Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

There are two tests that you can take that might make your college-bound self a little bit happier: the CLEP and the Compass. They are very different tests used for very different reasons, but they both have the same end goal–getting you out of taking the classes that you don’t want to take.


When you took the ACT/SAT, did you make a score that was less than satisfactory? A score that made you cringe, and wasn’t as college ready as you’d have wanted it to be? Tons of institutions all over the United States allow students to take the Compass and test out of remedial courses and into courses that fit them better! Not every student is a star test taker–especially when it comes to big tests like the ACT and SAT. The Compass is a much better test to take for many reasons:

  • It’s not timed: You can take as long as you need to finish the problems without looking over your shoulder at the clock on the wall.
  • Immediate Gratification: It’s a computerized test, instead of hand-written, so you can know your results the same day you take it.
  • No Remediation: If your ACT/SAT scores say you need remediation taking these tests can you get out of that no problem. Compass is the brainchild of the ACT, so it’s a trusted source.

If you are interested in taking this test, talk to your guidance counselor about the possibility of taking one on a nearby college campus. They should know plenty of information about how to schedule a Compass test. Also you can log on to your college of choice’s website to see if they offer Compass testing on their campus if they are close enough to you!

It is important to note that the Compass test doesn’t take the place of the ACT/SAT. This won’t be the score your scholarships are based off of. It is simply to get you on par with college level classes if you have a particularly low ACT/SAT score in one area. This means that taking the ACT or SAT is a must before you can take the Compass test.

(If you would like to see some sample Compass questions, check out this website!)


The CLEP test is a completely different test with different goals than the COMPASS test. Do you have a class that you think you’d ace in college no problem? Did you think high school over prepared you for the college world and you don’t want to waste your tuition money taking an easy class? Take the CLEP test and “clep” out of your pesky general education classes like College Algebra or Composition I.

CLEP is a brainchild of the College Board and stands for College Level Examination Program. You can take the test at almost any college and most colleges are open so you don’t have to be accepted into their campus to take the tests there.  Each exam cost $80, but compared to how much you spend to take the class and buy the books, $80 is a drop in the bucket.

You can take all sorts of CLEP exams that can get you out of all sorts of classes–from science, to mathematics, to writing, to world languages! The possibilities are not literally endless, but they sure feel like it.

There are some cons to this though–those easy A classes won’t help your GPA. You will get hours for those classes, but you won’t get an actual grade for them. This means that your GPA may not be as high as it could be–because you are skipping all the easy A courses.  If you just want to ease in a few classes so that you can get a great freshman year GPA then I encourage you to do that–it’s great to start with a great foundation so that as classes get harder it’s also harder to bring down your GPA.

If you are thinking about taking a CLEP exam there are many great resources sold through the College Board to help you prepare for these examinations!

Bottom Line

Overall, the Compass and the CLEP tests are very helpful for students going into college. If you have some time this semester and over the summer I highly encourage you to check these out as they can be really helpful for you while preparing for college. I know we are all just a little burned out on test prep–but imagine the money you could save if you don’t have to spend as much on college!

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the author

Amanda Cross is a Junior at the University of Central Arkansas where she studies Sociology with a minor in Public Relations. Amanda is the Housing Chair for the Alpha Omicron chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma and a UCA Ambassador on her campus. When Amanda is not at school you can usually find her blogging, reading, hanging out with friends/family, or sleeping. Amanda writes her own blog titled College is Love, and she also writes for UChic and The Smart Girls Group Loop.

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