Considering CLEP Tests
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CLEP exams are college level tests that assume a student has learned naturally by reading a lot, going to museums, reading the paper, perhaps some hands-on learning. That's why CLEP is often a great fit for homeschoolers - it doesn't assume we learn in a classroom setting. When homeschool parents sign up for a service to assist them with homeschooling college, the suggestion is often the CLEP test "Analyzing and Interpreting Literature" as the first test to take. But the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature is not a good choice for everyone. Sometimes that's the weakest subject for a child or that exam is not accepted for credit by the university you want to attend.
Consider your reasons for homeschooling college credit.
1. To achieve a degree by taking many exams that are accredited by a college.
2. To reduce the cost of college by taking a few exams for college credit.
3. To validate learning in a certain subjects, so colleges know you know your stuff.
If you want to achieve a degree from taking multiples tests for college credit, usually students will use an accrediting college outside their home state. Often they will use Thomas Edison State College, but there are others that will do that as well. When that is your goal, it doesn't matter what order you take the tests. They simply want to see a certain number of tests in different subjects, but the order of the subjects will not matter. And often they will substitute tests within a subject. Thomas Edison, for example, suggests 10 CLEP test options for humanities, and Analyzing Literature is only one of those options.
If you want to reduce the cost of college, then it doesn't matter which test you take first, you just want to choose a CLEP exam that you can pass that will also be accepted by the college of your choice. The problem, of course, is that high school kids often don't know what college they want to go to until they are a senior in high school. It can be frustrating to discover that not all college accept CLEP, and for those that do, not all colleges will accept all CLEP test. To find out if your college will accept CLEP, search their website for "credit by examination" or "CLEP equivalency" and you may be able to find the information that you need. It's possible that half of colleges will not accept all CLEP exams for college credit, so you really need to do your research.
If you want to validate learning in a subject area, to prove academic rigor to a college, then it doesn't matter whether they accept CLEP for credit or not. Essentially, you are using your CLEP scores the way you would use an SAT Subject Test score, or ACT exam. You hold up the test scores to the college and say "look here what I know!" You aren't hoping for college credit, you are hoping they see the student as a worthy applicant who is likely to be very successful at college level classes. Indeed, what can be more convincing than showing them a college level test? They should be sure to know the student is ready for college learning if they can pass that CLEP of College Level Exam Program.
No matter your reasons for homeschooling college, the process may be the same. Learn by homeschooling as usual. When you are done with a subject, determine what CLEP your child will pass easily. Find a CLEP Official Study Guide from a bookstore. Look at the subjects that your child understands best. Have them take a sample test. If they pass the sample test, you can buy a study guide and study for that specific test. That way they will get the best possible score.
There is no harm in waiting until a child is older in high school to begin CLEP testing. Tests can be taken at any time, any day of the year. You can take as many tests in one year as you like. You can wait until a child has naturally learned a lot of history and then see which history exam is the best fit. You can teach Latin for 3 or 4 years and then try the Latin exam to see if it fits. You don't necessary needs tests all along the way of homeschooling. They are useful when you start applying for college, or when you plan to convert them into a college degree, but they aren't required prior to that.
Stress can also be an issue to consider. It's unusual for a child to face a college curriculum, or a college test without feeling some stress. A certain amount of stress can be helpful, so children learn to deal with stress, and stressful situations, and testing in general. On the other hand, you don't want to needlessly expose a child to stress about something, and then end up with a phobia of taking tests. You don't want to ask them to take a test they aren't comfortable with.
The bottom line is that I never recommend giving a child a test they cannot pass. I think it can hurt their future testing ability, and can cause problems with self-perception. So pre-test at home, make sure they are comfortable with the material and the test format. Only take a test for real once you know they can pass it.
Are you considering CLEP testing in your homeschool? Has your child experienced success with CLEP tests? Please share in the comments!
If you'd like more help with earning college credit during high school, check out my kindle book, How to Homeschool College: Save Time, Reduce Stress, and eliminate debt.