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Kent Seaver, North Lake College

Editor’s Note: To learn more about this topic, plan to join Kent and colleagues on February 26, 2014 for the webinar  presentation, “Soldiers to Students: Academic Advising for Returning Veterans.”

KentSeaver.jpgWhen I first started working in a college testing center in 1999, one of the first things I had to do was to become “CLEP Certified.” I had no idea what that meant exactly, but it was something that needed to be done…so I did it. I completed training through The College Board (the organization that administers College Level Exam Program tests, aka CLEP) and received a certificate indicating I had completed the “CLEP Test Center Administrator Training Course.”  Little did I realize at the time how much interest I would have in this exam and its overall impact on students.

According to College Board’s CLEP website (College Board, 2012), over 1,700 college test centers administer CLEP exams, and said exams are accepted at roughly 2,900 colleges and universities. Approximately 183,000 CLEP exams were administered in the academic year 2011-2012, with over seven million exams taken by students since the inception of CLEP exams in 1967. This credit-by-examination program serves a diverse group of students, including adults, non-traditional learners, and military service members (of that 183,000, approximately 55,000 were military service members).  Not only does the program serve a broad-based cohort, but it also validates knowledge learned through independent study, on-the job training, or experiential learning, and translates that learning into college credit that is commonly recognized.


The 33 total exams are broken down into five general categories: History and Social Sciences, Business, Composition and Literature, Science and Mathematics, and Foreign Languages. All exams are multiple-choice in nature, with the English Composition and Modular exams having an essay portion which is graded either by faculty or College Board personnel (a school’s policy dictates which method institutions will use). Immediate score reports (except exams with essays) are available to students and college personnel as a result of the multiple-choice test construction. The exams are scored on a scale of 20–80, with the American Council on Education (ACE) recommending a credit-granting score of 50 for each CLEP exam. The fee for the exam, as set by the College Board, is currently $80. (Colleges charge varying administrative fees to administer CLEP.) That fee is paid by the student at the testing center, either by check (made out to College Board), or by credit card.


CLEP and the Military


Earlier this year, a colleague and I had the opportunity to make a presentation regarding military personnel and prior learning assessments (namely CLEP) at the Military Symposium for Higher Education hosted by the University of Louisville. During that presentation, my colleague and I referenced a quotation from Anthony Dotson, Veterans Resource Center Coordinator at the University of Kentucky. Much to our surprise, after the presentation was over and we were in the “Q and A” session, Dotson (who was in attendance) stood up and offered even more insight into his use and advocacy of CLEP for military students. He stated, “I’m a huge proponent of CLEP; in fact, I CLEP’ed my freshman year of college. I encourage all incoming veterans to consider taking CLEP prior to their arrival [on campus], especially if they have not left active duty, as the exams are at no cost to them. CLEP can allow these non-traditional students to enter college a little better prepared and not as far behind their traditional student peers” (personal communication, February 2013).


CLEP exams are available to eligible military personnel to assist them in meeting their educational goals. The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) funds CLEP exams for eligible military service members and eligible civilian employees (specifically Department of Defense Acquisition Personnel). It is important to note these exams are indeed CLEP, and not the traditional DANTES individual subject or general exam administered to military personnel. The U.S. government will fund CLEP exams (one attempt per title) for the following military groups:


  • Military personnel (active duty, reserve, National Guard): Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard(s), and their designated Reserves.
  • Spouses and civilian employees of: Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and Coast Guard (active and reserve).

Military veterans can receive reimbursement for CLEP exams and exam administration fees by completing and submitting the Application for Reimbursement of National Exam Fee Form 22-0810 (http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-22-0810-ARE.pdf). Please note that the Department of Veterans Affairs will not reimburse veterans for fees to take pre-tests (such as Kaplan tests), fees to receive scores quickly, or other costs or fees for optional items that are not required to take an approved test.


In the past academic year, The College Board and DANTES launched a pilot program with college/university test centers. Through this program, eligible DANTES-funded test takers attempting a test title for the first time will not only have their exam fee funded by DANTES, but participating test centers will also waive their administrative fee (usually between $20 and $25). If the test center you have selected is fully funded, "Fully Funded Yes" will appear in the test center description, along with the address, phone number and test center code.


To really understand student success, it’s usually best to understand the situation of a particular student. One such student is Carlos Paillacar. Carlos retired from the Coast Guard at age 46 after 21 years of service to pursue his education. He stated in a media interview, “Before I retired I said to myself, well, I speak Spanish, I should take the CLEP in Spanish” (“CLEP Program Helps Veterans,” 2012). He received 12 credits for successfully passing the CLEP Spanish exam in the summer of 2012 (and an additional 13 credits from Miami Dade College as part of his Prior Learning Assessment in the area of Photography). With credit in hand, he enrolled at Berry College as a sophomore with 25 credits and $12,000 in savings, thanks to CLEP. He also added, “Berry took me basically as a second-year transfer student with 25 credits. It basically saved me a year of education.”


Students who earn college credit via CLEP are more likely to persist through college, which creates higher retention rates for our institutions (College Board, 2012). Those students are also likely to have higher GPAs when they graduate or transfer, leading to increased student success. In today's world of decreased state funding, lower retention and graduation rates, and increased scrutiny from a government perspective, it is imperative we in higher education use all of the tools in our arsenal to create strong student success and allow them to achieve the dream of a college education. CLEP is such a tool.


Kent Seaver
Director of Learning Resources
North Lake College
[email protected]


References and Resources


College Board (2012). Academic success in higher education. Retrieved from https://clep.collegeboard.org/pdf/clep-academic-success-higher-education.pdf (http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/clep/12b_5569_CLEP_Brochure_WEB_120420.pdf)


College Board (2013). CLEP. Retrieved from http://clep.collegeboard.org/


College Board (2013). CLEP for military. Retrieved from http://clep.collegeboard.org/military


College Board (2012, December 5). CLEP program helps veterans and active military to achieve higher education. [Programa CLEP ayuda a veteranos y a militares activos a alcanzar una educación superior]. Univision.com. Univision Communications Inc. [mixed media]. Available from http://vidayfamilia.univision.com/es-el-momento/noticias/article/2012-12-05/programa-clep-educacion-veteranos-militares-college-board   



Cite this article using APA style as: Seaver, K. (2013, September). Marching forward: CLEP, veterans, and student success. Academic Advising Today, 36(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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