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CLEP Exam Question Formats

Instructor: Stacey Bumpus
A great way to become familiar with CLEP exams is to learn how their questions are formatted. Discover the types of questions you can expect on exam day, and explore tips for answering those questions successfully.

Types of CLEP Exam Questions

CLEP exams consist of a variety of question formats. Here is a brief snapshot of the types of questions you could see on exam day:

  • Multiple-choice
  • Essay
  • Zone
  • Grid
  • Shade
  • Scale
  • Fraction
  • Numeric entry
  • Histogram
  • Order-match

Multiple-choice questions ask you to select one correct answer from a list of options, while essays require you to write a brief or detailed response to a question or prompt. The remaining question formats ask you to place items in the correct order, shade answer options or fill in numeric answers.

Which Question Format Is Most Common?

The most common type of question found on CLEP exams is multiple-choice; however, some exams include a mix of questions asking you to complete other tasks. For example, math exams often consist of questions asking you to fill in numeric answers (e.g., numeric entry and fraction).

Exams that feature essay questions along with multiple-choice questions include the College Composition exam (consists of two mandatory essay questions) and the American Literature, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature, College Composition Modular and English Literature exams (optional essay questions are included per college or university).

Spanish, French and German exams test your understanding of the spoken and written versions of the languages. For these exams, in addition to completing multiple-choice questions in a standard format, you will be required to complete listening sections that ask multiple-choice questions in an audio format.

Tips for Answering CLEP Exam Questions

As you prepare for an upcoming CLEP exam, consider the following tips for successfully answering multiple-choice and essay questions:

Multiple-Choice Questions

  • Review questions and answers fully. Get a complete understanding of the question being asked, then review all answers to make sure you select the best choice available.
  • Set your pace. To avoid spending too much time on one question, set a pace that enables you to complete half the questions at the exam's halfway point. If you need to skip a question, use the mark tool to return to the question at a later time.
  • Guess when necessary. If you don't know the answer to a question, don't be afraid to make an educated guess after eliminating answer choices. You will not be penalized for answering questions incorrectly.

Essay Questions

  • Gauge your time. Find out how much time you're given for the essay section, then estimate the number of minutes you'll need to answer each question.
  • Review questions thoroughly. Similar to multiple-choice questions, make sure you have a quality understanding of each essay question before answering.
  • Understand and properly address keywords. Ensure you fully comprehend and are able to answer questions prompted by specific keywords when completing essays. Keywords like ''analyze,'' ''interpret'' and ''discuss'' typically require a detailed explanation of a subject, while keywords like ''define'' or ''summarize'' only call for a brief description or explanation.
  • Organize ideas. After assessing your time and reviewing questions, get organized by creating a simple outline of your essay responses using scratch paper that will be provided by the test center.

CLEP Exam Preparation

Study.com offers dozens of CLEP study courses designed to give you a confidence boost as you prepare to answer questions on an upcoming exam. Take advantage of features in our study courses that include:

  • Entertaining lessons: Review informative lessons developed by expert instructors to discover or recall key concepts you could see on your CLEP exam.
  • Multiple-choice quizzes: Practice answering multiple-choice questions while assessing and confirming your knowledge of topics you could see on your CLEP exam.
  • 24/7 access: Enjoy around-the-clock access to all lessons and assessment options in our courses.
  • Mobile features: Study from home or on-the-go by accessing our study courses using any smartphone or tablet.

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