The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a series of standardized exams administered by the College Board that tests college-level knowledge that has been gained outside a traditional classroom, such as through independent study, previous coursework, job experience, internships, or cultural interaction. Many schools, both in the United States and abroad, grant college credit to students who meet their minimum qualifying scores on these exams.
CLEP tests are offered in over 30 different subjects at more than 1,500 colleges and universities, usually for a fraction of the cost of a corresponding college course. CLEP exams are also held free of charge on military installations for qualifying U. S. military personnel of all branches. Qualifying veterans can be reimbursed for CLEP exams through the United States Department of Veteran Affairs.
Before registering for and taking CLEP exams, students should make sure their particular college grants CLEP credit and find out about the college’s specific policy regarding CLEP courses. For example, some schools won’t grant CLEP credit if you’ve successfully passed a comparable college course in a particular subject, or if you’ve previously failed in that subject. Some schools might require you to pass an additional departmental test, such as an essay or oral exam, in addition to the CLEP exam.
The material covered in all CLEP tests is equivalent to what students would study during their first two years of college. Most CLEP exams correspond to one semester’s worth of material, although some could be comparable to full-year or two-year courses.
CLEP exams are each about 90 minutes long and are made up primarily of multiple-choice questions, except for some fill-in or ordering questions in some exams and an essay for English Composition. Each individual school determines what its qualifying scores will be and how much credit they will grant, issues that students should thoroughly research before choosing their college. Most schools grant credit for a score of 50 or higher, and most grant the same amount of credit for a satisfactory CLEP score as they would give to students successfully completing a course.
CLEP exams can be particularly helpful for students who are only a few credits away from earning their degree; non-traditional or home-schooled students who want to validate their knowledge; working adults who decide to enter architecture school; people who are fluent in a foreign language and want to receive college credit for this skill; military personnel and veterans who wish to earn their degrees; and professionals transitioning to another career.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013