5 Tips for Testing Your Way to a Degree

02/20/2013  | 

Courtesy Military.com

Although you have probably heard of the College Level Exam Program or CLEP tests, you may not know that these credit-by-exam tests are widely accepted by colleges and universities.

There are two types of CLEP exams ­— General and Subject. The five general exams can be worth up to six credits each for English, College Math, Social Science and History, Natural Science, and Humanities. The subject exams are typically worth three credits each.


  • They Save You Money ­— An average college course can cost you more than $100 per credit. Through the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), Credit-By-Exam tests are free to servicemembers. (Note: Civilian students pay more than $40 per exam).
  • They Save You Time — The average college course takes from three to six hours a week spread out over three or more months. Depending on your depth of knowledge, you could spend less than a month preparing for each test.
  • They Help You Skip Ahead — Why spend time and money on boring freshman level courses when you can jump up to the more interesting advanced courses.
  • They Let You Use Study Groups — Find a group of people at your unit with like goals and study together during lunch breaks. This is commonly referred to as “Brown Bag Universities.”
  • They Offer You Flexibility — You can set your own deadlines and choose your own study materials: videos, college textbooks, or study guides.
  • They Don’t Require College Enrollment — Unlike college courses, you don’t have to be enrolled in college to take these exams.

In recent years the paper-based CLEP exams were converted to an electronic computer based format called eCBT. Currently, there are 14 paper-based exams and 35 eCBT tests available to servicemembers. In addition to offering more tests eCBT offers immediate scoring. These exams can be taken at local “On-Campus” sites through participating colleges and universities, or at a limited number of “on-base” sites offered through participating on-base colleges and universities.

If you are planning on taking an eCBT at an on-base national test center you will not be required to pay the $25 registration fee. DANTES pays for the administration and test fees for military and eligible civilian examinees. To date, 16 Air Force installations, 11 Navy bases, four Army installations, two Marine Corps bases, and one Air National Guard base offer on-base CLEP eCBT testing.


Tip 1: Be absolutely sure you are ready before you take the exam because you have to wait 180 days to retest on a CLEP examination with the same test title.

Tip 2: Take the Natural Science exam first. The English Comp and Humanities are the most difficult CLEP exams, taking a less difficult exam like Natural Sciences will give you a chance to establish some success and build your confidence before you take on the more difficult exams.

Tip 3: Set deadlines. Pre-scheduling your exam dates well in advance will force you to stay focused on studying just like if you were actually in class.

Tip 4: Form study groups. A lunchtime study group also known as the “Brown Bag University,” has helped military students be successful by giving them more incentive to study.

Tip 5: Make CLEPs your first step. Taking General CLEPs first is a good idea because the exams are widely accepted, can eliminate the need for freshman level arts and sciences, and they are FREE.

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