How To Save Money On American Education

It’s not a secret for anybody that American education is one of the most expensive in the world. Being an international student, who pays out-of-state tuition, it could easily get to tenths of thousands of dollars a year. Having experienced freshman year as an international student in American Community College myself, the numbers terrify me.

However, almost two years ago I was talking to my academic advisor to see what options I have to skip language requirements as a native Russian speaker. She listed a couple of options, briefly mentioning CLEP as one of them. I have never heard of these four mysterious words before, but decided to google and see what it is. What I learned that day shocked me. It also made me extremely angry at why nobody talks about it.

What is CLEP?

CLEP is a College-Level Examination Program that offers students 34 exams that cover the introductory level college course material, such as College Algebra, College Composition, Introductory Psychology, Spanish Language and etc. There are over 2,900 U.S. colleges and universities that grant credit for CLEP. That means, if you pass, for example, College Algebra, as a CLEP exam, then you automatically get credit for it, you skip College Algebra class in the University and save literally hundreds if not thousands of dollars! There are many perks and nuances about the CLEP exam, so I am going to share all of it with you today.

Perks of CLEP Exams

  • The best benefit of all is how cheap it is to take the exam, compared to taking 3-4 credit classes at the university. The exam itself costs only $89, but you would also need to pay the administrative fee charged by the testing center ($15-45 on average).

Let’s use some statistics and math for some amazing calculations. According to, an average cost per credit hour in a public 4-year university for in-state residents is $307 and $879 for out-of-state. That means a 3-credit class for in-state students costs $921 and $2,637 for out-of-state students (isn’t it insane?!). That means, bypassing one single CLEP exam, in-state students can save around $800, while out-of-state folks can save around $2,500!

But more than that, I actually know how to take this exam for FREE, completely, as I did it myself twice now. You can read about it below under the “How to take CLEP for free” section.

  • Anybody over the age of 14 can take it. Even international students!!! Yes, guys, I’m not kidding! The only catch is that you have to be located in the US to take the exam, even for an online one.
  • The minimum score you can get on CLEP is 20, and 80 being the highest one. Each college has its own required score for earning CLEP credit on its official website. But, generally, for most universities, the passing score is 50 out of 80. It comes out to a grade of 63%
  • You don’t need to worry about getting the highest score possible, since the CLEP test will appear as a “P” for “pass” on your transcript and will not affect your GPA whether you get a 50 or an 80. So all you need to do is to get the lowest passing grade.
  • Most exams are multiple-choice questions and take 90 to 120 minutes to complete, depending on the subject. And there is no penalty for just guessing on multiple-choice questions. This gives you more chances on passing, while not knowing answers to all questions.
  • CLEP exams are offered year-round. You can take it at home with remote proctoring on your computer or at more than 2,000 CLEP test centers around the country - whatever is most convenient for you.
  • You receive your CLEP exam score immediately after completing the exam (except for College Composition and Spanish With Writing). So no daunting wait after an exam.
  • You can retake the exam after 3 months. If you fail, it’s not the end of the world. So if time and circumstance do not interfere with your plan, you could try to pass on the second or third try.
  • Lastly, you save time! Instead of taking the class for 15 weeks, you can study for 4 weeks or shorter (depending on the subject and how well you know it) and attempt to pass it!

Nuances To Know Before Taking CLEP Exam

  • Not every university accepts CLEP exams. Besides that, not all universities that do accept CLEP, accept all 34 exams. To check if CLEP is accepted in your university, check its official website or search for CLEP College Credit Policy on CLEP's official website.
  • It takes time, persistence, and self-discipline. You have to figure out yourself what exams to take, how to study, and for how long before taking an exam. While there are a lot of useful resources out there on the internet, it could still be quite overwhelming.
  • It is challenging and nerve-wracking. Well, this depends on your initial knowledge of the subject and personality. But in my personal experience and what I’ve seen on the internet, it could be an anxious time while preparing for CLEP.

But, hey, going out of your comfort zone will help you to grow as a person and save a substantial amount of money, so I believe it is well worth it to at least look into CLEP.

How To Take CLEP Exam For FREE

There is a way to take exams fully for free thanks to! Modern States is a New York-based charitable organization that offers free courses to prepare students for CLEP exams. I wouldn’t fully rely on them to prepare for your CLEP exam, yet it is a good starting point. But most importantly, upon successful completion of Modern States course and practice questions, you can request a CLEP voucher code on their website. They will also cover your test center fee after you take an exam! I will write a post on it in-depth soon, but for now, if you want to learn more about it, visit their website.

In Conclusion…

I am personally shocked at how few people talk about the CLEP exam. If I didn’t google it after talking to my advisor, I’m not sure if I would’ve ever heard about this great opportunity. So if you know anyone who can benefit from CLEP, please, tell them about it. Especially to your international friends, as it could save them literally thousands of dollars.

I’m planning to write a couple of blog posts on my personal experience with taking CLEP exams with the hopes that it would help someone out there. But for now, I will leave several useful resources if you are interested in taking the CLEP exam:

Official CLEP website:

Modern States:

YouTube Playlist on CLEP exams from The Testing Tutor channel. One of very few channels that talk about CLEP and shares useful resources on how to prepare for specific exams:

Subreddit thread on CLEP: