Which CLEP Exams are Most Beneficial to High Schoolers?

Want to earn college credits without having to take an actual class? Consider taking a CLEP exam!

The College Level Examination Program or CLEP is a standardized set of tests developed and administered by the College Board. The same group administers the Student Aptitude Tests (SATs) and the ACCUPLACER examinations.

Like the ACCUPLACER, CLEP aims to gauge a student's academic abilities for tertiary education. The difference lies in that the ACCUPLACER is a tool that will help students choose what courses to take in college.  On the other hand, CLEP enables them to earn college credits without enrolling in and attending classes.

Passing a CLEP exam is a way for students to decrease their academic load when they enroll at a college and university, and – depending on how many credits they earned through the tests – enables them to graduate earlier.

Likewise, for both parents and students employed part-time, taking the CLEP also helps lower the price of one’s education as there is no need to enroll in subjects for which one has earned credits. 

 Exams That Should be Considered

1. Examinations that Give Credits for General Education or Pre-requisite Classes

These are examinations that test a student's aptitude for subjects taught between the 9th and 12th grades. It is, essentially, a way of getting credits for general education classes taught during one's freshman year at college. Interestingly, these are ranked among the easiest exams to take by many high school students. These tests are more of a review of the knowledge and information learned in the classroom. CLEP exams under this category include: 

  •  College Composition (composition, rhetoric, and writing);
  •  College Composition Modular (use of sources, conventions of standard written English, revision, analysis);
  •  College Algebra;
  •  College Mathematics;
  •  Pre-calculus;
  •  Biology;
  •  Chemistry;
  •  History of the United States – I and II;
  •  English Literature; 
  •  Humanities, and
  •  American Government.

2. Foreign Language Examinations

Another way to get prerequisite subjects out of the way, the foreign language exams enable bilingual and international students to get ahead. Currently, available examinations only focus on three European languages, namely French, German, and Spanish. While all three examinations gauge a student’s ability to read, speak, and understand these languages, only the Spanish CLEP offers a test of the ability to write or compose an essay.

3. Examinations That Can Boost Your Chances of Getting into Your College of Choice

This is for students who need a boost to get into different schools with limited slots for a course or an overwhelming number of applicants to a college or university. The roster of exams under this category is almost the same as the first entry in this list. In this case, getting good marks on these exams isn't just a way of earning credit beforehand, but it doubles as proof of a student's preparedness for the rigors of tertiary-level schoolwork.

Likewise, in the case of courses that only take in a limited number of applicants per term, getting good scores in exams related to the course is seen as a competitive advantage. Here, students need to think strategically if they are to benefit from the CLEP and choose exams that showcase their abilities and aptitude for their course of choice. For example, a student considering a degree in engineering would do well to take the exams for mathematics, algebra, and calculus. 

4. Subject-Specific Examinations

Many high school students are saving up for college by taking on part-time jobs. While most of these young people take on positions in food service or the service industry, some manage to work as junior secretaries and office clerks. A few have the privilege of getting professional internships for large companies. These students would find it beneficial to take exams that focus on more advanced subjects – or are already more career-oriented – than those taught in a conventional classroom.

The Business Category of the CLEP exams is a set of five tests covering different corporate disciplines. The current roster includes: 

  •  Financial Accounting;
  •  Information Systems;
  •  Introductory Business Law;
  •  Principles of Management; and 
  •  Principles of Accounting.

Students who get good marks in any of these five examinations can study more advanced subjects in most courses for business administration, corporate management, information technology, and even a pre-law degree.

The Social Sciences also feature several exams that will give an advantage to those geared towards studying behavioral sciences or are considering degrees in social work, economics, or education. Exams skewed in this direction currently include the following:

  •   Human Growth and Development;
  •   Introduction to Educational Psychology;
  •   Introductory Psychology;
  •   Introductory Sociology;
  •   Principles of Macroeconomics; and 
  •   Principles of Microeconomics.

Depending on which school a student aims to attend, the results of business-related exams can qualify them for course credits leading to a related major or, at the very least, put them into the top percentile of applicants for a course.

Consider the Advantages of Taking the CLEP

Regardless of which CLEP examination a student decides to take, one has to keep in mind that there are several advantages that it accords:

  1. It easily cuts down class time in college. Class hours per semester for a standard three-credit college class can easily run to 150 hours per term, and this already includes the 45 to 48 hours one spends in the classroom. However, studying for credits via CLEP may only take a total of 24 to 40 hours in all, depending on one's ability and study habits.
  2. Earning CLEP credits saves tuition money. As of 2019, the average cost of even one college credit can easily set you back by $600 – making the total cost of a three-credit class $1,800. In comparison, studying for CLEP – including the purchase of CLEP study guides and attendance at review classes – will only cost around $100, and this already includes the $87 exam fee.
  3. Students can take classes that matter. If one gets general education subjects out of the way by passing CLEPs, then a student has more time to attend classes with more bearing with their chosen course of study and any relevant electives.