FRENCH CLEP: a comprehensive guide

Bonjour tout le monde!

I took the French clep exam around six weeks ago, and seeing as there isn’t a lot of information online regarding it, I figured I would share my experiences here.

  1. It was largely recommended to finish the Duolingo tree. I agree. Duolingo was what I used to practice vocab and basic sentence formation; seeing as a portion of the written half of CLEP is a fill-in-the-blank, this was very beneficial. However, Duolingo alone is simply not enough.

  2. For grammar, I used Lawless French (and their partner app Kwiziz... hold onto that mention!). They made it easy and accessible, and the quizzes also made sure I got a grasp on basic grammar patterns.

  3. Additionally, TV5Monde has a section for those who are learning/practicing French. For oral comprehension, this is the greatest go-to I can think of. There are also good exercises on YouTube.

  4. A CEFR level of B1 will get you a 50. I say that with full confidence; to find out your CEFR level, use Kwiziz (it is partnered with Lawless French). Once you know this, you will also have an easier time finding lessons catered towards your francophone abilities. Please note that you cannot take a B1 exam. CLEP only administers one test meant for all levels, and gives you a score depending on how well you performed.

  5. You do get scratch paper during the exam. I HIGHLY recommend using it, and for two reasons:

a. during the first listening section, you only get 10 seconds to choose your answer and nothing is displayed on the screen. Writing out what you hear as you hear it will make choosing the right answer easier, because the question and answer choices will be spelled out for you. You do not have the option to replay audio.

b. during the second listening portion, you have the ability to flip back and forth between different audio questions—and yes, the questions are displayed on the screen this time—but you do not get the ability to repeat the audio necessary to answer the questions. Writing down what is said will enable you to thumb through questions.

  1. While CLEP does offer a practice test booklet, I found that French SAT Subject Test practice exams better prepared me for CLEP, especially seeing as CLEP’s available practice doesn’t include an audio section, but the SAT Subject Test prep books do.

  2. This is a comprehension exam. You do not need to be better at one skill than the other to pass this test; you need to be confident in French. Everything is equally tested; the one thing I wish I had better drilled in my head, however, were transition words.

  3. Point seven being said, having a large vocabulary will come at a great benefit. No word is used twice; thus, being able to know synonyms will be super helpful.

  4. Use Modern States’ free French course online! It hits on everything that is needed to do well—the tenses, the vocabulary, the sentence structure, all of it.

  5. If you have any more questions, feel free to reach out! I recieved a score of 59 on CLEP and was entirely on my own during my preparation for the CLEP. Bonne chance!

September 7, 2019


Interesting post.

I don't have any intention of taking CLEP courses, but I know several people who did take the CLEP for Spanish or French. It's helpful to have some handy advice to give them.

I had not known about Modern States. I do travel a bit and I like to stay current in the languages of the places I visit. It's always good to have sources of language practice on hand.

Are you using the CLEP french credit to allow you to start in a more advanced course in French course at a university, or are you using it to satisfy a liberal arts or humanities core curriculum requirement? Just curious.

September 7, 2019

I took CLEP to get ahead in French at my college. I am a dual major, one of them being French and Buisness. I’m very glad I did take this exam—it got me out of four semesters!

And yes, Modern States is a great resource. They have material for Spanish, French, and German online if you want to look at them—they may help you with staying on top of those languages! It is a bit more driven towards grammar, though.

September 7, 2019

Good stuff. I looked at it briefly.

I had four years of Spanish in high school and when I started university I wanted to start with junior-level courses. It was "consent of instructor." I went to his office and asked about it and he started speaking to me in Spanish, asking random questions and such, and after about five minutes he said, "fine, you can take the course." He was Uruguayan. Prior to that all my teachers had been Mexican so it was an interesting experience. I enjoyed it so much that I took two more courses from him. CLEP existed back then and I looked into it briefly, but it was not necessary in my case just to take the advanced courses.

I was curious because I know a guy from Colombia who needed a humanities credit and he was in his fourth year and wanted to graduate, but already was signed up for 15 hours and didn't want to do any more. He found out that Spanish 1 would satisfy a core curriculum requirement so he did the CLEP for that. It all worked out for him.

My son just started his 3rd year of French in school, which is the main reason I brush up on French daily. I want him to have someone to practice with. It's not too hard to make an A in those high school language courses, but to actually learn to be proficient and conversational is another matter altogether. Mainly you have to practice. They're going to France for a week in April, apparently. He wants to know if he can have a thousand dollars for that. (apparently the school district is partially subsidizing it.) My only criterion is that he actually learns to speak French between now and then. Oh, I'll give him the money for the trip in the end, but I want him to think that he has to work at it between now and then to earn it. He has been a pretty good sport so far. At his school the fifth year (12th grade) is an AP option. We'll see if he sticks with it that long. I kinda hope he does.

September 8, 2019

I like Modern States, lots of free courses. Thanks for sharing.

September 8, 2019

Am I correct that you took the B1 exam? I'd like to take the CLEP or CEFR exam next year, not for credit or as a requirement, but just as a goal to challenge myself.

September 7, 2019

CLEP does not administer based upon levels. It is a comprehensive fluency test, and the amount you get right determines if you pass (>50) or fail (<50). I used the CEFR scale as a guideline to those studying, because knowing your level will help tailor online practice to your abilities and thus help you prepare better. CLEP is one standard test, no matter your level, but you will “pass” it if you are currently level B1 by the CEFR scale.

September 7, 2019

Thanks, I was unaware of the difference between the two exams.

September 7, 2019

CEFR is a European standard of language examination; CLEP is American. Good luck with your French studies, and let me know if you would like any more assistance!

September 7, 2019
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