Posted in HS4CC

Parent Question: Does College Board ever change the passing score needed?

“Hello. I understand that colleges can change which CLEP exams they will accept every year. I was wondering if the College Board updates/changes the passing score for the CLEP exams?” What a wonderful question – I like where your thoughts are taking you, and I can’t wait to dig into this answer.

As an avid CLEP enthusiast, it’s not often that a question about CLEP stumps me, but this one did! I have solid knowledge of CLEP policies and procedures that goes back to about 2006, but I wanted to go back pre-2006 since I was curious too. Technically, the passing score you’ll hear about (50) isn’t set by CLEP, it’s set by ACE, so this took a little digging.

I turned to the American Council on Education (ACE) National Guide database. The ACE database holds all the details of CLEP score requirements since the first CLEP exam received evaluation in 1978. CLEP isn’t scored like a regular 0-100 exam, they have a scaled score that can fall anywhere from 20-80 (80 is a perfect score).

There are really 3 players that are part of every CLEP exam being worth college credit.

  1. The College Board: this is the creator of the exam and grader of your test. The College Board records your raw score (number correct) and converts it into a scaled score using a secret algorithm. College Board’s exams are “worth college credit” because they took the time to have them evaluated by ACE.
  2. American Council on Education (ACE) is a neutral third party that looks at any type of non-college learning and makes a recommendation for credit worthiness. It is ACE that determined a CLEP exam’s passing score should be 50.
  3. Your target college is the ultimate authority for awarding college credit. A college could decide a CLEP score lower than 50 is still worth college credit, or they could require a higher one, but the score required at each college may differ slightly.


Changes at a target college can and do happen often. But that is generally still coming from the baseline of 50, meaning a college thinks 50 is too low. The college then determines what feels like a better (usually higher) number and uses that.

I looked up every exam since 1978 and the scores required. There have been a handful of exams discontinued since inception, and many new ones added. Of the currently available exams (34 of them) the oldest exams are Western Civ 1 & 2, and Biology. These 3 were approved in 2001 and are still running the same versions. All 3 of those exams were created on the scale that uses 50 as passing.

So, here’s your answer:

Since 2001, the passing score required for every CLEP exam has been set at 50.

My opinion is that the likelihood of CLEP / ACE changing the scale is very very low. While some colleges want higher scores, there are plenty of colleges that accept a passing score and happily award college credit.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

2 thoughts on “Parent Question: Does College Board ever change the passing score needed?

  1. For TAMU the passing score for CHEM 112 is a 48 (4hrs college credit). If you score a 50 on the exam, you get 8ths credit!!

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