What are CLEP exams?

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If you’re interested in graduating college faster and saving on tuition, then completing CLEP exams can contribute significantly to achieving these objectives. College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests are 90-minute tests that assess students' understanding in subjects ranging from English composition to mathematics. 

Once completed, CLEP exams can be transferred to specific college credits that go towards your degree completion. In this article, we’ll cover the subjects covered by CLEP, the structure of the tests, and explain how leveraging CLEP can significantly accelerate your journey toward obtaining a college degree.

What are CLEP Exams?

College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests are standardized exams administered by the College Board for evaluating a student's proficiency in college-level subjects. 

Over 2,900 universities accept passing CLEP test scores to fulfill certain general education requirements, enabling students to advance quickly through degree programs and save on tuition costs. 

Taking CLEP exams is a worthwhile option if you want to earn credits for specific general education requirements without investing the time and money typically required to pass a specific college class. It’s also worth noting that CLEP exams are not counted towards your overall GPA, instead, your transcript will only reflect that you’ve passed the course. 

Subjects Covered by CLEP Exams

CLEP exams cover the following subjects:

  • History and the Social Sciences
  • Composition and Literature
  • Science and Mathematics
  • Business
  • World Languages

How to Register For CLEP

Students can register for exams through the official College Board website. During registration, you can choose the test subjects you wish to take and select a testing center and date that is convenient for you. Each CLEP exam costs about $90, and students may also need to pay a separate fee to the testing center.

Students have the flexibility to register for CLEP at any time, as CLEP tests are available year-round. Also, students have the choice to take CLEP exams at home with remote proctoring.

CLEP Exam Format and Structure

CLEP tests feature multiple-choice questions, designed to be completed within a 90-minute timeframe. Some tests may include additional sections, such as essays, depending on the subject. For instance, the CLEP exam for English composition includes a short essay component, in addition to multiple-choice questions. It’s important to be aware that you cannot use any extra notes or resources during the test.

CLEP Scoring and Score Reporting

CLEP test scores range from 20 to 80, and to pass a CLEP exam you must receive a score of 50 or higher. CLEP test scores are typically available immediately for multiple-choice sections. For exams with additional sections, such as essays, scoring may take longer. 

Scores are usually sent to the designated institutions or recipients within two to three weeks after the test date. If you took a CLEP exam at a DANTES-funded test center (for military personnel), scores are released to the service member's education center as soon as they are available.

Advantages of Taking CLEP Exams

As an alternative way to earn college credits, CLEP is beneficial for anyone looking for a cost-effective and flexible way to attain a college degree. Here are some advantages that CLEP offers over the traditional path of a 4-year college degree: 

  • Accelerating Degree Completion
  • Time and Cost Savings
  • Flexibility

Accelerating Degree Completion

By earning credits through CLEP exams, students can fulfill general education requirements or prerequisites more efficiently, allowing them to progress through their degree programs at a faster pace. This can be particularly advantageous for students eager to enter the workforce sooner or pursue advanced coursework in their chosen field.

Time and Cost Savings

By successfully passing these exams, students can earn college credits without enrolling in formal courses. This not only accelerates their progress toward a degree but also reduces the financial burden associated with tuition, textbooks, and other traditional educational expenses.


Whether you're a high school student seeking an early start on college credits, an adult looking to return to education, or a military service member aspiring to attend college, CLEP tests can help you earn a college degree.

How to Choose The Right CLEP Exams

Choosing the appropriate CLEP exams enables you to fulfill particular general education requirements. However, it's crucial to note that not all colleges recognize the same exams for credits, as policies can differ significantly. To discover the requirements for your prospective university, you can visit the website of each school you are considering and investigate their accepted CLEP exams and the corresponding credit equivalencies.

By achieving a passing score on a single CLEP exam, you have the potential to earn three or more college credits, and certain schools may accept up to 60 college credits obtained through CLEP exams. However, it's important to note that obtaining an entire degree solely through CLEP exams is not feasible.

To expedite research and maximize the potential benefits of acquiring transferable college credits, consider using HBCU Money Guide’s Tuition Hack: The CLEP Method. This resource book allows you to easily identify eligible and transferable credits specifically for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

How To Prepare For CLEP Exams

Getting ready for the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) demands a thoughtful strategy for guaranteed success. Consider the following steps to steer your preparation:

  1. Understand the Exam Content: Review the official CLEP exam descriptions to understand the content and format of the specific exam you plan to take. This information is available on the official CLEP website.
  2. Create a Study Plan: Develop a study schedule that allows you to cover all the necessary material before your exam date. Allocate specific times for studying each topic, and be consistent in your study routine.
  3. Use Online Resources & Study Materials: Take advantage of online resources, including practice tests, study guides, and flashcards. Websites like Khan Academy, Quizlet, and the CLEP website itself offer valuable materials to supplement your preparation.
  4. Simulate Test Conditions: Take practice exams in 90-minute time windows, under simulated test conditions to familiarize yourself with the format and time constraints. This helps build your confidence and improves your ability to manage time during the actual exam.

You can access free exam study materials and course videos using HBCU Money Guide’s Tuition Hack: The CLEP Method book. This resource also includes a study planner and a college credit exam tracker, to help you keep tabs on preparation, exams, and transferable credits.

Differences between CLEP and AP

AP classes are high school courses used to demonstrate advanced knowledge, but you can only earn college credits if you pass the final exam. On the other hand, CLEP exams are usually done independently without prior classroom participation, and they only require you to pass the test.

Whether colleges prefer CLEP or AP varies, as some may give credit for both, while others might have a preference based on their policies or the specific program of study. Ultimately, the choice between CLEP and AP depends on individual goals and circumstances.


Ultimately, CLEP offers a streamlined pathway to earning college credits and reducing both time and financial investments. These exams provide an opportunity to accelerate degree completion, demonstrate proficiency in diverse subjects, and cater to the needs of non-traditional learners. By strategically choosing the right exams and understanding college policies, students can position themselves for success. 

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Tuition Hack: The CLEP Method

Tuition Hack: The CLEP Method

Tuition Hack: The CLEP Method provides students with the steps to use CLEP exams to finish college at their chosen university more affordably and quickly than the traditional route. We offer detailed charts matching CLEP exams to transferrable credits, along with vouchers and strategies for exam success, providing you with all you need for an enhanced educational journey.

You’ll learn…

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  • How to get FREE exam study materials 
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What’s included:

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  • Free college credit exam tracker
  • Detailed charts to help you understand which CLEP exam scores get you HBCU college credits

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Can I retake a CLEP test if I don't pass?

You can retake a CLEP test if you do not pass. However, there is a 90-day waiting period to retake a CLEP test. During this time, you can take CLEP tests in other subjects but not the one you failed. If you wish to retake a CLEP exam sooner than three months, you must obtain permission from CLEP. 

Keep in mind that you will need to pay the full exam fee each time you take the test.

Do CLEP scores expire?

CLEP scores are valid for 2 years after taking the exam.

Why don't colleges advertise CLEP exams during admissions?

Institutional differences in credit acceptance, coupled with a focus on promoting their own courses and programs, contribute to the limited emphasis on CLEP exams in college marketing. 

Allocating resources to market CLEP exams might be considered less essential compared to traditional admissions efforts. Additionally, the awareness of CLEP exams among prospective students is not universal, and colleges may assume that the potential benefits of promoting these exams might not outweigh the effort required to educate students about CLEP policies and procedures.

Is it hard to pass a CLEP exam?

The difficulty of passing a CLEP exam can vary depending on an individual's preparation, prior knowledge, and test-taking skills. For some, CLEP exams may be challenging, while others may find them more manageable. Success in a CLEP exam often requires a solid understanding of the subject matter and effective study strategies. Adequate preparation through study guides, practice tests, and reviewing relevant coursework can significantly improve the chances of passing.

How did CLEP tests start?

Dating back to 1965, the College Board began administering CLEP tests to provide people with the opportunity to earn college credits. In 1974, U.S. military personnel began using CLEP tests to obtain college degrees faster.  CLEP tests have since evolved into a widely recognized means for individuals, both military and civilian, to demonstrate their understanding of specific academic subjects and potentially earn college credits.

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