CLEP exams are accepted at 75% of the regionally accredited degree granting colleges in this country, but “how” you get use CLEP will fall into 1 of 4 categories.
Ways CLEP May Be Accepted
Category 1: Full course to course replacement
This is the BEST type of credit acceptance because it saves you both time and money. In this situation, passing the CLEP College Algebra exam means you’ll receive college credit toward your degree for College Algebra. If your target college allows full replacement, it is to your advantage to take as many CLEP exams as possible prior to enrollment.
Category 2: Partial replacement
Partial replacement can be tricky. As an example, if your college degree requires 6 colleges credit of Spanish, and the CLEP exam counts as 3 (the first 3), that means you’ll still have to earn the second 3 credits through your college – and it might be hard jumping into “Spanish II.” A second example we see a lot is in the sciences. If your college requires 8 college credits of General Biology with Lab, passing the CLEP Biology will only award 6, and those will be without a lab. This leaves you to find 2 biology lab credits- nearly impossible. In the case of partial replacement, you may be better off using CLEP for other courses in your degree and taking these as directed.
Category 3: No credit / prerequisites
When a teen tries to register for dual enrollment courses, there may be placement test requirements or prerequisites (like English / Math) that must be met before enrollment eligibility is granted. If you’re using a college only for dual enrollment in high school and have no intent of staying with that college for a degree, their CLEP acceptance policy isn’t especially useful, but finding out whether you can use CLEP to meet those prerequisite requirements is! In most cases, demonstrating college readiness through CLEP isn’t granting “college credit” at the college, but it is opening the door to registration. This tip also works after high school or after your first degree. Many graduate colleges allow you to use CLEP when your undergraduate degree has deficiencies. This category isn’t saving you money, but it is saving you a lot of time and trouble.
Category 4: Very high score requirements
This is a colleges way of “accepting” CLEP publicly, while behind the scenes setting the bar too high for most students to meet. Your CLEP score will fall between 20-80. The American Council on Education recommended score for college credit is 50, so scoring at least 50 will yield college credit in most cases. It’s not unusual for a college to ask for a higher score in a certain test, or to even award more credit for a really high score, but what we occasionally see are colleges that set very high score requirements for all CLEP exams.
- EXAMPLE: CLEP American Literature pass rate (score of 50) was 51% in 2020. The College Board (officially) considers a score of only 53 to be the equivalent of a “B” letter grade level of knowledge. An unofficial assessment is that a score of 56 is roughly equal to an “A” grade level of knowledge. As you can see, it would probably be easier to get an A+ in American Literature college course than scoring a 62 on the CLEP!
If you’re reviewing a CLEP policy and the college is asking for scores over 62 for all exams, be aware that it is going to be very challenging to accumulate significant credit at that college using CLEP. If you’re considering 2 different colleges and they are equal in most other regards, the one that accepts scores of 50’s should edge out the one that doesn’t – it can save you thousands of dollars and many semesters of time.
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