Why Employees and Other Non-Standard Students Should Take the CLEP Test

Mar 28, 2020 2:10 AM ET

Students visit a dedicated testing center in the US to take the exam. There are currently 1,700 such centers including colleges, universities, and even some military sites.

What is the CLEP Exam?

The CLEP test enables students of certain subjects to demonstrate their advanced knowledge and abilities. It acts as a measure of the level of knowledge and skills acquired outside of academia. If a student passed the College Level Examination Program, they earn credit points. They may then use these points against tertiary education courses.

In 2020, the CLEP exam covers some 36 subjects including:

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL)
Foreign language learning
Social sciences including history
Business courses
Some STEM courses such as mathematics

Students visit a dedicated testing center in the US to take the exam. There are currently 1,700 such centers including colleges, universities, and even some military sites.

Ideal for Learners Outside Traditional Schooling

The CLEP test or CLEP exam developed to gauge the knowledge and skills of those who bypassed traditional college education. That typically means students who were homeschooled for whatever reason (parents’ personal choice, physical disability, inaccessibility). However, this is not the only group for whom the College Level Examination Program is useful. Adult learners wishing to study a degree whose past academic performance alone would have been insufficient. People who learned mastery of a subject through their career, or independent studies that would otherwise be considered on a par with academic performance, also benefit.

CLEP Exams Save Time for Faster Upskilling

Most students reading for a degree in the US completes in 4 years. Data shows those who take a CLEP test take 3 years to complete a degree. Accessing academic study via CLEP utilizes and measures existing knowledge, requiring far less study time in preparation.

The system is designed to accelerate students with pre-existing strong knowledge of a subject. The idea is to help them achieve without covering old ground or unnecessarily slowing them down. There is no set standard of award points. Each college determines how many college credits apply against a student passing their College Level Examination Program system.

For employees who need extra qualifications to back up a promotion or change of career, the CLEP is a great way to achieve this.

CLEP is Cost Effective for Non-Standard Students

For the most recent academic year, data suggests college is an average $10,230 per year. This includes tuition and cost of living. Students who take a CLEP test will save massively, spending an average $450 to bypass 15-20 credit hours study. If the individual already has the knowledge through employment or independent study, why take unnecessary courses that will incur needless costs?

Employers who pay the tuition cost for employees to upskill will save money while benefiting from their ongoing skills improvement. They will reap the benefits faster than the student paying for a college course from their own income.

Great for Employee Retention

Employees often take a CLEP test at employer’s request to develop the skills and education they need. This could be for a change of career, or a promotion needing qualifications or licensing. Evidence suggests that employers who engage employees in career development have higher retention rates. Conversely, employees who feel no room to grow are far more likely to leave for a competitor. The cost of a bad hire can run into tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it pays businesses to encourage upskilling in existing employees. College Level Examination Program is a great way to do this.

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