CLEP tests

One of our readers, Ruthie, and I have had some discussion in the comment section of this blog about what we do to prepare for the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests. Most homeschoolers do not have access to the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IP) programs available at many high schools. Kids in those programs have a leg up on other students when they go to college. We wanted something like that for our own children. The CLEP tests provide us with a mechanism to meet the testing part of that goal. College Board, the same company that makes the tests for the AP program and the SAT, make the CLEP tests. All the military branches provide the CLEP tests to their personnel for free. They are well established tests recognized by a broad spectrum of the higher education community. any colleges give credits to students who score 50 or above on the CLEP subject tests. Based on discussions with Ruthie and others, I have decided to write about how our kids prepare for the tests.

There are a number of reasons why we chose to include the CLEP tests in our homeschool activities. I will go into those reasons in more detail when I write the sections on the different subject tests because they vary. That being said, there are three reasons that hold true for us for all of the tests:

  • The tests do a pretty good job of demonstrating mastery of materials often presented in freshman level college classes. Knowledge that the student has a grasp of the material is valuable to both the student and the teacher.
  • The student receives credit for the material which advances them toward a degree more rapidly and less expensively than if they took the class in a conventional college setting.
  • The textbooks and other study materials and the time to learn the material can be varied based on the needs of the student. In a conventional setting it is not possible to postpone the test for a month or switch textbooks midstream. We have done both.

Am I qualified to write about this? Maybe. Our daughter Kelly passed her first CLEP test, Freshman College Composition, when she was thirteen. That was almost exactly one year ago. Since then she has gone on to pass the Spanish, US History I, and Psychology tests. She plans to take the US History II, Sociology, and Biology tests before the end of our school year this June. Our thirteen year old son Christian passed the Freshman College Composition CLEP test last week. He plans to take Western Civilization I and either Psychology or Spanish this school year. Even though Kelly and Christian have passed all the tests they have taken so far, they did better on some than others. There were a couple very high scores, a couple mid-range scores, and a couple of squeakers.

While every parent rightly believes their children have exceptional qualities, this is not Lake Wobegon. All children are not above average. We have no illusions that our children have the raw intelligence of Newton or Einstein, but they have performed well on nationally normed standardized tests, read and write well, and enjoy studying. I think many homeschool students can do very well, even at an early age on these tests. I also have no illusion that the methods we used to prepare are the best way to prepare for the CLEP tests. The reality is that we did not do such a good job of preparation on a couple of tests so far. Maybe we learned something though. We will certainly try to prepare Christian differently for those tests where our preparation was not so great when Kelly took the test. This is made all the more challenging by the fact that Kelly and Christian have very different learning styles. What was not so good for Kelly might be great for Christian and vice versa. I will try to report on what we did, how we did it, and our results in a way that could help other homeschoolers who want to use the CLEP tests as part of their homeschool program.

CLEP Exam Links

The following is a preliminary list of the topics I will try to cover in this series of posts. I am sure it will change some as we go forward, but I will try to keep this page updated as an index to all the Homeschool CLEP preparation. My plan is to write three or four more posts on Wednesdays until I have covered everything we have done so far. I will write subsequent posts as we get to them. I will update this page with links and any modifications that make sense as I think of new things that might be helpful.

20 thoughts on “CLEP tests

  1. I just wanted to let you know how helpful this series of posts is to us. I was floundering with how to pull high school together while earning college credit at the same time. Your posts have helped me tremendously in knowing the steps to take and what books to use to learn the information. Thanks! Mrs. Hearts

  2. I stumbled on your site today when googling “sonighlight” and “high school.” I have been using Sonlight for 4 years, and we have loved it. But my son has one more year until high school, and I have been wondering if we may end up needing to change gears after this year. My son is very interested in earning college credit while completing high school, but I had not thought of using Clep tests as a way to do that. Any tips on surfing through your blog to see more, without floundering my way through two years of posts? πŸ™‚ (I confess I have a short attention span for web browsing! LOL!)

  3. This index post that has links to most of the information I have written on our CLEP efforts. Really, I was not very organized on any of this until people started asking me about this. That is why I added this post. I know it is not much, but it is all I have. If there is any other way I can be a help, please do not hesitate to ask.

  4. Pingback: Clep Testing
  5. I’m interested in this approach to earning college credit but I do have several questions after reading your posts. Would it be best to ask via this reply method or direct email?

    Thank you,
    Kendra

  6. Hello Kendra,

    I would be happy to talk to you either here or via email. If the questions might helps someone else, it might not be bad to do it in the comments section, but either way is fine. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  7. Thanks for the quick response. I have enjoyed reading your website so far. I fear that answers to these questions will lead to more questions though πŸ™‚

    A brief explanation: I have three boys ages 13, 12, and 8 months. (Crazy, I know.) The older two boys have been educated in a private school using a mix of ABeka and Accelerated Christian Education from Kindergarten to current grades. Due to the new brother, I did not return to work at this school and thus begin our homeschool adventure. I went brain numb reading about all the different curriculums out there and finally settled on a starting point: ABeka English, Saxon math, Apologia science, and Mystery of History to name a few.

    Questions: (1) I am insanely interested in your idea of skipping high school and utilizing CLEP tests. So do you mean your children did high school level work during the junior high age bracket to prepare for the CLEP tests?

    (2) Did you use the CLEP study books as your homeschool curriculum thereby schooling and preparing for the test all at the same time?

    (3) I’m sure colleges differ on policy, but how did you get the college to accept your student without a traditional transcript? We have a junior college here who allows students to duel enroll. However, while working at the private school, I do remember there being an issue with a student from our private school being accepted. The college was trying to make the point that our student was not coming from an accredited institution.

    (4). Would your method mean your children do not have a high school transcript but a college transcript instead?

    (5) Does passing a CLEP test give your child a grade on a college transcript or just a credit for the class?

    (6) My 13 year old is an avid reader and will be a life long learner. My 12 year old hates reading, math, English, etc. He really likes digging holes in the yard though πŸ™‚ This might be the million-dollar question, but how do I wring all of the potential out of the older one and encourage the younger one at the same time.

    I do understand the concept of different learning styles, etc. Neither child is a little prodigy but I feel, at least one, has the desire to learn and retain useless facts to be able to accomplish what you have done. I just need more concrete directions.

    Personally, I have to work on checking my attitude. Inside I ask, “Is anything less than all 100s too much to ask?” Just a character flaw of mine πŸ™‚

    Please feel free to answer via the reply section or my email. I GREATLY appreciate your time.

    Kendra

  8. Hey Kendra. Great questions! Below I try to answer them as best I can. Please forgive me and let me know if you need me to clarify when my answers are not so clear.

    (1) I am insanely interested in your idea of skipping high school and utilizing CLEP tests. So do you mean your children did high school level work during the junior high age bracket to prepare for the CLEP tests?

    I think the answer to this questions is a very non-satisfying “kind of.” The description (here) of how the kids passed the Freshman English Composition test is very typical of how we approached this. The material the kids studied in junior high and high school was quite good–adequate to prepare the kids for the material in the REA CLEP preparation book for that test. Both the kids spent six months systematically going through the material in the REA book before the test. In that case, the REA book was all that was needed to pass the test. In the case of the History and Biology, Kelly had already been through fairly rigorous, full year programs that covered the material at the Freshman or Sophomore year in high school. Christian did not take those tests, but took them as community college courses.

    I think the biggest thing that allowed the kids to perform well on the CLEP tests and in their first college classes is that I was at work when they were doing their homeschool work and test preparation. I planned their study work and corrected it closely, but they got very good at taking responsibility for learning the material. I was able to close the loop to assure they were ready by assuring they did well on all the practice tests before they went forward.

    (2) Did you use the CLEP study books as your homeschool curriculum thereby schooling and preparing for the test all at the same time?

    We did in some cases, but most of the time, we used the REA CLEP study books in conjunctions with a homeschool program.

    (3) I’m sure colleges differ on policy, but how did you get the college to accept your student without a traditional transcript? We have a junior college here who allows students to duel enroll. However, while working at the private school, I do remember there being an issue with a student from our private school being accepted. The college was trying to make the point that our student was not coming from an accredited institution.

    I described this in pretty good detail in this post for Kelly and this post for Christian. The upshot is that the kids took the ACT college entrance exam when Christian was in 7th grade and Kelly was in 9th grade to be in compliance with homeschool regulations for North Carolina. They did well enough to get accepted as full time students at the community college. I made them homeschool transcripts at the time we applied to graduate them from high school.

    HSLDA helps with these kinds of things if you are a member. The federal government accepts homeschool transcripts for consideration for scholarship and it is legal to homeschool in every state in the union. Previously this was a bigger problem, but it not should be in this day and age. The research shows that the median homeschool standardized test scores are around the 85th percentile. The colleges know that and recruit homeschool actively. If you have a problem with this, you should get some help because it is almost always something that can be dealt with easily.

    All that being said, if you read what I wrote about this you will see why we actively avoided the dual enrollment thing for a number of reasons. You can keep homeschooling while taking only a few classes if you are fully enrolled and you usually you can get into classes more easily than dual enrolled students.

    (4). Would your method mean your children do not have a high school transcript but a college transcript instead?

    They have both. A homeschool high school transcript that I created for Christian after his 8th grade year and one for Kelly after her 10th grade year. Of course now they have transcripts for homeschool high school, community college and NCSU.

    (5) Does passing a CLEP test give your child a grade on a college transcript or just a credit for the class?

    Credit only. Most colleges list CLEP credits they accept on their website. It is different for just about every school. Kelly received credit for 43 hours of CLEP tests when she entered the community college, but only 23 of those credits were accepted at NCSU. However, both the kids got their foreign language requirement waived because they took Spanish in homeschool and passed the Spanish CLEP test.

    (6) My 13 year old is an avid reader and will be a life long learner. My 12 year old hates reading, math, English, etc. He really likes digging holes in the yard though πŸ™‚ This might be the million-dollar question, but how do I wring all of the potential out of the older one and encourage the younger one at the same time.

    This is the million dollar question. In our case, Kelly was the serious one for the first four years. That flip-flopped for the last three years when Christian became the serious one. Kelly got serious again after here internship at Johns Hopkins University last summer. She did OK in the interim period, but knows she could have done better. She is doing super right now. I think you, as the parent, probably have a better handle on that than even your kids themselves.

    I do understand the concept of different learning styles, etc. Neither child is a little prodigy but I feel, at least one, has the desire to learn and retain useless facts to be able to accomplish what you have done. I just need more concrete directions.

    Personally, I have to work on checking my attitude. Inside I ask, β€œIs anything less than all 100s too much to ask?” Just a character flaw of mine.

    I have been in discussions with Luke Holzmann at the Sonlight blog. We both buy into the fact that homeschool uniquely is able to facilitate education through mastery. In our math program in particular, we had the kids continue in a given subject until they mastered it 100%. That served us very, very well. I write quite a lot about that throughout this blog and now I have one Applied Mathematics major and one Statistics major. I think that 100% thing you have is a great quality and the thing that might help you determine when your kids are ready to go on to college.

    I hope that helps! I will probably put a pointer to these comments tomorrow as a blog post if you do not mind.

  9. Thanks once again for the answers. You are so quick to respond πŸ™‚ Here are some more questions I have.

    (1) In answer to my first question you reply: In the case of the History and Biology, Kelly had already been through fairly rigorous, full year programs that covered the material at the Freshman or Sophomore year in high school. Was this one particular brand of curriculum or you the parent going beyond what the curriculum offered? I’ve read the posts describing your happiness with Sonlight. Is Sonlight that rigorous or did you augment the curriculum?

    (2) In Texas, there are no regulations requiring me to test my children. I do plan to have them take the SAT and ACT. Are there other tests you suggest? And do you know if there is an age limit for these tests? Provided a student earns a score high enough for college enrollment, is the college required to allow that student to enroll regardless of their age?

    (3) I viewed the Duke TIP website earlier. I do not see how you register your child for this. Will you give advice on that?

    (4) Question 4 above regarding high school transcripts – you write you created a transcript for Christian after his 8th grade year. I’m thinking of a traditional high school transcript including Geometry, Algebra II, etc. Had he already taken those courses by 8th grade?

    (5) I’ve read your children had good experiences sharing a college class and meeting new people. Did they ever experience negative attitudes from college teachers or other students?

    (6) Do you have any experience with any nationally recognized homeschool honor society or homeschool co-op?

    (7) In your experience, did either college want to know if your children did any community service? My area has a few homeschool co-ops. The main purpose seems to be to have someone else teach your children a subject you are not comfortable teaching as well as providing your child a place to earn some community hours. The flip side is you must pay dues and attend meetings to each one of these organizations – extra time and money.

    Again, I greatly appreciate your time in answering my questions. I do not mind you using them for any reference on your site.

    Regards,
    Kendra

  10. Kendra, I have the answers for this all written up, but need a chance to add a couple of things, so will not be able to post it until late this evening after work.

  11. Hello again,

    I have a few more questions for your πŸ™‚ I would actually like your advice on curriculum.

    I have the 7th grader (great reader) and 6th grader (hole digger) πŸ™‚ I would like to have my 7th grader do Algebra in 8th grade. If that’s successful, what would be your suggested schedule for the upper grades? By that I mean, Algebra II, Geometry, etc. What order and what curriculums? We are currently using Saxon math.

    What is your opinion on an 8th grader attempting biology? We are using Apologia science. We are working through their prescribed 7th grade book now. They offer an 8th grade science which looks like an Earth science type subject. I considered having my 7th grader begin the 8th grade book over summer and try to complete 8th and biology by the end of his 8th grade summer. I do realize that biology would be a grade for a HS transcript.

    History – I like the history we have picked (Mystery of History) in the fact that it’s fun to read. I feel it will not prepare us adequately. What history program would you recommend? I would like something better than just a date-and-name curriculum but want the curriculum that will get the job done.

    My goal would be to try the CLEP tests with English, beginning histories, and some maths. I believe I need to start working towards that goal now.

    I remember you saying that a passed CLEP test gives college credit as opposed to a grade. How does that affect their college GPA? Do you know if there is an age requirement for taking the CLEPs?

    Our local junior college allows students who are duel enrolled to attend tuition free – a big savings that would be a huge help. HOWEVER – if my boy(s) could pass a CLEP test I don’t see the point in them spending the time to take a class just to utilize “tuition free.”

    Thank you again,
    Kendra

  12. Congratulations to Chapman Children!

    I have truly enjoyed reading about your academic adventures πŸ™‚

    Thank you, Dad, for making this information available to others. I never considered there could be another way than the prescribed everybody-has-always-done-it-this-way method. I am convinced that skipping high school is the way to go.

    You’ve been so gracious to answer all my questions. Now I have one more. I have recently heard of a program named Dual Credit at Home. This essentially does what you have done just, of course, is something you purchase but has all lessons planned for you. I wondered if you had heard of this and had any advice.

    Thank you again for your time.

  13. Thanks a lot Kendra for the congratulations. Wow! I looked at the program and, if the materials are good, it might be just great. You are right, it looks VERY similar to what we did with the REA books. We really took longer than 49 weeks because we were still doing a lot of other stuff in the middle, but if the materials are really good, I see now reason why it would not work.

    Of course, and I think you already know this, it is really important to make sure the school you want your kids to attend accepts CLEP tests. I would love to hear how this goes for you.

  14. Hello Nicole. I you are a homeschool, you can. We did. It is more about the material YOU want to cover. If your child passes the CLEP test, they have mastered the material at a college level, so why not give them high school credit, too. That is how the AP classes work and CLEP is from the same company.

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