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All about CLEP exams

Are you looking to earn college credit outside the classroom? The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) offers over 30 exams that can help you earn real college credit in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost of traditional colleges and universities. CLEP exams test your expertise in a particular subject, providing an opportunity for you to demonstrate understanding through a standardized test. Passing these exams proves your mastery and grants real college credit, just as though you had passed the corresponding course at a college or university!

Who can take CLEP tests?

Anyone who wants to earn affordable college credit can take a CLEP exam — there are no restrictions. CLEP exams are perfect for military personnel with non-transferrable job training, adult learners with prior on-the-job experience, students who enjoy independent study, and anybody looking to jump-start their college career.

Which schools accept CLEP?

More than 2,900 U.S. colleges and universities accept CLEP credit, but each institution has different policies on the subjects, scores, and number of credits accepted. You can search for a school's CLEP guidelines through College Board's database.


If you've considered alternative routes to earning college credit, you may also be familiar with the DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) and Advanced Placement (AP) programs.

CLEP and DSST exams are both standardized tests open to the general public. The main difference between these two exams is content, with the CLEP offering testing in more mainstream courses such as 'American Literature' and the DSST covering a range of distinctive topics including 'A History of the Vietnam War' and 'Fundamentals of Cybersecurity'. Learn more about the differences between these two tests in our article comparing CLEP and DSST credit.

Although AP programs may seem similar to CLEP exams since they are also often used to gain college credit, they are actually very different. Only high school students are eligible for AP programs, which consist of college-level classes that conclude with corresponding exams. AP tests tend to be more difficult, and exam scores are accepted at most two- and four-year colleges and universities worldwide for credit and advanced placement. For a more in-depth view into these two tests, check out our article on AP vs CLEP.

Which subjects are covered in CLEP exams?

CLEP exams cover over 30 subjects in five main categories:

  • Composition and literature
  • World languages
  • History and social sciences
  • Science and mathematics
  • Business

You can choose from topics ranging from "Analyzing and Interpreting Literature" to "Principles of Macroeconomics" to "Financial Accounting." Take a look at our CLEP exam list to see all the tests offered and their corresponding credits.

CLEP test format

All CLEP exams are administered via an internet based testing platform (iBT) and are approximately 90 minutes in length. With the exception of "College Composition," which includes 2 required essays, most exams consist of multiple-choice questions and some tests include different question types like numeric entry. Language tests include listening sections, and some other exams include optional essays as well.

What is CLEP credit?

Passing CLEP exams can grant you transferrable college credits, recommended by the American Council on Education. CLEP exams are a great alternative to many college level general education courses, and passing one exam can help you earn three or more college credits, expediting your degree!

  • How do I transfer CLEP credits?

    To earn college credit for your CLEP exams, you must request for CLEP Services to send the scores of completed exams to your designated schools. Each institution will then determine if the scores meet their requirements and grant credits that may be used towards a degree at their school.

    There are different guidelines as to how high school students, transfer students, international students, and military personnel can transfer CLEP credit. Keep in mind that CLEP credits are not transferable between schools, so they must be sent directly to an individual college, which will then make a decision around awarding credits to students.

    You can select institutions you want your scores to be sent to either during the registration process, when testing, or afterwards by submitting a CLEP Transcript Request Form.

  • How many CLEP credits can I earn?

    You can earn between 3 and 9 college credits per CLEP exam depending on the test subject. Over 2,900 colleges and universities across the U.S. accept CLEP credit in place of general education requirements, courses in a student's major, or prerequisites for advanced classes.

  • Do CLEP credits expire?

    CLEP scores are good for 20 years after the test date.

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CLEP scores

How is the CLEP scored?

CLEP test scores range from 20 to 80 and are calculated by converting raw scores - based on the number of correct answers - into scaled scores through adjusting for differences in difficulty between tests.

With the exception of scores for "College Composition," which contains required essays that make up 50% of the test, immediate scores are provided onscreen upon completion of exams as multiple-choice questions are scored immediately by the computer.

The mandatory essays for the "College Composition" exam are graded by two separate readers on a scale of 0 to 6. The essay scores are added together, weighted equally with the test taker's score for the multiple-choice section, then combined to produce the test taker's final score, reported as a single scaled score between 20 and 80. Separate scores aren't reported for the two sections, and test takers receive their scores 2 to 3 weeks after the test date.

Optional essays are not scored by the ETS or College Board but are sent to be graded by the test taker's designated institutions along with a copy of the multiple-choice score results.

What is a passing CLEP score?

The passing rates for CLEP exams vary, but in general, the overall passing rate is 77%. The recommended minimum passing score for most subjects, according to College Board, is 50 points. However, every college and university will have its own guidelines for awarding credit for CLEP exams, so you should make sure to check each institution's website to confirm its policies.

Can I retake CLEP exams?

Yes, you can retake a CLEP exam of the same title three months after your initial testing date. Tests that are retaken within the three-month time period are considered invalid.

Will CLEP scores affect my GPA?

CLEP exams do not affect your grade point average. The test scores will only determine your eligibility to gain college credit and will have no effect on your GPA.

How to prepare for CLEP exams

Many students want to know how long they should study for CLEP exams along with the best ways to study, and this will depend on various factors such as previous work experience, classes taken, and test-taking abilities. Test prep is difficult, and it can be hard to figure out what and when to study. makes it easy

  • Practice questions help identify your areas of weakness
  • Comprehensive curricula are designed specifically for CLEP exams
  • CLEP practice tests emulate the content and structure of questions on the exams

CLEP study plan

Creating and following a study plan is a surefire way to ace your CLEP tests.

1. Take a diagnostic placement test for one of our 30+ CLEP courses

  • Test out of material you already know - our technology will tell you which lessons you can skip
  • Focus on the content that will be most impactful in helping you pass your exam

2. Utilize our Goals tool to tailor your study schedule

  • Pick your exam date to create a personalized schedule to maximize your score

3. Study when and where you want with our easy and intuitive bite-sized video lessons

  • Read through transcripts and take notes right in the lesson
  • Check your understanding by taking quizzes after each lesson

4. Assess your content knowledge and prepare for the actual exam experience using our CLEP practice tests

  • Take a comprehensive 50-question practice test to find out where your strengths are, and where you need more practice

How to register for CLEP exams

You can register for all CLEP exams through the College Board website. Once you've registered to take the exam, you have 6 months to contact and schedule your exam with a testing center.

When and where to take CLEP exams

CLEP exams are administered throughout the year at nearly 2,000 testing centers, many of which are located on college and university campuses. Each testing center determines its own test dates, so students should search for testing centers online and contact their location to determine available testing appointments.

CLEP costs

Each CLEP exam costs $89 and in addition to the exam fee, students can expect to pay additional administrative fees to the testing center. Preparing for the CLEP using online and offl ine resources can be costly, so it is important to choose the right test prep product for you. There are also free resources that students can use to prepare for their exams. CLEP scholarship

We believe that all students should have access to great education. With this scholarship, hopes to help students accelerate their college degree with CLEP.

View CLEP scholarship

CLEP for military members

CLEP exams are offered to military personnel, their spouses, and civilian military employees who want to earn introductory college credit. The 2018 CLEP pass rates for military members ranged from a high of 84% and 82% for subjects like Spanish Language and College Composition, to a low of 13% and 11% for subjects like Chemistry and Financial Accounting. Using tools like practice tests and a regular study schedule can help improve any test taker's likelihood of passing their chosen CLEP exam.

How to qualify for free CLEP exams

The United States government offers funding to qualifying military personnel for all CLEP exams through the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). Military personnel who qualify for DANTES can take all exams on-base or at fully funded testing centers free of charge, and test center administration fees are also waived at specific centers. CLEP scholarship for military members believes every student has the right to an affordable and high-quality education, and that is especially true for members of our military. With our scholarship for military members, we hope to help a current or former military member get a head start on a college degree using CLEP.

View CLEP scholarship for military

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