Practically every American college student is familiar with the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the AP (Advanced Placement) tests administered by the College Board. Fewer students are aware of the College Level Examination Program or CLEP, although it could be beneficial to them. Here are the basics about this under-publicized program. Factual information is from the website of the College Board.
What is CLEP?
CLEP provides an opportunity for individuals of any age to earn college credit for knowledge in a field of study even though they have not completed a formal college course. For example, if a person is very proficient in French or Spanish because they lived abroad, they can earn college credit for language courses by earning a certain score on the CLEP examination in that field. CLEP tests are offered as a substitute for many of the introductory courses typically offered during the first two years of college.
In what fields are CLEP tests offered?
There are 33 individual subject tests clustered in these five general areas: English Composition and Literature, Foreign Languages (French, Spanish, German), History and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, and Business. The complete list of tests offered is available on the College Board website here.
Do all colleges and universities grant credit based on CLEP examination scores?
No, each college makes its own determination about whether to participate in CLEP, which test scores to accept and in what fields. More than 2900 colleges do grant credit based on CLEP scores, including community colleges (two-year institutions), public and private four-year colleges. For example, in my state of Maryland, schools as different as the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Community College of Baltimore County, and Towson University all give credit for some CLEP examinations.
Where are the tests given?
Students may choose among about 1600 locations where CLEP tests are administered, most of which are colleges and universities that accept CLEP scores for college credit.
What is the test format?
CLEP tests are now administered by computer. Each test takes about 90 minutes. Most tests are multiple choice and scores are available immediately. Scores are reported on a scale of 20 to 80. There is no penalty for guessing; your score is based on the number of correct answers. Tests involving essays will be graded by college faculty.
What is the cost of taking a CLEP exam?
For each examination taken, there is a $77 fee payable to the College Board. In addition, the test site college may charge an administration fee. An extra $10 fee is charged for tests involving essays. Military personnel generally do not have to pay the fees.
What types of students may benefit from CLEP?
Home-schooled students, returning adult students with knowledge gained from professional experience, students who may have attended non-accredited institutions, self-taught persons who read extensively, and many others can benefit from the CLEP program.
Why not just take the college courses?
Students who receive credit for college work through CLEP save tuition money, are able to move on to more advanced subjects, and are usually able to receive their degrees sooner.
For students in certain circumstances, the CLEP program can be very helpful. It can save tuition money by allowing students to demonstrate that they have already mastered the content taught in a typical introductory level college course. Returning military veterans may find the program particularly advantageous, especially since their fees are paid.
The primary source is the website of the College Board.
Other information comes from professional experience in higher education.