7 Ways to Prepare for a CLEP Exam

Even though my story is weird, I’m obviously not the only one who has embarked upon this kind of journey. There are forums, Facebook groups, and blog comment sections filled with people who have been in my shoes, taken more CLEP exams than I have, and study completely differently than I do.

That’s the thing. Everybody learns differently. I have discovered over the past several years that some of my studying strengths are reading comprehension and memorization. I especially do better memorizing lots of information if I can organize it on a timeline, or in some kind of chronological order. This is me. My brain isn’t your brain. My seven favorite study methods might not help you that much at all.

You might do really well with reading the terms and definitions in the appendices; you might retain that kind of information really well. I can’t memorize appendices to save my life, but seriously, good for you.

If you can, try to figure out your own learning style. Test out a variety of study methods, be open to new ideas, and try to understand yourself enough to see what “clicks” best for you.

Always study with multiple tools and resources.

Even if you find that one thing works best for you in study, please remember, you must supplement. I can’t tell you the number of parents and students I have tried to console after failing or scoring poorly on a CLEP exam. Most of the time, if I ask their study methods, they tell me they only used one or two different resources throughout their whole study process! In my opinion, those students probably didn’t do well because either 1) the one/two methods they used in studying weren’t really complimenting their learning style and/or 2) the scope and depth of the study materials wasn’t extensive enough to prepare the exam-taker for the scope of the CLEP exam (which can be quite wide, depending on the exam).

Of these 7 methods listed below, I personally recommend using no less than 5 in preparation for any exam—even the easy ones.

1. Buy the Book

Probably one of the biggest no-brainer study options is to simply buy the REA exam-specific study guides. Each book is designed to give the student the scope and highlights of what they should know for the exam. In my experience, they are quite exhaustive and are especially helpful for the student new to CLEP exams. If you/your student is not a decent reader, however, you may find it is hard to retain all of the information from the book. I have sometimes read the full book twice, just to try to get the information soaked in.

There is some disagreement on ordering used REA study guides. I personally do not recommend this. I much prefer to have a new study guide, because every new book comes with a code good for one free placement exam and two free practice exams. As you’ll see in the next point, these are worth the money of buying the book new. Even cheapskate me has always ordered REA guides new from Amazon.

**Be sure that you aren’t buying a generic “CLEP exam prep” book! Look for exam-specific guides like this one. **

2. Practice Exams

CLEP practice exams are practically the heartbeat of the alternative college community. The idea is to both test your knowledge of the exam information to help you gauge whether or not you’re ready for the real exam and give new CLEP testers a taste for what the format, time restraints, review function, and etc. of a CLEP exam feels like.

While there are more sites floating around with practice exams (and some exam-takers have even written their own), the most popular are usually:

  • Peterson’s (popular but expensive; I never used them)
  • REA (helpful in simulating a CLEP exam for a new degree hacker; sold stand-alone or included with the purchase price of a book, above)

3. Modern States

If you are taking a CLEP exam, you should be using Modern States. When a student registers with Modern States and goes through their course and quizzes for a given CLEP subject, Modern States will email them a CLEP exam voucher code. Meaning: your CLEP exam is free if you use Modern States!

They will even reimburse you for the testing center sitting fee after the exam!

My only singular warning about Modern States is that I know many students have tried unsuccessfully to take CLEP exams after completing the Modern States curriculum and nothing else. Please use a variety of methods. In my opinion, the Modern States curriculum is quite a bit easier than real CLEP work, and they give you three chances on the multiple choice questions whereas you only get one chance in a CLEP exam. This misleads students to believe they’re prepared for the CLEP exam when they really aren’t.

4. InstantCert

InstantCert is the one paid service that I’ve kept coming back to again and again through the years of my alternative degree journey. Basically, it’s a very exhaustive flashcard program designed around and for CLEP/DSST exam studying. You have to pay a monthly subscription fee, yes, but then you have direct access to pretty much all of the questions they could ask you on your CLEP… and then some.

At $20 per month for a subscription, I’ve heard some people say they don’t want the extra fee. BUT the last four or five CLEP exams I took, this is the only thing I paid for in all of studying and exam taking. If I could complete my studies in a single month, that made the entire exam (3-6 credits each) $20.

Totally worth it.

And that’s not even mentioning Degree Forum.

5. Degree Forum

Degree Forum is connected to InstantCert. Even though most of Degree Forum is open for the public, and is a very interesting (though sometimes confusing) resource into the world of alternative college methodology, there is one section within Degree Forum designated only for active InstantCert subscribers. This specific section is all about “specific exam feedback”, where students from all around the world who’ve taken each of the exams go into detail about what was on the exam, how they prepared and felt about their results, and what they recommend you study specifically. GOLD MINE.

I would use this forum liberally in my CLEP studies. I would even goes as far as compiling all of the things former test takers recommended for study (topics, authors, wars, whatever the specifics were for that exam), listing them by topic in a Word document, and research every item line by line. This kind of document would generally be called a “study guide”, and in my opinion, this InstantCert-members-only section of Degree Forum is the best place to craft a CLEP study guide.

6. Study Guides

In addition to making your own study guide as I talked about, above, there are already-made study guides available from former exam takers on the private section of Degree Forum! Some of these can be outdated, but I’ve used them extensively in my exam preparation with good success!

As you can tell by these last three points, I’m a huge fan of studying/preparing for CLEP exams with InstantCert. Go sign up today!

7. Quizlet

Quizlet is a by-the-people-for-the-people type flashcard site. It’s free, and there are lots of “study sets” for CLEP exams. The downside is, anyone can put anything on there, so in some cases, I have noticed flawed/incorrect flashcards in the mix. Probably the most help Quizlet ever was to me was when I was studying for the American Government CLEP and had to memorize all of the amendments to the Constitution by number and year ratified, as well as the Articles of the Constitution in order. I was able to find study sets specifically on the amendments and articles, and was able to memorize them all in only two or three days. I’ve found Quizlet more helpful in studying specific groupings of things like that, rather than just generic/broad CLEP subject study.

Pick Your Poison

The good news is, even if you use all of these methods, you can still score your entire CLEP exam (again, worth 3, 6, or more college credits each) for under $50!

Don’t skimp when it comes to your education! Hack it!

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