Posted in HS4CC

What happens if a student takes a CLEP exam but isn’t able to finish all the questions?

I received this important question via email. Let’s look at how this works, and I’ll share a few strategies you can give to your teen to help them with timing.

All CLEP exams are timed. Most are about 90 minutes. It’s essential that your teen be aware of their countdown clock! It is located in the upper right corner of the screen, and the student has the option to click “hide time” to remove the clock. (I recommend they leave it visible unless it is a significant distraction)

When the time runs out, the test ends. Unanswered questions are scored as “zero” points, which is the same as if they were marked wrong, so it’s really important that every test question be answered before the time runs out. Since you have the option of skipping around and going back, you can use a few test-taking strategies to make sure you don’t have any unanswered questions.

Test-Taking Strategy #1

Do a quick pace calculation before you begin. Each test varies in the number of questions and time allowed, but most exams have roughly 90 questions and allow 90 minutes. (you can get the real number of questions and time for your exam here) A quick tip is to divide each in half. In this example, I know that by my 45 minute mark I should be on or past question 45. If I have 100 questions in 90 minutes, I would need to be on question 50 at the half-way point, etc. This helps set a pace for the exam.

Test-Taking Strategy #2

There are a few exams where you’re going to need every minute of test time. For me, it always happened during literature exams because of the extensive amount of reading, but really you can do this with any exam. During the final 10 minutes, note where you are, and then answer the rest of the questions a random letter. I liked to choose THE SAME LETTER for each, but it makes no difference. Once you’ve done that, you can go back to your “actual” point where you were selecting a random letter and go back to answering for real. Even if the clock runs out, there is at least a 20% chance that your random letter is correct.

Test-Taking Strategy #3

If you have a learning or physical disability that would prevent you from taking a CLEP exam under standard conditions, you may request accommodations directly from the test center where you’re planning to test. Specifically, you can request extended time for any CLEP exam. Contact the test center well in advance of the test date to make the necessary arrangements and to find out its deadline for submission of documentation for approval of accommodations.

Test-Taking Strategy #4

Go slowly so you can move faster. Reading a question carefully and slowly the first time is always “faster” than rushing through it two ore three times to go back and pick out information. This “go slow” strategy, in my opinion, also helps reduce the anxiety some students experience in a timed test situation. Though the test is timed, most students will finish most CLEP exams with time to spare, so slow down your speed and read carefully!

Test-Taking Strategy #5

Don’t waste time learning how to use the platform. There are a few links below to see a demonstration of how to use the platform and play around with the in-test calculators. USE THESE!! Don’t waste precious test taking time during the exam fumbling around getting your bearings.

CLEP Testing Platform Tutorial

From the CLEP website:

Practice with Graphing and Scientific Calculators

Graphing calculators are used in certain sections of the Calculus and Precalculus exams. Scientific (nongraphing) calculators are available in the ChemistryCollege Algebra, and College Mathematics exams. You are expected to know when it’s appropriate to use the calculators in each exam.

Information about the calculators, including opportunities to practice, is available here.

Homeschool Subjects & CLEP Depth

CLEP is a fantastic addition to any homeschool program.  For parents that want to plan a lot of inexpensive (free) college credit into their teen’s high school program, you’ll want to understand the depth of knowledge needed of various exams. CLEP exams can be sorted into 2 depth piles: individual subjects or cumulative subjects: Knowing the…


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit