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Not only do students who earn credit through CLEP have better academic outcomes than their non-CLEP counterparts, they also increase their likelihood of degree completion.

Higher GPA and Better Course Performance

  • CLEP students have significantly higher cumulative GPAs than non-CLEP students, when controlling for demographics and prior achievement.3
  • Students who earn course credit through CLEP perform as well as or better in sequent or subsequent courses than their non-CLEP classmates who took the introductory course at the institution.1

Learn more about CLEP students’ academic performance in college. Download the CLEP Placement Validity Study Research Brief (.pdf/104 KB).

Increased Likelihood of Degree Completion

  • Among students enrolled at two-year colleges, earning just one credit-granting CLEP score increases the probability of completing an associate degree by 5.7 percentage points, or 17%.2
  • Among students enrolled at four-year colleges, earning a credit-granting CLEP score increases the probability of completing a bachelor’s degree by 1.2 percentage points, or 2.6%.2
  • As a group, students affiliated with the U.S. military services experience uniquely large completion effects—2.6 (11%) and 8.6 (18%) increases in probability of earning a bachelor’s and associate degree, respectively.2
  • High school CLEP test takers who score 50 or higher and matriculate to a four-year college have generally higher graduation rates than comparable group of dual enrollment (DE) students and students without early credit.7
  • High school CLEP test takers who score 50 or higher and begin at a two-year college have higher transfer rates to a four-year college, generally higher graduation rates, and higher rates of bachelor’s degree completion than comparable groups of DE students and students without early credit.7
  • Among first-generation college-going students and underrepresented students, those earning a CLEP score of 50 or higher have considerably higher graduation rates at colleges as well as higher transfer rates from two- to four-year colleges than comparable groups of DE students and students without early credit.7

Read more about CLEP's impact on degree completion. Download the following research briefs: CLEP and Completion Research Brief (.pdf/378 KB), High School CLEP Test Taking and College Outcomes (.pdf/538 KB), and College Outcomes for High School CLEP Test Takers and Dual Enrollment (DE) Students (.pdf/838 KB).

Higher Retention Rates

  • High-school CLEP test takers who score 50 or higher and matriculate to a four-year college have higher second-year and third-year retention rates than comparable groups of dual enrollment (DE) students and students without early credit.7
  • Among first-generation students starting at a four-year institution, CLEP students scoring 50 or higher have higher retention rates by a considerable margin than comparable groups of DE students and students without early credit.7
  • Among underrepresented students starting at a four-year institution, CLEP students scoring 50 or higher have higher retention rates than comparable groups of DE students and students without early credit.7

Shorter Time to Degree

  • Students who took prior learning assessments (PLA) like CLEP and earned bachelor's degrees saved an average of  2.5–10.1 months earning their degrees, compared to non-PLA students earning degrees.4
  • PLA students who earned an associate degree saved an average of 1.5–4.5 months to degree completion.4
  • With 13–24 PLA credits, black non-Hispanic PLA students saved an average of 14.2 months to their bachelor’s degree.4
  • 92% of institutions offer PLA credits to accelerate the time to degree completion.5

Significant Cost Savings

An adult student who earns 15 CLEP credits to apply toward a degree could save nearly $5,000 at the average public 4-year institution and more than $17,000 at the average private nonprofit institution.6

  1. Godfrey, Kelly E., and Sanja Jagesic. Validating College Course Placement Decisions Based on CLEP Exam Scores: CLEP Placement Validity Study Results. College Board Research Report, 2AD (New York: The College Board, 2016)
  2. Boatman, Angela, et al., CLEP Me Out of Here: The Impact of Prior Learning Assessments on College Completion (Atlanta: W.J. Usery Workplace Research Group, 2017)
  3. 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)
  4. 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, Rebecca Klein-Collins, ed. (April 2011)
  5. 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)
  6. Ma, Jennifer, Sandy Baum, Matea Pender, and Meredith Welch, Trends in College Pricing 2017 (New York: The College Board, 2017)
  7. Wyatt, Jeff, College Outcomes for High School CLEP Test Takers and Dual Enrollment (DE) Students (New York: College Board, 2019)