College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

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The College Level Examination Program was first deployed by ETS in 1967 as a credit-by-examination program for individuals such as adult students, nontraditional learners, and military service members.[1] Since its first administration, more than seven million CLEP exams have been administered,[1] and more than 200,000 exams are administered in a typical year.[2]

Function of the Test

CLEP Study Guide

Similar to how the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams enable high school students to earn college credit for knowledge obtained in high school, the CLEP examinations are designed to enable adult candidates to receive college credit for knowledge acquired outside of the traditional college classroom.[3] The College Board advertises the CLEP as helping candidates "Get college credit for what you already know."[3]

Those who take CLEP exams are typically students at universities or community colleges. Credit earned though CLEP exams is intended to fulfil course prerequisites or flesh out a candidate's transcript with additional credits to be applied toward graduation. Taking CLEP examinations by themselves does not grant any sort of college degree; the earned credits must be applied to the candidate's transcript at an institution of higher learning.

There are CLEP examination in five main subject areas: History & Social Sciences; Composition & Literature; Science & Mathematics; Business; and World Languages. Within those five categories, there are a total of thirty-three subject examinations which cover courses a typical university freshman or sophomore might take.[4]

History & Social Sciences is the largest category, with twelve exams spanning subjects from microeconomics to educational psychology to the history of the United States. Composition & Literature includes six examinations such as College Composition and Analyzing and Interpreting Literature. Science & Mathematics includes seven examinations in science areas such as biology and chemistry and mathematics areas such as algebra and calculus. Business covers five subjects, including topics such as accounting, management, and marketing. World Languages covers the introductory levels of three languages: French, German, and Spanish.[4]

The College Board reports that CLEP examinations are each worth between 3 and 12 college credits, but the specific number of credits granted for successfully completing a given exam depends on the policies and guidelines of the candidate's institution of higher learning.

More than 200,000 CLEP exams are administered per year,[2] but the College Board does not appear to publish scoring statistics or pass rates for the examinations. College Board reports that 8% of CLEP test-takers are high school students, while 74% are currently enrolled in a college or university. 32% of test-takers are college seniors, and in one survey of 4,000 test-takers, 55% of respondents said that taking a CLEP exam made a "significant difference" in helping those individuals complete their degrees. 70% also reported that CLEP made a difference in helping them to finance their educations.[5]

Test Administration

CLEP Flashcards

CLEP examinations are typically administered at test centers at individual colleges and universities.[6] Every CLEP examination costs $80 to take and is administered by computer. Exam lengths vary, but scores are typically available immediately upon completing the examination. Instant scoring is not available for exams which require written essays (such as College Composition).[7] All CLEP examinations are scored on a scale from 20 to 80, with a passing score of 50.[5] However, although 50 is the recommended passing score, individual institutions make the final decision regarding passing scores and the granting of credit.

Unsuccessful candidates who wish to retake a CLEP exam must wait three months between testing dates. There are no limits to the number of times a candidate may retake a given exam.[7]

Candidates with disabilities who require special accommodations for testing should contact their intended test center as early as possible before the test date to arrange necessary accommodations, which include ZoomText (screen magnification), modifiable screen colors, the use of a reader, amanuensis, or sign language interpreter, extended time, or untimed rest breaks. Candidates who require other types of accommodation should not register for the exam online or attempt to arrange these accommodations with a test center. Rather, they must contact the CLEP Services team for further instructions.[7]

Test Format

Test Structure

The CLEP, or College Level Examination Program, contains a series of exams that serve to give credit for classes that college students typically take in their first two years of college. In general, the exams contain about 100 multiple choice questions with 90 minutes allotted to complete. Depending on the test, some might require more than just the standard multiple choice format. For example, the College Composition CLEP test also requires two essays in addition to multiple choice items.[8]

Test Environment

While signing up for a CLEP test, CollegeBoard can locate testing centers in a specific area. On the day of the exam, test takers must bring their admission ticket, as well as a form of identification that is government issued, and contains a photo and signature. Personal items are not allowed in the testing room, and will need to be stored in a locker provided by the testing center. Any test-specific items, such as a calculator for some math/science tests, will need to comply with CLEP guidelines, and will be subject to examination by the testing center.[9]

Test Content

  • Sample CLEP Chemistry Practice Questions
  1. A gas at constant volume is cooled. Which statement about the gas must be true?
    A. The kinetic energy of the gas molecules has decreased
    B. The gas has condensed to a liquid
    C. The weight of the gas has decreased
    D. The density of the gas has increased
  2. Methyl mercury is a toxin produced inderectly from what energy source?
    A. Oil
    B. Natural gas
    C. Wood
    D. Coal
  • Sample CLEP Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
  • The following two questions pertain to this passage:
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who too the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So Clear of Victory
As he defeated--dying--
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!
  1. How many stressed syllables are in each line of the first stanza?
    A. 1
    B. 2
    C. 3
    D. 4
    E. 5
  2. Why what logical pattern is this poem organized?
    A. main idea, developed with examples
    B. Cause and effect
    C. Comparison and contrast
    D. Chronological order
    E. Description
  • Sample CLEP College Algebra Practice Questions
  1. A two digit number, whose sum of digits is ten, will be 36 less than the original number when the digits are reversed. What is the original number?
    A. 28
    B. 37
    C. 46
    D. 64
    E. 73
  2. Which is the solution set for x+12/x=7?
    A. x=4
    B. x=-4
    C. x=4, x=3
    D. x=-4, x=-3
    E. x=12, x=1
  • Sample CLEP Biology Practice Questions
  1. Which of the following molecules is thought to have acted as the first enzyme in early life on earth?
    A. Protein
    B. RNA
    C. DNA
    D. Triglycerides
    E. Phospholipids
  2. Which of the following conditions would promote evolutionary change?
    A. Neutral selection
    B. Random mating
    C. A large population
    D. An isolated population
    E. Gene flow

More free CLEP practice test questions.

Answers to Sample Questions

Chemistry 1;A 2;D Analyzing and Interpreting Literature: 1;C 2;A College Algebra: 1;E 2;C Biology: 1;B 2;E


  1. ^ a b College Board: The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) July 2 2015
  2. ^ a b College Board - CLEP for Minnesota High School Counselors and Principals 2007-2008 July 2 2015
  3. ^ a b College Board: CLEP July 2 2015
  4. ^ a b College Board: CLEP Exams July 2 2015
  5. ^ a b College Board: CLEP: Promoting Academic Success in Higher Education July 2 2015
  6. ^ College Board: CLEP Test Center Search July 2 2015
  7. ^ a b c College Board: CLEP FAQ July 2 2015
  8. ^ Clep Exams 15 June 2015
  9. ^ Exam Day 15 June 2015