CLEP Tests: Testing Your Knowledge to Earn College Credit
CLEP Tests: Testing Your Knowledge to Earn College Credit
LStockStudio /

College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests provide students with college credit for subjects that they have not studied on a college campus but have mastered by other means (through independent study, on-the-job training and apprenticeships, internships, cultural pursuits, or previous coursework). CLEP offers 33 different tests within five subjects: history and social sciences, composition and literature, science and mathematics, business, and world languages. Over 2,900 colleges throughout the United States accept CLEP results, and students can earn three or more credits for each test they pass.

CLEP tests are computer-based exams developed by the College Board, the same organization that offers the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, and AP tests. The idea is that the tests will help students of all ages save money; passing a test may allow them to skip lower-level college classes since they have already mastered the material. Service members and adults who haven’t yet attempted college but have a working knowledge of the subject may find these tests particularly appealing. Passing them may cut down the time it will take students to earn a credential and the amount of money they put toward it.

Nearly 3,000 colleges accept CLEP results, but some institutions will not accept results from each of the 33 tests. For example, the University of Alabama at Birmingham will only accept results from 10 of the CLEP tests, and the scores necessary to earn credit, as well as the number of credits awarded to students who pass, vary by test. You can search for your institution to find out if it accepts CLEP results, which tests it accepts, necessary passing scores, and how many credits it awards per test. The following chart shows all offered CLEP tests, as detailed on the CLEP website:

Subject Tests Offered
History and Social Sciences
  • American Government
  • History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877
  • History of the United States II: 1865 to Present
  • Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648
  • Western Civilization II: 1648 to Present
  • Social Sciences and History
  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Introductory Sociology
  • Introductory Psychology
  • Introduction to Educational Psychology
Composition and Literature
  • American Literature
  • English Literature
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
  • College Composition
  • College Composition Modular
  • Humanities
Science and Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Natural Sciences
  • College Algebra
  • College Mathematics
  • Precalculus
  • Calculus
  • Information Systems
  • Principles of Management
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Introductory Business Law
  • Financial Accounting
World Languages
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish

American Literature, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature, and English Literature have optional essay sections. Check your school’s website or talk to an admissions counselor to find out if you must complete the essay section to receive credit for passing the exam. Both the College Composition and College Composition Modular tests have a required essay section. Either CLEP or your institution will write the prompt for the essay portion of College Composition Modular, and your institution will score it. Because of the mandatory essay sections in the Composition tests, final scores will not be immediately available to students. However, multiple-choice scores are released immediately since the computer grades that portion of the test.

Registering for CLEP Tests

To purchase and register for CLEP tests, you will need to make a College Board account. If you’ve already taken the SAT or any AP tests, you can sign in with the same username and password that you used for those tests. Once you have an account, you will need to select each exam you would like to take from this page, check the box next to the name of the exam, and add it to your cart. Each CLEP test costs $87.00.

You must sign in to your account to complete your purchase. After adding your address and contact details, the registration process will prompt you to search for and select your preferred test center. Test centers are not set in stone, so you can change this information at a later time. Before paying, you may select one institution to receive your CLEP score(s). Waiting to select where you would like to have your scores sent until after your test will incur a fee. You can only pay for your CLEP test(s) by credit or debit card.

When you complete your order, you will receive a registration ticket. You must print out one registration ticket for each exam that you plan on taking and bring it with you on test day. Registration tickets are good for six months from the day of purchase, so be sure to schedule your test within that time frame; otherwise, your ticket will expire, and you will have to buy a new one to sit for the test. You must contact your preferred test center to schedule your test.

Test centers are designated as Open, On Base, Fully Funded, or Limited.

  • Open test centers will allow anyone with a registration ticket to test at the location.
  • On Base test centers are on military installations. They will allow service members and eligible civilians onto the post for testing.
  • Fully Funded test centers allow anyone with a registration ticket to test at their location. Service members, spouses of service members, and eligible civilians do not have to pay an administration fee.
  • Limited test centers allow only current and accepted students at a specific institution to test at the location.

Depending on where you test, you may have to pay an additional administration fee. Contact your preferred test center for more information.

If you purchased a CLEP test and decide that you no longer want to sit for the exam, you can cancel your test within seven days of purchase and receive a full refund. If you have taken a CLEP test and are not satisfied with the score you received, you may retake the exam. However, you must wait at least three months to retake a CLEP test, or your scores will be cancelled.

Disability Testing

If you have a documented learning or physical disability, you may be able to request accommodations during a CLEP test. Contact your preferred test center to find out if it can provide the type of accommodations that you need and learn about the approval process for said accommodations. You can register for your CLEP tests online if you need one of the following accommodations: extra time, extra breaks, large text, modified screen and text colors, or a reader, writer, or sign language interpreter. If your accommodations fall outside the realm of those listed above, email to describe your personal situation and get help with scheduling your test.

Active Duty Military

DANTES will cover one $87.00 registration fee per test, but it will not cover the cost of retaking the same test more than once. As you complete your checkout, you will be able to select that yes, you are eligible for a fee waiver through DANTES. The system will then prompt you to input your military status; your branch of service; whether you are currently serving on active duty, in the reserves, or in the National Guard; and your pay grade. When you reach the end of the registration process, your shopping cart will be updated to reflect DANTES funding, and your registration fee will be $0. In addition to funding exams for active duty service members, DANTES will also waive the $87.00 fee for Coast Guard spouses and civilian employees of the Air Force.

You must bring your military identification card (or a card showing that you are a spouse or civilian employee) to the test center on test day as proof of your military status. It is in your best [glossary_exclude]interest[/glossary_exclude] to take your CLEP test(s) on a military installation or at a Fully Funded test center so that you do not have to pay the administration fee. If you elect to take your test at an Open or Limited test center, you will have to pay. If you do not pass a test and wish to retake it again, you will then be required to pay the registration fee.


Though DANTES will not cover the registration fee for CLEP tests for military veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may do so through the National Testing Program. Test-takers must be eligible for GI Bill benefits. Signing up for tests and choosing to use GI Bill benefits will decrease the amount of money that you are eligible for through the GI Bill in the future. Contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to determine if it will cover test center administration fees. In order to receive reimbursement, you will have to submit a receipt to your regional VA office. If you fail to pass a CLEP test the first time, you may use your GI Bill benefits to take the test a second time. There is no limit to the number of tests you can take, provided you still have GI Bill money remaining.

Studying for CLEP Tests

The College Board website offers digital CLEP study guides for each of the CLEP tests that are offered (for $10.00 each) and a printed overall study guide that includes practice questions for all 33 of the subject tests (for $24.99). If you want to purchase study materials but are only taking one or two tests, it’s best to buy the single-subject guides. If you are taking many tests, buying the all-inclusive book is a better deal.

There are also a few free resources for each of the tests listed on the CLEP website. However, these alone are not likely to give you enough experience to ace the test. Consider also checking out CLEP and College Board recommended study aids here. While an internet search may turn up additional study resources, the College Board does not endorse or recommend that students use these. If you do not want to buy a study guide, consider reviewing materials from classes that you have previously taken, studying from college-level textbooks in the local library, or utilizing the free resources recommended on the CLEP website.

Taking CLEP Tests

You must bring:

  • Registration ticket(s) for the test(s) you are taking
  • Valid photo ID with your full name (military ID, driver’s [glossary_exclude]license[/glossary_exclude], passport)
  • Two #2 pencils (no mechanical pencils allowed)
  • Eraser
  • Any paperwork required by your test center

Be sure to arrive at the test center early so that you have plenty of time to check in and use the bathroom. You will not be allowed to bring anything into the room besides the items listed above. If you get cold, wear a sweater without a hood (hoods and hats are prohibited in the testing room). If you regularly wear a digital watch, take it off and leave it in the car. For a full list of prohibited items, click here.

CLEP Test Scoring

For tests that only ask multiple-choice questions, you will receive your score right away, on test day. If you take a test with both essays and multiple-choice questions, you will still receive a multiple-choice score on test day. However, the essays take longer to grade, so you will receive your overall score after those have been graded.

CLEP tests are graded on a scale from 20 to 80. Typically, you must score at least 50 to earn credit for the exam, but qualifying scores vary depending on the school and the test. For example, the University of Kentucky accepts a 48 as a passing score for History of the United States I, and it awards three credits. However, students are required to score a 55 on Chemistry, and they will earn six credits. Check with your institution to learn about what score you need to earn credit.

If you need to send your CLEP test scores to an institution other than the one you specified during registration or if you didn’t specify an institution during registration, you can request a CLEP transcript through your CollegeBoard account (or via this form if you took a DANTES-funded test). A [glossary_exclude]CLEP transcript[/glossary_exclude] includes scores from all of the CLEP tests that you’ve taken in the past 20 years. You will need to input your contact information, which scores you would like sent (if not all of them), information about your college, and your method of payment. Each [glossary_exclude]CLEP transcript[/glossary_exclude] costs $20.00. If you are a member of the military or a veteran, your transcripts will cost $30.00 each.

Page last updated: 12/2018