Understanding a CLEP Test Score

CLEP, College Level Examination Program, provides students the opportunity to demonstrate college-level knowledge on exams in various subjects in order to obtain college credits. CLEP tests, which each cost $72 to take, represent an inexpensive way for students to gain credits. Using CLEP to bypass even one college course could easily save a student hundreds or thousands of dollars. In addition to the monetary savings, CLEP can also save time. Some students find that they already possess the knowledge required to pass a CLEP; this knowledge may have acquired through advanced high school coursework, job experience, seminars, or cultural pursuits. Even when students have little or no background about a subject, they can often prepare for a CLEP within a few weeks. A variety of printed and computerized study resources exist to help students prepare for CLEP exams and achieve the goal of obtaining qualifying scores.

Before, and even after, taking CLEP tests, students often wonder how their score is calculated, what a score means, and whether or not a certain exam score is high enough to receive credits or bypass a course. Students should first know that they cannot compare CLEP tests scores to scores on other standardized exams such as the ACT or SAT. Even within the CLEP program, each exam subject is uniquely developed and evaluated and exams should not be compared to one another except for a few reasons such as similar purpose, exam format, and results reporting method. A unique method is used to determine an examinee’s CLEP test score. First, each examinee has a raw score, which is equal to the total number of questions answered correctly. Unlike with some standardized exams, CLEP examinees are not penalized for guessing and only correct answers are counted in determining the examinee’s raw score. Each correct answer equates to one point; so, if the CLEP exam had 80 questions and the candidate answered 52 questions correctly, then his raw score would be 52. The other factor in determining score is the scaled score. This score is determined using equating, a statistical process that adjusts scores upward or downward based on slight variations in the difficulty between test forms. So, a candidate who had a slightly difficult exam may not need to answer as many questions correctly as a candidate who receives a slightly easier CLEP test. Scaled scores, which is the examinee’s final score and the score appearing on his or her score report, range from 20 to 80, with 20 being the lowest possible score and 80 the highest possible.

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