Test-Taking Tips

Get a jumpstart on your CLEP exam prep with these tips on answering multiple-choice and essay questions.

Multiple-choice Tips

  • Read the entire question and all of the answer choices before answering a question: Instructions usually tell you to select the best answer. Sometimes one answer choice is partially correct, but another option is better. Read all of the answers before you choose one, even if the first or second answer choice seems like the correct choice.
  • Pace yourself and keep an eye on the clock: As you begin your exam, make sure that you aren’t working too slowly. You should have answered at least half of the questions in a section when half of the time for that section has passed.
  • Don't spend too much time on any one question: If you don't know the answer after you've considered it briefly, go on to the next question. Use the mark tool at the bottom of the screen to mark that question, and go back to it later.
  • Make educated guesses: There are no penalties for incorrect answers. If you have some knowledge of the question and can eliminate one or more of the answer choices, you have a better chance of choosing the correct answer.
  • Don't look for flaws in the exam questions or a pattern of correct answers: CLEP puts a great deal of effort into developing valid, reliable, and fair exams.

Essay Tips

Most colleges don't require the essay portions of the CLEP exams that offer the option of an essay. Be sure you actually need to take the essay before you register to take it or spend time preparing. (Your college’s CLEP policy will offer this information.) If your college does require the essay portion of a CLEP exam, you should consider additional preparation.

  • Estimate how much time you can spend on each question: Once you know which questions you plan to answer and in what order, determine how much testing time remains and estimate how many minutes you have to spend on each question.
  • Pay attention to these key words that often appear in free-response questions: Be sure you know the exact meaning of these words before taking the exam.
analyze describe interpret
apply determine justify
assess discuss list
compare distinguish outline
contrast enumerate prove
define explain rank
demonstrate generalize show
derive illustrate summarize

If a question asks you to outline, define, or summarize, don’t write a detailed explanation. If a question asks you to analyze, explain, illustrate, interpret, or show, then you must do more than briefly describe the topic. Organize your thoughts and write a brief outline on the scratch paper provided by the test center before you write your full essay response.