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What is a CLEP Exam?

What is a CLEP Exam?

CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program.  CLEP exams are usually taken by people who have acquired knowledge outside the classroom and wish to bypass certain college courses and earn college credit.  CLEP exams are just one of the options available for earning college credit.

What is a CLEP Exam? from Starts At Eight

According to the College Board, “CLEP is the most widely accepted credit by examination program, available at more than 2,900 colleges and universities.”  CLEP offers 33 exams in five subject areas, covering material taught in courses that you may generally take in your first two (undergraduate) years of college.

List of CLEP Exams by Subject:

1.History and Social Sciences

Introductory Psychology

This 95-question test covers a broad range of introductory concepts, including behavior, perception, cognition, emotion, personality, and more.

Introductory Sociology

This CLEP test emphasizes basic facts and general theoretical approaches in sociology. There are 100 questions.

Social Sciences and History

CLEP prep for this test should cover a broad range of topics in social science and history. This exam features 120 questions on topics in American, European, and world history; anthropology; sociology; psychology; economics; geography; and politics.

American Government

Featuring 100 questions about American government, this CLEP exam covers topics including federal government, the courts, politics, and the Constitution.

History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877

120 questions emphasize American history from 1790–1877, including politics, social developments, economics, culture, and diplomacy.

History of the United States II: 1865 to the Present

This 120-question CLEP college credit exam measures your knowledge of American history, with the majority covering important events of the 20th century.

Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648

This test includes 120 questions on ancient civilizations, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, and early modern Europe.

Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present

120 questions gauge your understanding of European history from the mid-17th century through the post-World War II period.

Principles of Macroeconomics

80 questions cover the principles of economics that apply to a total economic system. Topics include important terms, economic performance, international markets, and national income and price determination, with an emphasis on the latter.

Principles of Microeconomics

CLEP study for this exam should focus on the principles of economics that apply to individual customers and businesses within an economic system. There are 80 questions.

Human Growth and Development

90 questions cover introductory developmental psychology, including topics in infancy, childhood, adulthood, and aging.

2. Composition and Literature

Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

Approximately 80 multiple-choice questions measure your understanding of passages (poetry, drama, fiction and/or non-fiction) taken primarily from American and British literature. You may also elect to complete an optional essay.

American Literature

The American Literature exam covers material that is usually taught in a two-semester survey course (or the equivalent) at the college level.  The test contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

This exam has an optional essay that may be required by some colleges and universities. The essay section is administered at test centers in paper-and-pencil format, and the fee is payable to the test center that administers the exam. This essay is scored by faculty at the colleges and universities that require them.

English Literature

The English Literature CLEP exam contains approximately 95 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.The test is primarily concerned with major authors and literary works, but it also includes questions on some minor writers. Candidates are expected to be acquainted with common literary terms, such as metaphor and personification, and basic literary forms, such as the sonnet and the ballad.

The CLEP English Literature exam also includes an optional essay section. Some schools require candidates to complete this section. Candidates should check with the school(s) of their choice to confirm whether the essay is required. This optional section requires candidates to demonstrate their ability to write clearly and effectively. Candidates respond to two of three essay topics.

This CLEP test includes 95 questions on British literature from Beowulf to the present. There is also an essay, which is optional. To do well, you must understand common literary terms, themes, and forms.

College Composition

The composition CLEP exam presents you with 90 questions that test your writing skills, including language and grammar use, with some analysis of prose and poetry. There’s also an optional essay section.

College Composition Modular

This CLEP exam contains a multiple-choice section that is supplemented with an essay section that is either provided and scored by the college or provided by CLEP and scored by the college. College Composition Modular is available for colleges that want a valid, reliable multiple-choice assessment and greater local control over the direct writing assessment. College Composition Modular contains approximately 90 questions to be answered in 90 minutes and, if the essay section provided by CLEP is chosen, two essays to be written in 70 minutes.


Your CLEP study for this 140-question test should focus on knowledge in a range of topics in the arts and philosophy of all periods, classic to contemporary.

3. Science and Mathematics


CLEP study for this 115-question test should include preparation in molecular and cellular biology, organismal biology, and population biology.


75 questions gauge your understanding of the structure and states of matter, reactions, equations, equilibrium, kinetics, thermodynamics, descriptive chemistry, and experimental chemistry.


This CLEP exam includes 45 questions. About 60 percent task you with problems on limits and differential calculus; the other 40 percent require you to apply your skills in integral calculus.

College Algebra

Of these 60 questions, about half involve solving routine, straightforward algebraic problems. The rest task you with applying algebraic skills and concepts.


This 48-question CLEP test covers algebraic expressions, equations, and inequalities; functions; representations; analytic geometry; and trigonometry.

College Mathematics

These 60 questions cover: sets, logic, the real number system, functions and graphing, probability and statistics, and additional topics from algebra and geometry.

Natural Sciences

This test presents you with 120 questions that span a wide range of topics, including both biological and physical sciences.

4. Business

Information Systems and Computer Applications

CLEP prep for this 100-question test should cover: hardware, software and programming, data management, information processing, technology applications, and social/ethical implications and issues.

Principles of Management

Covering human resources, operational and functional aspects of management, and international management, this test focuses on contemporary issues and includes 100 questions.

Financial Accounting

From balance sheets to business ethics, 75 questions test your financial accounting know-how on this CLEP college credit exam.

Introductory Business Law

This 100-question CLEP test emphasizes the function of contracts in business law, as well as the legal process, torts, and the history of law in America.

Principles of Marketing

From the role of marketing in society and in a firm to target markets and the marketing mix, this 100-question test covers all of the basics.

5. World Languages

French Language Levels 1 and 2

Both exams include 120 questions that measure your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills — one at the two-semester and one at the four-semester level. There are two listening sections and one reading section.

German Language Levels 1 and 2

This test measures your German skills at the one- and two-year level. Each test includes 120 questions divided into two listening sections and one reading section.

Spanish Language Levels 1 and 2

120 questions measure your ability in Spanish reading, writing, listening, and speaking at the one- or two-year level. There are two listening sections and one reading section.


Getting Started with a CLEP Exam:

By passing a CLEP exam with a satisfactory grade, you can earn 3 to 12 college credits. Each CLEP Exam will cost you $80.

A score of 50 on a CLEP Exam is considered to be the recommended credit-granting score by the American Council on Education (ACE). Each college, however, reserves the right to set its own credit-granting policy, which may differ from that of ACE.  If you have not already done so, contact your college as soon as possible to find out the score it requires to grant credit, the number of credit hours granted and the course(s) that can
be bypassed with a satisfactory score.

The College Board recommends 5 Main Steps to taking the CLEP Exam.

  1. Find out your institutions CLEP credit policy.
  2. Decide which exam(s) to take.
  3. Register to take a CLEP exam.
  4. Schedule test day with your test center.
  5. Prepare for your CLEP exam.

Interested in learning more about earning college credit through a CLEP exam?

Want to know how a CLEP exam differs from AP?  Don’t know what AP is?

Others posts in this College Credit by Exam Series:

  1. What is a CLEP Exam?
  2. Why Take a CLEP Exam?
  3. Resources for Studying to Take a CLEP Exam
  4. How to Schedule a CLEP Exam
  5. What Happens When You Fail a CLEP Exam
  6. The Scoop on Earning AP Credit in High School
  7. Preparing for AP English Language & Composition Exam


  1. Adrienne Bolton (@TheMommyMess)
    May 22, 2014 @ 11:32:04

    Very smart to create a series, Heidi!

  2. Heidi
    May 22, 2014 @ 12:07:06

    Thank you Adrienne. I am working on the “Why CLEP” one in hopes to have it up next week!

  3. Finishing Strong- Homeschool Link Up Party
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 05:48:15

    […] One of the ways we are working towards college is by preparing for and taking CLEP Exams to earn college credit. This spurred me to write a series of articles about this option. The first one is called, What is a CLEP Exam? […]

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