I’ll never forget my most bitter college moment. I hated a pre-req humanities class. I labored to stay awake through my professor’s monotone delivery, the textbook dried my eyes out, and the assignment loads amounted to arbitrary busywork. One day as I sat at my desk grinding through a reading section my roommate walked in and asked, “Why didn’t you just test out of that?”

He then explained that instead of taking this class he had studied a prep book, paid a small fee, and then passed an exam administered on campus. In return the college granted him three credit hours and waived their requirement to take a class on the subject.

I nearly cried. I certainly fumed. How come nobody told me about this option until it was too late?


What my college roommate had discovered was the beauty and magic of the CLEP exam. And it is indeed a thing of beauty. When I give workshops on College Affordology, this one topic inevitably generates the most buzz and the most gratitude. I now begin the section on outgo by stating that if the students and parents in attendance take nothing away from my little talk but information about CLEPs I have saved them thousands upon thousands of dollars. To those who have taken my advice I’m a bit of a nerd superhero.

So remember the CLEP. Repeat after me. CLEP. CLEP. CLEP.

The letters C.L.E.P. stand for College-Level Examination Program®. According to College Board’s current materials, 2,900 colleges and universities accept passage of the exams for course credits in lieu of hours in the classroom. They offer 33 exams in five subject areas: Composition and literature, foreign languages, history and social sciences, science and mathematics and business. Taking the exam and receiving credit requires a bit of coordination with the College Board and with your school, but with minimal headache you can save substantial money and time during your college experience.

Total cost: $80. Pass a 90 minute exam and earn from 3 to 12 college credits. Cha-ching.

Sounds too good to be true, right? You are welcome. CLEP. CLEP. CLEP.