How to Study for Your First CLEP Exam

So you’ve decided to take a CLEP exam! That’s awesome! If you’re not using any lesson plans or study guides (like the Dual Credit at Home plans I started out using), you may have a bit of an extra learning curve in figuring out how to study.

Chances are, CLEP study is going to feel different than most of your other studying, and you may need to switch gears and consider developing slightly different study habits to adapt.

Study Consistently

The first CLEP I took after high school, when I was officially on my own and my mom didn’t care if I took it or not, nor when, I studied for for over nine months. True story. NOT because it was the hardest CLEP I’ve ever taken. NOT because I didn’t know how to study (I had already taken and passed several exams by this point!).

I took nine months to study because I wasn’t disciplined at all about how or when I studied. I would study for a couple days, then become unmotivated and not even touch my book (I was using a book like this!) for weeks.

If you’re serious about wanting to start CLEP testing, and you’re seriously wanting to pass the tests, stay consistent. Study at least several hours per week, and make sure to both review old material and introduce new material each day you study.

Don’t take weeks off for vacation while studying for a CLEP exam. My family travels a lot, and I’ve taken exams the day before we leave for trips lots of times. The vacation coming up both motivates me to study and get the exam over with AND I know messing up my consistency in studying for a trip would injure me, so I don’t want to try to wait until after the trip.

Study Methodically

(how it feels trying to explain study methods and degree hacking)

On InstantCert, the flashcards for many subjects are organized and arranged by topic or era (as the case may be). As CLEP subjects tend to be quite broad in scope, this type of study method is proven fairly effective.

Though it could be possible to just jump around studying all kinds of random information to prepare for the exam, this haphazard approach may leave you less-than-prepared in the end. You could get all the way to the exam before you realize there was a gap in your studies and you missed a full era or genre or literary movement! You probably will be asked about authors you’ve never heard of before (it happens!), but don’t let that be because you weren’t methodical in mapping out your studies and missed something obvious out of messy study habits.

In my English Literature CLEP, I was concerned there would be a lot of coverage on Shakespeare. Even though I’ve read lots of classical English fiction, and I am familiar with many of the more popular Shakespearean works, I had never actually read any of the plays in full, couldn’t identify characters or motives, and didn’t even know much about Shakespeare’s personal life. Because I suspected (and had heard) the exam could be Shakespeare-dense, I devoted one solid week to just studying Shakespeare and his works in detail, even down to memorizing character names with their respective plays and roles. In the end, I only had ONE QUESTION about anything related to Shakespeare on my version of the exam (remember, there are several different exam versions, so even if you take the exam two or three times the questions probably will be different each time). BUT, had it been as dense as I suspected, this method was very effective for getting me up to a Shakespeare-proficient level. If I had jumped around randomly googling Shakespeare facts in between all of my other studying, I probably wouldn’t have been able to retain much, if anything.

That to say, don’t skip around. Take a topic, era, genre, author, time span, or whatever, and study it well. Going back to review it again as you continue to study is good, but try to keep your study direct and intentional. This will not only help you learn more, but also retain more.

Study Seriously

If I talk to you about studying or observe your study habits first hand, I can tell if you’re serious about this and actually care about passing. There’s a totally different mood. I have met and talked to so, so many CLEP students (or wannabes, if you know what I mean), who are very flippant about their studies. And from time to time, I’ve been like that, too.

Oftentimes these are the same students who show little to no confidence that they’re even capable of passing CLEP exams, so it’s almost like they’re just going through the study motions to prove to someone (or themselves?) that it isn’t possible and degree hacking “just isn’t for them”.

You know who you are.

I’m here to clearly tell you: if you put in the work, you can do this.

If you don’t take this seriously, study hard, or have any confidence in yourself to succeed… you probably won’t.

Most battles in our lives are also mental battles, and this degree hacking thing is no exception. From your first CLEP exam, and on into your future, face your battles seriously and do your best. This is how you walk away—victory or loss—without regrets.

I’m Cheering for You!

I’m here for you! I literally created this entire website on the premise that I want to encourage and equip people just like YOU to go out and earn their degrees without sacrificing their time, money, and life to get there.

And don’t forget, if you’re stuck, I do offer academic coaching over Skype/FaceTime! Let’s talk!

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