CLEP Exam Pros & Cons

Since it’s nearing the end of the year and I’m more interested in spending time with family than coming up with new content – sorry- I’m going to run some of my older blog posts again. This post netted me more views than anything I’ve ever put on my page. Why?

If you think college tuition is outrageous ($1,000 for one class!), you’ll probably be interested to learn about CLEP Examinations. Many colleges and universities (2900 according to collegeboard.org) accept these exams as credit in place of many basic knowledge or entry level classes.

What is CLEP?


CLEP is an acronym for College Level Examination Program. It’s a way to earn college credit by taking an examination to prove your proficiency in a subject. The length and format of the exams differ depending on the subject. The information I have lists 33 different tests ranging from Biology to Business and Calculus to Composition.


In my case, I’m taking the “History of the United States 1: Early Colonization to 1877” exam on August 23. If I pass the test, I will earn three credits and get to skip the 100 level history class required for my degree.


Where can I learn about CLEP?


To learn the basics about CLEP, visit www.collegeboard.org. They offer study guides and listings for testing centers. I downloaded an iBook with a sample test and the list of topics covered on my test for $5.99.


Before you invest in the test, you’ll want to check in with your college advisor to be sure your college is one of the 2900 that accepts these examinations for credit. Even though taking tests is loads of fun, it isn’t free, so you won’t want to waste the money if it won’t shorten your college course list.




The major benefit to taking a CLEP exam is the money I will save. To take the exam, I will pay $80 for the test and $15 to the testing center (since I test at University of Phoenix and am not a student there, I have to pay a testing fee). To get the same credit by taking the college course, I would spend $966 for the class and then another $80 to $120 for the textbook. That’s savings of nearly $950!


It also means one less class I have to take. This translates into finishing up my degree requirements in less time.


According to The College Board, the test I’m taking is a relatively easy one (a 2, on a scale of 1 to 5, where a 5 is hard and 1 is easy). Their study sites say I should be ready for the test with a week of study. So one week of study versus eight weeks? I’d say that’s another big benefit.




The major drawback for CLEP is that preparing for the test is an independent endeavor. I won’t have an instructor to seek guidance from. There are no interactive discussions to help me understand difficult concepts. In fact, I don’t even have a textbook to study.


I am using www.ushistory.org for my study sessions. This website has a topical list of articles written by expert historians. I also have my sample test and there are online sample tests, as well. I’m hoping that my skills for reading and retaining information have been honed sufficiently from the past two years of online classes, so that I will be able to absorb the information needed before the test.


If you don’t pass the test, you can retake it in six months and still save over $800 (if your college credits cost the same as mine).


As far as I can see, the pros are heavily outweighing the cons on this list. I’m glad I made the decision to pursue credit through the CLEP. If you’ve taken a CLEP exam, I’d love to have you weigh in on the subject below. Was it worth the money and time savings? Do you have any tips to share with future exam takers?

2 thoughts on “CLEP Exam Pros & Cons”

  1. CLEP is a great way to save both time and money. I tested out of 18 credits and am so glad that option was available. The best advice I have to give anyone is to use the CLEP study guides. They are specifically geared toward the tests and I passed everyone I took. I bought mine on half.com used and then sold them after passing the test.

    1. Great advice. I did an online study guide with a monthly subscription rate that I cancelled after using it for a week or less.
      I think this is a great way to save time and money and I’m glad many colleges allow it.

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