How do I study for CLEP*?
If you have already taken a related course before or have a lot of background knowledge in a subject due to your life experience or personal interests, then you may decide to roll the dice and take a CLEP exam with no preparation. In most cases, however, it is a good idea to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the exam you are planning to take and studying to maximize your chances of success.
What is covered in a CLEP exam?
To develop a study plan for CLEP, it can be helpful to know how the exams are made and what to expect on the exams. Each exam is made by a committee consisting of college professors who are currently teaching relevant courses at colleges in the United States. The test questions developed by this committee must conform to a curriculum survey that they update every few years. This curriculum survey looks at the main topics and skills the average American college covers in a standard course in the subject.
TIP: Since the CLEP exam questions are developed based on a curriculum survey conducted among many American colleges, you just have to study the "mainstream" information that any college course would cover. In other words, you do not have to worry about getting tripped up by esoteric trivia or "gotcha" questions.
Preparing your study plan
Now that you know how the exams are made, all you need to do is study what you would learn in any average college course on the subject. The most basic way to do this is to head over to the Official CollegeBoard Website and click on the exam you are studying for. Then, if you scroll down, you will find free information there including a content outline of the topics covered along with recommended textbooks. You should generally choose at least two different textbooks to make sure you do not miss out on some topics. Just skim through the textbooks, making sure you study all of the topics mentioned in the content outline.
TIP: You can often get the textbooks you need for free at your local library. You do NOT need the latest edition of the textbook. The main concepts in a textbook rarely change, and even textbooks that are 10 - 15 years old will still be highly relevant for your CLEP exam.
There are tons of free resources on the Internet that can supplement or even replace the studying you do with the textbooks. Here are a few popular ones that are often mentioned on our discussion forum:
Khan Academy - a popular resource as it includes educational videos on pretty much any subject you are likely to encounter on a CLEP exam.
Free-CLEP-Prep.com - a nice site that offers some free practice questions for a bunch of CLEP subjects.
Quizlet - a site that is not CLEP-specific but allows people to post flashcards on any subject they can think of.
Using commercial CLEP study guides
If you are in a hurry or are willing to pay for a bit of convenience, there are a variety of companies out there that offer resources designed to help you pass your CLEP exams. We at InstantCert, of course, are biased towards our own study guides. We were the first to offer online CLEP exam prep and are proud to say that we remain the most popular option.
The Petersons sample tests are also very popular, especially if you are looking for something that offers a "mock exam" experience. In fact, many of our students like to combine our flashcards with the Petersons sample tests if they are not comfortable relying on just a single resource. For reviews on more options, check out Our Discussion Forum. A lot of students there have posted about their experiences with other companies.
TIP: There are some old-fashioned book-based study guides published by REA and other exam prep companies that can often be found for free at your local library, especially for some of the most popular CLEP exam subjects. Be sure to check for reviews on our discussion forum as quality can vary and some older study guides may no longer be relevant.
Join the community
Regardless of how you decide to study for your CLEP exams, be sure to join our discussion forum at DegreeForum.net. It is FREE and contains an incredible wealth of information on these exams and all of the different ways to earn non-traditional college credit. The people there are also very helpful and friendly, and love to offer motivation and encouragement as you work towards your goals!
Steven is one of the co-founders of InstantCert and is constantly looking for new ways to leverage technology to make learning more efficient and productive. Reach out to him with your ideas, stories, and questions by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* CLEP is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.