CLEP pass or fail?

No, CLEP exams are not scored pass/fail, but if you receive the minimum score of 50 you will pass and earn the allotted credits. 

Each college can set its own guidelines on what is an acceptable CLEP score, so double check with your advisor to ensure the score you need. 

Anything below a 50 will be considered a “fail” and will require a retake.

How long do I have to wait to retake a CLEP test?

There is a 90-day waiting period to retake a CLEP test. During these three months, you are able to take CLEP tests in other subjects but not the one you failed. Each attempt will require the test’s administration fee of $90 (subject to change based on individual testing center requirements). 

During this waiting period, it’s a good idea to brush up on your subject knowledge and try to fill in any gaps you missed during your first exam. One of the best ways to prepare yourself is to take a test prep course that covers all the expected topics on the exam. 

Test prep courses are designed by subject matter experts who understand the CLEP curriculum and create lessons around that material. Unlike a traditional college course, which typically covers a broad range of topics, test prep courses cut to the chase and zero in on what you need to know to pass the test. 

Test prep courses often cover:

  • Focused curriculum based on the exam
  • Example questions from the exam 
  • Test-taking tips 

Preparing ahead of time is the best way to go into a CLEP test with confidence. Rather than worrying about past test performance, you can arm yourself with the knowledge and skills necessary to earn your credits.  

How many times can you retake a CLEP test?

There are no limits on how many times you can retake a CLEP test. Based on the 90-day retake waiting period, you could theoretically take the same CLEP subject test four times in a calendar year. 

Based on CLEP pass-rate data, some tests seem to have a higher success rate than others. For example, foreign language exams report some of the highest pass rates (91%), whereas chemistry is one of the most challenging (39%). 

If you find yourself needing to retake a CLEP test, you are not alone. Some subjects are naturally more difficult for certain students than others, so giving yourself adequate time to study and prepare is key. If you know that math or science is not your strongest subject, taking a test prep course to get your skills up to speed is a much more effective method than going into unfamiliar territory on your own.

Does a failed CLEP show up on my transcript? 

No, a failed CLEP does not show up on your transcript. Only a passed CLEP will be part of your transcript. 

The College Board will hold on to your most recent CLEP score and replace it with your next attempt. Failed scores are not submitted to your school, so there is much incentive to retake until you pass. 

Passing a CLEP test results in earning transfer credits to your accredited college or university. These credits show up as “pass” or "complete” on your transcript and do not factor into your overall GPA.

Can you CLEP out of a class you failed?

Your ability to test out of a class you previously failed will depend on your college. Most schools will not allow you to CLEP out of a class you failed at their institution, forcing you to retake the entire class again. 

However, if you are a transfer student, you may be able to CLEP out of a class you failed at your previous school, as long as you haven't enrolled in an equivalent class at your current school. For example, if you failed an algebra class at a community college, but then transferred to a four-year university, you may be able to CLEP out of algebra if you’ve yet to enroll in a math class. 

Every college has its own rules on how and when CLEP credits can be accepted, so it’s important to verify with your advisor before you seek this method.

How can I prepare for CLEP?

If you’ve previously failed a CLEP and want to ensure you pass on your next attempt, one of the best things you can do is take a test prep class. 

Rather than trying to figure out on your own what to study and how to prepare, you can be guided through the process by a subject-matter expert who knows what’s on the test. Test prep courses can be in person or online, and are typically much shorter than a traditional college course. 

There are two different teaching styles for test prep courses: 

Synchronous learning: Synchronous courses are taught live. Because instruction happens in real time, students learn together and are able to get their questions answered by both instructors and classmates. 

Asynchronous learning: Asynchronous courses are previously recorded. Students can work through lessons at their own pace, but must have the self discipline and focus to keep moving through material on their own. 

Synchronously taught test prep courses are great for those who want more support and guidance; asynchronous courses work for those with strong independent study skills. 

Think about your study process for your previous CLEP. If you tried preparing on your own the last time around, but struggled to fully grasp the material, taking a live test prep course may put you in a better position.

Pass your next CLEP with Achieve 

Achieve offers live, synchronous test prep courses to help you pass your next CLEP with confidence. By taking one 3-hour course a week, you can learn exactly what’s on the exam. 

Our test prep courses are: 

Convenient: Choose from day, night, and weekend availability to fit your schedule.

Time-saving: Depending on the subject, courses run 5-10weeks. Compare this to the traditional 16-week college semester. 

Supportive: Courses come with one-on-one tutoring and free eBooks. Plus, you can retake the course as many times as you need. 

We’ve helped thousands of students advance their education through supportive test prep. Pass your next CLEP and earn college credits with Achieve!

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