Research and Statistics

Our test development, administration, and scoring are supported by scientific data.

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Rigorous and Relevant Test Development

All aspects of the CLEP program’s test development process are informed by the conviction that the exams must be rigorous and relevant to their respective disciplines. The process is supported by scientific validation and empirical evidence at every step, from test development through administration and scoring. Therefore, CLEP exams undergo two dozen reviews and quality assurance steps before being released for public use. We regularly analyze the relevance and rigor of our tests. The surveys and research into the validity and fairness of our exams have shown that students who earned credit through CLEP were found to perform as well as or better than students of similar ability who earned credit through course enrollment.

Higher GPA and Better Course Performance

Students who receive credit-by-examination through CLEP for an introductory course are much more likely to earn an A or B in subsequent courses than students who complete the introductory course.Footnote 1

CLEP students have significantly higher cumulative GPA than non-CLEP students when controlling for demographics and prior achievement.Footnote 2

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) students tend to take more advanced courses in the subject area in which they test than non-PLA students who complete the introductory course in the same subject area.Footnote 3

Higher College Completion Rates

Financial aid recipients earning PLA credit had dramatically higher bachelor’s degree completion rates (72%) than their non-PLA counterparts (16%).Footnote 5

More than 50% of PLA students earned a degree in seven years, compared to 21% of non-PLA students.Footnote 4

Hispanic PLA students earned bachelor’s degrees at a rate that was almost eight times higher than that of Hispanic non-PLA students.Footnote 5

91% of CLEP test takers said CLEP made a difference in helping them to complete their degrees.Footnote 6

Time Saving Avenue

PLA students earning bachelor’s degrees saved an average of between 2.5 and 10.1 months while earning their degrees, compared to non-PLA students earning degrees.Footnote 4

PLA students who earned an associate degree saved an average of 1.5 to 4.5 months when completing their degrees.Footnote 4

With 13-24 PLA credits, black non-Hispanic PLA students saved an average of 14.2 months while earning their bachelor's degree.Footnote 5

92% of institutions offer PLA credits to provide a time-saving path to degree completion.Footnote 5

Finance Education

An adult student who earns 15 PLA credits that can be applied toward a degree can save from $1,605 at a large public university to $6,000 at other institutions.Footnote 6

70% of CLEP test takers said their CLEP credits made a difference in their ability to finance tuition and other fees.Footnote 6


  1.  Brad Moulder, Abdulbaset Abdulla and Deanna L. Morgan, Validity and Fairness of CLEP Exams Study, College Board Research Report RN-22 (New York, The College Board, 2005).
  2.  Carol L. Berry, A Comparison of CLEP and non-CLEP Students with Respect to Postsecondary Outcomes, College Board Research Note 2013-9 (New York, The College Board, 2013)
  3.  Nancy K. Scammacca and Barbara G. Dodd, An Investigation of Educational Outcomes for Students Who Earn College Credit Through the College-Level Examination Program, College Board Research Report No. 2005-5 (New York, The College Board, 2005).
  4.  Council of Adult and Experiential Learning, Fueling the Race to Postsecondary Success: A 48-Institution Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcome, (March 2010)
  5.  Council of Adult and Experiential Learning, Underserved Students Who Earn Credit Through Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Have Higher Degree Completion Rates and Shorter Time-to-Degree, Ed. Rebecca Klein-Collins. April 2011.
  6.  The College Board, 2004 Survey