Timothy Peck 4 min read 12th Grade, Standardized Tests

Ranked List of the Easiest and Hardest CLEP Exams

The College Board’s College-Level Examination Program, known as the CLEP exams, are beneficial because they allow students to tackle advanced material more quickly, graduate from college faster, and ultimately reduce the cost of higher education. 

 

Keep reading to learn more about CLEP exams, how to pick the right CLEP exam for you, and to discover what the easiest and hardest CLEP exams are. 

 

What is a CLEP Exam? 

 

CLEP exams are administered by the College Board, the same organization responsible for conducting Advanced Placement (AP) classes and exams as well as the SAT. These exams provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in introductory-level material and earn college credit for simply passing a test. 

 

CLEP exams cover more than 30 subjects spread across a wide range of knowledge bases such as Composition and Literature, World Languages, History and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, and Business. Approximately 2,900 colleges and universities accept CLEP exams and offer credit to students with qualifying scores. Find out more about CLEP exams and which colleges accept them in our blog post, What Is the CLEP Exam? Which Colleges Accept CLEP Credits?

 

Note: The credit-granting score recommended by the American Council on Education (ACE) is found on the College Board’s website; however, schools can set their own credit-granting policy.

 

How to Pick the Right CLEP Exam for You

 

CLEP exams are an awesome time- and money-saving college strategy, but there are some important things to consider before signing up to take a CLEP exam.

 

Your Strengths: One of the most important factors to recognize about CLEP exams is that they’re subjective. The easiest CLEP exam for one person is potentially the most difficult for another. For example, College Composition Modular and Analyzing & Interpreting Literature both have reputations for being among the easiest CLEP exams, but non-native English speakers might find them difficult. Conversely, a student with an aptitude for numbers might breeze through the CLEP Calculus exam, one of the CLEP exams typically considered among the most challenging. 

 

Prior Knowledge: The basis of CLEP exams is to test the knowledge that you already possess, so a good way to choose the right CLEP exam for you is to look at the coursework you’ve already completed. If you’ve taken an advanced biology or chemistry class, taking a CLEP exam in one of those subjects makes sense. Similarly, if you took an honors American History class, you might be well positioned to pass one of the U.S. History CLEP exams. Of course, just because CLEP exams test knowledge you already possess, it doesn’t mean you have an excuse not to study. Failing the test will cost you money and time—there is a three-month waiting period if you need to retake an exam. 

 

College CLEP Policies: Before signing up for a CLEP exam, you’ll want to check the CLEP policy at the schools you’re applying for to make sure they will award credit for a qualifying score—otherwise, the time, effort, and money spent on the exam is wasted. Roughly 2,900 U.S. colleges accept CLEP exams, which means about 2,400 do not. 

 

Course Requirements: Just as you want to ensure a college will grant credit for a CLEP exam, you’ll also want to pursue CLEP exams that are useful for your major. CLEP policies vary from school to school; some institutions place limits on how many credits they grant via CLEP exams and some schools require that prerequisite classes are taken on campus. Play it safe, and study up on the CLEP policy of the school and program you’re applying to, before signing up for an exam. 

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

How We Made This List 

 

We made the list of the easiest CLEP exams by using the percentage of passing students as the defining metric. However, as mentioned before, the difficulty of CLEP exams is subjective and varies depending on your personal strengths, skills, and preparation. 

 

Easiest and Hardest CLEP Exams

 

Below is a list of the CLEP exams organized from the highest to the lowest pass rates for civilians (non-military) from 2017, the last year the information was readily available. Also included are the pass rates for military personnel from 2019. Military personnel are able to take CLEP exams for free—because of this, it’s common for them to take the test without preparing for it, resulting in lower pass rates. 

 

Exam Civilian Pass Rate (2017) Military Pass Rate (2019)
Spanish Language 91% 84%
College Composition Modular 83% 82%
College Composition 81% 74%
Introductory Sociology 80% 64%
Principles of Marketing 79% 54%
French Language 78% 69%
College Mathematics 76% 64%
Human Growth and Development 75% 34%
Analyzing and Interpreting Literature 75% 66%
Principles of Macroeconomics 72% 35%
German Language 72% 57%
Principles of Microeconomics 72% 32%
Information Systems 71% 69%
Introductory Psychology 70% 36%
History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877 69% 50%
Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648 68% 45%
Humanities 68% 36%
Principles of Management 67% 33%
Precalculus 63% 38%
Social Sciences and History 62% 41%
English Literature 60% 29%
Introduction to Educational Psychology 60% 36%
Biology 60% 39%
Natural Sciences 57% 63%
History of the United States II: 1865 to the Present 56% 38%
Financial Accounting 55% 14%
Calculus 53% 34%
College Algebra 52% 24%
American Government 52% 50%
Introductory Business Law 51% 20%
American Literature 51% 16%
Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present 48% 37%
Chemistry 39% 23%

 

Knowing what school you’re going to attend is key to incorporating CLEP exams into your college strategy, and CollegeVine can help. Our free Chancing Calculator can help you create your college list and offer insight into your odds of acceptance. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today and put this powerful tool to work for you.

Want more tips on improving your academic profile?

We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.


Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.