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I Have a Secret for You: Bring Down College Costs with the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP)

Are you an independent learner? Have you ever taken a final thinking you didn’t need any lectures to pass it? Or do you want to avoid the time and construction of a set college class? I’ll let you in on a little known secret: you can save time, cut down on your college costs, and even graduate early by looking into taking CLEP tests for class credit instead.

If you took any AP Tests in high school, CLEP tests are very similar in style and just like AP tests, are administered by the College Board. CLEP has also been one of the most widely trusted credit-by-examination program for over 40 years, but not too many students know about it. I know I sure didn’t. Only about 200,000 students take the test each year, compared to the nearly 3 million students who take the SAT. It’s a rigorous program, but it allows students of a wide range of ages and backgrounds to demonstrate their mastery of college-level material in introductory subjects and earn college credit.

At $77 each, the tests are cheaper than taking an equivalent course in college. In addition, over 2,900 colleges and universities in the United States accept CLEP tests. If saving money in the long run is on your agenda, the CLEP is definitely worth looking into.

You can take the test at testing centers across the country and occasionally they are offered at a specific location on various campuses. Each exam lasts 90 minutes. With the exception of The English Composition essay, all of the tests are multiple choice and are scored immediately. Scores of 50 and above (out of 80) are generally considered passing, but students should check with their respective schools to determine what score they will need for credit.

While the College Board does not post pass rates to the test, the military does post their CLEP pass rates. CLEP test are especially popular among military personnel who can take the tests free of charge at duty centers around the world. These pass rates vary from year to year, but the average trends show relatively high percentage pass rates on foreign language test and intro to management and marketing. On the other hand, calculus, chemistry, and the other business courses (economics courses, financial accounting, and business law) all have relatively low passing rates.

Regardless of the test, it is important that interested students become familiar with the format and prepare for the material tested.

Right now the College Board offers the following 33 courses through CLEP exams:

History and Social Sciences:
• American Government
• History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877
• History of the United States II: 1865 to the Present
• Human Growth and Development
• Introduction to Educational Psychology
• Introduction to Sociology
• Principles of Macroeconomics
• Principles of Microeconomics
• Social Sciences and History
• Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648
• Western Civilization I: 1648 to the Present

Composition and Literature:

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

Science and Mathematics:
• Biology
• Calculus
• Chemistry
• College Algebra
• College Mathematics
• Natural Sciences
• Precalculus

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

World Languages:
• French Language (Levels 1 and 2)
• German Language (Levels 1 and 2)
• Spanish Language Levels 1 and 2)

Sharpen up those pencils and happy testing!


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