The CLEP vs. the AP Exam

clep exam or AP exam?A college degree at the age of 18? With no student loans?

A man named Bradley Fish did it.

His secret? Testing out of as many classes as possible. Every time you take an AP or CLEP exam, you can get credit for a college-level class.

But which test should you take? Here’s the short answer.

If you’re home schooled, the CLEP is probably a better option. Let me explain why. (If you’re in a traditional high school, you may want to scroll through the next few paragraphs.)

The homeschooler’s secret “loophole”

First of all, homeschoolers don’t always have the option of taking an AP exam. The AP exam takes place in the school that offers the course. If a homeschooler wants to take a given AP exam, he or she must find a high school that offers the exam in that subject, and will allow him/her to take the exam.

The College Board cynically announces, “they (the school) are under no obligation to accommodate you.”

You won’t have this problem with CLEP. The program was started as a way to enable veterans and other adults to return to school and get a college degree more quickly. Because of this, the CLEP is open to everyone. In fact, military personnel get to waive the testing fee, which is around $90 per test at the time of this writing.

The CLEP was intended for adults, but many homeschoolers in their teens use it as a loophole to get credit without wasting time in a classroom.

The CLEP also offers more flexibility, because the exams are open year round. In contrast, ALL of the AP exams are offered once a year, in the month of May. If you plan to take a lot of them, you’re going to have a very stressful month.

So why would anyone consider taking an AP exam?

Double-Dipping with the AP Exam

If you’re in a traditional high school that offers AP classes and tests, you should take them.

AP, or Advanced Placement, refers to college-level classes that are taught in high school. These classes give high school students a chance to “double-dip,” because you get both high school credit and college credit for taking a single class.

AP classes are also weighted, which means you get an extra grade point--5 for an A, 4 for a B, and so on. This raises your grade point average, especially if you’re taking more than one AP class.

If you’re aiming for a spot in a prestigious university, such as the Ivy Leagues, then you should definitely take as many AP classes and exams as possible. This shows you are fully capable of doing college-level work.

Every college and university has their own policy regarding minimum AP scores and how much credit to grant. But most of the high-end universities won’t even consider CLEP results, although this is starting to change.

Playing to your strengths

Unless you’re in high school and want to go to an Ivy League school or its equivalent, the CLEP probably offers more advantages. But there’s one more factor to consider.

The AP exams are aligned with Common Core. That makes most people cringe, but it means there is a stronger emphasis on essays and written answers. In fact, 50% of the AP Biology exam is Free Response Questions or FRQs.

If you are a strong writer, you will have an advantage on the AP exam. I made some videos on how to take advantage of the FRQs, which you can watch here:

The short guide to AP and CLEP prep

If you or someone you know is planning to take the CLEP, Bradley Fish teaches a CLEP cramming course in the Ron Paul Curriculum. He’s an expert on this, because he passed enough CLEP exams to finish college at the age of 18. He’ll even give you your money back if you don’t pass.

If you’re aiming for the AP exam in any subject, one of the best things you can do is become a stronger writer.

Either way, there’s no reason for most people to spend four years at an expensive university. And there’s no need for anyone to pay retail.

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