The College Level Examination Program, known as CLEP testing, is a viable way for high school students to earn college credits early, but it’s important to remember that there are both advantages and disadvantages to pursuing CLEP testing. Students and parents who have reviewed their options will be better prepared to undertake this alternative route to college credits without being caught off-guard by the risks.
A CLEP exam requires studying. When preparing for a CLEP, you are preparing for a standardized exam and so there is not necessarily any single textbook or resource from which you can prepare. It is up to the student to seek out guide books, multiple textbooks, and online suggestions as to which topics to study, how much to study, and how to best prepare for each individual CLEP. Be aware that different CLEPs will be better prepared for with different resources. There is not a set of single reference that will adequately prepare for each exam. There will be some costs to obtain these resources, so budget accordingly.
Like any test, a CLEP exam must be passed in order to earn the credit. Different colleges look for different scores as “passing” so just because you pass the CLEP by one school’s standards, you may not pass by another. There is a benchmark for passing suggested by the test itself, but colleges are not obligated to accept those standards only. Clearly, scoring as high as possible is the goal, but students should verify their scores with any colleges that they are considering as some schools may not accept the scores they’ve earned.
Finally, if a student studies for and takes the CLEP but does not pass it, then it’s true that they can take the exam again. However, there is a waiting period of six months, so students will need to continue studying and keeping the information fresh if they plan to take the CLEP again. Many students give up at this point and move on to the next CLEP. That means that the money spent on resources and the test itself, is money lost.
CLEP exams are administered by colleges, and there are fees involved, but those fees are usually less than $75. Compare that to per credit fees on college campuses in the hundreds of dollars per credit hour. Chances are that the money spent on resources to study will not be any more than the textbooks that would have been bought for the class on a college campus, so those expenses become a bit of a “wash.” That being said, if a student studies for, tests, and passes the CLEP, then they have earned college credit for significantly less money than if they had attended the college for a semester to earn the exact same credit on campus.
In terms of time necessary to prepare for a CLEP exam, there are no restrictions. Therefore, students may save time too, by preparing for a CLEP in less than the typical four-month semester period. For instance, if a student can study and prepare for any given CLEP in two months, then they can take that CLEP, and possibly another one, in the same single semester period. (The only restriction is on repeating a particular CLEP as stated above.) This also means that students will spend less time in college, saving time there as well.
Having CLEP credits in high school allows a student to enter college with some college hours already accomplished. This not only saves time and money, but it increases confidence for the student and gives them a head start when they arrive in college. Knowing the skills it took to study and prepare for the CLEPs that they’ve passed, will help students to apply themselves in their future college courses, too.
The choice of whether or not to pursue CLEP credits while in high school is one that should be made by both parents and students. Most colleges will accept CLEP exams, but it is always a good idea to confirm that with any colleges on your student’s “consideration” list before they begin the process. Some colleges will even limit the number of CLEP courses that they allow, so assuming you’ve done some preliminary research on possible colleges and you understand the risks and rewards, CLEP exams may be a good choice for your student if they are ambitious, studious, and motivated to get a head start on college.
CLEP Testing - Risks and Rewards