Standardized tests come in a variety of forms. From the SAT to ACT to AP to CLEP, it’s understandable to be confused by all these different acronyms, what they mean, and which your student should take. Here, we will clear up any confusion about two of these standardized tests — the Advanced Placement (AP) exam and the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). In doing so, we hope to demonstrate that these exams can be highly beneficial to homeschool students.
CLEP vs. AP Exams
First things first — what’s the difference between an AP exam and a CLEP exam? While both tests are geared toward preparing students for college, increasing their chances of admission, and allowing them to opt-out of specific courses, there are a few key differences between the AP and CLEP tests to keep in mind.
CLEP vs. AP Exams: What’s the Difference?
For one, high school students in traditional schools can enroll in AP-level courses where they take an AP test as a final exam. However, a student doesn’t need to enroll in the course to take the final exam. This allows homeschool students to participate. Still, your student will need to self-study for an AP exam since they will not be part of the preceding course.
On the other hand, CLEP exams do not serve as end-of-year tests but instead as general assessments on specific subjects. Also, unlike AP exams, CLEPs are not administered by high schools but by official test centers (although a high school can register to become one of these test centers). This is because high school students aren’t the only people to take CLEP exams. For example, adults seeking to enroll in college to complete their undergraduate or master’s degrees often take CLEP exams.
CLEP vs. AP Exams: How Are They Similar?
All that to say, AP and CLEP exams have a lot in common. For instance, both are available for nearly the same number of subjects and cost about the same. To continue researching the differences between CLEP vs. AP exams, review this helpful chart from College Board, which breaks down everything from pricing to scoring.
CLEP vs. AP Exams: Which is Better?
Often, parents and students want to know which test is better, an AP or CLEP exam. Generally, AP scores are more widely accepted by colleges than CLEP scores when it comes to placing out of courses. Even so, a high CLEP exam on your student’s resume may still boost their chances of acceptance into a college. Whether your student chooses to take an AP exam, a CLEP, or both, it’s important to ensure before taking the test that your student’s top-choice colleges accept these exam scores to place out of courses (if this is your student’s goal).
Why Homeschoolers Should Take an AP or CLEP Exam
There are a handful of reasons why your student should consider taking an AP or CLEP exam as a homeschooler. First, a high score on either test may count as college credit. This means that your student can opt-out of a college course if they score well on the AP or CLEP exam for that course’s subject. Of course, this equates to your student taking fewer courses, which further means they may be able to graduate college earlier and therefore not bear the cost of four-year tuition and room and board.
But before you go registering your child for every AP and CLEP exam out there, it’s essential to check whether their top-choice colleges accept high scores on AP and CLEP exams as college credit. College Board’s website has two great tools for doing this, one for AP exams and another for CLEP exams.
Even if your student can’t receive college credit for one of these exams, a high score on either test can help your student’s high school transcript resume stand out in the college admission process.
Finally, there are many other benefits to taking any standardized test in general, from equipping your student with test-taking skills to assessing their general understanding of a particular subject.
What Homeschoolers Need to Know About Taking an AP Exam
Is your homeschool student considering taking an AP exam? Great! Here’s everything you and your student need to know about these tests:
What Age Should Your Homeschool Student Take an AP Exam?
Any high school student can take an AP exam. This means 9th through 12th graders. For Classical Conversations members, this will typically mean your student is eligible to take an AP exam when they are in the Challenge I through Challenge IV levels.
When Are AP Exams Offered?
Unfortunately, AP exams are on a tight schedule. They are only offered once per year during the first two weeks of May. Coincidentally, this is precisely when your student is studying for final exams and end-of-year projects. This makes finding time to study for an AP exam quite the challenge.
That said, as a homeschool parent, you are your child’s first teacher. You’re in charge of personalizing their education to best suit their needs. So, if they need more time for AP prep, you’re free to cut back on their end-of-year assignments.
How Do You Sign Up for an AP Exam?
To sign your student up for an AP exam, you will need to determine whether a high school in your area administers these tests. You can do this by searching your local high school using the official AP Course Ledger, locating a course, and contacting the school to see if they will allow your student to participate in the exam. Or, you can contact your local high school first and sort it all out that way.
If you’re a Classical Conversations member, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local Director or another parent in your community for guidance in finding a school where your student can take an AP exam. Support like this is exactly what our homeschool communities are there for!
What Homeschoolers Need to Know About Taking a CLEP Exam
Here’s what homeschool parents and students need to know about registering for an upcoming CLEP exam:
What Age Should Your Homeschool Student Take an AP Exam?
Unlike with AP exams, there is no minimum age to take a CLEP exam. That said, if your student is considering a CLEP test, we recommend they take it during their high school years or when they are enrolled in the Classical Conversations Challenge program, specifically in a level from Challenge I through IV.
When Are CLEP Exams Offered?
One of the benefits of CLEP versus AP exams is that CLEPs are offered year-round rather than only two weeks each summer. With CLEPs, the test dates depend on the testing center where they are administered.
How Do You Sign Up for a CLEP Exam?
To find a CLEP test near you, visit the Find a Test Center page on College Board’s website. These test centers can be at a college, high school, or private testing facility. To register your student for a CLEP exam, follow these basic instructions on College Board’s website.
AP and CLEP Exams vs. College Credit
If your student does not do as well as they hoped on either of these tests, the only sunk cost is the actual price of the exam. Indeed, the pros of taking an AP or CLEP exam far outweigh the cons. For example, if your student scores a low grade, they will still have learned a great deal in the process, both about the subject they are tested on and about test-taking in general. Conversely, if your student does earn a high AP or CLEP score and thus college credit, the costs of these tests are far less than a corresponding college course would be. In other words, the upside of doing well on either test is greater than the downside of doing poorly.
Before closing, it’s important to reiterate that simply taking an AP or CLEP exam does not equate to college credit. If your student is interested in receiving college credit while in high school, Classical Conversations offers dual enrollment through the CC Plus Program through our partnership with Southeastern University.
Also, if your child is not yet in high school, other standardized tests are available to prepare them for the test-taking process they will face later in their academic career. To learn more about how you can take a standardized test within the convenience of your home and receive professional test results consulting, visit Homeschool Testing Services.
Not yet a Classical Conversations member and interested in our community-based approach to homeschooling? We’d love to hear from you! To learn more about us, click here.