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College Algebra CLEP
Free Study Guide!

Free Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP Study Guide

Name of Exam: College Algebra CLEP

Number of Questions: 60

Time Limit: 90 Minutes

ACE Recommended Passing Score: 50

Practice Test Available?: Yes - Click here

Cost: $80 + Sitting Fee (Usually no more than $20) at your testing site. Military can take CLEPs for free with Tuition Assistance. Check with your Educational Officer!

Difficulty 1-5 : 3
(One being the easiest, and five being the hardest)


Alternatives: StraighterLine College Algebra and ALEKS College Algebra

Exam Description:

The College Algebra CLEP covers the knowledge you would learn in a one semester (usually 200 level) college course. The questions test your ability to answer basic algebra problems, linear/quadratic equations, inequalities, and logarithmic functions.

Personal Thoughts:

Time to be honest - I hate math, and it hates me. I was the guy who took Algebra 1 twice in high school after passing the first time with a "D". If I rated the difficulty of the math CLEPS based on how I personally felt about the subject, they'd all be level five exams. Well, College Mathematics would probably be a four.. Maybe.

That being said, the College Algebra CLEP wasn't as difficult as I imagined. If you have a reasonably firm grasp of Algebra, even if it's been a few decades, then you're probably going to be fine with a bit of touch-up work. The good news is there are a ton of web sites out there that provide math lessons for free. I've included a couple of the best ones that I've found, including the one that helped me.

If you're trying to ease into the mathematics CLEPs, I'd recommend taking the College Mathematics CLEP before this one. First of all, it's worth six credits. Most schools won't count it towards your math requirement, but will apply the credits towards your electives. Secondly, it provides a way to get your feet wet if it's been a few years since you've touched the material. Something to consider as an option.

Exam breakdown:

According to the College Board website, the College Algebra CLEP exam is broken down as follows:

Types of questions:

50%Solving the given, routine problems
50%Solving non-routine problems that require you to understand concepts as well as their application. (Multi-step problems)

What those questions will cover:

30%Functions and their properties
25%Equations and inequalities
25%Algebraic operations
20%Number systems and operations

Areas of Study

There are two primary sites that I used when studying for the College Algebra CLEP. The first is West Texas A&M University's Virtual Math Lab. This is an outstanding resource that will basically give you a college level course for free. The Practice tests at the end of each section are extremely nice for checking your progress in a bite-sized way.

The second resource I used was CoolMath.com Algebra Tutorials. Scroll down for a list of subject links. They were in the process of re-furbishing the lessons when I first found them (and it looks like they still are). For any subjects that do not have a working link, you can click on the Algebra I Lessons to use the old lessons.

Between the two, I'd choose CoolMath hands down if math is not your strongest subject. I had a hard time following the A&M lessons, but someone who is stronger in math may find the CoolMath lessons a bit elementary. I've included both to give you a choice. Go with the one that feels more comfortable.

My apologies in advance for all those Math whiz's that don't like bright colors and crayon graphics. Since I'm the one writing this study guide however, we're going to use the CoolMath site for our reviews below. Authorship has its privileges. ;)

I've laid out the below subjects in the same order as CoolMath has done so the lessons build off of each other. I'm linking to the subject category, so you can start at the top or skip ahead. Note the "Crunch Some" links after each lesson. These are awesome quizzes that allow you to test yourself. If you can't answer at least 20 out of the first 25 it gives you correctly, I'd review and come back to try again.

If you need an online algebra tool, try MathWay. It's free as long as you don't need to see the explanations, and even then it's pretty cheap.

Alright, here we go:

  • Exponents - Basic stuff - Know how to solve as well as how they interact with each other (Adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing)
  • Radicals - Once again, know how to handle them alone, but cover the lessons that show how they interact with each other. You'll need the knowledge later.
  • Polynomials - Still in the relatively easy stuff (my happy place). See Lesson 7 for some trickier ones.
  • Factoring - I'd point out specifics, but you really need to understand the whole lesson. Guaranteed you're going to get some of each on the CLEP.
  • Dividing Polynomials - I'm not even going to say how long it took me to get this down. I'm pretty sure I invented a few new ways to do it wrong. You'll need to have this down cold for the College Algebra CLEP.
  • Solving Equations - Here's the bread and butter of the College Algebra CLEP, or at least 50% of it. You'll use the knowledge gained from the prior lessons to successfully solve whatever equations the exam will throw at you.
  • Solving Inequalities - *Brain Explodes* Just kidding! It's straightforward once you do it a few dozen times (hundreds if you're me). You will be hit with a few of these on the exam. Not enough to stress out over, but it's best to know them and pick up the free points.
  • Solving Absolute Value Inequalities - We have to go to the old lesson to pick up where the new lessons left off.
  • Lines - I had perhaps 10-15 questions dealing with graphs/lines on my College Algebra CLEP, and it seems that I was unlucky in that regard. Unlucky because, at the time, I had no idea what to do with them. Not a huge part of the exam, but I would know how to plot points and graph a line. Being able to find the slope from two points, and then the equation would also be advised. I specifically remember a few questions that would ask which equation would cause the line to do "this"
  • Word Problems - I think I had two or three that could have qualified as a word problem. I know some people have problems with these, so I'm still going to list it.
  • System of Equations (2x2) - You will need to know this. Shouldn't be a problem for most people decent with Algebra, but for the rest of us I would highly suggest going through the entire lesson.
  • Factoring and Dividing Polynomials - We've already covered this somewhat, but they do throw a few additional items that weren't covered under the new lessons. Since these tie in nicely with the following lesson, I'm listing it.
  • Solving Quadratics - Builds nicely upon what we've already done. Some people memorize the Quadratic equation before taking the College Algebra CLEP. I didn't, but luckily didn't need it. It's up to you.
  • Graphing Quadratics - Perhaps five questions total on this on my own College Algebra CLEP though people have reported more on theirs. This is the point where my brain truly wants to explode, so I'll let CoolMath take over.
  • Algebraic Fractions (Rational Functions) - In my opinion, this should be listed at the beginning, but CoolMath is the expert, and I'm the guy who has a hard time counting change. (Not really, the coke machine tells me when to stop) :P
  • Functions - I managed to keep up until the graphing portion, and then my head imploded. According to CollegeBoard, 30% of the exam will be on Functions and their properties. Thankfully, as I mentioned before, I only had ten or so graphing questions of any kind on my version of the College Algebra CLEP. Others have reported as not being so lucky. My advice, learn it as best you can.
  • Complex/Imaginary Numbers - Yet another one at the very end of the lesson that I understand. I only had two or three questions dealing with imaginary numbers.
  • Exponentials and Logarithms - I did get asked about rate and time. I didn't have any questions requiring me to figure out compound interest, but others have. People have told me they have been required to know their logs, but then they see my blank stare and move on to simpler subjects. Whatever these "logs" are that people are talking about (I'm kidding, or am I?), I'd learn them well.

Recommended bargain-priced study resources

Always check your library first! You may be able to find some of these for free. You don't have to buy the officially recommended resources all the time. If you're the type of person that prefers to study from a textbook source however, then please see below.

CLEP College Algebra with CD (REA) - The Best Test Prep for the CLEP Exam (Test Preps) - I don't see people needing this, and I didn't use it myself although I probably should have. I'm only including it for those who don't feel comfortable with using the online sources I've listed above. Truly though, the free resources will probably do you just as much good as the REA book will for this exam. Consider saving your money.

InstantCert Academy - College Algebra Specific Exam Feedback - There isn't much feedback on this exam (only two pages), but it does identify some key areas to study. If you're a subscriber, I would check it out.

If you don't know what InstantCert is, then click here for the scoop as well as a discount code: **InstantCert Academy**

You'll find an InstantCert link for every exam here if that gives you an idea of the amount of information they have available. It's an outstanding resource.


Closing Thoughts

And you thought I was kidding about my hatred of math! Speaking seriously for a moment, don't let my terror-tinged review worry you too badly. The College Algebra CLEP must have one heck of a bell curve if I passed. Those nervous about the exam should take heart from that.

For those who are good at algebra (Oh how I envy thee, let me count the ways) you should have no problems with this exam if you know each of the subjects listed above. Use the "Crunch Some" quizzes to test your knowledge on each one before going into the exam. If I can do it, then anyone can!

Best of luck!

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