CLEP, AP, and the PSAT

A few months ago we talked about dual enrollment: a fantastic way to save time and money for your student’s college education. (If you haven’t already signed up for a class or two, pick up your local community college catalog or check out the possibilities for online dual credit!) But dual enrollment isn’t the only way to save time and money for college. In this email, we’ll discuss three alternatives that—when used alone or in conjunction with dual enrollment—can help your student achieve her college dreams without the usual time and expense.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

Is your student advanced in a subject, to the point that taking a dual enrollment course would be repetitive or unnecessary? If so, she is a prime candidate for the College Board’s CLEP program! CLEP tests are subject specific, allowing students to prove they have enough knowledge of the content to pass the college course. Rather than sit through 16 weeks of classes, they sit for one 90-minute exam. If passed with a 50 or higher (out of 80), the student receives college credit.

CLEP offers 34 subject-specific tests, as well as study guides students can use to prepare for each exam. The total cost of the exam is approximately $130-150, which includes both the test and the proctoring fees. Test are bought on the CollegeBoard website, where you’ll receive a specific exam ID number. You’ll then call the testing center to schedule the exam, referencing the ID number to do so. Study guides cost anywhere from $15-20 and can be acquired on most major bookstore websites, or on Amazon.

I recommend that homeschool students who determine CLEP makes sense for them attempt English 101 (English Composition), English 102 (Literature), Biology 101 (depending on their major; biology and nursing majors would be exempt from this recommendation), a basic math CLEP (such as College Mathematics or College Algebra) and the language of their choice – whichever one they studied for their homeschool foreign language requirement.

A full list of CLEP exams can be found here.

Advanced Placement (AP)

Advanced Placement is similar to CLEP; an exam is used to achieve college credit. But though the exam can be taken on its own, it is typically taken after completing an AP course (though this is not required for homeschool students). Advanced Placement courses are considered “honors” level; they are more difficult than a standard high school course, replicating the workload of a university class. Students looking to attend Ivy League schools would benefit from pursuing Advanced Placement, as these colleges look well on the structure and achievement of Advanced Placement classes (once again, check university websites for transfer policies/credit limits). Many colleges that don’t accept CLEP will accept AP.

Homeschool students must make plans to take the AP exam in late fall or early spring (March 1 is the deadline to make arrangements to test in May).

A full list of AP courses and corresponding exams can be found here.


October is the month of the PSAT! College Board has recently developed another PSAT – the PSAT 10 – which can be taken in the spring (March-April). This is an option if you don’t register for the October test date (the regular PSAT). I generally encourage students to only purse this exam series if they are really strong test takers. Though your student’s score doesn’t “count” in this tenth grade year, there are still benefits to taking the test. Let’s recap these benefits:

  1. The PSAT is practice for the SAT.

Taking the PSAT this year allows your child to prepare academically, mentally, and emotionally for the SAT. There are similarities between these two standardized tests that will allow you to pinpoint areas of necessary growth.

  1. The PSAT gives an idea of your student’s national ranking.

While the PSAT score your student achieves won’t “count” this year, it will send you a report describing his national score ranking. You’ll see where his scores rate in comparison to other students across the nation in critical reading, math, and writing. While you don’t need those comparisons to run a successful homeschool, it can be a nice benchmark before sitting for the SAT (the report will also give you a list of suggested AP courses based on your student’s scores!).

  1. The PSAT can result in a free ride to college.

This is the exciting part! When the PSAT is taken during a student’s junior year, his score is added to the pool from which are drawn the 50,000 highest scorers. Of these 50,000 some are moved on to semi-finalist status. About 2/3 of the students not chosen for semi-finalist status receive a letter of commendation. “Commended” students are often eligible for a full-tuition scholarship and even additional aid from outside organizations. Semi-finalist and finalist students can receive up to full tuition, room, and board – all because of the PSAT!

For more information, resources, or help creating a strategic plan for college, email [email protected]!