CLEP for Homeschoolers

Earning college credits during high school is generating a lot of buzz in homeschool circles. Through options like CLEP, AP, and dual enrollment some students are hoping to shorten their time in college and save money. Here are answers to some of the questions homeschoolers ask most often about CLEP exams.

What is CLEP?
The College Level Examination Program is offered through the College Board. CLEP was originally designed to meet the needs of adult learners returning to school, but is increasingly being considered as an option for traditional aged students. CLEP offers 33 different exams on subjects such as College Algebra and Psychology. The exam is intended to verify that a student has attained equivalent knowledge of a one or two semester college level course. Some colleges award credit for students achieving particular scores on the exams.

Can homeschoolers take CLEP exams?
Yes. While these tests were originally intended for non-traditional adult learners and people serving in the military, they are now open to homeschooled students as well. There is no minimum age requirement for CLEPs and students do not need to be affiliated with any particular type of public, private, or homeschool program.

How do I take CLEP exams?
CLEP exams are given on the computer at test sites, often community or technical colleges, selected by the College Board. Tests can be taken year round. The College Board website gives contact information for the local test centers. Exams typically cost around $100 including both the fee for the College Board and any local proctoring fees charged by the test site.

What is the format of CLEP exams?
The exams are typically 90 minute multiple-choice tests and are taken on a computer. The composition exam has a different format. The College Board offers sample questions online to get a feel for the difficulty of the exams. There are also many sites online offering test prep materials. Many public libraries also access to online databases that include CLEP test preparation practice materials.

What topics to CLEP exams cover?
There are 33 CLEP exams available in five different subject areas. These areas include History and Social Science, Composition and Literature, Science and Mathematics, Business, World Languages. The most popular exams are algebra, foreign language, and history. Most CLEP exams are intended to reflect the content of lower division, introductory college courses that would typically be taken in the first or second year of college. To get an overview of the types of questions on the CLEP exams check out the College Board’s CLEP Official Study Guide which has sample questions for all 33 exams. This book is available from most public libraries.

Chart of CLEP TestsWill I earn college credit for my CLEP score?
2,900 colleges in the United States grant at least some credit for CLEP exams. In general, less selective colleges are more likely to award credit. Highly selective colleges do not usually award credit based on CLEP scores. Each college will set their own cut off scores for awarding credit for various courses. If you know the college you plan to attend, it makes sense to look carefully at their CLEP credit policies before you choose to test. Just earning general college credits is of limited use. You want to focus on tests that will allow the student to place into a desired course or that will earn credits toward a specific graduation requirement, typically a general education course. At most schools it is rare for CLEPs to count toward major requirements, but they may meet “pre-major” requirements. The only way CLEPs will save you time and money is if the college you choose to attend gives you credit for a course you need in order to graduate.

What if I fail or do not earn my desired score?
Not every tester will pass every test. Students should understand if they do not pass an exam they will be required to wait at least three months before they retake that specific exam.

What if my student has a disability and needs accommodations?
As with other College Board exams such as the SAT, SAT subject tests, and APs students can apply to receive testing accommodations including extended time. It is important for testers to understand that most CLEPS do not have a written portion. Most CLEPS are multiple choice questions answered on a computer. For some testers such as those with dysgraphia who doesn’t have accommodations this can make CLEP tests a more workable choice than APs which require quite a bit of essay writing. As is always the case with accommodation approval, homeschoolers are urged to begin the process some time before planned testing because the process can be lengthy.

Will my CLEP score help me get into college?
The reality is that most colleges really aren’t that difficult to get into. At some less selective schools, such as regional state universities, CLEP scores may provide good support for the homeschool transcript. That said, most of these schools accept most students who apply. At more competitive colleges, CLEP scores will generally not be helpful for admissions purposes and don’t carry the same weight that strong AP or SAT subject scores will.

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