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    What is CLEP?

    By Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: December 13th, 2023
    What is CLEP?

    Looking for a way to earn college credit, save on tuition, and graduate ahead of time? It’s all possible through the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). 

    This program offers a variety of exams designed to help students earn college credit with their existing knowledge. Keep reading to learn more about CLEP exams and how you can benefit from them. 

    Also see: How to get your CLEP scores

    What are CLEP exams? 

    CLEP exams make it possible for students to place out of introductory college courses using their existing knowledge of the subject. If you’re an adult learner, for instance, you can use prior knowledge and experience to earn your degree in less time. The exams are also great for younger students who excel in a particular subject and want to skip introductory courses. 

    CLEP is administered by the College Board, which currently offers exams on 34 different topics. Subject areas include history and social sciences, composition and literature, science and mathematics, business, and world languages. 

    Exams are multiple choice and typically take 90 – 120 minutes to complete. Students can earn 3 or more credits for each CLEP exam they pass. 

    Don’t miss: Easiest to hardest CLEP exams

    What are the benefits of CLEP exams? 

    The great thing about CLEP is that it benefits everyone. Whether you’re a high school student, college student, or adult learner, CLEP can help you save time and money. Below are some of the reasons why CLEP exams are so great:

    Graduate early 

    CLEP exams allow students to bypass introductory classes and move onto advanced coursework more quickly. This means you can earn your degree and graduate in less time

    If you’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree, for instance, CLEP can help you shave 2 – 10 months off your time in school. If you’re working towards an associate degree, you could graduate up to 4 months ahead of time. 

    Save money 

    Less time in school means less money spent. Each CLEP exam costs just $93, while the average cost of a college course is $3,277 at private schools and $1,284 at public schools. By passing just one CLEP exam and placing out of a class, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If you pass multiple exams, you could make a serious dent in the cost of your education. 

    Related: How to save money in college

    Focus on the courses that matter

    By getting intro courses and gen ed requirements out of the way, you’ll have more time to spend on classes you’re actually interested in. You can focus on the classes that directly contribute to your career goals instead of worrying about courses unrelated to your major. You may even free up enough time to pursue a double major or pick up a minor

    Which colleges accept CLEP?

    CLEP exams are currently accepted by over 2,900 colleges and universities. However, not every college grants the same amount of credit for every exam. Use this searchable database to check the CLEP policies of the schools you’re interested in. To learn more, check out our guide on the top colleges that accept CLEP

    What if my college doesn’t accept CLEP?

    Some colleges offer tests through their own systems, which means you might not have to go through the College Board to take a CLEP exam. They may also allow you to gain credits for certain courses as a result of classes and grades you received in college. There are also other exams similar to CLEP, such as the Dantes Subject Standardized Tests (DSST), Thomas Edison Credit-by-Examination (TECEP), and more. 

    How do I take CLEP exams?

    You should start by visiting the College Board’s website and selecting the exam you want to take. Next, choose the schools where you’d like to send your scores. The first score sent is free, but you must pay a $20 fee per institution if you want to send your scores to more than one school after exam day. 

    After that, purchase the exam* and schedule a time to take your test. CLEP exams are offered year-round at more than 2,000 test centers worldwide.  Learn more about how to register for an exam on the College Board website

    *Military service members and veterans are eligible to have their exam fee waived

    Are CLEP exams worth it? 

    Absolutely. If you have prior knowledge of a subject that could help you place out of a class, you should definitely consider CLEP. The exams are reasonably priced and they can help you save time and money as you’re pursuing your degree. 

    Also see: Why should I earn college credit in high school?

    CLEP vs AP: How do they compare?

    CLEP and AP share a few key similarities. They are both programs created by the College Board to help students earn college credit before they arrive at school. But, there are a few key differences. 

    Here is a rundown of how they differ:

    • AP Exams have a corresponding class, while CLEP does not. So, most students taking AP Exams took a course to prepare for it, while no such thing exists for CLEP.
    • AP courses and exams are geared towards high school students, while CLEP is geared towards military members and adults returning to school. That is not to say that high school students cannot take CLEP exams, but they are less popular
    • CLEP exams are offered throughout the year whereas AP Exams only occur once per year.

    Now, here are a few ways in which they are similar:

    • Both offer college credit to help students place out of classes or provide generic credits towards graduation.
    • Every school treats both CLEP and AP test results differently. Some schools provide college credit and others provide placement. You’ll have to check with your potential schools to be sure how your results will be viewed.
    • The College Board facilitates both types of exams
    • You don’t need to take a course to take either exam. Although AP Exams have a corresponding class, students have the option for self-study.

    Good luck out there, and don’t forget to check back for opportunities to further fund your education, including applying for scholarships!

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    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • CLEP exams are standardized tests that allow students to place out of general education courses
    • Each exam usually takes 90-120 minutes and costs about $93.00
    • Almost 3,000 colleges accept CLEP, and you’ll spend a shorter time in school by getting those credits early on. It’s worth it!
    •  There are alternatives for CLEP such as the TECEP and DSST exams. Do your research on which one your school accepts
    • You sign up for CLEP on College Board’s website, and it matches you with a school where you can take it near you
    • Despite similarities, CLEP exams are not AP exams as they don’t require an accompanying course, are offered multiple times a year, and typically taken by college students

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