Tips and Tricks for CLEP Exams
By Emma Smith
Editor’s Note: The College Level Examination Program® (CLEP) is a series of exams offered by the College Board. Students who take these exams may be able to get college credit which can save tuition dollars in the long run. These exams can be taken before college but also while the student is in college. The information below presents the experience of one young woman. Because policies may change, you should check the College Board website for updated information.
I’m not a fan of multiple-choice tests but I have had very good luck with CLEPs. You usually only need a 50/80 to pass, which is roughly a C, so it is a good option for someone who does
meh but good enough on standardized tests. If you fail, you can retake any exam after waiting three months. As I have been taking CLEP exams, I have been steadily improving my confidence for standardized tests which is awesome because I was pretty bad at them. I have taken two tests so far and I plan on taking four to five more.
Where to take CLEP exams
- I took my first CLEP at the Johnson & Wales University test center.
- Easy, no complaints. Felt very test-y though.
- I took my second remotely through Proctortrack.
- This was very easy, low stress. I needed a certain kind of computer and such to make it happen, but my dad’s work laptop was good enough. It DOES NOT feel like you’re taking a test when you do it online.
- My brother took his CLEPs at Bunker Hill Community College.
- I don’t know very much about his experience, but he said it was decent.
Note: You do need a government-issued ID for testing.
Websites/Books for learning
- I recommend anyone taking a CLEP to get the big book of practice tests. It’s only $25 and it has every single test. It’s an investment but worth it!
- This website was made specifically for CLEPs. Take the class, practice questions, and final test. After that you get a voucher to take a free CLEP test and when you pass you can get a rebate on your testing fee. I have done two CLEPs with this site.
- BUT not all of the classes are good. The accounting one is awful, but the rest have been okay. You will probably need supplemental material/practice tests.
- Khan Academy
- Use the AP classes, as they are the same (if not harder) than the material you will see on the CLEP.
- Search the class you need, and you will find materials for it. I used YouTube videos for Business Law and Econ. This goes more class by class, but you can find good material pretty easily if you know what to look for.
- AP Test Books/Practice Tests
- AP/CLEP are virtually the same content. You can use basically any AP book if the syllabi match.
- Use the AP practice exams when available. Again, they are the same and official. High school teachers also often post practice exams. I use those when available too.
- Other people also like: Sophia, Coursera, Instantcert (but I have not personally used these).
Websites for general questions
How I passed a CLEP TestFacebook group
- Lots of tips, resources, etc.
- r/Clep on reddit
- Not as good as the Facebook group but still very helpful.
CLEPs to Take
If you know where you want to go, see if you can get the class requirements for the major AND the CLEP policy. You should be able to pick out the 101 classes that you can CLEP out of and see what score you will need to get. In general, the lower
ranking the college is, the easier it is to get credits accepted. Elite colleges like Harvard don’t take very much for transfer credit at all; Johnson & Wales/the UMass System take everything above a certain score (50) but may not accept certain exams, and most community colleges will take pretty much any credit you have. If you CLEP correctly, there is a possibility you could skip community college all together.*
The easiest CLEP is Analyzing and Interpreting Literature OR the College Composition test. These would be good options to start with and get a student out of the general required English class. After that I would recommend:
- As many of the maths CLEPs as you can complete
- BUT College Mathematics (aka Algebra 1-2) should be prioritized.
- Or Micro, but Macro is the standard.
- Spanish/A foreign language
- I did not have a language requirement but the test is supposedly really easy and can get you out of your first semester. They have other language test options as well.
- A science
- Whichever one is easiest for you. Bio would be a good choice as it seems to be the easiest.
- US History
- There are two different exams for it; most people seem to take US History 1.
- I’m taking it now and it’s very easy.
If the student is a business major I would also recommend:
- Business Law
- Financial Accounting
- This test is HARD but easier than taking the class itself.
- Information Systems
*Editor's note: While CLEP tests can be a great way to get college credit for required classes, they may not be the best way to learn and cement knowledge for subjects in your main area of study. For your major area or for classes which build on one another (eg. a math sequence) you may want to opt for the class over the test.
There are also DSST exams (a very similar program to CLEP). I will be taking one of those soon, but I know very little about them and have no experience in them yet.
Emma Smith is a homeschool graduate entering her second year at Johnson and Wales University. She is majoring in Sports, Entertainment,and Event Management with a specialization in Live Entertainment Management. To date she has taken two CLEP exams and is preparing to take more. In addition to taking CLEP exams and her regular classes, Emma also works for Student Engagement and is the Marketing director for two student organizations. In her spare time, she likes to write, read, and learn about alligators.