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CLEP: College Credit for Life Experience

Chris Diehl

March 05, 2009

CLEP: College Credit for Life Experience

The CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) is a test that grants college credit to students based on knowledge learned through professional experience, independent study, adult courses or advanced high school courses. The CLEP is recognized by about 2,900 colleges and universities, and is administered by the College Board.

The CLEP is comprised of 33 different tests in a variety of subjects, much like the SAT Subject Tests. You choose which CLEP test (or tests) you want to complete, based on the kind of college credit you're seeking. Tests are offered in the following categories:

Usually students take CLEP tests to pass out of first- or second-year courses at the college freshman and sophomore level. Most students who take the CLEP are older, returning students. An age breakdown of students who take a CLEP test is below:

  • Older than 30: 34 percent
  • 23-29 years old: 18 percent
  • 19-22 years old: 24 percent
  • Under 19 years old: 21 percent


CLEP tests provide an opportunity to earn college credit in a short amount of time, saving tuition costs and shortening your time in college. Instead of paying full tuition for classes about a subject you already know, you can take a CLEP test and move into more advanced classes.

Ask your college whether they recognize CLEP test results, and if they do, which tests they recognize. Most colleges that accept CLEP results will give credit for only certain tests. In addition, almost all colleges limit the number of CLEP credits they will grant.

Individual colleges vary in terms of how much credit they will grant on each test. Some colleges may give you credit for a certain course only; others may allow you to apply the credit to your choice of courses. Or you may be granted an exemption on a course without giving you credit. There may be a stipulation that requires you to pass another class in order for the CLEP credit to count.

Other possible stipulations include being enrolled at the college where you will apply your credit, filling out additional forms through your college or passing a departmental test through the college itself.

Test Details

Where: The test is administered through 1,300 colleges and universities across the country.
When: Exam dates differ among testing centers.
Price: Each CLEP test costs $65. Your test center may also require a separate non-refundable administration fee, usually $15.

Contact your local test center for more information.

What Is on the Test?

The CLEP is a computer-based test. Because of the automated system, you can receive your results immediately after completing the test. Each exam is 90 minutes long. Exam questions are primarily multiple-choice, although some tests have require fill-in answers.

While each exam is unique in its subject matter, they all test your general knowledge and skills within that field of study. As an example, below is a breakdown of the knowledge tested in two exams

  • U.S. History I - 35% political institutions, behavior and public policy; 25% social developments; 10% economic developments; 15% cultural and intellectual developments; 15% diplomacy and international relations

  • Principles of Macroeconomics - 8-12% basic economic concepts; 12-16% measurement of economic performance; 10-15% national income and price determination; 15-20% financial sector;  20-30% inflation, unemployment and stabilization policies; 5-10% economic growth and productivity; 10-15% open economy: international trade and finance.


The test is scored on a scale from 20 to 80, where 80 is the best score you can receive. There are no additional deductions for wrong answers, however, so students are encouraged to answer every question.

You will receive your scores instantly for most subject tests. However, for the English Composition with Essay test, you will have to wait one to three weeks to receive your final scores while the essay portion is scored.

It's up to each individual college to decide where to place the score cutoff in order for a CLEP test to count toward credit. The American Council on Education recommends a minimum score of 50 on most tests.

At the time you take your test, you may send your score to any school, employer or certifying agency you wish. If you don't know where you want to send your scores, leave that field blank. You can send your scores at a later date for $20 each. Scores are kept on file for 20 years.

For more information about the CLEP, including a list of the schools that accept CLEP credit, check out:

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