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Easiest to Hardest CLEP Exams

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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and Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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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: April 9th, 2024
Easiest to Hardest CLEP Exams

CLEP exams allow students to place out of intro college courses using their existing knowledge of the subject. If you’re interested in CLEP, you may be curious about the easiest CLEP exams. While the difficulty of CLEP exams is largely subjective, there are certain exams that are generally considered easier or harder. Keep reading to learn more. 

See also: What is CLEP?

Which CLEP exam is easiest? 

That depends on your individual strengths and weaknesses. CLEP exams are subjective, meaning the easiest exam for one person could be the most difficult for another. For instance, the College Mathematics exam might be a breeze for someone who has taken years of advanced math courses. But it would likely be difficult for someone who struggles in math. It all depends on which subjects you have the most prior knowledge in. 

That being said, it’s helpful to look at pass rates for individual exams. Generally speaking, you can expect exams with high pass rates to be easier than exams with low pass rates. Below you’ll find a list of CLEP exams organized from highest to lowest pass rates for civilian (non-military) test-takers. The information is from 2017, which is the last year data was collected on this topic. 

Related: Why should I earn college credit in high school?

Test Name

Pass Rate 

Number of Test-Takers

Spanish Language91%32,300
College Composition Modular83%3,530
College Composition81%9,996
Introductory Sociology80%4,167
Principles of Marketing79%2,587
French Language78%2,819
College Mathematics76%4,382
Human Growth and Development75%3,000
Analyzing and Interpreting Lit75%6,267
Principles of Macroeconomics72%1,467
German Language72%791
Principles of Microeconomics72%1,395
Info Systems and Computer Applications 71%1,511
Introductory Psychology70%3,476
History of United States I69%4,061
Western Civilization I68%1,190
Principles of Management67%2,596
Social Sciences and History62%859
English Literature60%1,009
Intro to Educational Psych60%1,129
Natural Sciences57%1,630
History of United States II56%3,991
Financial Accounting55%803
College Algebra52%8,291
American Government52%3,702
Introductory Business Law51%780
American Literature51%1,446
Western Civilization II48%1,222

Source — CLEP STEP

Top 5 easiest CLEP exams

It’s impossible to create an objective list of the easiest CLEP exams. But what we can do is talk about which CLEP exams have the highest pass rates. The following list is based on data from the table above. 

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1. Spanish Language

Pass Rate: 91%

Out of all the CLEP exams, the Spanish Language test has the highest pass rate. Those who pass the exam have the equivalent knowledge of students who have completed 1 – 2 years of college Spanish courses. The exam consists of two listening sections and one reading section. There are approximately 121 questions that must be answered in 90 minutes. 

2. College Composition Modular

Pass Rate: 83%

This exam assesses writing skills taught in first-year college composition courses. The exam includes four sections — conventions of standard written English, revision skills, ability to use source materials, and rhetorical analysis. There are 90 multiple-choice questions that must be answered in 95 minutes.

3. College Composition

Pass Rate: 81%

This exam is nearly identical to the College Composition Modular, except that there are two essay responses in addition to the multiple choice questions. The essays are scored twice a month by college English professors throughout the country. Students have 70 minutes to write both essays, and 55 minutes to complete the 50-question multiple choice section. 

4. Introductory Sociology

Pass Rate: 80%

The sociology exam includes material typically covered in intro-level college sociology courses. This includes topics such as social patterns, processes, stratifications, and the sociological perspective. Highly-specialized knowledge of the subject is not required to pass the exam. The exam contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

5. Principles of Marketing

Pass Rate: 79%

This exam covers intro-level marketing concepts such as the role of marketing in society, marketing strategy, and consumer and organizational markets. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of the economic, social, political, and technological trends important to marketing. The exam contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

Also see: Top colleges that accept CLEP

Top 5 hardest CLEP exams

The following list is based on CLEP exams with the lowest pass rates. Again, this is not an objective list. But it sheds some light on the exams that students tend to struggle with the most. 

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1. Chemistry

Pass Rate: 39%

The chemistry exam is one of the toughest CLEP tests, featuring a pass rate of just 39%. The exam covers material usually taught in first-year general chemistry college courses. That includes topics such as structure and states of matter, reaction types, equations and stoichiometry, equilibrium, kinetics, and thermodynamics. The exam contains approximately 75 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

2. Western Civilization II

Pass Rate: 48%

This exam covers European history from the mid-17th century through the post-WWII period. Main topics include the Enlightenment, the French and Industrial Revolutions, and WWI and WWII. Students may be asked to choose the correct definition of a historical term, select the historical figure whose political viewpoint is described, or identify the correct relationship between two historical factors. The exam contains 120 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

3. American Literature

Pass Rate: 51%

This exam covers American literature from pre-colonial times to the present. Students are tested on the content, background, and authors of literary works. They’re also required to interpret poetry, fiction, and nonfiction prose. To pass, students must have read a wide range of American literature and have a sense of the basic literary periods. The test contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

4. Introductory Business Law

Pass Rate: 51%

The business law exam tests students on their knowledge of contracts, legal systems and procedures, agency and employment, sales, and other topics. Students must understand these concepts, as well as the ability to apply knowledge to specific case problems. The exam contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

5. American Government 

Pass Rate: 52%

This exam tests students on their knowledge of civics and political processes and behaviors. Specific topics include policy processes of the federal government and federal courts, civil liberties, political parties and interest groups, political beliefs and behavior, and the content and history of the Constitution. The exam contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

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How do I choose the right CLEP exam? 

While our CLEP exam rankings can be helpful, you shouldn’t rely on them exclusively. In the end, you should choose the exams you feel most comfortable with. By taking the CLEP exams that play to your strengths, you can set yourself up for success. 

Also see: How to get your CLEP scores

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • How hard or easy a CLEP exam is subjective. Therefore, what CLEP exam may be easy for you may be hard for a different person! So, do not let the passing rates of CLEP exams discourage you from taking them. 
  • The highest pass rates of CLEP exams are:
    1. Spanish language
    2. College composition modular
    3. College composition
    4. Introductory sociology
    5. Principles of marketing 
  • The lowest pass rates of CLEP exams are: 
    1. Chemistry
    2. Western Civilization II
    3. American literature
    4. Introductory business law
    5. American government
Key Takeaways

Alternatives to CLEP

If you’re looking to test into college credit, CLEP is a great way to do it. But it’s not the only way!

AP Tests and Dual Enrollment are also great ways of earning college credit. Did you know you can take an AP Exam without having taken the class? This is called self-studying, and it’s a great way to earn credit and save money in college. So, if you don’t find a perfect fit in CLEP programs, be sure to investigate some alternatives.

What schools accept CLEP results?

There are about 3,000 colleges in the US that accept CLEP, so this list is far from extensive. But here’s a sampling of schools that accept the exam to give you an idea of how versatile these exams are:

The list includes public, private, in-person, and online schools, so no matter what type of school you’re interested in, make sure to check if they accept CLEP!

Frequently asked questions about CLEP exam pass rate

What is a good CLEP exam score?

The CLEP has a scaled score that ranges from 20 to 80. College credit is recommended for scores above a 50 on a CLEP exam. However, every college has its own specific CLEP credit policies, so double check with your institution.

Can I retake a CLEP exam if I do poorly?

Yes! You can retake the same CLEP exam three months after your original test date. If you retake a CLEP exam before the three months, your exam will be considered invalid, your score will be canceled, and you will lose the fees you paid.

How many times can you retake a CLEP exam?

As many times as you want, but you will have to pay the fee and wait three months after your last test date every time you retake a CLEP exam.

Does failing a CLEP show up on my transcript?

A failed CLEP exam will not show up on your transcript and will not be submitted to your school. Rather, only passing CLEP exams will be a part of your transcript.

Does failing a CLEP exam affect my college GPA?

CLEP results should not be recorded on your college transcript as a letter grade, but rather, as college credit. Therefore, it will not help or hurt your college GPA because it will not be factored into your overall GPA.

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