Posted in CLEP, Credit by Exam, High School, Transcripts

CLEP Science: 3, 4, 6, or 8 credits?

If your teen is studying Biology, Chemistry, or Physics in high school you may be considering a CLEP science exam at the end of the school year.  CLEP science exams are all listed as “6 credit” exams on the College Board website, but these exams are a little unusual.

College science courses are typically 3 credits when taken without a lab, but when a lab is taken, they are worth 4.  As such, if you’re looking up a college’s CLEP policy, you can “guesstimate” how they will apply your teen’s science exam based on the award given.

Here is an example of how the CLEP Biology Exam may appear on a college transcript.

If your college awards 3 credits- it’s only worth credit for Biology 1.
If your college awards 4 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 with lab.
If your college awards 6 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 & 2 without a lab.
If your college awards 8 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 & 2 with lab.

Let’s go Deeper

What about the High School Transcript?

Generally speaking, when a teen takes a CLEP exam, the parent’s first question is whether or not they have to do something different on the high school transcript.

The short answer is “no” because a parent only awards high school credit, it’s a college that decides if and how much college credit is awarded.  Still, there is the question of awarding more credit, or removing a course, as a result of a pass/failed CLEP.

If you use the traditional model used by public and private high schools when students take Advanced Placement tests (AP and CLEP are part of the same company) you’ll notice that the student takes an AP course all year.  Later, at the end of the school year, students may choose to attempt an AP exam for potential college credit.  Whether or not a student takes the exam has no bearing on their AP grade, and neither does their score!  In fact, AP exam scores aren’t ready until the summer after the course was taken.

Whether or not your teen passes or fails the CLEP exam, you’ll want to be sure you give them high school credit.  Passing a CLEP exam is “frosting on the cake.”

Guidelines for High School Credit

1 semester of high school science = 1/2 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of high school science = 1 high school credit

1 semester of DIY college-level science = 1/2 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of DIY college-level science= 1 high school credit

1 semester of college science taken through a college= 1 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of college science taken through a college= 2 high school credits

Weighted Grades

There is a strong debate about whether or not to weight a grade or Grade Point Average (GPA) when a homeschool course preps for a CLEP exam.  The facts are that some public and private high schools do weight grades (5.0 quality points on a 4.0 scale) for College Prep, Advanced Placement, or accelerated courses – but a DIY college-level course is a grey area.

Not sure?  Ask yourself if the curriculum merits a higher quality point without CLEP.  If it doesn’t, then stick to a 4.0 scale.  If it does, then use a 5.0 with confidence! 

studentAs you start to look ahead to college applications, you can review the target college’s websites and see if they indicate wanting a weighted or unweighted transcript- some will have a preference.  Others state simply that all transcripts are recalculated onto a 4.0 scale.  You can do both if you’re undecided.


My advice is to follow the same approach for all 4 years of high school (weighted or unweighted) and if you decide to weight grades, be sure to write and include an explanation of your rationale.



You may also be interested in my other post  10 Ways to Take Science Labs at Home

You can look at the content of every exam at the College Board’s Official Website.