This content is sponsored by The College Board

When I was a new college freshman, the wisest piece of advice that I received was to “test out” of as many required classes that I could, a move that would save me money in the long run. And, as it turns out, the most popular method of gaining college credits through exams is through the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), administered by The College Board.

What Are CLEP Exams?

CLEP exams are offered in 33 subjects and are equivalent to a semester-long introductory course on a particular topic. The majority of CLEP exams are multiple-choice. However, some colleges require the optional essays portions that can be part of the exams. It is important to check with your particular school for their requirements.

The Benefits of CLEP Exams.

One of the most popular reasons to take CLEP exams is they are more affordable than tuition. For example, the cost of a CLEP exam is $87, and a CLEP study guide costs approximately $30. By contrast, tuition at an average state university costs over $250 per credit hour and don’t forget to add in an addition to couple hundred dollars for textbooks.

In this example, one CLEP exam, on one topic,  equals a savings of nearly $800. You can see how taking multiple CLEP exams can save you thousands of dollars on the cost of your degree.

Extra Benefits for Military Personnel.

Military personnel can take CLEP exams for free and receive free examination study guides through DANTES. Even better, one of the best ways to quickly earn much-needed promotion points is to pass CLEP exams . For more information about CLEP exams for military members, visit the College Board’s CLEP Military Benefits webpage.

Since CLEP exams are self-paced, there are no due dates and students can earn credit faster than a traditional 16-week college semester. The CLEP exam system allows military personnel to work on a timeline that fits their schedule. So, those unexpected training exercises won’t slow down progress. 


Are CLEP Exams Right for Me?

When preparing for a CLEP exam, you should plan to study approximately three hours per week for each credit hour of the course. Most CLEP exams correspond to a three credit hour course taught in a 16-week semester, requiring approximately 135 hours of study. Some topics will require more study time, some less. Your level of familiarity with a subject area will ultimately determine the amount of time needed to study for the exam.

One thing to remember about CLEP exams: there is no professor assigning deadlines like in a traditional college class. It is up to you to study. Before registering for an exam, you want to consider your motivation style. If you require external accountability, then you may need to find alternative ways of motivation, such as through a spouse or accountability partner.

How Do I Earn Credit?

Before registering for CLEP exams, you want to confirm with the college or university that will be receiving your examination scores which CLEP topics they accept. This will ensure that you are registering for exams that will earn you credit and will fit your degree requirements. It is also important to know what the school considers a passing score. Acceptable scores vary by university.

Many colleges limit the number of  transferrable external credits that they will apply to a degree program. This is something that only the university would be able to tell you, so be sure to confirm. The College Board does not grant credit for the examination, they only administer the exams. This is why confirming with the college before registering for a test is so essential.

The wise advice given to me as a new college freshman was incredibly beneficial.  I earned over 15 credits through credit-by-examination, which allowed me to graduate a semester early. Now that I have returned to college for a second Bachelor’s degree in a different career field, I have once again turned to CLEP exams.

Don’t underestimate the  value of the College Board’s CLEP exams. The financial and time savings are a bonus to anyone who wants to finish their degree a little sooner and with a little more money in their pocket.