How the CLEP Program Benefits Full-Time Employees

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Have you ever wondered about testing out of college courses with exam credit? College-Level Examination Program (CLEP exams) are a way for anyone to earn college credit. In particular, those who work full-time can benefit from CLEP exams in a variety of ways.

What is CLEP?

CLEP stands for College-Level Examination Program. Developed by the College Board, it allows students to take exams in a variety of subject areas and earn college credit. Across the country, there are approximately 2,900 colleges and universities who will accept passing scores in CLEP exams for college credit. Each college sets their minimum passing score on a CLEP exam. Additionally, colleges may limit the amount of college credit you can earn by taking CLEP exams. In some cases, colleges count Advanced Placement Exams and CLEP credit together in their limits, so you want to be sure to look at the college(s) you are considering attending, and be sure you know what limit they have set.

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The exams themselves cover a wide range of subjects. For example, there are six different exams that cover literature, literary analysis, and composition. In terms of social sciences, there are exams for American and world history, economics, and psychology. The core science and math courses are covered as well, from biology and chemistry to calculus and algebra. Surprisingly to some, there are even CLEP exams for business courses. These exams cover accounting, marketing, and business management. In summary, the exams cover the basic courses you would take for most majors in the first two years of college.

Lowers Employee Costs

When you take college courses, you are required to pay tuition. Depending on if you attend college full-time or part-time, you may just pay a lump sum, or you will pay by the credit hour. Most courses are three or four credit hours, and costs start at around $100 per credit and only go up from there. If you are working full time, or even if you are using student loans, that is a huge financial burden. Even if you have an employer contributing to your tuition, you still typically have to pass the course first, then apply for reimbursement. If you are taking a full load of courses, that is a lot of money to front for the average full-time employee.

On the other hand, CLEP exams cost around $80 per test, which means you would be paying less than $30 per credit hour for each exam you pass. If you are working full-time and going to school, that means you could save at least $300 per three-credit hour course. Depending on the college you are attending, the savings could range in the thousands over a term. The savings could be even more if you are attending college online, where students often pay a premium price for the convenience of online classes. Those savings can benefit you financially, which reduces the negative impact financial stress has on your physical and mental health. It is very difficult to work full-time and struggle financially while attending college.

Time Saver

So try this scenario on for size: Imagine not having to work full-time while taking a full course load at college? Or better yet: finishing your degree early and saving a lot of money on college tuition? It seems like a pipe dream when you are working full-time and trying to go to school. CLEP exams can make this a reality for many students.


CLEP exams allow you to earn college credit for courses that would be considered foundation courses at most colleges or universities. This scenario does one of two things to benefit those who work full-time. First, it could mean that you take a CLEP exam to lower the number of credit hours you have to take each term to graduate on time. If you work full-time and have a family, this might be a very appealing benefit. Second, it allows you to take the foundation courses at a minimal cost so that you can move into the advanced coursework more quickly. Moving into advanced courses at a more rapid pace means you can earn your degree a lot sooner than you would otherwise.

Too Good to be True?

Not really, if your college or university accepts CLEP credit. You can purchase study materials through the CLEP College Board registration portal, but there are other options as well. Many universities such as Yale offer free versions of their courses, called 'open' courses. These are courses built from video lectures and other course materials offered for free. The catch? You won't earn college credit. However, if you use these courses to help you prepare for a CLEP exam, then you benefit two-fold: you get access to materials and lectures from prestigious colleges, and you pay a highly discounted rate for the course credit.

By Rachel Tustin
November 2016
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