What Kinds of Questions are On CLEP Tests?

Resources for CLEP Question Formats

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Top Resources to Help You Prepare for CLEP Guide Question Formats

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The College Board’s College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) offers students an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of some college-level academic material and earn credits that can be applied towards a degree. A total of 2,900 colleges and universities have credit-by-examination policies, but each institution independently sets minimum qualifying score requirements. Test takers should research each prospective school thoroughly to better understand examination expectations and regulations.

Resources for Before and After College

Practice Tests

Test-takers have the option to purchase a CLEP Official Study Guide, offered only by the College Board. This guide includes several practice questions for all of the CLEP exams, making it the perfect resource for individuals planning to take multiple tests. Alternatively, CLEP Individual Exam Guides are available for those who intend to take just one or two CLEP exams. The most significant benefit to taking a practice test is the opportunity to become more familiar with the exam structure. Students will have a better understanding of questions types and the concepts that will be covered.

Additionally, the College Board provides a wide assortment of other preparatory resources, including:

Question Types

Multiple Choice

Most of the CLEP exams include multiple-choice questions to some extent. These require test-takers to read a question or statement before selecting an answer. In most cases, students will be asked to select the best answer from a list of options. This is because some questions have multiple responses that could be true to varying degrees. Individuals taking the test must be able to distinguish between mostly correct and completely correct responses.


Some CLEP exams have a mandatory essay section, while others have optional essay sections. Students will need to verify with their institutions whether or not the optional essay sections are required for college credit purposes. The type of exam will determine how the essay portion is administered and whether or not there is an additional associated fee. All essays are intended to measure test-takers’ abilities to write clearly and effectively on a variety of topics and for various purposes. Writing is generally scored by college or university faculty members.


Some CLEP exams require test-takers to demonstrate their ability to understand other spoken languages. To test listening skills, these exams include listening sections in which students must choose the best responses to spoken prompts. There are both short and long spoken prompt sections. Short prompts generally incorporate language that is simpler and used in casual conversation. The longer prompts, however, consist of more complex dialogues and narratives. Many audio portions are presented only once.


Test-takers may be allowed to use a graphing calculator during some of the mathematic CLEP exams. When necessary, an online TI-84 Plus CE will be available. This calculator looks and functions exactly like the handheld version, but excludes app access. Other tests provide online access to either a four-function calculator or a scientific, non-graphing calculator (TI-30XS Multiview). Students are expected to know when and how to use this tool appropriately. The College Board makes training videos available to help students build the skills necessary to use common features.

Tips for Answering Each Question Type

Multiple Choice

  • Read each question completely before selecting an answer. Some questions instruct test-takers to select the best answer, which means it is possible for more than one option to be partially correct.
  • Set a reasonable pace. Remaining aware of the time is important, as it can help test-takers determine whether or not they are moving too slowly through the questions. Strive to complete at least half of the questions when half of the time for the section has passed.
  • Make educated guesses when necessary. Because there are not penalties for incorrect answers, test-takers should never leave a question blank.


  • Estimate how much time should be spent on each question before the exam. Test-takers are encouraged to keep an eye on the clock as they work through the essay portion to ensure they have plenty of time to complete every question.
  • Become familiar with key words often included in essay question directions. Test-takers should know the meanings of essay vocabulary and be able to respond appropriately. This vocabulary includes words such as analyze, apply, contrast, describe, discuss, explain, illustrate, prove, and summarize.


  • Spend time learning basic language vocabulary. Test-takers will be asked to choose answers based on short and long spoken sections. It is important to become familiar with a wide variety of words commonly used in conversation.
  • Take opportunities to hear the language spoken by native speakers. Test-takers must be able to effectively apply the grammatical principles that make up the language. Listening to and speaking with native speakers is the best way to enhance language abilities.
  • Seek opportunities to engage with the language. Test-takers should join organizations, watch movies, and listen to news broadcasts in the language in question.


  • Practice with graphing and/or scientific calculators ahead of time. Test-takers will need to know when and how to utilize these tools to answer questions correctly. The College Board provides training videos to help develop these skills.
  • Utilize the Graphing Calculator Practice Site. The College Board can provide temporary access to a site with sample questions where test-takers can launch the test and practice with the necessary Texas Instruments calculator.