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Preparing for the Chemistry CLEP exam

Updated on May 28, 2015

How prepared do you feel to take the Chemistry CLEP exam?

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What's on the Exam?

I have provided a link below which leads to a photocopied version of the exam's breakdown of topics that appear on the test by percentage. Without going into too much detail, the exam questions appear under the following topics:

20% Structure of Matter

19% States of Matter

14% Descriptive Chemistry

12% Reaction Types

10% Equations and Stoichiometry

9% Experimental Chemistry

7% Equilibrium

5% Thermodynamics

4% Kinetics

More details can be found in the link below:

If you click the link above, you'll realize that below the percentage breakdown resides seventy-five practice questions! Below the questions are the answers to check your work. Something to be noted about this study source is that it's exactly the same as pretty much the only useful information you'll find in the CLEP® Chemistry Examination Guide for 2015, so don't spend the $10.00 unless you're looking to pay for exactly what's in that link and about 30 more pages of general, non-chemistry specific information under topics such as "Test-Taking Strategies for Essay Writing" and "How to Apply for College Credit," the former of which actually holds no relevance because the chemistry exam only contains multiple choice questions, "approximately" 75 (mine was 73).

The examination contains approximately

75 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. Any time spent on tutorials and providing personal information is in addition to the actual testing time.

— CollegeBoard

If we go back up to the top for a second and look at the percentage breakdowns, you'll notice that the top five of the nine topics account for 75% of the entire exam! That means a test taker could theoretically know absolutely nothing about experimental chemistry, equilibrium, thermodynamics, or kinetics and still pass with flying colors (like the transition metals!). However, I do not recommend skipping any topics. I learned as I studied that, while you may believe yourself to have adequate knowledge in one area like stoichiometry, there are ways to create absolutely dumbfounding questions. When you do come across these, you can simply guess (without penalization like the SATs!) or come back to it later in the test.


Study Materials

When I took this test, I was a high school senior who had taken one semester of general chemistry at my local community college because I never took it in public school (whoops). After I found out the course was likely not to transfer, I found out about the CLEP exam! I did have about four months of experience with chemistry, an aptitude for math, and a textbook readily available before anything else, but I realized I was still very unprepared after taking that practice test above. My study materials were very basic, all online, and here's the list to the right:

Notice a pattern? I hope so. I had heard that the Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry exam, also produced by the CollegeBoard, was very similar to the CLEP Chemistry exam, so I figured I'd take a few of the released multiple choices from past AP tests. I found that the questions in these AP tests were very similar to those provided in the practice questions for the CLEP found in the first link. Something to be noted about the AP tests is that they are designed for you to fail. On average, I scored between 50-60% on any given multiple choice with 50% being my lowest and 58% being the highest. Of course, this was heart-wrenching when I scored a 54% the day before my exam, but fear not! AP tests are graded from 1-5 with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. A 50-60% is actually about a 4! And maybe you've heard a rumor or two that the CLEP exam is easier than the AP equivalent? From my experience, I concur. The morning after scoring 41 out of 75 questions correct on the 2002 AP chemistry multiple choice, I scored a 63 out of a possible 80 points on the CLEP! The score range for a CLEP exam is 20-80, and the recommended score for a college to reward credit is a 50 for chemistry, exactly in the middle. The moral of this story is that if you can consistently score more than half of the questions right on these AP tests, you'll do fine on the CLEP.

How to use the Practice Tests

This is what I did with every test:

1) Take the test (in 90 minutes!) and mark it (answer keys at bottom)

2) Go through every problem painstakingly slowly afterward to understand the concepts as thoroughly as possible, even on the ones that weren't wrong. Of course, this included plenty more additional resources, of which I will name the ones I consider most important in no particular order:

Always looking for more resources, I went from page to page, and then I had the bright idea, "what if I googled, '[year] ap chem multiple choice explanations'"? Luckily enough, they exist for the 2000s tests. Unfortunately, I could not find the 2002 one in any other form besides a pdf download, so here's a link to the download, or you can simply google it yourself:

2002 AP Chemistry Exam COMPLETE.pdf


I spent all of the preceding weekend without leaving my bed (except for necessities like food) because I woke up, studied, slept, woke up, and studied the entire next day, too. Then, I studied in school. I came home from school and studied some more. All in all, you get out of it what you put into it. I may have only studied five or six days, but I studied probably close to 40 hours. I would recommend starting earlier because I put too much stress on myself by preparing in such a short timeframe. Give yourself a month, but study everyday! Work hard, and good luck.

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    • profile image

      Mark Young1 

      3 years ago

      Anyone taking the test should read this.


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