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Using CLEP Exams to Save Money on College

There are several ways to save money on college: scholarships, credit for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes, and dual enrollment classes are a few common options. One of the less well-known ways to save money is with the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). 

CLEP testing is a program the College Board runs and is recognized by more than 2,900 colleges and universities. It allows students to earn college credit by demonstrating their knowledge of a subject through exams. 

Modern States Alliance 

Modern States Education Alliance is our favorite option for high-impact, low-cost resources to prepare anyone to take CLEP exams. This nonprofit organization has helped more than 300,000 students – traditional students, homeschoolers, adult learners, and military members – earn free college credit.

Students can take CLEP courses on their own, but we like Modern States because they have excellent university professors teaching students. Also, their process has created a much higher pass rate than those who take the test independently without instruction. You typically need to get 50 out of 80 to pass a CLEP test.

David Vise, Executive Director of Modern States Alliance, shared the organization’s mission with the Your College-Bound Kid podcast and how they’re improving access to college for students who may otherwise have difficulty continuing their education. 

How it works:

By registering for the free, self-paced courses taught by professors from top universities, Modern States will provide a voucher for the corresponding CLEP exam. This means that students can potentially earn college credit with no out-of-pocket expense. 

There are several benefits to considering CLEP as part of your college admissions strategy.

Save Money

CLEP exams cost $90 plus any fees from the test center or utilize the Modern States to save this fee. Compare this to the cost per credit hour equivalent rate at four-year institutions, which can be more than $1,500. Students save significantly by taking and passing a CLEP exam instead of the corresponding college course.

Save Time

Students can use CLEP exams to fill general education requirements, which can help them to graduate sooner. In addition, by testing out of introductory classes, students can more quickly dive into the core of their major areas of study and complete degree requirements earlier than expected.

More Classes

Some students, rather than graduating earlier due to using CLEP to test out of classes, may broaden the scope of their education with a double-major or additional minor.


Unlike the AP exams, which are offered one day per year (with a few exceptions), CLEP exams can be taken year-round at more than 2,000 test centers worldwide, so students can schedule exams where and when it’s convenient for them. There may also be opportunities to take the test at home with remote proctoring. This can be especially helpful for working adults or members of the military.

Immediate Feedback

Scores are available immediately upon exam completion, with a few exceptions like College Composition and Spanish with Writing.

Variety of Topics

While there is some overlap with the Advance Placement topics, CLEP exams offer additional opportunities for students to demonstrate to colleges that they’ve achieved a certain level of knowledge in a particular subject. 

Current CLEP exam topics:

History and Social Sciences

  • American Government
  • History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877
  • History of the United States II: 1865 to the Present
  • 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

Composition and Literature

  • American Literature
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
  • College Composition
  • College Composition Modular
  • English Literature
  • Humanities

Science & Mathematics

  • Biology
  • Calculus
  • Chemistry
  • College Algebra
  • College Mathematics
  • Natural Science
  • Precalculus


  • Financial Accounting
  • Information Systems
  • Introductory Business Law
  • Principles of Management
  • Principles of Marketing

World Languages

  • 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

Pro Tips

  • Not all colleges and universities offer credit for CLEP; use the CLEP College Credit Policy Search page to confirm an individual school’s policies.
  • CLEP credit is granted at most community colleges, not only four-year institutions
  • Completing CLEP exams in courses not offered at your high school can demonstrate a student’s intellectual curiosity.
  • Using CLEP for credit appeals to homeschooled students with significant learning outside of a traditional classroom.
  • Adult learners, members of the military or veterans, and students who’ve had a disruption in their college journey can use CLEP to speed up the completion of a degree.
  • Non-traditional students who are working full-time can use CLEP as a way to finish their degree affordably.

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