College Life

CLEP tests and how to study for them

On the most romantic day of the year, we’re here to talk about something we feel equally passionate about: CLEP tests. These tests help students earn college credit on subjects they already know, for a fraction of the cost of a traditional course. Here’s what you need to know.

Students can earn 3 or more college credits for each exam they pass.

College-Level Examination Program, or CLEP, tests are administered by the College Board and cover material generally taught in the first 2 years of college. There are 33 exams in 5 subject areas including Composition and Literature, World Languages, History and Social Studies, Science as well as Mathematics and Business.

CLEP tests help students test out of introductory classes so they can graduate early, take on a double major or minor, take other classes in their area of interest or study abroad. High school students can potentially enter college as a sophomore, rather than a freshman, by testing out. Additionally, students who use them tend to have a higher GPAs and college completion rates. However, not all colleges recognize CLEP tests for credits so students should check with their college’s official website to research their policies.

Understand the grading scale.

Unlike traditional college courses, CLEP tests are graded on a pass/fail system. Depending on the school, usually only 50 questions of 80 are needed to pass, which equates to 63%. (We won’t make the “D’s” get degrees joke…) On the student’s transcript, their grade shows as a P once they’ve passed the course. This benefits students because it isn’t necessary to be a master on the subject to pass the course. In fact, the material on the CLEP test is generally easier than that of a college class or AP exam. However, students who pass the CLEP test are shown to perform better on subsequent courses than students who took the introductory class. As for timing, students can take CLEP tests at any age, but most choose to take them near the end of high school or once they’ve started college.

CLEP tests cost $85 – less than 5% of the price to take the class.

That amount likely wouldn’t even cover the required textbook in a standard class. The average cost per credit hour is $594, making the price for 3-credit course $1,782. Also, classes require significant time demands. Students are in class for 3 hours each week and are advised to spend an additional 6-9 hours studying. There is an associated cost to that time which could otherwise be spent earning money at a part-time job.

In comparison, CLEP tests cost $85 and a study guide is between $10-25 per exam. Students may also need to pay a testing center fee which average around $15. As for study time, most students spend about 20 hours preparing for a 3-credit hour CLEP test. The exam fee does increase to $87 on July 1st, 2018, but we’d say it’s still worth it. Plus, CLEP exams can be free for eligible military service members and civilian employees.

Here’s how the process works.

Students decide which exams to take by researching their school’s course catalog and finding which introductory courses are needed for their major. Students then register online for the exams they wish to take. At this time, students should indicate which college their scores be sent to. This is included in the cost of the exam. However, students can also choose to send their score to the school after they’ve seen the score for an additional charge.

Next, students must make an appointment with a testing center in their area. There may be administration fees which are separate from the cost of the exam.

The exam itself is taken on a computer at the testing center and most exams take approximately 90 minutes. The student will receive their score immediately once they finish the exam except on the College Composition with Essay exam in which the student will receive it within 3-4 weeks. At the end of the exam, if a student feels their exam went poorly, there is an option to cancel their scores at the end of the exam. This might happen if the test taker doesn’t want their score reported to the institution they selected. If a student fails the exam, they must wait 3 months to retake it.

Prepare ahead of time for CLEP tests.

Don’t let testing anxiety get the best of you! We know exams can be intimidating so we’ve got suggestions to help students be successful on their CLEP test.

  • Invest in a study guide. These help students brush up on key terms and concepts. Study guides focus on material specific to the CLEP exam, helping students study more efficiently.
  • Use a flashcard for key terms. It’s not enough to understand the principles of each covered concept, students also need to know the name of those concepts. Flashcards help students retain those terms and their definitions. Each time students come across an unfamiliar word, they should jot it down on a flashcard and review them periodically while studying.
  • Take a practice test. Once students are comfortable with the content, a practice test can be taken to check for gaps in their knowledge. These are included in most study guides.
  • Incorporate testing strategies. The format of the exams is multiple choice and students aren’t penalized for wrong answers. This means they should answer every question, using the process of elimination when needed.
  • Relax. Students just need to pass the exam, not do so in flying colors. Their actual grade will not go on a transcript but instead be replaced by a “P” for “pass”. With this in mind, students should do their best to pass, but they don’t need to stress about acing it.

CLEP tests help students cut costs and save time in college, so they can reap the benefits of their degree sooner. For more college money tips, check out our Guide to College Financing Options. | |


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