The best kept college secret: What's CLEP exam?
Welcome aspiring polyglot! While much of the content hosted on this site is directed at providing second language strategies to our readers, there is something that transcends languages which will be invaluable to all students and those who foresee secondary education in their future.
As every American knows, the university system in the United States is more expensive than it should be. Not only that, but while vast amounts of financial aid resources exist, they are so bogged down in bureaucratic nonsense that they can be almost impossible to understand.
Fortunately, there are people out there who want to make it easier and consumable for the average person. While there are many things you can do to make your time at university easier and cheaper, CLEP exams are one of the better ways to reduce your time sitting in classes that are not benefitting you. If you would rather spend more time and money in classes you actually are interested in and plan to use long term, then CLEP exams and CLEP credits are going to be game changing for you.
How CLEP Credits Save You Money
When it comes to college credit, there are ample ways to go about receiving it. Most of the time it will cost you some money. Unless you are getting dual enrollment credit in high school, you are going to have to pay for your credits. At a community college, the average college credit will cost you $141 or around $423 per course.
Since you cannot graduate with a 4-year degree from a community college means you will be spending at least 60 of the required 120 credit hours in a university. Seeing as most universities require you to pass 60 credit hours at their institution, we will use that number to be most conservative. In order to use the most conservative estimates we will be using numbers for only in-state schools.
According to the same source, EducationData.org, the average cost of the average credit hour at an in-state school is $390. All of this is without including the cost of books, room, board, and additional fees that come hand in hand with attending a higher education establishment.
With that in mind, $390x60 = $23,400 for the MINIMUM requirements to graduate from an in-state university. Again, these numbers are excluding everything that would go into surviving university outside of the simple cost of the credits. That is where the CLEP exam or college level examination program comes in to save money.
While the average cost of a community college credit is $141, the average cost of a CLEP exam is $93 according to the College Board website, which is the organization that puts on the exam. That said, there is also a fee for the proctor and the testing center which will, generally, bring the price to $200.
As world languages are our focus here at Second Language Strategies, we will be focusing on the Spanish language, French language, and German language exams and what they can do for you. While most of the CLEP exams cover introductory courses, offering up to 6 credits per exam, the language specific exams provide the opportunity to earn up to 12 credits.
At a community college this would cost you $1,692 and at an in-state university would cost you $4,680. That means you can gain the same amount of college credit by paying 4% what you would pay at a university simply by looking at the CLEP exams as an option.
***** IMPORTANT NOTE *****
Military personnel qualify for fantastic benefits when it comes to the CLEP exams. All military personnel qualify for free CLEP testing and study guides. While the benefits that are available to service members are numerous when it comes to higher education, the CLEP exams have more to offer than just saving you money. More importantly, they can save you the only currency you cannot get back. These exams save you money, yes, but they also save you time.
How CLEP Exams Save You Time
One of the more atrocious parts about the way universities approach education is in taking people's time. Yes, it does take time to develop skills, but theory and practice rarely align when tires hit pavement. Through saving yourself time you can spend more time doing and less time studying which will provide you with the ever important experience that most jobs and careers demand. Most universities recommend 15 credit hours per semester or 30 per year. This amounts to 120 per graduate which is the required amount.
With that in mind, by getting 12 language credits out of the way during a 2 hour exam, you cut your time sitting at a desk by 10% overnight. Irrespective of how valuable you view a university degree to be, it is my opinion that your time is more valuable than the university treats it. Not to mention, the only cap on how many CLEP exams you can take is the requirement in place to take 60 credit hours at the university from which you plan to graduate.
Using the most conservative numbers we can, it will take you around 20 hours to take 10 CLEP exams and provided you pass them all you will gain 60 credit hours this way. These credits would take you two years of your life and quite a bit more money if you plan to get them from a university, or even a community college.
Time is the only thing you cannot get back in this life and the College Board offers you a way to get back time. For more information on which CLEP exams are available to you and where you may take them, as well as information on how to get free or discounted tests, check out the College Board website!
Which schools accept college credit from CLEP exams?
Along with understanding the things that go into passing a CLEP exam, it is important to verify that the school you plan to attend will accept the credits. Even with a passing score, some universities will not accept CLEP credits.
College students have it hard enough figuring out how many credits they need, which colleges and universities accept credits, and which general education courses are worth pursuing. Ensuring that the university they plan to attend is accepting CLEP credits is not something that should happen, but it is something that does happen.
Double, triple, quadruple check. Get your credit.
Whether they are going towards an associate degree or a bachelor's degree, knowing which schools take a CLEP exam credit and which do not is going to be important. CLEP benefits are all for nothing if the institution you plan to attend will not accept them.
Generally speaking, colleges and universities that accept one CLEP exam are willing to accept them all, up to a certain threshold. However, this will be individual for each person so be sure to reach out to the institution's academic advisor to ensure you are not wasting your time or money.
What advice do you have for students considering this path?
As for general advice there are a few things to keep in mind. This is far from comprehensive, but it is a starting point.
1. Understand it will be college level material
While it is fantastic that this opportunity exists, it should not be confused with easy credit. The amount of studying that goes into preparing for these exams demands a solid college level understanding of the material in question. You deserve credit for your prior knowledge, but that means you need to have prior knowledge. If you do not, it means you need to take your exam preparation seriously.
2. Adult learners should earn college credits
Since we do focus on world languages, one of the greatest things that an adult learner can do is take CLEP exams to gain credit for what they know. Most of the time and money you spend on learning a language is going to be for personal fulfillment. Money that you invest in CLEP exams will give you a physical record of your accomplishments and, perhaps, even a way to ensure you can use it going forward in your career.
3. Analyzing and interpreting literature
One of the most important things to master when you are taking any exam is your ability to read and analyze. Reading comprehension is going to be vital for passing exams and the more carefully you read the questions the more likely you are to get to the correct answer. Even if you are not taking the language based exams, correctly reading the question is half the battle.
There are many different exam strategies which will be discussed further in due time, but first and foremost is mastering the ability to read questions immaculately. In that, it means taking your time which can feel difficult when under a time crunch as you will be when taking the CLEP exam.
4. Exam Preparation
Taking practice tests is a good way to set yourself up for success, but practice tests will not guarantee that you pass CLEP exams. The best way forward is trying out various strategies and seeing how you, as an individual, should take your CLEP exam.
Everyone struggles with different aspects of test taking. Some people are great test takers and require little preparation. Others require lots of preparation and this struggle can continue even throughout the duration of a college course. Simply knowing the material is often not good enough. Exam preparation is important in more ways than one. If you are going to be spending your time and money working this hard to get ahead, do not let it go to waste.
Conclusion: College Level Examination Program CLEP
Exams are a part of life for most people, but they do not have to be negative. They will, however, be difficult. Becoming bilingual is difficult, but you can do difficult things and be great. So go do difficult things and become great.
Here I’ve given you some of the tools, but in the end, there is no comprehensive guide, no tips or tricks to carry anyone across the finish line. Language acquisition requires time, effort, and consistency. That said, it is something that anyone of any age is more than capable of accomplishing. I’ll be here rooting for you and watching your progress.
For more content find me on Twitter or Instagram. If you are learning Spanish and struggling to keep track of your progress, be sure to check out the first of many in our Language Learning Logbook series! I look forward to seeing everyone’s progress in the months and years to come.