The College Mathematics College Level Exam Program (CLEP) test is one of the five "general," as opposed to "subject," CLEP tests. The exam covers the math that would be included in a college course designed for non-math majors. The test can seem a daunting obstacle to many students, especially those who have been out of the classroom for awhile, but a systematic, thorough approach to review and practice is all it takes to give you the skill and confidence to pass.
Know the Test
Understanding how the test is laid out and what is on it will give you confidence in planning your preparation. The College Mathematics exam is 90 minutes long. It consists of around 60 multiple-choice questions, covering six general topics: sets, logic, the real number system, functions and graphs, probability and statistics, and additional algebra and geometry topics. The exam is designed to test understanding of concepts more than problem-solving skills. Calculators are available during the exam.
Plan your Preparation
Once you understand the test, you can plan and schedule your preparation. Start with a diagnostic practice test to pinpoint your weak areas. Plan to spend more time on the areas you struggle with.
Lay out a schedule for the weeks leading up to the exam. For the topics that occupy a large percentage of the test, or that you know are weak areas for you, allot two-to-four weeks for thorough review and practice. For topics you are relatively good at, or those that represent only 10 percent of the test, you may plan only a single afternoon or evening of review. Working systematically on one topic at a time until you master it is the most efficient way to learn and remember these concepts and skills.
Review and Practice
The next step is to find the resources and the specific review process that will work best for your schedule and learning style. There is a wide variety of resources to choose from; focus on learning what they are and recognizing the ones that will work for you.
If you work well from books, test guides or high school or college math texts can be a big help. There are also DVD and video programs available for purchase, in libraries and online, and there are excellent internet resources including forums where you can get help with specific problems and sites that guide you through new concepts step by step.
Finally, consider hiring a tutor or forming a study group. Working with someone else can help you recognize more quickly when you are making the same mistake over and over, and can often help you reach a breakthrough when you are stuck on a particular type of problem.
If you review and practice thoroughly, the test day itself should be the easiest part of the process. Answer the easiest questions first. Then go back to the more difficult problems and work as many of them as you can, marking those you feel uncertain about so you can double check them at the end. On the most difficult problems, focus on eliminating wrong answers until you are down to only two possibilities, then make your best guess; you are not penalized for wrong answers. CLEP tests do not use "trick" questions, so don't waste your time looking for misleading wording in questions.
Shandi Stevenson is a teacher, tutor and author whose work has appeared in national and international publications including "Shibboleths," "Homeschooling Today," and "Resort Living." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature in English and a Master of Arts in humanities.