What Is CLEP Testing?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


CLEP exams have been administered all over the state for over 50 years now. They have become increasingly more common in students and adults alike. These exams are sponsored and originated by College Board, the same institute that supports AP and SAT exams.

They are convenient exams that are part of a widely trusted credit-by-exam program accepted in over 2,900 colleges and universities around the country. They are now administered in more than 2,000 centers.

CLEP exams have become increasingly popular amount college students as they provide a more flexible alternative to taking a course during a semester. CLEP exams could provide you with credits that substitute for a class.

But what is CLEP testing? And how do they work? This extensive article discusses everything you need to know about CLEP exams, from what to expect from CLEP testing to minimum passing requirements.

What is the CLEP Exam?What is the CLEP Exam?

CLEP stands for the College Level Examination Program, a program supplemented by College Board that can help students earn college credit for introductory-level courses. You can do so by simply achieving the passing grade, as the exact score will never be reflected on your transcript.

CLEP offers 38 different exams that fall under 5 main topics. CLEP testing is becoming increasingly popular because they are much cheaper than a college course; a CLEP examination costs a fraction of what college and university courses do, and you can use the CLEP credits in place of the course’s credits.

You probably are wondering, “well, how does CLEP testing work?”. The gist of it is that you only need the qualifying test score, which is usually a 50 out of 80 on the CLEP exams, to qualify for earning college credits. These credits can range anywhere from 1 credit to 12 credits per examination passed successfully.

Each exam usually lasts anywhere from 90 minutes to 120 minutes. Most of the examinations consist of multiple-choice questions except for some language-based subjects. These include an essay section and are usually offered in foreign languages and English writing courses.

What Subjects are on the CLEP Exam?

What Subjects are on the CLEP Exam?

38 different exam topics are offered by College Board, and you can see the list of examinations with their costs on the College Board’s official CLEP website. Moreover, each exam costs $89, but excluding any extra fees, you must pay the proctor or examination center.

All CLEP subject exams fall under 5 main topics. These are History and Social Sciences, Composition and Literature, Business, World Languages, and Science and Mathematics. These contain CLEP subject exams under them, and these are:

History and Social Sciences

  • American Government
  • History of United States I
  • History of the United States II
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Introduction to Educational Psychology
  • Introductory Psychology
  • Introductory Sociology
  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Social Sciences and History
  • Western Civilization I
  • Western Civilization II

Composition and Literature

  • American Literature
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
  • College Composition
  • College Composition Modular
  • English Literature
  • Humanities

Science and Mathematics

  • Biology
  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • College Algebra
  • College Mathematics
  • Natural Sciences
  • Precalculus


  • Financial Accounting
  • Information Systems
  • Introductory Business Law
  • Principles of Management
  • Principles of Marketing

World Languages

All World Languages CLEP subject exams test you on level 1 and level 2 knowledge of the language.

  • French Language
  • German Language
  • Spanish Language
  • Spanish with Writing

Are CLEP Exams Worth It?

Are CLEP Exams Worth It?

Well, we now know everything we need to know about the basics of CLEP testing, but is CLEP testing worth it? Examinations usually boil down to a couple of factors, including benefits, price, availability, difficulty, and an average passing grade.


In a nutshell, CLEP examinations allow you to show your mastery and skills in college-level topics and subjects. This usually comes from your basic knowledge of the subject from high school, shared knowledge, or personal interest.

Benefits of CLEP testing include saving up time as you can actually graduate in 3 years of university instead of 3 years if you take sufficient CLEP exams. Moreover, it can save you from wasting extra time in university by taking only 1-3 courses a semester. Instead, you can simply take a few CLEP exams.

Moreover, imagine how much stress CLEP exams would save you. You can take these examinations at almost any time of the year. So, you can basically schedule the exams around your busy schedule and take them whenever you do not have a course load, such as in the summer.


While each CLEP Exam costs $89, you will most likely have to pay an extra fee for the proctoring or CLEP testing centers center. This fee is usually around $15, a reasonable cost in return for all the benefits you could possibly earn.

Compared to the average cost of a 3-credit college course, which was $1,677 in 2020, the total fee for one CLEP examination, which is $104, pales in comparison. It’s barely even a fraction of what students pay for their college courses.

Moreover, suppose you are a military person, spouse of a coast guard, air force employee, or a veteran. In that case, the CLEP Military Benefits apply to you. This means you get a free examination guide, funded examination fees, and waived administration fees at CLEP testing centers.


CLEP exams are offered all year round, making it easier and more flexible than taking other standardized examinations such as AP exams or SAT exams. CLEP centers usually offer CLEP exams several times per month.

Check-in with your local test centers or check College Board’s official website to schedule a CLEP examination. Some test centers offer exams once a month, some offer multiple every day, so make sure you call the test centers and check in with them.


CLEP exams are considered as hard as a college course final exam. The credits earned replace the credits you would otherwise gain from a college course. Despite that, CLEP exams are not considered to be difficult as they are multiple-choice exams.

Moreover, the great thing about CLEP examinations is that there are no deductions for wrong answers; there is no penalty for marking the wrong answer. You only get points once you choose the correct answers.

On the other hand, a lot of people are confused about CLEP or AP examinations. Generally, CLEP examinations are considered to be easier than AP exams. For one, AP exams require a year of preparation in high school. In contrast, CLEP exams can be studied individually and taken at any time.

Average Passing Grade

The standard passing grade for a CELP examination is 50 out of 80. That is the equivalent of a grade of “D,” which is equal to 63%. However, the great thing is that no one will see your score, so either way, all you need is to score a grade of 50 or higher to get a passing grade (“P”).

However, some colleges and universities might require higher passing grades depending on the topic and the difficulty of the equivalent college course. Hence, make sure you contact the college and ask for the details to know what grade they might be asking for.

How are CLEP Tests Scored?

How are CLEP Tests Scored?

There is only one recurring section in all the CLEP subject tests: the multiple-choice part. This section is graded by a computer.

However, the essay section on some of the exam subjects, such as Spanish with Writing and College Composition, is graded by two different college professors selected by College Board. They come from faculties of two- and four-year institutions.

To calculate the total score of each student, two essential steps need to be performed. The first thing is calculating the raw score, which consists of the number of questions answered correctly. There are no deductions for any questions answered incorrectly or left unanswered.

Afterward, the raw score is converted into a scaled score by equating. Equating is used to maintain the consistency of standards for test scores, which means College Board factors in the difficulty of the specific examination and adjusts the scale accordingly.

You will receive your examination score immediately on the screen after you finish the exam. The test administrators are instructed to print out a copy for you that contains your test score. This documentation is usually given to you right before you leave the testing center.

Does CLEP Test Affect Your GPA?

Does CLEP Test Affect Your GPA?

DO CLEP exams affect your GPA? In a nutshell, no, it does not affect your GPA in any way. While you do have access to your own score out of 80, your college or university can only know if you have passed or failed the exam subject.

Hence, on your transcript, there will be no score factored in. Instead, you will see either a “P” for a pass or an “F” for fail. Some universities and colleges write it down as “CR,” which means you do receive credit, or “NC,” which means you have not received the recognition.

However, there are unique yet rare occasions where a CLEP examination does affect your GPA. That is either because:

  • Most of your credits earned have come from pass/fail examinations or courses. This does not really affect your GPA, but it means you might not have a GPA until you take university courses.
  • If your university or college has a particular policy that assigns letter grades to pass/fail courses. These colleges usually use the minimum passing grade (50 out of 80) as a “C,” and a score in the range 53-66 is a “B.”

Taking CLEP examinations is beneficial when you already have a high GPA and do not want to miss it. However, if your GPA is pretty low, then taking CLEP examinations might not benefit you in any way.

All In all, most colleges do follow the pass and fail system for CLEP examinations. However, if you are worried that your specific college does not follow this policy, make sure you reach out to the university board. You can also search for the CLEP examination on your college’s website.

How to Prepare for the CLEP Exam?

How to Prepare for the CLEP Exam?

So we have established that CLEP examinations save you time and money compared to university or college courses. However, what is the ultimate way to save money AND time while preparing for any CLEP examination?

There are numerous online resources you can use: exam samples, past exams, CLEP guidelines, and even help and exercises online. Below, you will find the best ways to prepare for any CLEP examination explained extensively.

Review CLEP Exam Overviews

On the official College Board website, there is a list of all the offered CLEP exams. We recommend you go through the provided examinations and review the overviews, the equivalent of the syllabus, to be more acquainted with what is coming on the exam.

These overviews provide you with the necessary information to understand what topics will be mentioned in the exam. Use this as a guide for your preparation.

For instance, you might believe you know sufficient information about biology from your high school courses. However, there is almost always a gap in the different curriculums, so going over the overview will provide insight.

Take CLEP Practice Exams

Before discussing CLEP practice exams, make sure you familiarize yourself with the following before even starting the proper preparation: CLEP exam content, the exam guidelines, and the exam structure. Some sections might be timed, so keep an eye out for it.

So, why should you use CLEP practice exams? Think about it this way: no matter how hard and long you study, you will not be capable of solving questions unless you try for yourself.

CLEP practice exams are one of the best ways to prepare. You can even purchase a study booklet from College Board.

Plan Ahead

Plan when you intend to take your exam by checking the website for offerings in your local test centers. However, we recommend contacting the test center before purchasing your examination ticket and checking offerings directly from them.

Second, after deciding on a date and purchasing the examination ticket, you should create a study schedule. Generally, the more time you spend studying, the better your overall preparation is.

However, do not get overwhelmed or cram all your study material a day before the examination. We recommend you pinpoint your weak points and target those over a few weeks, even months, if necessary.

Wrapping Things Up: What is CLEP Testing?

All in all, CLEP testing is an efficient and budget-friendly program that helps you gain extra college credits and test your knowledge in specific areas.

There are numerous benefits of CLEP testing, including saving yourself some time, money, and resources. If you’re considering finishing university early, we definitely recommend you take a closer look at the CLEP exams. They might just be the ticket you have been looking for.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

Is AP Chemistry Worth Taking?

Is AP Chemistry Worth Taking?

Perhaps you’re a high school junior or senior considering to take AP Chemistry and are weighing the merits of this challenging yet rewarding course. Known for its rigorous academic demands and significant time investment, AP...

Read More
How Old is Too Old to Go to College?

How Old is Too Old to Go to College?

One common misconception about college is that only students in their teens and early twenties attempt college. Unfortunately, this misconception has stopped many older people from enrolling in college to further their education. But the...

Read More