CLEP Testing: Alternative to AP?

Renna Abozir, Co-Editor-in-Chief

There is a bit of mystery surrounding CLEP tests. It is a test that, like an AP test, is administered through the College Board, will get you college credit, and save you the time and money you would spend in taking certain classes . However, the big mystery aspect of it is that most people aren’t familiar with them. Most know its more commonly known counterpart, Advanced Placement, or AP tests,
A CLEP (College Level Examination Program) test essentially goes like this: Students can sign up for a test online and take it at a testing facility, usually a local college or the university they attend. (More specific information regarding testing facilities can be found on the college board website.) It takes about 90-120 minutes to complete the test, they are offered year round, and are scored based on the percentage of questions answered correctly. Most colleges and universities accept CLEP credit, and in most cases, a passing score many colleges and universities will accept is anywhere between 50% to 65%. There are 34 different subjects in which students can choose to take a test on, and 6 subject areas in which tests are available: Composition and Literature, World Languages, History and Social Sciences, Science, Mathematics, and Business.
In this light, CLEP exams seem almost flawless. But there is one major drawback: you are expected to study for it independently. With AP tests, there is usually a class that you start in the fall in order to be ready for the test in May. But with CLEP, the goal is to demonstrate that you already know everything that could be taught in a college equivalent course, so you are expected to have this knowledge before walking in.
While self-studying is the most traditional path when preparing for CLEP tests, many people take CLEP exams if they fail an AP exam, or don’t feel ready for the AP exam in May and decide to take it at a later date through CLEP. Or, CLEP may cater to different learning types than those who usually do well on AP tests, because all except one CLEP test are sans essays, only testing knowledge through multiple-choice questions.
In addition to the independent study aspect of CLEP exams, most colleges and universities don’t accept CLEP credit for classes that are required for a student’s major or minor, although this is also true of AP exams. While CLEP exams can be easier, cheaper, and more accessible to the average student than AP tests, AP may be more widely accepted and even waive students out of multiple classes if they receive a 5.
However, when testing out of classes in which CLEP credit is acceptable, you can make more time and room for classes that are needed for your major and that will help you advance in your career, rather than having to waste time and money on classes that you don’t need. Many colleges will even accept up to 30 credits done through CLEP, which, while difficult to achieve, can still help you advance faster on your college path, graduate sooner, and save on tuition for classes that are required at your university or college, but aren’t needed for your major.
While CLEP is similar to AP, it holds different benefits for different types of students. It’s not a means in which to speed straight to a degree or diploma with little work, nor is it a perfect stand-in for AP, but it is a program that can help students avoid classes not needed for their major, spend less money on college, and utilize the time they have. The College Board website has a plethora of information on CLEP tests, and is a worthwhile program to consider for anyone looking to save money on college and spend more time on their long-term career goals.