What Is the College Level Examination Program (CLEP)?

CLEP stands for the College Level Examination Program, a program that enables students to earn college credit for introductory-level courses by achieving satisfactory scores on subject-specific tests. CLEP is administered by College Board, the same company that administers the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) required for seeking admission at nearly all undergraduate institutions and colleges.

Key Takeaways

  • CLEP stands for the College Level Examination Program, a program that enables students to earn college credit for introductory-level courses by achieving satisfactory scores on subject-specific tests.
  • Administered by College Board, the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is accepted by nearly 3,000 colleges and can reward anywhere between one and 12 credits for a passing score.
  • CLEP offers 38 different multiple-choice exams ranging from 90-120 minutes for topics such as business to languages, math, and science.
  • Unlike the AP exam, CLEP does not come with an accompanying high school course and can be taken by adults returning to school.

Understanding the College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

Nearly 3,000 colleges accept the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), and universities and exams are given in more than 1,800 test centers.

A qualifying test score can earn a student anywhere from one to 12 college credits, depending on the college's policy. Passing a CLEP test allows students to save money on tuition, skip unnecessary courses, and speed up graduation. Students do not need previous academic experience in a subject area to sit for an exam and earn credit, so students who have acquired knowledge through independent study, on-the-job training, and other methods can take advantage of CLEP. Most exams are 90-minutes to 120-minutes long and consist of multiple-choice questions, taken on a computer.

Students should check with their university's policy on granting credit for specific CLEP exams before registering for, studying for, or taking any exams. In some cases, universities may exempt students from general education requirements if they pass CLEP exams in those subjects but will not actually award credit hours for satisfactory exam scores.

Examples of CLEP Exams

CLEP offers 38 examinations in subjects including English literature, Spanish language, American government, business, science, math, and more.

  • American Literature
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
  • College Composition
  • College Composition Modular
  • English Literature
  • Humanities
  • French Language: Levels 1 and 2
  • German Language: Levels 1 and 2
  • Spanish Language: Levels 1 and 2
  • Spanish with Writing: Levels 1 and 2
  • American Government
  • History of the United States I
  • History of the United States II
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Introduction to Educational Psychology
  • Introductory Psychology
  • Introductory Sociology
  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Social Sciences and History
  • Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648
  • Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present
  • Biology
  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • College Algebra
  • College Mathematics
  • Natural Sciences
  • Precalculus
  • Financial Accounting
  • Information Systems
  • Introductory Business Law
  • Principles of Management
  • Principles of Marketing

AP Exams vs. CLEP

Advanced Placement (AP) exams are also designed to help students test out of college-level coursework, however, they are different than CLEP tests in that AP exams are accompanied by a high school course. For example, a student would typically take an AP Calculus BC class for a school year, before registering to take the AP Calc BC examination. CLEP is less well-known than AP exams and classes (as they are not advertised within high school classes), and is also not exclusively designed for high school students. Anyone who is motivated and has the ability to self-study for the test can take CLEP. In fact, though high school students are eligible, those who take CLEP exams include adults going back to school, military members, international students, master's degree candidates, and other professionals. In addition, whereas AP exams only take place in May, CLEP exams are offered throughout the year.