College Level Examination Program

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The College Level Examination Program (CLEP)[1] is an alternate pathway to bypass and test out of lower division coursework at participating universities. Instead of taking an introductory course, students with sufficient CLEP scores are either able to take a higher level course or, in the case of general education (GE) requirements, do not need to take the GE course. Through programs like CLEP, students are able to accelerate their college education at a fraction of the cost and ensure their graduation in four years or less.

The cost of a CLEP exam is only $87 and is the same regardless of the subject matter. It can be taken conveniently at any one of thousands of testing centers, and is available online at those centers throughout the year. This exam is free for military personnel who are eligible for DANTES funding.

Because its origin was designed to provide opportunities to servicemen, CLEP is free of some of the bias that plagues other examinations administered by the liberal Educational Testing Service, such as the AP and SAT exams.

Subjects Available

The 36 CLEP exams are in the following categories:[2]

  • 6 exams in Composition and Literature (including both American and English Literature)
  • 6 exams in foreign languages (Spanish, German and French, levels I and II for each)
  • 12 exams in Economics (2), American Government (1), History (5) and Social Sciences (4)
  • 4 exams in Mathematics:
  • College Mathematics (simple math for students not majoring in math, science or engineering)
  • College Algebra (material often covered in high school algebra courses)
  • Precalculus (graphical representations of functions, trigonometry, etc.)
  • Calculus
  • 3 exams in Science
  • 5 exams in Business (accounting, law, computers, management and marketing)


Nearly 3,000 colleges recognize this program, but their rules for granting credit vary widely. Some colleges do not recognize this program so it is important to check first prior to investing the time and money in this examination. But even if your preferred college does not accept this as credit, it can look very good on an application, particularly by a homeschool student who may have relatively little classwork information. At least one Conservapedian student was able to skip a year of college (and save a year's worth of college tuition plus the opportunity cost of a year's wages) based on CLEP exams.

California State Bar

All persons who wish to qualify for the bar exam by reading law must have completed college coursework or demonstrated intellectual equivalent. Scores of 50 or higher from certain CLEP exams are accepted by the Bar Examiners to fulfill this requirement. All applicants must take the English Composition exam, with or without essay, and two additional exams from a specified list of Humanities, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences and History.[3]

Christian Colleges Granting Credit for CLEP

College CLEP Policy
Bob Jones University Insert link here
Cedarville University Insert link here
Grove City College CLEP Guidelines
Liberty University Insert link here
Messiah College Insert link here
Pensacola Christian College Insert link here
Pepperdine University Test Scores
Wheaton College Insert link here

Thomas Aquinas College and Patrick Henry College do not grant credit for CLEP exams or many other forms of transfer credits.


CLEP testing occurs around once a month at participating college sites and military bases. Most exams are 90 minutes, with a few exceptions. Also, unlike AP exams, the vast majority of subject tests are completely multiple choice, making it easier to score higher. Unlike the SAT exams, no points are deducted for incorrect answers on a CLEP exam, so a student should provide an answer to every question even if it requires guessing.

The base fee for a test is $85 (as of 2019) with an additional charge if the exam has a writing section. As part of the military's focus on education, there is no charge to service members or veterans for taking CLEP exams[4] and many bases have on site testing facilities. Testing centers are also allowed to collect a fee to cover the costs of test administration. While the College Board recommends that the administrative charge be around $15, each center has the discretionary authority to set its own administrative charge.

A student can control who sees his score in two ways. First, if the exam goes so poorly that a student doubts he passed and wants to cancel his score, then he should notify the administrator before the end of the exam time period and refuse to complete it for scoring.[5] Once the student completes the exam and receives a score, then the score becomes part of a permanent CLEP transcript and cannot be canceled. The student, however, can still control who receives his CLEP transcript, and can send a copy of his transcript only to the colleges that he selects. Since CLEP scores are typically used to obtain credit rather than obtaining admission, a failing CLEP score would typically be ignored without any adverse consequences.

CLEP scores are on a range from 20 to 80, with 50 (about 60%) typically being the threshold for passing. Some schools might require a higher score, however, as a condition of awarding credit. Grove City College, for example, requires a score of 60 on the Economics CLEP exams before awarding college credit for them.


The biggest difference between CLEP and AP exam is that there is less liberal bias in CLEP exams. AP exams are preferred by the top, most liberal universities, and perhaps because of that some AP exams suffer from significant bias. AP exams have essay portions which are susceptible to grading bias depending on who happens to grade a particular exam, which CLEP exams are entirely multiple choice. In the math and science fields, however, bias is less of an issue.

CLEP exams are also far more affordable and accessible than AP exams are.

As a standardized test is used to award credit, CLEP is similar to another College Board program, Advanced Placement (AP). However, unlike AP, there is no course targeted towards preparation for the exam. The AP exam is offered only in May of each year, and there are cumbersome and expensive requirements to sign up for the exam beforehand. In contrast, CLEP testing is available at most colleges on a monthly or even weekly basis. Due to the greater access of CLEP sites, more people are able to take the tests, making the CLEP an attractive and inexpensive option.

Although AP test centers are required to be available to homeschoolers, the process for participation by homeschoolers can be difficult depending on the local public school. Early planning and substantial fees are required.

Another difference between the CLEP and AP exams is subject breadth. With 36 CLEP subjects and 31 AP subjects, both tests have a similar number of subjects. While both AP and CLEP exams cover topics outside typical general education, many topics are only covered by one exam set or the other.


  3. Pre-Legal Education Requirements. The State Bar of California. Accessed 16 January 2010.
  4. Reimbursement is available if any fees are charged by a testing center. See the CLEP website for details.

See also