The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows students the opportunity to earn college credit before they enroll in college. With a passing score on any of the 34 CLEP exams, students can earn three or more college credits at over 2900 colleges and universities throughout the United States.
ORIGINS OF CLEP
Although it was created in 1967 and is sponsored by the all-powerful College Board, CLEP does not seem to have the cache or notoriety of the more popular Advanced Placement or dual enrollment programs when it comes to earning “early” college credit. CLEP was originally established as a way for adult students and military service members to earn degrees inexpensively while also juggling work and family responsibilities. In today’s world CLEP offers homeschool students the opportunity to earn college credit quickly and inexpensively.
WHAT IS CLEP?
College Board touts CLEP as “the most widely trusted credit-by-examination program for over 50 years.” For you and I, CLEP is simply an avenue for our homeschool students to earn college credit by passing an exam. And with 34 CLEP exams available, it is possible to eliminate multiple semesters of coursework prior to ever enrolling in college!
DOWNSIDE TO CLEP?
The only significant downside to CLEP exams is the number of colleges and universities that accept them for credit. While 2900 is a large number of schools, it is very important to find out ahead of time if the exam(s) you plan to take will be accepted at the institution(s) you hope to attend.
CLEP EXAM LOGISTICS
- Students have complete freedom in how they prepare for CLEP exams. College Board offers free and paid for practice materials. A quick internet search will also provide you with many other exam prep options.
- Students can take CLEP exams year round at more than 2,000 CLEP test center locations across the country
- The cost of each exam is $89.00
- Students have up to six months to take the exam once they register online
- CLEP exams are administered on a computer, can include both multiple choice and essay questions, and take between 90 and 120 minutes to complete
- Scores range from 20 to 80, with 50 being the minimum requirement for a passing grade (Colleges that accept CLEP exams are free to set their own minimum score requirements for granting students credit)
- College Board indicates that CLEP exam scores are valid for 20 years from the date the exam is taken
CLEP BONUS INFO
The non-profit organization Modern States has become a go-to resource for all things CLEP. They offer tuition free prep classes for many CLEP (and AP) exams. They also offer a voucher program that allows most students to have their CLEP exam fees waived or reimbursed. Modern States has a great reputation, but as with anything “free” there are strings attached. In this case the most significant string for homeschool students/families is the lack of curriculum autonomy. The online prep courses are taught by various university professors and presented from a completely secular worldview.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON CLEP
I believe that students should begin to explore CLEP exams as soon as they enter high school. Utilizing CLEP as a cumulative exam in one or two subjects, even as early as 9th/10th grade, seems to have little downside. The freedom to utilize any curriculum and 20 year shelf life of exam scores eliminates the drawback for students who are undecided about whether they will attend college after high school.
For students who know that college is in their future, it is imperative to research schools of interest and verify whether they accept CLEP exams for credit. The earlier this investigation begins the better!
The bottom line is CLEP exams can save students (and parents) tens of thousands of dollars in college tuition and hundreds of hours in the college classroom.
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