What is the CLEP  & How Does it Apply to Civil Service and Military Members? 

   Standardized testing is a method of objectively measuring a student’s performance. These evaluations are created, administered, and scored in the same way for all candidates — allowing institutions to have a clear picture of the aptitudes, skills, and knowledge of the person taking the exam.  

Some of the most popular standardized tests in the United States include the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT.)  

However, in recent years the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) has become increasingly popular, especially amongst civil service personnel.  

The CLEP includes 34 exams that cover intro-level college course material. It was designed to help students and individuals, with prior college-level knowledge, obtain a degree inexpensively and efficiently.  

As a result, many members of the military and other civil servants undergo these evaluations to save thousands of dollars on their college education.  

Below we will go over everything you need to know about the CLEP, its benefits, how to prepare, and what to expect.  

What is the CLEP 

As we mentioned before, the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) consists of 33 different evaluations that cover intro-level college course material ranging from composition, literature, and foreign languages to history, math, financial accounting, and marketing.  

What is the CLEP  &  How Does it Apply to Civil Service and Military Members? 

The program was developed to allow individuals to efficiently and inexpensively earn credits towards a degree in higher education, which is usually awarded by a college or university. In other words, by taking these evaluations, people who have a basic understanding of a specific subject are tested to earn college credits without having to enroll at a university. 

More so, candidates who take CLEP evaluations usually get their knowledge from advanced high school courses, independent learning, online courseware, noncredit courses, or on-the-job training.  

CLEP benefits everyone, including students, adult learners, service members and veterans, and professionals seeking continuing education credits. So, virtually anyone interested in earning college credit (while also saving time and money) profits from taking a CLEP exam. 

 What about other tests? Read more here: https://civilservicehq.com/what-is-the-p-o-s-t-and-do-i-need-to-take-it/

The CLEP Tests 

As a credit-by-examination program, the CLEP offers a wide variety of subjects to consider. Below we will share a list sorted by areas of expertise: 

  • Composition and Literature 

These examinations assess a person’s knowledge in reading comprehension, writing, and more. Generally, these tests can grant 3-6 credits depending on the subject you choose. There are six Composition and Literature tests available: 

  1. American Literature (3 credits) 
  2. Analyzing and Interpreting Literature (3 credits) 
  3. College Composition (6 credits) 
  4. College Composition Modular (3 credits) 
  5. English Literature (3 credits) 
  6. Humanities (3 credits) 
  • World Languages 

There are three main languages tested within the CLEP. Additionally, there are two levels of proficiency that test a candidate’s ability to write and to understand a specific language. As a result, individuals may decide to undergo a French, Language, or Spanish test.  

It is important to note that, given the proliferation of the Spanish language across the country, there are two separate evaluations available, including Spanish language (level I and II) and Spanish with writing (level I and II.)  

Additionally, know that World Languages evaluations are worth six credits (for the Level 1 portion) and nine credits (for the Level 2 portion.) 

  •  History and Social Sciences 

The History and Social Sciences category is the most extensive CLEP area, and evaluations are worth between 3-6 credits. These types of assessments include: 

  1. American Government (3 credits) 
  2. History of the U.S. I (3 credits) 
  3. History of the U.S. II (3 credits) 
  4. Human Growth and Development (3 credits) 
  5. Introduction to Educational Psychology (3 credits) 
  6. Introductory Psychology (3 credits) 
  7. Introductory Sociology (3 credits) 
  8. Principles of Macroeconomics (3 credits) 
  9. Principles of Microeconomics (3 credits) 
  10. Social Sciences and History (6 credits) 
  11. Western Civilization I – Ancient Near East to 1648 (3 credits) 
  12. Western Civilization II – 1648 to Present (3 credits) 

Natural Science and Mathematics

What is the CLEP  &  How Does it Apply to Civil Service and Military Members? 

Natural Science and Mathematics are the most popular tests within the CLEP as they allow students to fast track a career within Engineering, Medicine, Biology, and more. Plus, these tests usually earn a higher number of credits.  

The Natural Science and Mathematics evaluations available within the CLEP are: 

  1. Biology (6 credits) 
  2. Calculus (4 credits) 
  3. Chemistry (6 credits) 
  4. College Algebra (3 credits) 
  5. College Mathematics (6 credits) 
  6. Natural Sciences (6 credits) 
  7. Precalculus (3 credits) 



Business CLEP exams are probably the most career-specific evaluations available, including: 

  1. Financial Accounting (3 credits) 
  2. Information Systems (3 credits) 
  3. Introductory Business Law (3 credits) 
  4. Principles of Management (3 credits) 
  5. Principles of Marketing (3 credits) 


What To Expect from a CLEP exam 

If you are considering taking one of the College-Level Examination Program’s tests, there are a few things you should know. To start, understand that all exams take between 1.5 hours (90 minutes) to 2 hours (120 minutes) to complete.  

All CLEP exams are computer-based and contain only multiple-choice questions. Nonetheless, note that assessments like  College Composition might also include an essay portion. 

Additionally, CLEP tests are offered at over 2,000 official test centers across the country every month. And, unlike other standardized tests, students can view their CLEP test scores immediately after completing the exam — College Composition and Spanish with Writing are the only exceptions.  

Lastly, you will be relieved to know that: 

  1. Only 50/80 is needed to pass a CLEP exam, which means that you only need to answer correctly about 63% of the questions on the test.  
  2. Your transcript will not reveal your score! In other words, a “P” (for “pass”) will appear on your test’s transcript, whether you get a 51 or an 80.  
  3. CLEP does not penalize you for wrong answers. Thus, you can safely What is the CLEP  &  How Does it Apply to Civil Service and Military Members? answer every question even if you are unsure of the correct response.  


Civil Servants and the CLEP  

The College-Level Examination Program is very popular with military members and civil servants. Why? Simple. It offers an efficient and effective way for them to prove their knowledge and skills.  

As you might know, many civil servants have a basic understanding of many different topics, thanks to the job and tasks they perform daily. For instance, a firefighter might not have a degree in chemistry, math, or medicine. But, as a member of the fire department and a first responder, she/he might have extensive knowledge of biology, physics, first aid, and more.  

In the case of military personnel, most positions often help you acquire specific aptitudes and a basic understanding of many topics ranging from mechanics, engineering, and foreign languages to science and communications.  

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that each year roughly 50,000 military service members and civil service employees take CLEP evaluations to reach their education goals. And although their reasons may vary, they usually partake in these types of assessments to acquire a college degree, advance their education, or have an additional degree under their belt.  


CLEP Military Benefits 

The CLEP offers a wide range of benefits to qualifying members of the Armed Forces through the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). 

As a result, all members of the military, including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard, and reserve, are eligible to take the CLEP exams on-base (or at fully funded testing centers) free of charge.  

However, there are certain things worth considering, such as: 

  • Only one DANTES-funded attempt is allowed per exam title. 
  • You must specify your military status during the registration process. Failure to do so may affect the waiver.  
  • You are only able to request your transcript through military channels. 
  • DANTES-funded candidates who register for a CLEP exam will receive a free study guide in preparation for the evaluation.  
  • You must bring a valid military ID and your Geneva Convention Identification Card ID on test day. 
  • DANTES does not provide test funding for veterans, Coast Guard Auxiliary, inactive Guard or Reserve, dependents of active duty military, and DoD acquisition workforce personnel.  


But, know that military personnel (i.e., veterans, Coast Guard Auxiliary, DOD Acquisition Workforce Personnel) that do not qualify if through DANTES, can still have the evaluation fee waived based on the GI Bill. 

Also note that, based on the GI Bill, if a veteran were to take a CLEP exam, the amount of the exam and administration fee will be deducted from their monthly benefits.  


Preparing for a CLEP Test 

Like with any other standardized test, studying and practicing are the keys to passing any of the CLEP exams. But, do not worry, there are many resources available such as test descriptions, guides, textbooks, and test-prep courses to help you prepare.  

What is the CLEP  &  How Does it Apply to Civil Service and Military Members? 

Below six tips that will come in handy and that have proven to go a long way when it comes to CLEP exam’s preparation: 

Find topic-specific textbooks and guides

Given that all tests are associated with a specific college-level class or subject, it is advisable to review books and study guides used in the course that corresponds with your CLEP evaluation.  


Work on your writing skills

Even though most questions are multiple-choice, know that if you are planning on taking a CLEP evaluation within the Composition and Literature or World Languages, you will encounter an essay portion. Thus, it is best to brush up on those writing skills, so you don’t use up all of your time. 


Look for hints in the exam

Given that these are all subject tests, usually, the answer to some questions might appear on different sections of the same test. So, read the questions carefully as they might help you answer other difficult questions. 


Answer every single question!

The good thing about CLEP evaluations is that you are not penalized for wrong answers. Hence, even if you have to guess, it is better to choose an option from the multiple-choice list than leaving a question unanswered.  


Take advantage of the “Review” Button

All CLEP tests have a “review” button. So, if you are unsure as to what the correct answer for a question is, mark it under the “review” button. Once you finish taking the test, go back to those questions, and try to make an educated guess or re-think your first answer.  


Do not stress about your score

As we mentioned before, no one will see your final grade. CLEP transcripts will simply show a “P” for “passing.” Thus, you do not have to worry about getting the highest score; answering correctly, 63% of the text will earn you a “P.” 


Related Questions

Which colleges/universities accept CLEP? 

The College-Level Examination Program tests are currently accepted in exchange for credits at over 2,900 colleges and universities across the country. Some of the academic institutions that offer CLEP credits include the University of Arizona, Colorado State University, University of Massachusetts, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, University of Wisconsin, and more.  

However, it is vital to know that Ivy League institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Brown do not accept CLEP exams.  

Thus, if you are planning on attending a specific school and are unsure as to whether or not they allow CLEP credits, we suggest you use the official CLEP search tool to find out if it made it to the list!  

Are the CLEP tests free?

No, each CLEP test costs $89. However, military service members and other civil servants may qualify for free assessments.  

Also, note that when you register for a CLEP test online, you can select an institution to receive your CLEP scores for free. But, if you wait to designate a school after taking the exam, you must pay a $20 fee per institution.

How much money can I save by taking the CLEP exams?

According to recent statistics, a person who earns 15 CLEP credits to apply toward a degree could save nearly $5,000 at the medium public 4-year institution in the United States.  

Thus, by taking between 3-4 evaluations worth approximately $350, you can save up to $5,000 in college credits that you can apply to advance classes, textbooks, a computer, or to your college’s room & board fees.  


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To learn how to best prepare and study for your civil servant exam click here!

For more information about the civil service be sure to check out our free guide here: https://civilservicehq.com/ 

Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.