Posted in HS4CC

Let’s CLEP Out of U.S. History

Is your teen currently studying high school American History ? Beyond just awarding high school credit, you can also allow them to attempt to earn college credit (for free!) by including a CLEP exam at the end of this school year. This post includes some of my favorite CLEP U.S. History resources.

CLEP exams offer people of any age the opportunity to pass a multiple-choice exam that could end up saving time and money later! CLEP exams can be taken at home or a testing center 24/7/365 and when you use the resources below, there is no (or very low) cost to take the exam!

My family and I have passed at least 25 CLEP exams through the years, and the best prep has always been when we used a layering technique. (if you have Homeschooling for College Credit, refer to Chapter 5)

My philosophy differs significantly from most who will caution you to “check CLEP policies before taking an exam.” I couldn’t disagree more strongly!! I urge your teen to take EVERY exam that lines up with their homeschool classes! Do this EVERY semester and EVERY year until they finish high school.

The cost is $0 (when you follow the voucher program below). The risk is $0. The retake for failed exams is $0. Failed scores are never sent to future colleges. I have yet to hear a single good reason NOT to take a CLEP! Even if the credit ends up not being part of a degree, there is absolutely no harm in having this credit “in the bank” for later. Passed exams are held for 20 years or until used. Get that credit!

American / United States History is broken into 2 exams. You can take one or both, and you can take either one first. The exams are chronological. US History 1 is Colonial through Civil War, and US History 2 is Civil War through the present.

In my homeschool, I used the first semester (Aug-Dec) to teach US History 1 and then followed with the CLEP exam. I used the second semester (Jan-May) to teach US History 2 and then followed with the CLEP exam. You can completely customize a timeline that works for you.

Layer 1: Official Exam Guide

A new exam guide is published by The College Board every year, and while you don’t need your own copy, if you can find one used or online for ten-bucks, I highly recommend it. Buy the PAPERBACK so you can make photocopies of the tests for each of your kids. If you’re unsure, get a copy from your library. The Official Guide includes an exam outline for EVERY CLEP as well as a full-length practice test for EVERY CLEP. It’s very useful! 2022 CLEP Official Guide

Layer 2: Textbooks

This is your high school curriculum. If your student is currently studying American History / United States History, you’re already covered. Learning history slowly and carefully BEFORE layer 4 is important. If you’re looking for high school curriculum and haven’t started yet, my advice is to stick with the major homeschool textbook companies that have robust curriculum and if they have a lab, even better. There are probably a dozen brands that do an equally good job. I like Cathy Duffy’s review site when I’m trying to decide for myself.

Layer 3: Multimedia / Video

Annenberg Media Biography of America

Use the free online videos to reinforce your high school curriculum. The Biography of America video series is what I used with all of my sons and in my own testing out of US History 1 & 2 through CLEP. The video series does a wonderful job of telling the story of America and it’s my favorite price -free!! There are 26 videos in the set, each lasting 30 minutes. I highly recommend these.

Layer 4: Test Prep

Modern States

In order to get your CLEP exam cost and proctoring fee covered, you have to have your teen complete the Modern States US History courses. Not only will this give them targeted test prep, but the voucher means your out of pocket cost for this CLEP is $0! My recommendation is waiting until they are finished or nearly finished with their high school course before jumping over into the test prep program. Learning is slow, test prep is fast. Your teen can do their Modern States course in a week or so, but it should be done close to their test. Modern States: How to Take a CLEP for Free!

Layer 5: Practice Tests

REA Guide for US History 1

REA Guide for US History 2

At one time, I had REA Guides for every CLEP on my homeschool shelf! REA Guides have the best practice tests because they are the only company that has a comprehensive “why” next to every answer. In my opinion, knowing “why” you missed a question is more important than getting a question right but not knowing why! REA Guides are also targeted exactly to the most current version of any exam.

REA Guides, when purchased new, include an online code that can add an extra layer of prep by giving you access to a diagnostic. If budget is not a concern, buy new. It will cost about $30 and you’ll get the diagnostic in addition to the practice tests. You can resell your book when you’re finished in the HS4CC Marketplace, save it for your other kids, give it to a friend, or use it to study yourself!


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit