How to Graduate College Debt Free – Part 3. CLEP Tests

Adam Personal Finance 6 Comments

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This is a part of a multi-post series on graduating college debt free. Check out the other posts below:

What is CLEP?

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is basically a program that allows students to take standardized tests on a variety of subjects, that if passed, provide credit for those classes. These tests are offered all over the nation and more than 2,900 schools accept a passing result for college credit. From the perspective of the school, there is no difference between CLEP credit and taking the actual class.

Why do you care?

Much like AP credit, CLEP tests are incredibly cheap and almost universally recognized for college credit. In fact, they’re likely superior since I think it wouldn’t be controversial to say a CLEP test is quite a bit easier than anything the AP puts out.

Strategically you can view CLEP classes as having value in 4 ways:

  • They’re free or just a low cost exam fee
  • They are recognized almost everywhere in the US
  • College credit if you pass
  • Can hugely accelerate your graduation or allow you to skip basics and explore other areas or achieve multiple majors


Compared to tuition costs in the thousands, it doesn’t get any cheaper than a CLEP test. Exams cost $80 and test fees are typically $15-20.

What Courses are Available?

The 33 CLEP exams which are available fall under five different areas of study:

Clep offerings

Much like AP, this covers most of your basics.

What’s the test like?

Exams are administered on a computer in a lab style setting, either at your school of choice, or most any computer lab at a local university and are done online rather than on paper.

CLEP tests are typically multiple-choice (with the occasional essay).

Since CLEP exams are entirely computer-based, you should receive your score immediately after completing the test, You should also receive an official score report after about a month.


Tests are graded on a scale from 20-80. Passing is typically 50 or greater at most schools, but may vary (at Arkansas below most test require a 55-60 for pass) so be sure to check your university. Exams are administered on a computer in a lab style setting, either at your school of choice, or most any computer lab at a local university. Final results are available immediately after completing the exam.

What is your universities policy?

**Check your schools CLEP policy here.

THIS IS CRUCIAL. Check your chosen schools policy. This is why you can’t really start worrying about CLEP tests until you’ve locked in your chosen university. Each school allows different exams (and excludes others) as well as requires various scores for credit. For example, I’ve taken a screenshot of what my alma mater, The University of Arkansas allows:


As you can see, they accept pretty much everything for history, science and math, but you would be sorely disappointed if you had spent a lot of effort on the business and language tests, only to find out they won’t be taking those credits. You must check your school policies.


CLEP tests are likely the single fastest and cheapest way to rapidly accumulate college credit at your university of choice. Because you take them at your leisure at no particular time and in particular order, it also allows you to deep dive a subject for a short period of time, pass the exam, and move on to the next. This is the opposite type of learning schedule you get in a semester of college where you are forced to take 5-6 courses at once and then have mid-terms and finals all at roughly the same time. If you can handle the extra load, you can pretty rapidly bang through tese exams.

This is about as low risk, high reward, maximum speed as you will ever find for graduating college and I can’t recommend it highly enough.


This is a part of a multi-post series on graduating college debt free. Check out the other posts below:

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Comments 6

  1. Fervent Finance

    I never heard of CLEP tests. When have they been around since (I graduated HS in ’06)? I was probably too busy with AP classes to notice these 🙂 but they definitely sound like a great deal if your college will accept them!

    1. Post

      I’ve never taken one myself. I didn’t know they existed until I had already cleared all the basics. If I could go back I would have certainly taken every single one possible. I was on a 4 year scholarship, so I was staying regardless and I would have loved to fill a lot more of my schedule with the type of classes I never got to take, since I was trying to cover 2 majors and a minor.

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