Posted in HS4CC

Math in Your Homeschool: CLEP

At some point in your teen’s math sequence, you’ll cross over into math topics that are also part of a typical college math sequence.  This transition begins just after Algebra 1, and if parents are aware of this shift, it can result in significant amounts of college credit!

Unlike high school math, math isn’t required every year in college, and in many cases, a student only needs 1 math class to meet their ENTIRE 4-year degree requirement! Of course, if you’re going into a math-heavy major, that won’t be the case, but for the overwhelming majority of students, they may have as few as 1 math class in college.

Understanding the mathematics requirements of a college degree is an important part of building your teen’s high school math program, especially if you’re trying to earn college credit. Teens who complete their college’s math requirement in high school may NEVER have to take math in college! In addition, many teens are surprised to learn that their high school math was more rigorous than their college math requirements!

How much math is required in high school?  First, you have to answer that question for your state. If you live in a state with specific high school graduation requirements, then you’ll want to be sure you comply with them.  Compliance assures your teen’s diploma will be valid and legal as they exit high school and move forward in life. It is the homeschooling parent’s responsibility to make decisions within the framework of the law. The truth of the matter is that most of you don’t have graduation requirements, rather your state offers up their public school math program as a suggested course for you to follow. Compliance with any public school suggestion is always up to you.

How much math is required in college?  One answer will not apply to everyone here, but there are 2 places to look for math requirements for your teen’s degree. Doing some preliminary research will help you understand how much math they can expect in their major.  After checking a handful of colleges, you’ll have a good idea if their major is “math-light” or “math-heavy” and you can plan accordingly.

  1. Look at the GENERAL EDUCATION requirements for their target college. The core requirements everyone at that college must take in order to graduate from that college. General education requirements may be as few as 5 classes in some Associate of Applied Science programs, to the more typical 20 courses at a 4-year college.  You’ll find that General Education requirements can be VERY different from one school to the next.
  2. Look at the math requirements of their MAJOR at their target college. These are the requirements in addition to the General Education courses necessary to earn a degree.  Expect to see math requirements in every STEM major (math, engineering, science, computer science) and don’t expect to find extra math requirements in liberal arts majors (English, humanities, social sciences, music, sociology, teaching, foreign language). This will vary by college, but you’ll start to pick up on patterns and consistencies for most majors across most colleges.

When is high school math worth college credit?  Unless you deliberately bring college credit into your homeschool, none of their high school curriculum is ever worth college credit – even if it’s HARDER than college-level work! Parents can resourcefully plan their teen’s high school program by knowing when high school math is on par with college-level learning, and use CLEP exams to accumulate college credit in high school.

A typical K-12 math sequence follows this general progression:

Arithmetic (grades k-8)

Pre-Algebra (grades 6-9)

Algebra 1 (grades 8-10)

Geometry (grades 9-10)

Algebra 2 (grades 10-12)

Trigonometry / Pre-Calculus (grades 10-12)

Calculus (grades 10-12)

Here is the same typical K-12 math sequence that injects college credit via CLEP exams:

Arithmetic (grades k-8)

Pre-Algebra (grades 6-9)

Algebra 1 (grades 8-10)

Geometry (grades 9-10) –> CLEP College Mathematics Exam (6 cr.)

Algebra 2 (grades 10-12)

Trigonometry / Pre-Calculus (grades 10-12) –> CLEP College Algebra Exam* (3 cr.)

Trigonometry / Pre-Calculus (grades 10-12) –>CLEP PreCalculus Exam (3 cr.)

Calculus (grades 10-12) –> CLEP Calculus Exam (4 cr.)

*The CLEP College Algebra Exam contains a little bit of Pre-Calculus.  If your student excels in the subject, they’ll probably be ready for the CLEP exam somewhere in the middle of the course. Others may feel more prepared at the conclusion of Pre-Calculus. 


Parents who take advantage of bringing CLEP into their homeschool and send their teen to a college that awards college credit for the CLEP math exams can earn a lot of college credit!  Students who take all of the math exams through Calculus have the potential to earn 16 college credits in high school.  When a student is already well-qualified to receive college credit in a subject, it’s a tremendous waste of time to complete a course once in high school and then again in college!  If saving time isn’t enough of a motivation, with the average cost of college credit soaring to roughly $500 per credit, completing these CLEP exams in high school can reduce your teen’s cost of college by about $8,000!

If the thought of your teen advancing beyond Algebra 1 feels like a long shot, I want to offer you some encouragement. There are many ways to earn high school and college credit in math beyond this basic CLEP option! If you feel the least bit uncertain about how to move forward with math, your teen can achieve success in math by coming at this from an entirely different way. Check out my most popular math posts EVER:

Math Success 4 Math Averse

If CLEP isn’t your favorite exam brand, you may want to also consider DSST (which fits in exactly the same scope and sequence in your homeschool math program).

DSST Math for the Liberal Arts vs. CLEP College Mathematics


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit