How Exams Are Developed

Our exams are developed using expert faculty, rigorous curriculum surveys, and test development committees.

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How CLEP Exams Are Developed

The CLEP program’s test development process is informed by the conviction that the exams must be rigorous and relevant to their respective disciplines. More than 600 college faculty members from all regions of the U.S. contribute to developing the CLEP exams and establishing test standards. Each exam has a standing test development committee that consists of three or four faculty members, each of whom teaches the relevant course and oversees ongoing test development. This committee reviews and shapes exam questions and specifications on a regular basis.

Educational Testing Service (ETS) is primarily responsible for designing, developing, administering, and scoring of all CLEP items. ETS follows a well-documented process that adheres to stringent quality standards. Experienced and trained test writers apply a rigorous methodology to design high-quality and psychometrically sound questions.

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 tests before they are released for public use.

Test development standards comply with the standards recommended by the American Council of Education (ACE).

Curriculum Survey

The first step in the construction of a CLEP exam is a curriculum survey, which provides test developers with information about current college curricula in specific subject areas and recent trends in the field. This is used to develop test content specifications. The surveys are conducted approximately every five years, depending on the discipline.

Specifically, our curriculum surveys gather the following information:

  • Major content and skill areas covered in the course, and the proportion of the course devoted to each area.
  • Specific topics taught and the emphasis placed on each topic.
  • Specific skills students are expected to acquire, and the relative emphasis given to those skills.
  • Recent and anticipated changes in course content, skills, and topics.
  • Primary textbooks and supplementary learning resources used.
  • Titles and lengths of college courses that correspond to the CLEP exam.

Test Development Committees

College faculty are indispensable in the CLEP test development process. Exam development begins with test development committees, comprising three or four faculty members, from two- and four-year institutions, currently teaching relevant undergraduate college courses.

Committee Responsibilities

  • Establish test specifications that determine the content of exams based on feedback from a national curriculum survey of teaching faculty and other data (for example, third-party surveys and catalog searches).
  • Establish a set of skills and knowledge requirements that successful test-takers should be able to demonstrate.
  • Develop and select test questions, reviewing statistical data from previous exams to maintain continuity and validity.
  • Promote appropriate use of the exams among faculty, administrators, and test takers.
  • Review analyses of test taker responses to proposed new questions (included in the exams as "pretest" questions).
  • Help guide and shape policies governing the use and direction of the exam.
  • Participate in conferences, workshops, and presentations for faculty and administrators.

Test development committee members receive training in writing and reviewing psychometrically sound examination questions. Their work is guided by ETS assessment specialists and psychometricians who generate and analyze statistics and data on the exams, maintain databases of items and previous exams, and assist the committee in preparing new test forms (versions).

Becoming a Committee Member

If you’re interested in serving on a test development committee, or if you'd like to recommend someone from your institution, please contact us for more information.