CLEP Me Out of Here: The Impact of Prior Learning Assessments on College Completion

Publication data:

  • Author(s):
    • Boatman, Angela
    • Hurwitz, Michael
    • Lee, Jason
    • Smith, Jonathan
  • Date:
  • Country:
    United States of America
  • Document Type:
    Journal article
  • Keywords:
    quantitative, challenge exams, impact, Higher Education


Retrieved August 4, 2017 from SSRN: or



This paper estimates the impact of the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) examination, a college-level exam that offers credit for students’ mastery of a contentarea in lieu of completing a course. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that passing a CLEP exam leads to a 17 percent (5.7 percentage points) increase in associate degree completion for students at two-year colleges and a 2.6 percent (1.2 percentage point) increase in bachelor’s degree completion for students at four-year colleges. CLEP also serves and impacts subpopulations difficult to track in large numbers and who traditionally underperform in higher education. For example, two-year college enrollees who earn a credit-granting CLEP score and are in the military, older than 24, and home schooled are 18.1, 19.5, and 62.8 percent more likely to obtain an associate’s degree, respectively. The impacts from this inexpensive, credit-producing intervention are at least as large in magnitude as most other programs designed to improve degree completion. [Author Abstract]