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7 Ways to Fail Your CLEP Exam

Passing a CLEP sounds so easy when you hear others talking about it.  It seems like winnereveryone else is passing their exam.  Not a lot of people talking about failing, but failing is easy too. About half of those who attempt a CLEP exam will fail, you want to be sure you’re in the half that passes!

Besides losing a few dollars, failing an exam takes the wind out of your sails and can cause you to become frustrated and confused – worse still, you may decide to ditch CLEP-testing entirely.

As you study for your test, be mindful of these 7 pitfalls that could derail your CLEP plans.

1. Study too long.  Learning a topic, committing it to our long-term memory, and creating a foundation for future learning are all important layers of a well-educated mind. CLEP prepping begins after learning and is a quick review process that stores facts and data in our short-term memory for quick recall.  Only after you know algebra should you begin test-prepping for the algebra exam.  CLEP prep shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to a month.

2. Study too deeply. CLEP exams aren’t deep dives into a subject.  Complex analysis of a subject studied in college usually occurs when someone “majors” in a subject.  The purpose of a CLEP exam is to test on 100 or 200 level content.  Studying deeper can satisfy our curiosity and expand our understanding, but knowing the basics inside and out are more important for CLEP testing.

3. Study the wrong distribution of topics. CLEP exams consist of questions from a distribution of topics that have been predetermined by The College Board. Whether a topic represents 3% of the exam or 33%, your studying should match the distribution. The textbook you’re using, or the online videos you’re watching may not match the distribution, so knowing your own textbook well isn’t going to cut it.

4. Skip the practice tests.  Practice tests aren’t just helping you assess how well you know the content, though they do that well.  Practice tests help you develop testing acumen, work against the clock, and use the process of elimination.  If you don’t take a lot of standardized exams, or it’s been a long time, practice tests aren’t just helpful, they are essential.

5. Skip memorizing.  Memorizing is shunned as the antithesis of real learning, but like it or not, memorizing is part of passing a CLEP test.  If you skip memorizing dates, names, titles, stages, phases, formulas, etc. that would be required of a college freshman taking the course on campus, you’re going to miss a significant number of questions on the exam.

6. Impatience.   CLEP exams allow 90 minutes, but many of us don’t like to sit still that long.  Becoming impatient, thinking about what you’re going to do after the exam, and rushing through a long boring passage of text can mean missing important words or phrases that would help you answer the question correctly. If you feel yourself growing impatient, close your eyes, count to 10, clear your mind and refocus.

7.  Blank answers.  Blank answers are always wrong.  As the time winds down and you worry about finishing the exam, stop everything and direct your attention to marking each remaining answer with something!  Marking all the remaining answers “A” or “B” at least gives you a random chance of getting it right – blank answers are always wrong.  Once you’ve done this, go back to where you left off and answer questions properly until your time runs out.

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Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

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