What Are the Easiest and Hardest CLEP Exams?

Easiest and Hardest CLEP exams

The College-Level Examination Program, or CLEP, is a series of exams from the College Board designed to test students’ knowledge of advanced material. Scoring highly on these exams can help you earn credit and graduate college sooner.

What Are the CLEP Exams?

The College Board distributes various exams to test your college readiness and help you earn credit hours, reducing the cost of higher education. These include the PSAT, SAT, AP exams, ACCUPLACER, and CLEP exams.

The AP, ACCUPLACER, and CLEP exams test your introductory college material knowledge, and passing them can earn you credit.

Currently, the CLEP exams cover Composition and Literature, World Languages, History and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, and Business. Amongst these sections are more specific tests.

About 2,900 universities accept passing CLEP exams for college credit. The College Board has a recommended credit-granting score guide, but your school may decide a different score.

What CLEP Exams Should I Take?

If you want to save money and time in college, you may want to take a CLEP exam. The best exams to take are the ones you are most confident about, but keep some other factors in mind. If you want to self study, be sure to check out our recommendations for the best CLEP study prep books.

Consider Your Knowledge

The difficulty of CLEP exams is subjective, all depending on your strengths, weaknesses, and prior knowledge. When choosing an exam, look into your academic record. Check out which classes you got the highest grades in and see how well you recall this information. Just because you got an A doesn’t mean you know the content.

Remember the difficulty of these courses. For example, if you took honors or Advanced Placement English courses, you may have a stronger background in this topic than if you took a regular-level one. Nevertheless, lower-level classes may still have provided sufficient knowledge of the subject.

Look into a practice exam to see if you have enough knowledge in that area to take that particular test. No matter how confident you are on that topic, make sure you study it before your exam. The CLEP tests will cost you money, so you will want to pass them the first time.

College CLEP Policies

If you have decided which colleges you want to apply to, you should check out their CLEP policies. While many schools accept these credits, not all do. You don’t want to waste time and money on an exam that won’t count for anything, so make sure your school is not part of the 2,400 schools that do not accept these credits.

Major-Specific Requirements

Even if you have sufficient knowledge in a certain area and your school accepts CLEP credits, you may still waste your time if you take an exam that does not match your major requirements. If you want to be a chemical engineer, you probably don’t need to take the Financial Accounting exam.

Consider taking exams that meet general education requirements. Some schools have limits on how many credits they’ll accept in each area, so check these out first. If you get your Gen Eds out of the way, you can focus on your favorite subjects at school. Also, taking major-specific courses at your college will provide you a better background in that area than skipping the in-depth class with a test.

However, if you think your background is strong enough in that topic, feel free to take exams that provide credit in introductory-level classes for your major.

Easiest and Hardest CLEP Exams

The ranking of CLEP exams depends on the percentage of students who passed, but remember that the ease depends on your educational background and personal strengths.

Also, many of the metrics come from military statistics. Since those in the US military can take the exams for free, they are more likely to take it without studying, indicating that their passing rate is slightly lower.

For the below rankings, we will utilize the 2017 civilian pass rate for each CLEP exam.

Test NameTest VolumePass Rate
Spanish Language32,30091%
College Composition Modular3,53083%
College Composition9,99681%
Introductory Sociology4,16780%
Principles of Marketing2,58779%
French Language2,81978%
College Mathematics4,38276%
Human Growth and Development3,00075%
Analyzing and Interpreting Lit6,26775%
Principles of Macroeconomics1,46772%
German Language79172%
Principles of Microeconomics1,39572%
Info Systems and Computer Appl1,51171%
Introductory Psychology3,47670%
History of United States I4,06169%
Western Civilization I1,19068%
Principles of Management2,59667%
Social Sciences and History85962%
English Literature1,00960%
Intro to Educational Psych1,12960%
Natural Sciences1,63057%
History of United States II3,99156%
Financial Accounting80355%
College Algebra8,29152%
American Government3,70252%
Introductory Business Law78051%
American Literature1,44651%
Western Civilization II1,22248%

As you can see, the Spanish Language exam has the highest pass rate. However, people will only take the Spanish Language exam if they have a strong Spanish background. If you do not have the foundational knowledge of this subject, you will be amongst those who do not pass.

The Chemistry exam has the lowest pass rate. This subject is difficult, and many people have to take a chemistry course to graduate. If you did well in high school chemistry, you might be more likely to take the exam. However, the CLEP exam covers much more than an honors chemistry class, so it is far more challenging to pass.

Final Thoughts

If you want to graduate college a little sooner, you should consider taking CLEP exams. Before choosing one to take, make sure you have a strong background in the subject and that your school accepts CLEP credits. In terms of which test is easiest or hardest, some have higher pass rates than others, but it depends on your educational strengths.

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Michelle Tsou

Contributor at ExamCave. Michelle graduated with a BA in English from Portland State University. She hopes to one day run her own test-prep organization.