Advanced Placement

What’s the Difference Between CLEP and AP Exams?

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) and AP (Advanced Placement) are standardized testing programs that provide the opportunity for students to earn college credit or advanced placement before they reach college. However, there are some key differences between the  programs:


What are CLEP exams and who are they for?

CLEP exams cover a wide range of subjects, including history, mathematics, science, and languages. The 34 CLEP Exams topics are designed to assess knowledge and skills typically covered in the first two years of college.

CLEP exams are typically taken by adult learners, military personnel, or students looking to earn college credit outside of a traditional classroom setting. A student must register directly with College Board, prepare for the exam on their own, and complete the exam at a testing center or with a remote proctor. There are free practice resources available to help you prepare.

Passing a CLEP exam can earn students college credit at many colleges and universities. However, the amount and type of credit awarded vary by institution. Use the CLEP College Credit Policy Search tool to verify credit for specific institutions and exams.


How are AP Exams different?

AP Exams are available in a broader range of subjects than CLEP and cover more advanced material. The 39 AP courses and exams are often considered equivalent to introductory college courses.

They are typically offered in high school and come with a semester or full year of instruction before completing the exam. Students register for AP Exams through their high school.

Most four-year colleges and universities in the United States—and many institutions in more than 100 other countries—grant credit, advanced placement, or both for qualifying AP Exam scores. Look up the specific details for each institution with our AP Credit Policy Search tool.

The cost of an AP Exam is $95 and the cost for a CLEP exam is $93 plus the test center or remote proctoring administration fee. Many states, schools, and districts will cover the costs of one or both types of exams (and CLEP is often covered for military).


Can you take both AP and CLEP exams?

Yes. Some students who take an AP Exam do not earn the score they expected and may take the CLEP exam to try and obtain college credit.

Talk to your school counselor about which exam is best for you.