AP Tests vs CLEP Tests: Which Test Should I Take?

AP tests and CLEP tests are cheap and easy ways to earn both high school and college credit. They are similar but different. Which one should you take?

AP tests and CLEP tests are cheap and easy ways to earn both high school and college credit. They are similar but different. Which one should you take?

AP tests and CLEP tests are a great way to earn college credit while in high school. I graduated college in 2.5 years, completely debt-free (I paid for my own school!) and recently finished my Master’s of Science in Education. (Read more about my story here.)

If you are wanting to graduate early, take a lighter course load, or save money in college: I HIGHLY recommend CLEP and AP tests. The two are similar but a bit different. Here are the pros and cons of AP and CLEP tests.

What is an AP test?

Advanced Placement tests, or AP tests, are exams offered by the College Board. Students in high school can elect to attend AP-designated classes that meet for the entirety of a school year. AP exams test students on their knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge of the course in a one-day exam in May of each year. They are a combination of multiple-choice and free-response sections. Students who complete the test and earn a passing score receive college credit for that course. AP exams are only given once per year, but students who don’t pass have the option to retake the exam the following May for another chance at earning credit. 

AP test scores range from 1-5. For many schools, 3 is considered passing and credit is awarded. More competitive schools might require a 4. In some cases, schools might accept 3 as passing but offer more credit if a 4 is achieved.

What subjects do AP tests include?

  • AP Art History
  • AP Biology
  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Calculus BC
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Chinese Language & Culture
  • AP Comparative Government & Politics
  • AP Computer Science A
  • AP Computer Science Principles
  • AP English Language and Composition
  • AP English Literature and Composition
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP European History
  • AP French Language & Culture
  • AP German Language & Culture
  • AP Human Geography
  • AP Italian Language & Culture
  • AP Japanese Language and Culture
  • AP Latin
  • AP Macroeconomics
  • AP Microeconomics
  • AP Music Theory
  • AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics
  • AP Psychology
  • AP Research
  • AP Seminar
  • AP Spanish Language & Culture
  • AP Spanish Literature & Culture
  • AP Statistics
  • AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
  • AP Studio Art: 3-D Design
  • AP Studio Art: Drawing
  • AP U.S. Government & Politics
  • AP U.S. History
  • AP World History

How much does an AP test cost?

An AP test costs $96. In addition to this, there may be fees tacked on by high schools for proctors, teachers and more. Most states have a fee reduction program to assist students who may have trouble paying the fees. After taking a test, students have the option to send their scores to one college or university of their choice for free. Any additional schools they wish to send their scores to costs $15 each. 

Where can I take an AP test?

AP tests are taken at the school where the course was held. In cases where a school doesn’t offer a certain AP test, students can arrange to sit for the test at a local testing center or other school. 

What is a CLEP test?

CLEP tests, or College Level Examination Program tests, were originally designed for adults going back to school. These assessments gauge college-level knowledge in 34 different subject areas and allow students to receive college credit without taking a college course. Many of these exams are designed to follow one semester of instruction, although some CLEP tests require a full year or two semesters of classes.

What subjects do CLEP tests include?

Composition and Literature CLEP Exams

CLEP Exams for World Languages

  • French Language: Level 1
  • French Language: Level 2
  • German Language: Level 1
  • German Language: Level 2
  • Spanish Language: Level 1
  • Spanish Language: Level 2
  • Spanish with Writing: Level 1
  • Spanish with Writing: Level 2
  • Other languages need to be tested at your university. You will need to check if your university offers language testing for your target language.

Note: World Languages exams are worth 6 credits for the Level 1 portion and 9 credits for the Level 2 portion.

History and Social Sciences CLEP Tests

Science and Mathematics CLEP Exams

Business CLEP Tests

How much does a CLEP test cost?

A CLEP exam costs $89. In some states, reduced or waived fees are available for low-income students. 

Where can I take an CLEP test?

There are about 1,800 CLEP test centers around the country.

Which one should I take?

Pros of AP tests:

  • Designed for high-achieving high school students
  • More widely accepted as college credit than CLEP
  • More challenging
  • Can send scores to multiple colleges
  • Can retake the test every May if you do not pass it
  • Courses modeled after college classes taught in high schools
  • Helps you earn college credit early and at a reduced cost

Pros of CLEP tests:

  • Easier than AP tests
  • Easier self-study (in my opinion)
  • Can take the same test three months later if you do not pass it
  • No limit on how many times you can retake the same CLEP test
  • Primarily multiple-choice only
  • Free study resources available
  • Testing available year-round
  • Helps you earn college credit early and at a reduced cost

For college-bound students, AP tests and CLEP tests are great options. Consider the pros and cons of each throughout your high school journey. Good luck! 🙂

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