A Jumpstart into College through CLEP

  • “Are you going to homeschool your kids through high school?” “How are you going to get them into college?”
  • “Are you worried they’ll be prepared?”

These are some typical questions that home schooling families often face as we embark on homeschooling our children into the high school years. Like it or not, these are questions we should be asking ourselves. In fact, it was asking myself those questions that led to our fifteen-year-old son taking some College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests that resulted in six hours of college credit at Texas Tech.
Many home schoolers and their families are unaware of the opportunity to earn college credit through CLEP tests. The program extends the opportunity to earn course credit to students who have acquired an unusual amount of information through independent reading and experience. The CLEP examinations cover the material taught in introductory courses that students are often required to take during the first two years of college study. I first began researching the CLEP test at the College Board Web site. There I learned where the closest testing sites are located.
The sites that were closest to me have various and somewhat differing procedures for signing up a student to take a test, so you need to determine your testing site and follow its protocol. While one of the sites closest to us was less expensive ($70 total), the other cost more ($89) but had more testing dates available. Your student must also have a picture I.D. and a Social Security number. Since my son is only fifteen, he had no photo I.D. The testing center recommended a yearbook … well, as home schoolers, we did not have that either. We finally came up with a published picture in the newspaper that had his name under it. Be forewarned that if you have a child trying to take the CLEP, you must have a picture I.D.
CLEP tests are computer based. Examinees are allowed ninety minutes to take each exam. Most tests are multiple choice and are made up of approximately 120 questions. The student must indicate at the time of testing to which college or university he wants the scores sent. It is a good idea to know where your child plans to attend college because not all colleges have the same score requirements, and some colleges do not accept CLEP credit. Immediately after your child finishes the test, a score report will be printed, and he will be informed if credit was received. The scores are sent to the registrar’s office within forty-eight hours and are kept on file for twenty years!
The College Board Web site will provide a downloadable free demo that will familiarize your child with the computerized test format, which I felt was worth the time. There you will also find more information about the individual subjects that CLEP offers. In general, there are tests for English and literature, foreign languages, history and government, mathematics, and science. My son took his first test “cold turkey.” Although he got the credit, he was pleased with neither his score nor his experience. Frankly, he said the test was overwhelming! In fact, he did not want to take any more. But that is why the Lord makes parents. After allowing my son to rest a few days, I purchased a study-aid book at Barnes and Noble. (They have tons of them there-–the problem is determining which one to pick.) This, too, was probably worth the money because it provided some test strategies and information that would have helped with the first exam. After adequate preparation, we took our newspaper article picture I.D. and tried for three more hours. This time proved a much better experience for my son, and he was much more pleased with his score. Chalk it up to a little experience under the belt and a little pre-test preparation.

What have we learned from this experience?

1. CLEP is a reasonable way for home schoolers who have acquired unusual amounts of information in given subject areas to earn college credit.

2. A good deal of research is needed to familiarize oneself with the test, the procedures to become registered, and the likelihood of success if a test is taken.

3. The student will benefit from extensive study and preparation before taking the test.

4. It is more cost effective to know if your college of choice will accept CLEP credit and what their minimum scores are.

6. The CLEP examinations are written on the level of a college sophomore. They are challenging! There is, therefore, a calculated risk involved. You could be out the money, but more importantly, you do not want to discourage your children or make them feel that they have failed if they do not receive credit. Some people do not test well, for whatever reason. Know your student and try not to set him up to be disappointed.

7. On the other hand, the experience of having to prepare for a major, college-level, comprehensive exam, having to take it on a college campus in unfamiliar surroundings, having to deal with time-limit pressures and picture I.D. problems, and memorizing a Social Security number was all excellent experience and college preparation for our fifteen-year-old-–even if he had not earned the credit.

As you are preparing your college-bound high schooler for his SAT or ACT tests, do not forget to look into the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) as an option to give your home schooler a jump-start into college!