How To Study For Clep Tests

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How To Study For Clep Tests

The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows students to test out of introductory-level college courses. Although the U.S. government created the program in 1967 for military service members, many different kinds of students now take CLEP exams, including high school students, military service members, veterans, and working professionals.

The College Board CLEP exam can help students save on tuition costs and shorten their time to degree. Read on to learn more about the CLEP and how to pass the exams.

Why Take CLEP Exams?

More than 2,900 U.S. colleges and universities grant course credits to students who pass CLEP exams. However, many schools only accept some CLEP test results, and some schools do not accept any. The College Board maintains a database of schools that award college credits for CLEP exams, but check your university’s website to find the most up-to-date information.

Each CLEP exam costs $89, plus administrative fees. The average cost of a 3-credit college course was $1,677 in 2020. That means testing out of college courses can save some students hundreds of dollars in tuition. Also, military service members may be eligible to take their CLEP exams for free.

The CLEP could also help you graduate sooner. For example, if you take the CLEP exam in college composition, you may test out of English 101. Depending on the length of your school’s semester, by testing out of a 3-credit course such as English 101, you could reduce the time you spend in the classroom by 40 hours.

Are CLEP Exams Hard?

The College Board CLEP offers 34 exams in five areas of study: composition and literature, world languages, history and social sciences, science and mathematics, and business.

Most CLEP exam questions are multiple choice; however, some exams also ask students to fill in answers, shade answer options, and place items in the correct order. The college composition exam includes two mandatory essays graded by two or more English professors. Other exams in the composition and literature category offer optional essays, and language exams include reading and listening sections.

Colleges and universities set their own criteria for what counts as a CLEP passing score, so be sure to check your school’s requirements.

How difficult you find these exams depends on your academic knowledge and professional background. The easiest CLEP exams for you may be very challenging for another student.

CLEP pass rates are higher on some exams than others. The Department of Defense reports that during the 2020 fiscal year, 80% of military test-takers passed the CLEP Spanish-language exam, while only 21% of military test-takers passed the CLEP exam in financial accounting.

Exam scores range from 20 to 80. The American Council of Education recommends that colleges and universities grant credit to students who score 50 or higher. Colleges and universities set their own criteria for what counts as a CLEP passing score, so be sure to check your school’s requirements.

How to Study for the CLEP Exams

The College Board offers individual study guides for each exam and a book-length study guide covering all 34 exams. As of May 2021, the single-exam study guides cost $10, whereas the book costs $24.99. If you plan on taking more than two CLEP exams, the book is the better bargain. The College Board also provides details on additional study resources for each exam on its website.

Students can access several CLEP courses and study guides online. For example, Modern States Education Alliance offers over 30 free online CLEP courses and covers exam costs for students who enroll in its courses.

5 Effective Study Tips for CLEP Exams

  • check-circle iconReview the specific info provided by the College Board about each exam you plan to take
  • check-circle iconTake free or paid CLEP practices tests online and review your results
  • check-circle iconSchedule your study sessions at a time when you can focus without distractions
  • check-circle iconCreate SMART study goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely
  • check-circle iconUse study techniques like spaced practice and mind mapping to improve your understanding of a subject

how long to study for a clep test

While these exams cover college-level material, high school students can prepare for CLEP exams by taking practice tests and keeping an organized schedule, among other things.

1. Review the CLEP exam overviews

The College Board lists on its website all 33 of its CLEP exams. Read through the exam offerings and review their overviews to gain familiarity with exactly what you’ll encounter on a given exam.

Use this information to help guide your preparation. For instance, you may think you’re prepared to take the CLEP exam in English Literature because you’re taking AP English. However, what you learn in class and what you encounter on the exam may vary. Make note of any gaps in your knowledge and focus on those when studying for your CLEP exam.

Before your CLEP exam, be sure to familiarize yourself with the following:

  • CLEP exam content
  • Exam guidelines
  • Exam structure

Some exams have timed subsections. Knowing how much time you have to take your exam, and for each section, can help you pace yourself both when practicing and on test day.

[RELATED: Important Habits of Effective Test-Takers]

2. Take CLEP practice exams

One of the best ways to study for CLEP exams is by taking CLEP practice tests. You can purchase a study booklet from the College Board or access free questions in the “At a Glance” sheets listed online with each exam description. You can use these resources to study on your own, in a group, or through CLEP tutoring.

[RELATED: How to Analyze Practice Test Results]

3. Create a study schedule leading up to the CLEP exam

Most CLEP exam content was designed for learning over the course of the average 15-week college semester. With a busy high school schedule, it can sound daunting to study for such a test. The trick is to set up a regular study schedule and to hold yourself accountable for seeing your studying through.

Depending on your learning style, studying for a CLEP exam could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. As a general rule, the more time you have to study, the better. Keep a calendar and block out an hour or two every day or every other day to devote to studying for your exam. Make it a priority to get your studying done.

Cramming is a study habit to avoid the night before your CLEP exam, and a regular study schedule can help prevent this. Remember, cramming a strategy that’s never advisable for any exam!

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