Pimp Your College Ride (CLEP tests)

The CLEP tests allow you to self-study for college credit, for any of 33 different courses. These are the fluff generic courses that are almost entirely meaningless to your chosen career path, but they might be requirements for your major/minor. If you’re going into psychology, “Principles of Psychology” would be a good class to show up for; for everyone else, it’s an absolute waste of time, and you’d be better off studying for and testing out via the CLEP test.

A college-bound high school student (after confirming chosen schools accept the CLEP tests [85% do]) could easily work in two tests between Junior-Senior year, and 2 the spring/summer after graduation. That’s 12 hours of college credit before starting. Pay out of pocket, and that’s student loan debt (which is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy and will follow you all your life until paid off) that never exists.

Example of a 3-hour “Principles of Marketing” course, at $567/hr, from a local university:

Traditional College Course


Course cost

$1701 = ($567 x 3). CLEP says the average is $700 for 3 hours, but one of the universities around here charges $567/hr.

$80 exam fee

Book cost

$160 (?) Used? Principles of Marketing Textbook

$21.65 Principles of Marketing Book + Online


Have to work around work/sleep/social schedule. Factor in prep time and commute / walking. You have courses from 9-10:30 on Tuesday and Thursday? You can’t work during those times. How long does it take you to get ready and get to and from the class? That time is worth something to you, or should be.

Don’t even have to get out of bed, except to take the one exam. No scheduled classes, so you can study at lunch/breaktime, free time, by the pool, wherever and whenever.

Motivation requirements

You have to force yourself to study. The high price is a decent motivation to finish and pass the course.

Only for self-motivators. No one is going to report on your progress.

Transferability of credits

A given.

Make sure first. 85% of colleges accept CLEP, but verify with your target school.


$1861. Also include time spent on prep and commute. Include opportunity cost from inflexibility of class schedules.

$102. Except for picking the one-time exam time, your time is entirely flexible. No commute or lost opportunity costs – you can easily adjust your life schedule for study time.

My advice: review your major/minor requirements. For each one that can be satisfied by a CLEP test, if you are comfortable studying on your own, take the CLEP test. Save your time (you can’t get it back).