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College Level Exam Program (CLEP)

Credit by exam programs are standardized tests written and administered by a company (not college) that assess college-level knowledge in various subjects. Credit by exam tests are not “textbook specific” so you can prepare using any material you like. Credit earned by exam is considered “potential” college credit until it is accepted by a college.

CLEP 101 – Jennifer’s 20-minute CLEP Seminar

Is your CLEP student under age 13? No problem- you’ll need to fill this out first.

What’s so great about CLEP?

Passing a CLEP exam can mean saving huge amounts of time and money off the cost of a college degree. I discuss CLEP frequently in my book and on Facebook, mainly because it’s my personal favorite credit by exam resource. I’ve passed over 15 CLEP exams myself, and my children another dozen. My exams translated into 60 college credits, which met the full requirements of my Associate of Arts degree, but even if your teen passes 1-2 exams, they can really save a lot of time and money on their college degree!

How does it work?

(Sample: Precalculus)

  1. Your teen learns high school Precalculus at home using your favorite homeschool curriculum.
  2. At the conclusion of the homeschool course, you’ll award high school credit on their transcript.*
  3. Register your teen for the free Modern States Precalculus CLEP prep course.
  4. Complete the course quizzes with 70% or greater and receive the exam voucher.
  5. Register for the CLEP exam using the CLEP voucher number.
  6. Take the CLEP Precalculus exam on your home computer or at a testing center.
  7. Passing scores of 50+ are held on an official College Board transcript.
  8. Failed exams are confidential and not seen by future colleges. (you can retake failed exams)
  9. At the end of high school, send your official College Board transcript to the target college.
  10. Colleges that award college credit will do so at that time.
  11. If your teen receives college credit for the exam, Precalculus will be recorded on their college transcript without paying tuition or taking the class.

*You can designate a high school course as “honors”when it includes extra studying for a CLEP exam.

Your student can take as many CLEP exams as they want! There is no age requirement, no limit to the number of Modern States vouchers your teen can earn, and no cap on the number of credits they can earn. Since the Homeschooling for College Credit method brings CLEP into your homeschool, this method allows you to inject dozens of CLEP exams into your high school program without extra work or extra cost.

Currently about 75% of all colleges and universities in the country will award college credit in some amount for a successful CLEP exam score.

What’s a test like?

CLEP exams are multiple choice tests graded as pass or fail. A numeric score is generated based on the number of questions you got correct and then calculated using a confidential scale that converts that number into a scaled score. Generally, a scaled score of 50 is considered passing, but a college may require a higher score based on their own internal policies. The threshold for passing is tied tightly to what can best be described as “a curve.” The curve was calculated during exam creation and based on real students who took a real college class and then the CLEP exam. For this reason, the number of questions you need to pass will vary a bit by exam.

For example, out of 90 questions, a passing score for one exam may require 45 questions answered correctly, while another subject requires 40, and another requires 50. In all three samples, the scaled score (the score you see on your report) is a 50. The exact number needed on each exam to score a 50 is confidential. As a guideline, you’ll need to answer a little more than half the questions correct for a score of 50.

When you take a CLEP exam, the score pops up on the screen at the end, so you’ll know whether or not you passed immediately. The only exception is when an exam has an essay (English Composition/Spanish Writing).

This Youtube tutorial shows you what to expect when taking a CLEP exam.

2023 Exam List & ACE College Credit

The reward for passing an exam ranges from 3–9 college credits. In 2015, unfortunately, eight of the exams were downgraded, and this included the huge 12 credit foreign language exam (now only worth 9). I point this out because I often discover website errors or outdated CLEP lists. Below is the current and official CLEP value list. If a college advertises a different award, you will want to investigate further.

PRO TIP: Even on college pages with current lists, it is impossible to predict what a CLEP score will be worth when your teen eventually attends college, so don’t overinvest in what a certain college does or doesn’t award for CLEP today. Just stockpile credit now, and worry about the award later. This is why it is a fool’s errand to worry too much about what “ABC College” or “XYZ University” publishes as their CLEP policy today. If you bring CLEP into your homeschool using the method above, you have no cause for worry about what a college policy is until your teen is ready to pick their college and enroll.

CLEP is FREE if you get a voucher

Since 2018, the non-profit organization Modern States has awarded CLEP vouchers for FREE to everyone who takes the free prep course. To use Modern States in your homeschool, simply have your teen take the Modern States course when they finish their high school course. To get the voucher, your teen needs to pass the quizzes with 70% or higher. Since watching the videos or doing the reading is not required, my advice is to wait until your teen’s high school course ends. If done that way, your teen can zip through the prep course in under a week. Get a Voucher

No govt. issued ID for your teen? No problem- just fill out this form.

Are CLEP exams hard?

I have listened to feedback from tens of thousands of parents, I’ve used CLEP in my homeschool and taken it myself, and I’ve studied the feedback about CLEP exams extensively since 2005. You know what I’ve learned? It really just depends on the person. As an example, someone who struggles with reading quickly is going to find the all of the literature exams challenging because they contain massive amounts of reading. Someone who is an excellent test-taker will certainly have an advantage over those of us who are not.

So, are CLEP exams hard? Yes and no. Do not underestimate the exam. It will cover a LOT of material, think “wide” instead of “deep.” For exams that are worth 6 credits, be prepared to cover a full year of college level content! It is much more manageable to start with 3-credit exams instead of the 6-credit exams.

Finally, CLEP exams are multiple-choice, so the answers are given, but the wording can be complex and confusing. A good high school curriculum will teach your teen 50- 75% of the content, but make sure they’ve done a good bit of test prep before the exam.

Pass Rates

People often refer to published pass rates to get a sense of how hard or easy an exam is. While I do think there is something to that perspective, a student’s background and motivation to study a subject shouldn’t be discounted. For instance, the Spanish Language CLEP has held the position of “best pass rates” for years, but that doesn’t mean every student starting from scratch is more likely to pass Spanish than math! That pass rate probably represents the large number of bilingual people we have in this country and not the “easiness” of the material.

As such, I like to break the pass rates down by high school category. This allows you to look at your teen’s high school schedule and choose an “easy” exam from the category you need.

Foreign LanguageCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
Spanish Language*91%84%
French Language* 78%69%
German Language* 72%57%
Behavioral ScienceCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
Introductory Sociology 80%64%
Human Growth and Development 75%34%
Introductory Psychology 70%36%
Social Sciences and History 62%41%
Introduction to Educational Psychology 60%36%
ScienceCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
Biology 60%39%
Natural Sciences 57%63%
Chemistry 39%23%
Social ScienceCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pas Rate (2019)
Principles of Macroeconomics 72%35%
Principles of Microeconomics 72%32%
History of the United States I69%50%
Western Civilization I68%45%
Social Sciences and History62%41%
History of the United States II56%38%
American Government52%50%
Western Civilization II48%37%
Language ArtsCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
College Composition Modular (no essay)83%82%
College Composition 81%74%
Analyzing and Interpreting Literature 75%66%
English Literature60%29%
American Literature 51%16%
MathematicsCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
College Mathematics 76%64%
Calculus 53%34%
College Algebra52%24%
BusinessCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
Principles of Marketing 79%54%
Information Systems71%69%
Principles of Management67%33%
Financial Accounting55%14%
Intro. Business Law51%20%
Fine ArtsCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)

* For each of the world language exams, you’ll take 1 exam and the score determines the number of credits awarded. ACE recommends 6 semester hours of credit for mastery of Level 1 content (a score of 50) and 9 semester hours of credit for mastery of both Levels 1 and 2 (a score of 59 on the French Language, 60 on the German Language, 63 on the Spanish Language, and 65 on Spanish with Writing).

Get well-prepared for the CLEP: use layers

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