When I was in high school, I took three different classes related to information technology, including two Microsoft certification classes and then an IT student leadership course. These classes were incredibly helpful for preparing for college-level IT classes, but I did not qualify for a course waiver or substitution for my introductory level IT class. Instead, I decided to use what I had learned from my classes to take the Information Systems CLEP exam, and earned credit for the introductory level IT class so I could take more interesting subjects. Here is the ultimate guide to CLEP exams and how I used CLEP exams to get college credit towards my bachelor’s degree in data science.
Fast facts about CLEP exams
What is a CLEP exam?
College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams are similar to AP exams in that they allow students to take tests and receive college credit. However, CLEP exams can be taken at any time and are not restricted to students in a school environment or that take a certain class, unlike AP exams that are only taken at the high school level. Students can submit their CLEP exam scores to their college and earn credits for classes- for example, I submitted a passing score for Information Systems to get credit for IT 104.
CLEP vs AP Test
For an AP test, students usually take a class and study specifically for the test in May. For CLEP exams, students can study at their own pace and in their own way, taking the exam whenever they are ready. The exam topics for CLEP exams focus more on core curriculum classes in college such as psychology, business, information technology, history, science, and more, as opposed to AP tests that tend to be for more random classes that may not transfer to your major or into honors programs. Students taking AP classes may also benefit from taking the CLEP exam since it is more likely to give them college credit- some colleges will give exam credit for CLEP exams but not AP.
Students will need to register on the College Board website to take a CLEP exam and purchase an exam voucher for $93. Once a voucher is purchased, students will need to contact a participating testing center and pay the additional proctoring fee, if needed- I paid a $35 proctoring fee at a testing center located near my college campus, but in another instance I was able to take an exam for free at a library.
CLEP exams now have an additional option for remote proctoring, though students who require disability accommodations will need to file for accommodations two months in advance.
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Disability accommodations for CLEP exams
I received disability accommodations when I took the SAT and AP exams in high school, so I was able to re-use these accommodations when taking CLEP exams- I completed the Student Eligibility Form on the College Board website. Since the CLEP exam is taken on a computer, some of my accommodations were edited accordingly. I received approval for accommodations within a few days, since I wasn’t requesting any new accommodations or submitting new documentation for my disability.
I was approved for the following disability accommodations for CLEP exams:
- 12.1- 50% extended time, also known as time and a half, for reading and written language expression
- 12.3- Magnifying machine (digital magnification)
- 12.5- Other, use of lamps instead of overhead lights
- 12.5- Other, use of prescription tinted glasses
Since I was taking this exam on my own, I did not have to ask my college to submit disability accommodations on my behalf. However, I did have a copy of my Disability Services file in case College Board requested updated documentation for my condition.
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My favorite study resources for CLEP exams
There are several different study resources for CLEP exams that can be accessed with assistive technology and large print. My favorite study resources that I used for CLEP exams specifically include:
- Flashcard sets on Quizlet- I would frequently look at sets created by other users. This was probably my most-used study resource, and it’s free to use
- Study books on Bookshare that I could read on my iPad or annotate as needed
- Khan Academy study resources that support screen readers, large print, and other assistive technologies
- Amazon Alexa skills, including the custom flashcards skill and other subject-specific skills
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Scheduling a CLEP exam, and walking six miles in one day
CLEP exams can be taken at approved proctoring centers listed on the College Board website, which can include military bases, schools, college campuses, testing centers, libraries, and other locations. Some testing centers offer same-day testing slots, while others need to be scheduled a few days in advance. I decided to take my exam at a testing center located exactly a mile from my college dorm.
I decided to walk to the testing center, and when I first arrived I learned that the ID I brought with me wasn’t acceptable- I needed to have two forms of government ID that was not within a month of expiring. I walked back to campus and planned to take the bus back to the testing center, but ended up missing it and had to walk there again. Once I arrived, I learned that I had to print off another paper to take the exam at this testing center, so once again I had to walk back to my dorm and back to the testing center. After I brought everything, I was cleared to take the exam, and once it was over I missed the bus again and had to walk back to my dorm.
Moral of the story- bring two forms of government-issued ID and all testing forms, and check the bus schedule in advance. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes!
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Taking the CLEP exam and receiving my scores
CLEP exams consist of primarily multiple choice questions, though some exams also have fill-in-the-blank or free response questions. Without extended time accommodations, each exam takes between 90 and 120 minutes, though students do not have to use all of the time allotted.
For the CLEP exams I took, I received my score instantly after I finished the exam, with no additional delays. I’m excited to say that I passed all of my exams on the first try, thanks to Quizlet and all of the other study resources I had used.
Even though my grade is not submitted to the university, I still had to submit proof I had passed the CLEP exam to get credit. College Board makes this easy by allowing students to enter in a code for their college, and the information is automatically sent to the Office of Admissions. For the Information Systems exam, I submitted a form to the IT department stating I had passed the exam and was able to have my advisor issue a waiver so I could register for classes that required that class as a prerequisite.
Other tips for CLEP Exams
- To figure out what CLEP exams and minimum scores are accepted by a college/university, I recommend checking the transfer matrix or “credit by exam” page on the Admissions website
- CLEP exams do not have to be submitted before the first day of enrollment- students can take CLEP exams at any time during college
- While exam scores are not usually shared with the college, some colleges will award credit for different classes depending on the exam score- for example, students who score high on a chemistry exam may get additional lab credits
- At my college, CLEP exam credits are not factored into the GPA and are registered as transfer credit.