CLEP exams allow students to earn college credits at an accelerated rate by testing out of general education courses. With one proficiency exam, students can demonstrate topic comprehension and skip taking the course altogether. Learn what CLEP tests are available, who accepts CLEP exams, and how to CLEP out of college courses with this detailed overview.
What is CLEP short for?
CLEP is short for “college-level examination program.” This program was developed over 50 years ago by the College Board, a not-for-profit organization promoting increased access to higher education.
The original goal of CLEP tests was to help former military and adult learners earn their degrees at a manageable pace outside the traditional four-year college structure. Students test out of certain courses to focus on their main areas of study, while still balancing personal and professional responsibilities.
This method of earning college credits is also referred to as “credit by examination” or “credit by exam.” Over the years, CLEP has expanded to offer more and more general education exams, with a current total of 34 subjects available.
Who accepts CLEP exams?
CLEP credits are accepted at 2,900 colleges and universities across the United States. Students must verify with their accredited institution whether or not CLEP exams are accepted and if there are limits as to how many courses they can test out of.
It is recommended that students check directly with their school or through a highly reputable source so that exam efforts don’t go to waste. Every college has different CLEP requirements and most don’t make that information readily available, as testing out of prerequisites results in less money for the school itself.
Will CLEP credits transfer?
If your school of choice accepts CLEP exams then yes, CLEP credits will transfer.
Here’s how CLEP exams work:
- Register for exam: Students must first register for their CLEP exam of choice. There are over 2,000 testing centers across the United States. Most CLEP exams require an $89 registration fee (additional fees may apply).
- Take exam: CLEP exams take about 90-120 minutes to complete depending on the topic. Most consist of multiple choice questions, though some subjects (such as College Composition) may also include an essay portion.
- Pass exam: Students must pass the CLEP exam to earn credit. What CLEP score is passing? The minimum qualifying score is 50 out of 80, or 63%.
- Transfer credits: After passing the CLEP exam, credits will be transferred to the student’s accredited college or university. Transcripts will read as “pass” or “complete” for the subject in question. Now the student no longer needs to take that class.
What CLEP tests are available?
CLEP tests are available in 34 subjects ranging from history to business to science.
The current lineup of available CLEP tests include:
History and Social Sciences
- American Government
- History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877
- History of the United States II: 1865 to Present
- Human Growth and Development
- Introduction to Educational Psychology
- Introductory Psychology
- Introductory Sociology
- Principles of Macroeconomics
- Principles of Microeconomics
- Social Sciences and History
- Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648
- Western Civilization II: 1648 to Present
Composition and Literature
- American Literature
- Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
- College Composition
- College Composition Modular
- English Literature
Science and Mathematics
- College Algebra
- College Mathematics
- Natural Sciences
- Financial Accounting
- Information Systems
- Introductory Business Law
- Principles of Management
- Principles of Marketing
- French Language: Levels 1 & 2
- German Language: Levels 1 & 2
- Spanish Language: Levels 1 & 2
- Spanish with Writing: Levels 1 & 2
CLEP exams are only available for general education courses. Core subject matter courses are typically not available through credit by exam, but utilizing this method for prerequisites alone can eliminate up to a year of traditional classroom time.
Are CLEP exams free?
For a majority of students, no: CLEP exams are not free. Each exam costs $89 (plus a testing center fee).
There is an exception for military members though. CLEP exams are free to eligible military service members, spouses, and civil service members. While most test centers also charge an administrative fee on top of the standard CLEP cost, eligible students should be able to get that fee waived.
When are CLEP exams offered?
CLEP exams are offered year round at testing centers across the country. Most centers will offer each CLEP exam subject at least once a month, though it’s important to verify each center’s schedule ahead of time.
Some testing centers offer exams at set days/times, while others offer more flexibility. Either way, students are advised to register for exams well in advance to secure their spot.
CLEP exams must be taken in person and cannot be completed online.
If students fail their CLEP exam on the first attempt, they need to wait 90 days to retake that topic.
What is the difference between CLEP and DSST?
DSST—which stands for “DANTES Subject Standardization Test”—is another credit by exam option. DSST originated through the United States Department of Defense to help military members earn their degrees. Now, anyone can benefit from these exams.
CLEP and DSST are similar in that both:
- Help students earn credits through proficiency exams
- Use multiple choice question formats
- Must be completed in person on a computer
- Allow students to save time and money
The differences between CLEP and DSST include:
- Test length: DSST exams are typically longer than CLEP exams
- CLEP: 90 minutes
- DSST: 120 minutes
- School acceptance: DSST credits are not as widely accepted as CLEP credits
- CLEP: accepted at 2,900 colleges
- DSST: accepted at 1,900 colleges
- Available subjects: DSST offers more subjects and varying credit levels than CLEP.
- CLEP: offers 34 subjects in all lower-level courses
- DSST: offers 38 subjects with a few upper-level courses
Can you take both CLEP and DSST exams to test out of college courses? Yes! Combining programs is a smart strategy for students looking to maximize their credit-by-exam options.
Because DSST is accepted at fewer colleges than CLEP, it’s important to verify whether your school will transfer credits. Check with your school before moving forward.
Why CLEP test?
CLEP tests offer many benefits for students looking for solutions outside the traditional college structure. For many, finishing a degree within such a rigid format does not work, especially when personal and professional responsibilities must receive priority.
Working adults who have been out of the school system for quite some time often struggle with going back to a classroom setting. The inflexible schedule, rigorous coursework, and financial strain leads to burn out and drop out.
In fact, only 20% of working adults complete their degrees after six years of study.
CLEP offers a different path, cutting down on time, money, and other stressors.
- Save time: Testing out of college courses is a huge time saver. Most college semesters run 15-17 weeks but a CLEP exam can be completed in 90 minutes for the same credit.
- Save money: The average college course costs upwards of $2,400, compared to the $89 CLEP fee. After one year of testing out of eight general education courses, that’s a savings of $18,488.
- More flexibility: Following the traditional college format forces students into a four-year plan. There is no limit as to how many CLEP exams can be taken at a time, allowing students to move at their own pace.
- Easier scheduling: College courses typically meet 2-3 times a week for 60+ minutes. One CLEP exam takes 90 minutes total.
- More convenience: Attending a classroom setting multiple times a week isn’t always manageable for working adults. CLEP exams can be scheduled at the student’s convenience.
Are CLEP exams hard?
CLEP exams are designed to test a student’s comprehensive understanding on a topic. Tests are created by curriculum experts who know how to assess proficiency.
One of the hardest parts of CLEP exams is knowing what material will be on the test. For example, a student may feel fairly knowledgeable in American Literature, but there may be books or authors on the exam that they may not have read or don’t remember as well.
Preparing for a CLEP exam is the best way to set yourself up for success. There are different options for get ready for CLEP:
- Use practice tests: Most CLEP subjects have available practice tests to help you gauge your readiness. A practice test is a good tool to see what topics you need to brush up on before taking the real exam.
- Take a test-prep course: CLEP test-prep courses teach you exactly what you need to know to pass the exam. These courses are significantly cheaper and less time consuming than traditional college but help you get the same end result.
You can CLEP out of college classes
CLEP exams are a flexible, affordable option to help students earn college credit and finish their degrees faster. If you’re looking to accelerate your education but need help preparing for CLEP exams, Achieve Test Prep can help. We offer CLEP exam test-prep courses that meet only once a week to get you ready for your test. In fact, 93% of Achieve students pass their exams on their first try!
Learn more about our flexible, supportive program for working adults, and take the first step towards your goals today.