Your college student may already have a strong base of knowledge before he even sets foot on his college campus. It is possible that he can get college credit for his knowledge by taking a CLEP exam. The College Level Examination Program, administered by the College Board (the SAT organization) offers students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of college level material and to earn college credit for information learned through independent study, on-the-job training or internships.
CLEP exams cover such areas as American Government, US History, Psychology, Sociology, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Literature, Composition, Biology, Business, Math, or World Languages. There are 33 exams which cover material taught in courses a student would be likely to take in the first two years of college. Each test covers one course and is worth anywhere from 3 to 12 credits. Exams are 90 minutes long, are taken on a computer in a lab, cost $80 plus a small administration fee, and students receive their results immediately.
The College Board has administered CLEP exams for over 40 years. They are accepted by 2900 colleges and are administered at 1800 test centers nationwide. Each college sets its own standard for qualifying scores, but the average is 50 points on an 80 point scale. Not all schools will accept all subject areas, so students should check with the college offices before taking the exams. Some schools may have limits on the number of CLEP credits they will accept. Test scores are sent to the student’s requested schools but they may be “banked” for up to 20 years to be transferred to a college later. Students who do not achieve an acceptable score may retake a CLEP exam, but must wait six months before doing so.
There are several obvious advantages to taking, and passing, a CLEP exam. CLEP exams allow students to avoid taking courses in subjects they have already mastered. This will not only save a student tuition money, it may potentially make college more interesting by allowing the student to move on quickly to more advanced courses or to new areas of study. This may speed college completion. A student who passes several CLEP exams may be able to skip an entire semester.
A high school student who may be able to take and pass a CLEP exam may have a slight admission advantage by proving that she can successfully complete college level work.
Credit by examination is not an avenue for all students. In fact, it may be an avenue for only a minority of students. But for students who have already mastered a body of knowledge, or who are particularly highly motivated, or who may be taking an alternative educational path, a CLEP exam may be just the vehicle for gaining both some credit and some confidence.