Good to Know: Writing a CLEP Question

It’s nearly impossible to develop a college class or write a textbook without some kind of bias, yet CLEP exams tend to be balanced and fair. How does that happen?

Bias is an interesting concept. While we like to think we can all be neutral, our own interpretation of events is our bias. Good test questions work through bias and try to whittle away opinions until just the facts remain. As such, you’re less likely to find a heavily slanted opinion in a CLEP exam than in a teacher-taught class or a textbook where the thoughts reflect one person’s views.

Photo by fauxels on

Bias isn’t educating someone about both sides of a topic (which I think most of us would support), but bias is when one side is argued as the only correct opinion. Not a big deal in College Algebra class, but an entirely different matter in courses where values and truths and opinions all become woven together and subject to a professor’s opinion. CLEP exams do a good job of going around these situations and settling down on a more universally accepted set of facts. I like to think of CLEP exams a little like playing a game of Trivial Pursuit. Most of the time, the right answer is clear.

In an attempt at fairness and clarity, CLEP questions are not written by one person or even one small group. They undergo a long process that rules out and reworks questions. The path a CLEP question takes to land on your teen’s exam is an interesting one.

  1. Faculty are commissioned to write test questions.

2. The Test Development Committee reviews each question based on:

  • The question’s topic is appropriate for the specifications of the exam.
  • The the question is unambiguous and that there’s a single correct response to the question.
  • The new item is valid in the context of the exam, so that its inclusion in the exam will help colleges and universities determine the achievement level of test takers.
  • There is no knowledge outside the scope of the exam that would be required for a test taker to answer it correctly.
  • The question measures a test taker’s understanding of and ability to think analytically about the subject matter.

3. The test questions then undergo an editorial and fairness review. This review looks for content that is “inappropriate, offensive, or stereotypical language, and that its content or wording does not favor any particular group of test takers.”

4. The questions then are placed onto a CLEP exam – mixed in but unscored.

5. Once the question has been answered by enough test takers, statistics are collected based on “degree of difficulty and differential functioning among various groups of test takers.”

6. The test question is then analyzed by the Test Development Committee. The committed decides the question’s fate: included, discarded, or rewritten.

7. Test questions that are rewritten begin the process over again.

Read more about CLEP


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit