College Level Exam Program (CLEP®)

CLEP, AP, PSAT, and SAT are registered trademarks by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, Homeschooling for College Credit.

Credit by exam programs are standardized tests written and administered by a company (not college) that assess college-level knowledge in various subjects. Credit by exam tests are not “textbook specific” so you can prepare using any material you like. Credit earned by exam is considered “potential” college credit until it is accepted by a college.

CLEP 101 – Jennifer’s 20-minute CLEP Seminar

Is your CLEP student under age 13? No problem- you’ll need to fill this out first.

What’s so great about HS4CC with CLEP?

Passing a CLEP exam can mean saving huge amounts of time and money off the cost of a college degree. I discuss CLEP frequently in my book and on Facebook, mainly because it’s my personal favorite credit by exam resource. I’ve passed over 15 CLEP exams myself, and my children another dozen. My exams translated into 60 college credits, which met the full requirements of my Associate of Arts degree, but even if your teen passes 1-2 exams, they can really save a lot of time and money on their college degree!

How does it work?

(Sample: Precalculus)

  1. Your teen learns high school Precalculus at home using your favorite homeschool curriculum. (No, Modern States is not enough. Read more below)
  2. At the conclusion of the homeschool course/curriculum you’ll award high school credit on their transcript.*
  3. Register your teen for the free Modern States Precalculus CLEP prep course. The purpose of taking this prep course is to get a voucher, NOT to learn precalculus!
  4. Complete the MS course quizzes with 70% or greater and your teen will receive the exam voucher which pays for their entire CLEP exam.
  5. Register for the CLEP exam using the CLEP voucher number.
  6. Take the CLEP Precalculus exam on your home computer or at a testing center.
  7. Passing scores of 50+ are held on an official College Board transcript.
  8. Failed exams are confidential and not seen by future colleges. (you can retake failed exams)
  9. At the end of high school, send your official College Board transcript to the target college.
  10. Colleges that award college credit will do so at that time.
  11. If your teen receives college credit for the exam, Precalculus will be recorded on their college transcript without paying tuition or taking the class.

*You can designate a high school course as “honors”when it includes extra studying for a CLEP exam. See the bottom of this page for a step-by-step to designing your own homeschool CLEP course.

Your student can take as many CLEP exams as they want! There is no age requirement, no limit to the number of Modern States vouchers your teen can earn, and no cap on the number of credits they can earn. Since the Homeschooling for College Credit method brings CLEP into your homeschool, this method allows you to inject dozens of CLEP exams into your high school program without extra work or extra cost.

Currently about 75% of all colleges and universities in the country will award college credit in some amount for a successful CLEP exam score.

What’s a test like?

CLEP exams are multiple choice tests graded as pass or fail. A numeric score is generated based on the number of questions you got correct and then calculated using a confidential scale that converts that number into a scaled score. Generally, a scaled score of 50 is considered passing, but a college may require a higher score based on their own internal policies. The threshold for passing is tied tightly to what can best be described as “a curve.” The curve was calculated during exam creation and based on real students who took a real college class and then the CLEP exam. For this reason, the number of questions you need to pass will vary a bit by exam.

For example, out of 90 questions, a passing score for one exam may require 45 questions answered correctly, while another subject requires 40, and another requires 50. In all three samples, the scaled score (the score you see on your report) is a 50. The exact number needed on each exam to score a 50 is confidential. As a guideline, you’ll need to answer a little more than half the questions correct for a score of 50.

When you take a CLEP exam, the score pops up on the screen at the end, so you’ll know whether or not you passed immediately. The only exception is when an exam has an essay (English Composition/Spanish Writing).

Will your student need accommodations? Read more

2023 Exam List & ACE College Credit

The reward for passing an exam ranges from 3–9 college credits. In 2015, unfortunately, eight of the exams were downgraded, and this included the huge 12 credit foreign language exam (now only worth 9). I point this out because I often discover website errors or outdated CLEP lists. Below is the current and official CLEP value list. If a college advertises a different award, you will want to investigate further.

PRO TIP: Even on college pages with current lists, it is impossible to predict what a CLEP score will be worth when your teen eventually attends college, so don’t overinvest in what a certain college does or doesn’t award for CLEP today. Just stockpile credit now, and worry about the award later. This is why it is a fool’s errand to worry too much about what “ABC College” or “XYZ University” publishes as their CLEP policy today. If you bring CLEP into your homeschool using the method above, you have no cause for worry about what a college policy is until your teen is ready to pick their college and enroll.

  • American Literature, 3 credits
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature, 3 credits
  • College Composition, 6 credits
  • College Composition Modular, 3 credits
  • English Literature, 3 credits
  • Humanities, 6 credits
  • French Language, 6–9 credits
  • German Language, 6–9 credits
  • Spanish Language, 6–9 credits
  • Spanish Writing, 6-12 credits
  • American Government, 3 credits
  • History of the United States I, 3 credits
  • History of the United States II, 3 credits
  • Human Growth and Development, 3 credits
  • Introduction to Educational Psychology, 3 credits
  • Principles of Macroeconomics, 3 credits
  • Principles of Microeconomics, 3 credits
  • Introductory Psychology, 3 credits
  • Introductory Sociology, 3 credits
  • Social Sciences and History, 6 credits
  • Western Civilization I, 3 credits
  • Western Civilization II, 3 credits
  • Biology, 6 credits
  • Calculus, 4 credits
  • Chemistry, 6 credits
  • College Algebra, 3 credits
  • College Mathematics, 3 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 6 credits
  • PreCalculus, 3 credits
  • Financial Accounting, 3 credits
  • Information Systems, 3 credits
  • Introductory Business Law, 3 credits
  • Principles of Management, 3 credits
  • Principles of Marketing, 3 credits

Modern States: CLEP is FREE if you get a voucher

Since 2018, the non-profit organization Modern States has awarded CLEP vouchers for FREE to everyone who takes their free prep course. The purpose of Modern States courses is not to learn the material from scratch-it is to prepare for the CLEP exam.

As a prep tool, Modern States is excellent! As a curriculum, not so much.

To use Modern States in your homeschool, simply have your teen take the Modern States course as soon as they finish their high school course. To get the voucher, your teen needs to pass the quizzes with 70% or higher. Since watching the videos or doing the reading is not required, my advice is to wait until your teen’s high school course ends. If done that way, your teen can zip through the prep course in under a week.

How much time does Modern States take?

  • EVERY word of every lesson: about 2 hours per day for 6-10 days.
  • JUST the quizzes: about 2 hours total.

How to get a voucher from Modern States/starting

What happens once you pass your Modern State s course?

Taking a CLEP at Home: how it works

No govt. issued ID for your teen? No problem- just fill out this form.

Are CLEP exams hard?

I have listened to feedback from tens of thousands of parents, I’ve used CLEP in my homeschool and taken it myself, and I’ve studied the feedback about CLEP exams extensively since 2005. You know what I’ve learned? It really just depends on the person. As an example, someone who struggles with reading quickly is going to find the all of the literature exams challenging because they contain massive amounts of reading. Someone who is an excellent test-taker will certainly have an advantage over those of us who are not.

So, are CLEP exams hard? Yes and no. Do not underestimate the exam. It will cover a LOT of material, think “wide” instead of “deep.” For exams that are worth 6 credits, be prepared to cover a full year of college level content! It is much more manageable to start with 3-credit exams instead of the 6-credit exams.

Finally, CLEP exams are multiple-choice, so the answers are given, but the wording can be complex and confusing. A good high school curriculum will teach your teen 50- 75% of the content, but make sure they’ve done a good bit of test prep before the exam.

Pass Rates

People often refer to published pass rates to get a sense of how hard or easy an exam is. While I do think there is something to that perspective, a student’s background and motivation to study a subject shouldn’t be discounted. For instance, the Spanish Language CLEP has held the position of “best pass rates” for years, but that doesn’t mean every student starting from scratch is more likely to pass Spanish than math! That pass rate probably represents the large number of bilingual people we have in this country and not the “easiness” of the material.

As such, I like to break the pass rates down by high school category. This allows you to look at your teen’s high school schedule and choose an “easy” exam from the category you need.

Foreign LanguageCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
Spanish Language*91%84%
French Language* 78%69%
German Language* 72%57%
Behavioral ScienceCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
Introductory Sociology 80%64%
Human Growth and Development 75%34%
Introductory Psychology 70%36%
Social Sciences and History 62%41%
Introduction to Educational Psychology 60%36%
ScienceCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
Biology 60%39%
Natural Sciences 57%63%
Chemistry 39%23%
Social ScienceCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pas Rate (2019)
Principles of Macroeconomics 72%35%
Principles of Microeconomics 72%32%
History of the United States I69%50%
Western Civilization I68%45%
Social Sciences and History62%41%
History of the United States II56%38%
American Government52%50%
Western Civilization II48%37%
Language ArtsCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
College Composition Modular (no essay)83%82%
College Composition 81%74%
Analyzing and Interpreting Literature 75%66%
English Literature60%29%
American Literature 51%16%
MathematicsCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
College Mathematics 76%64%
Calculus 53%34%
College Algebra52%24%
BusinessCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)
Principles of Marketing 79%54%
Information Systems71%69%
Principles of Management67%33%
Financial Accounting55%14%
Intro. Business Law51%20%
Fine ArtsCivilian Pass Rate (2017)Military Pass Rate (2019)

* For each of the world language exams, you’ll take 1 exam and the score determines the number of credits awarded. ACE recommends 6 semester hours of credit for mastery of Level 1 content (a score of 50) and 9 semester hours of credit for mastery of both Levels 1 and 2 (a score of 59 on the French Language, 60 on the German Language, 63 on the Spanish Language, and 65 on Spanish with Writing).

Designing a Homeschool CLEP Course the HS4CC Way

The best strategy we’ve found after tens of thousands of homeschoolers have successfully passed a CLEP exam, is to layer CLEP prep material in with your regular homeschool curriculum. When done this way, your teen gets the best of both worlds: a rock solid honors level homeschool class and an opportunity for free college credit.

This method awards high school credit regardless of whether or not they pass the CLEP.

Layer 1

  • For the PARENT: The official guide is the lowest cost way to get an outline of each exam and an official practice test for EVERY exam. You don’t need the newest version. Official Exam Guide
  • For the TEEN: The Official CLEP APP  Official College Board CLEP study guide app! *FYI these questions are the same you’ll find in the paperback.
  • For BOTH: CLEP Guide 16 pages Printed by The College Board.  This is a free 16-page guide and a “must read” before taking any CLEP exam.

Layer 2

  • For the PARENTS: Use your favorite high school curriculum brand. Where available, choose a company’s “college prep” version of the high school text. You can also add a college text for enrichment reading, but it is more important that they complete the whole course than the brand.
  • For the TEEN: Use an REA Guide alongside your text to capture the most important points of each topic. REA Guides are specifically aligned to CLEP. If you buy your REA Guide new, it will include an online access code with extra resources. You can also find REA Guides at your library.

Layer 3

  • For the PARENTS: video resources can round out their understanding in a way that adds rich understanding of a subject. Look for documentaries on Netflix, Great Courses, YouTube or other sites.
  • For the TEEN: Crash Course  Totally free video-based mini-courses that teach you the minimum you have to know in a subject. Perfect for visual learners, but fast-paced.  I suggest taking notes

Layer 4

  • For the PARENTS: The Modern States course combines CLEP prep and a voucher that pays for your CLEP exam and proctoring fee. This is not curriculum, it’s more of a summary-prep-style course. There are videos and reading assignments, but the only thing the teen has to do to get the voucher is pass the quizzes. When you create your teen’s account, each teen will need their own account. Be CAREFUL! Your teen’s name and email address must appear exactly as they will on their CLEP registration.
  • For the TEEN: As you take a quiz, reflect on your understanding. If you do not understand the topic, use the reading or video offered in the course. Retake the quiz until you score 100%.

Layer 5

  • For the PARENTS: Practice tests are really helpful in determining your teen’s readiness. Since the pool of test questions is huge, you can’t get a good idea of their readiness using only 1 test. I recommend 2-3 GOOD practice tests (with scores of 60% or better) before attempting any exam. Never reuse a test!

Make a schedule for High School

Free HS4CC CLEP Class Builder