How CLEP Testing Can Earn Students College Credit

How CLEP Testing Can Earn Students College Credit

Your child may be wondering how to get a head start on earning college credit.

They may want to spend less time and money earning a degree and graduate sooner than expected.

CLEP testing may be a way to accomplish that. 


What Is CLEP Testing?

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program®) testing is a year-round testing opportunity to earn college credit in a variety of subjects.

The tests, administered by the College Board, are made up primarily of multiple-choice and essay components. Each test takes between 90 and 120 minutes to complete.

There are 34 tests from a variety of subjects to choose from such as composition and literature, history and social sciences, mathematics, science, and business. 

Once your child registers for a test, which costs $89 plus any test center administration fees, they will have six months to take the exam at one of 2,000 test center locations.

Like other tests, such as Advanced Placement (AP) exams and the ACT, students have the opportunity to send their scores directly to one prospective institution at the time of registration for free.

Sending scores after taking the exam costs $20 per score sent.

College professors picked by the College Board grade the written aspect of the exams, while computers grade the multiple-choice portions. Scores are then scaled to the difficulty of the exam taken on a scale of 20 to 80 points with no penalty for wrong answers. 


Who Can Take a CLEP Exam?

The College Board states that “anyone interested in earning college credit and saving time and money can take a CLEP exam.”

These exams are designed for people with a prior proficiency in given subjects, including high school students, adult students, and military service members. 


Which Is Better CLEP or AP?

There are some differences between CLEP exams and AP exams, and exploring both can be beneficial in understanding which is best for your child.

There are different subjects covered on the AP and CLEP exams; for example, AP offers more language proficiency tests, while the CLEP has a business marketing test.

The AP exams have corresponding courses for high school students that are recommended but not required to take the exam, while the CLEP tests do not. (However, there are practice tests and CLEP courses available online.)

AP tests are more widely accepted by colleges and universities, especially top-ranking ones. 


Does CLEP Affect GPA?

CLEP exams are only taken for college credit, meaning they have no effect on high school courses or Grade Point Average. 


What Happens if You Fail a CLEP Exam?

There are no penalties if a student fails a CLEP exam. It should be noted, however, the CLEP Retest Policy states that “test takers may not repeat an exam of the same title within three months of the initial testing date. If you retake the exam within the three-month period, your administration will be considered invalid, your score will be canceled, and any test fees will be forfeited.”


What Are the Easiest CLEP Exams?

The easiest CLEP exams are different for each student, depending on their individual strengths, weaknesses, and interests. ExamGremlin reported that the easiest CLEP exams overall are College Composition, College Composition Modular, Principles of Marketing, and Information Systems, and the most difficult CLEP exams overall are Chemistry, Calculus, Business Law, Western Civilization II, History of the United States II, American Literature, English Literature, Financial Accounting, and Natural Sciences. 

Here are the reported easiest and hardest exams by subject, according to the ExamGremiln:

Composition and Literature

The easiest:

  • College Composition
  • College Composition Modular
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

The hardest:

  • American Literature
  • English Literature

History and Social Sciences

The easiest:

  • Introductory Sociology
  • Introductory Psychology
  • Introduction to Educational Psychology
  • Human Growth and Development

The hardest:

  • American Government
  • Western Civilization I
  • Western Civilization II
  • U.S. History I
  • U.S. History II
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics


The easiest:

  • College Algebra
  • College Mathematics

The hardest:

  • Calculus


The easiest:

  • Natural Sciences
  • Biology

The hardest:

  • Chemistry


The easiest:

  • Principles of Marketing
  • Principles of Management

The hardest:

  • Business Law
  • Financial Accounting


Which Colleges Take CLEP?

According to the College Board, more than 2,900 colleges and universities accept CLEP scores.

Collegevine reported the top 10 universities that accept CLEP scores in the United States.

  • University of Arizona
  • Colorado State University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Massachusetts
  • Michigan State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of San Diego
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of Wisconsin

Information about CLEP prep can be found on the College Board website. Before your child decides to take a CLEP test, it’s important that they research their chosen college or university’s policies regarding CLEP scores.

Some colleges only accept a certain number of CLEP credits and may accept some but not all CLEP subject areas.

Different schools have different score cutoffs required for credit, so it’s important to talk to an academic advisor at your child’s chosen college to see how CLEP fits in with their education plan.  






Hallie Underwood

Hallie Underwood is a writer, editor and reporter. She is a recent graduate of Upper Arlington High School in Columbus, Ohio and now is a first-year at Kenyon College majoring in English. She has written for organizations such as Balance the Ballot, a student newsource. She has been recognized by the Ohio Scholastic Media Association and the National Council of Teachers of English for her achievements. You can contact her on LinkedIn.