Did you know that there are alternative exams to the SAT and ACT? The Classic Learning Test, or CLT exam, is an alternative college entrance exam accepted by some schools. If you’re interested in taking a college entrance exam that bills itself as affordable, convenient, and innovative, the CLT exam might be worth your time.
Because this alternative exam option may not be as familiar to you as the SAT/ACT, this article will help you understand the CLT test and what it covers. We’ll talk about:
What the Classic Learning Test (CLT) is, plus:
- Why someone should take the CLT
- When the CLT test dates are
- How the CLT compares to the SAT and ACT
- What you should know about the CLT format
We’ll wrap everything up with four expert tips for taking the CLT exam. Let’s get started!
Feature Image: CLT/Classic Learning Test
The CLT is a new standardized test that's primarily accepted at small, private, religious schools. Read on to learn more about what the CLT is...and who should take it.
What Is the CLT?
The Classic Learning Test is an online college entrance exam designed for 11th and 12th grade students. This college entrance exam was launched in 2015 as an alternative to the SAT and ACT, and is accepted by over 200 colleges across the U.S.
The CLT is a newcomer to the standardized test scene, and it bills itself as an exam that focuses on testing the basics of a “classical education,” namely logic, reasoning, and reading. It also uses excerpts of classic literature to test reading skills, and there’s more of a logic (rather than a calculation) focus on the quantitative reasoning section.
The format of the CLT is different, too. Unlike the ACT (which has four sections plus writing) and the SAT (which has two sections plus writing), the CLT consists of three required sections:
- Verbal Reasoning, which tests students’ textual comprehension and analysis skills
- Grammar/Writing, which tests students’ textual editing and improvement skills
- Quantitative Reasoning, which tests students’ skills in logic and mathematics
There is also an optional essay portion of the exam that students can choose to take, but the score on this portion will not affect your numerical score on the exam. Each CLT exam section (excluding the writing section) consists of 40 questions.
The CLT test lasts for a total of two hours or 120 minutes. This total testing period is divided into the following time frames for each individual exam section:
- 40 minutes — Verbal Reasoning section
- 35 minutes — Grammar/Writing section
- 45 minutes — Quantitative Reasoning section
- Additional 30 minutes — Optional essay section (not included in total two hour exam time)
Students who take the CLT in school will receive their official exam scores the Tuesday after taking the exam. For students taking the test online, their scores will be released the second Tuesday after their exam date. CLT scores can be sent to an unlimited number of colleges of your choosing.
Who Can Take the CLT Exam?
So who can take the CLT exam? The CLT is specifically designed for high school juniors and seniors who plan to go to college. If you’re a junior or senior in high school (or a high school graduate planning to go to college after a break), you can take the CLT.
Having said that, the CLT is not a common standardized test. That means there may not be a CLT testing site in your area, and not every school administers the test themselves. However, there is an online option available in that case if you’re interested in taking the exam.
While some states allow you to take the ACT or SAT for free, there isn’t a widely available program that subsidizes the cost of the CLT. You can apply for a fee waiver, but waivers are granted on a case-by-case basis rather than on a set of standardized criteria, which is how both the SAT and ACT determine who receives a waiver. That means the CLT may be cost prohibitive for some students.
Additionally, not all colleges consider the CLT a valid entrance exam. (We’ll talk more about what schools accept the CLT later.) So while you might meet the criteria for taking the CLT, you might not want to take the test because your target, safety, and reach schools don’t accept it.
Why Take The CLT Exam?
Like we mentioned earlier, about 200 colleges in the U.S. accept the CLT as an alternative to the SAT or ACT. In other words, these universities will accept your CLT scores just like they would SAT or ACT scores in order for you to gain admission.
Schools that accept the CLT tend to be small, religious, private universities like Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia or Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. If you’re considering going to one of these small private colleges, then you might consider taking the CLT.
If you’re applying to schools that accept the CLT, there are some other benefits to the exam, too. For instance, the CLT has a relatively short test time of only two hours, it’s a digital test, and you don’t need a calculator.
The best reason to take the CLT test is to become eligible for scholarship offerings that are directly tied to CLT scores. More than 100 U.S. colleges have specific scholarships that are awarded to students who achieve high CLT scores. Like we mentioned earlier, the majority of these schools are small, private, religiously-affiliated colleges, so students who are interested in applying to this type of school are especially poised to benefit from taking the CLT. You can view a complete list of colleges that have incorporated CLT scores into their academic scholarships here.
Like the SAT and ACT, the CLT is offered multiple times per year.
When Is The CLT?
The CLT is offered on several testing dates throughout the year. However, the format for administering the CLT differs for each testing date, and it’s important to understand what testing format you’re signing up for before you register.
The CLT is offered in two formats throughout the year.
The first way you can take the CLT Exam is with a remote proctor. For this testing format, students will use a laptop or desktop computer and a web browser to take the exam online at an assigned time from their own home.
You can take the CLT through a designated CLT Partner School. On a “Partner Schools Only” testing date, specific schools will administer the CLT to students on the assigned testing date. Your school will notify you if a Partner School testing date is being provided.
You can also view these testing site details in our table of official upcoming CLT testing dates for the 2022-2023 school year:
|Testing Date||Registration Deadline||Testing Format|
|August 6, 2022||August 1, 2022||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student’s home)|
|August 27, 2022||August 22, 2022||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student’s home)|
|October 5, 2022||September 21, 2022||For Partner Schools Only|
|October 15, 2022||October 10, 2022||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student's home)|
|November 10, 2022||November 3, 2022||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student's home)|
|December 8, 2022||December 1, 2022||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student’s home)|
|February 16, 2023||February 2, 2023||For Partner Schools Only|
|February 25, 2023||February 20, 2023||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student’s home)|
|March 18, 2023||March 13, 2023||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student’s home)|
|April 15, 2023||April 10, 2023||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student’s home)|
|April 26, 2023||April 12, 2023||For Partner Schools Only|
|May 27, 2023||May 22, 2023||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student’s home)|
|June 22, 2023||June 15, 2023||Remotely Proctored (administered online at student’s home)|
Generally speaking, the CLT and the SAT/ACT are pretty similar: they're all designed to test your college readiness, and they generally cover the same core skills. But there are definitely some differences you should be aware of, too!
How Is the CLT Different From the SAT/ACT?
Generally speaking, the CLT isn’t that much different from the SAT or ACT. It still tests your fundamental skills in math, reading, and writing as a way to determine your college readiness. You’ll still have to read passages and answer questions about them, define vocabulary terms, use formulas to solve math problems, and tackle logic questions.
Having said that, there are some differences between the CLT and the ACT/SAT that you should know about. We’ll go over those below.
The CLT Exam Is Shorter
First, the CLT is a shorter exam, with only three required sections that consist of fewer questions and last for a total of only two hours. In comparison, both the SAT and the ACT last for three hours, and both of these exams include more questions per section than the CLT.
The CLT Exam Tests Slightly Different Concepts
Additionally, the CLT tests some concepts a little differently. For instance, in the Verbal Reasoning section of the exam, you’ll be asked to read passages from classic literature and answer questions about them.
Here’s an example of one of those passages:
The style of these questions is very similar to those found on the Reading section of the SAT and the Reading and English sections of the ACT.
The big difference is that this reading is excerpted from Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë. While you don’t have to have read the book in order to answer these questions, you do need to be comfortable with reading literature if you’re taking the CLT exam.
The Quantitative Reasoning section is also a little different from what you’d see on the SAT or ACT. Again, you’ll still have to solve math and math-based logic problems on the CLT, just like you would the ACT or SAT. The biggest change is that you’ll have to solve proportionally more logic problems than you would have to on the other tests.
Here’s an example of a logic and reasoning question from the CLT:
While the SAT and ACT definitely ask questions like this, these types of questions are much more common on the CLT.
The CLT Exam Is Scored Differently
The CLT also allows a higher overall score than the SAT and ACT. To help explain this, let’s take a look at the CLT score equivalency chart:
*information provided by CLTexam.com
So if you get a 114 on the CLT, it’s the same as making a 36 on the ACT (or a 1600 on the SAT). But a perfect score on the CLT is actually a 120. That means scoring between a 114 and a 120 on the CLT is theoretically better than a perfect score on the other two exams.
Having said that, the CLT is only accepted at a limited number of schools. So unless you’re only applying to colleges that accept the CLT, a perfect CLT score isn’t as good of a return on your investment as a perfect SAT or ACT score would be.
The CLT Is Offered Online
Another way the CLT is currently different from the SAT/ACT is that the CLT can be taken online. Unlike the SAT (which won’t go digital for US students until 2024) and the ACT (which only offers digital testing in some states and countries), CLT exam takers also have the option to take the exam online from their own homes.
CLT Scores Come in Faster
If you take the CLT, it also offers much faster score reporting than either the ACT or SAT. The CLT offers scoring within eight business days of taking the exam. In comparison, SAT and ACT exam takers receive their scores two to four weeks after taking the exam.
There Are CLT-Specific Scholarships
Finally, the CLT corresponds with several academic scholarships at small, private, and liberal arts colleges that aren’t available to SAT/ACT test takers. These schools may come with a higher cost of attendance and/or fewer financial aid opportunities, which may make the scholarship opportunities associated with CLT scores even more important.
Deciding whether to take the CLT instead of the SAT or ACT can be a tough decision. Our quiz can help you determine whether the CLT is the right test for you.
Should You Take the CLT?
If you’ve read all of this and still aren’t sure about whether the CLT is a good fit for you, take our simple five question quiz to help you decide if taking the CLT is best for your college admissions goals. Just answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
- Would you like a chance to demonstrate your academic skills and aptitude through a shorter college entrance exam?
- Are you interested in a format that allows you to take the exam using your own computer in the comfort of your own home?
- Would you like to receive your exam scores more quickly, and have them sent to an unlimited number of schools?
- Do you have several small, private, and/or liberal arts colleges on your top list of schools to apply to?
- Do you hope to be considered for special scholarship opportunities that you couldn’t get based on your SAT/ACT scores alone?
If you answered “yes” to most or all of the questions above, there’s a good chance that the CLT is a good fit for you. (Just make sure you check with each school you’re applying to and double-check that they accept the CLT!)
Here's how the CLT is pieced together. (See what we did there?)
The General CLT Format
The CLT test consists of three required sections of 40 questions each, and the test lasts for a total duration of two hours (not including administering instructions and scheduled breaks). As a reminder, the three required sections of the CLT exam are:
- Verbal Reasoning
- Quantitative Reasoning
Let’s take a look at each section in a little more detail.
The Verbal Reasoning section of the CLT consists of 40 questions and lasts for 40 minutes. The Verbal Reasoning section of the CLT presents four reading passages that are each followed by ten corresponding multiple choice questions. The questions following each reading passage will test students’ reading comprehension and textual analysis skills.
The content areas on this exam section breakdown as follows:
Number of Questions
You’ll encounter three types of questions in the comprehension category: questions that assess your understanding of a reading passage as a whole, questions that assess your understanding of the details of a reading passage, and questions that assess your ability to identify relationships between the different reading passages.
You’ll also encounter two types of analysis questions on this section: questions that assess your ability to analyze elements of the passage as a text, such as figurative language, analogies, and cause-effect relationships, and questions that test your ability to interpret evidence presented in the reading passages.
The Grammar/Writing section of the CLT consists of 40 questions and lasts for a total of 35 minutes. You’ll be asked to answer multiple choice questions about four passages. The content areas and question types on this second section of the CLT exam breakdown like this:
|Category||Number of Questions||Concepts Tested|
The questions on this section are broken up into two main content areas: writing and grammar. Writing questions will test your ability to identify and correct errors pertaining to the structure, style, and word choice used in a given passage. Grammar questions will test your ability to identify and correct errors of agreement, punctuation, and sentence structure.
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The Quantitative Reasoning section of the CLT consists of 40 questions and lasts for 45 minutes. This multiple choice section of the CLT exam is divided up into three main content areas that break down into the following seven different question types:
Number of Questions
The Quantitative Reasoning section of the CLT stands out among college entrance exams because it places a higher emphasis on your logic and reasoning skills. In other words, a higher proportion of the quantitative questions on the CLT are logic-based compared to the SAT or ACT.
Having said that, you’ll still have to do some calculations. A list of helpful math formulas is also provided at the beginning of this exam section and can be accessed at any time. You won’t be allowed to use a calculator to complete this section of the CLT test, however.
4 Tips on How to Prep for the CLT
If you decide taking the CLT is right for you, you’ll want to prepare effectively for the exam so you can achieve your target score. Keep reading for our top four tips for knocking the Classical Learning Test out of the park.
Tip 1: Take a Practice CLT Exam
One of the best things you can do to prepare for the CLT is to take a practice exam. The CLT provides one example test that you can take on their website. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of CLT prep materials out there, but you might also consider looking into online CLT study guides and combining those with a practice exam.
Taking a practice CLT will give you a sense of what to expect from this college entrance exam. You’ll get familiar with the instructions, format, and question types, which will save you time on your test day. Just be sure to take the practice test under realistic conditions!
Tip 2: Use the ACT/SAT To Your Advantage
If you’re choosing to take the Classical Learning Test in addition to the SAT and ACT, you can actually use any ACT/SAT prep materials to help you prep for the CLT as well.
That’s because the CLT isn’t substantially different from the SAT or ACT. Many of the core skills that are tested on all three exams are the same. For instance, you’ll still need to know how to read a passage quickly, and you’ll still have to understand core math concepts to answer quantitative questions.
Great ACT and SAT prep books help you learn the fundamental skills you’ll need to know to be successful on college entrance exams generally. Additionally, many of the test-taking strategies that are covered in prep books will translate to the CLT exam, too.
If you’re not sure which study guides are worth investing in, make sure you check out our articles about the best ACT prep books and the best SAT prep books.
Tip 3: Review Missed Practice Questions
A tried-and-true strategy for test prep is dedicating extra time to questions and content that you struggle with. The CLT website allows you to review explanations for the answers to questions you miss on their practice exam.
Reviewing these explanations can help you improve your understanding of difficult content and turn missed questions into correct answers as you continue practicing. Targeting your problem areas when you prep for the CLT will help you answer more question types correctly when you take the real exam.
Tip 4: Take the ACT/SAT Practice Tests for Extra Review
Finally, taking numerous practice tests will help you hone your test-taking skills and give you a great chance to review the material.
Since there are only a limited number of CLT practice tests available, you may find you need a few other tests along the way. ACT practice tests and SAT practice tests are a good way to check your progress on mastering core knowledge skills, even if they aren’t exactly the same.
If you’re thinking about taking the CLT, it might mean you’re thinking about going to a religious college. Be sure to check out our list of the top 20 Christian colleges in the United States.
Keep in mind that tests like the CLT are just one part of your college admissions journey. You’ll also need to write great admissions essays, too. Our experts can show you how to write a great college essay, step by step.
And of course, don’t forget those letters of recommendation! Here’s how to request letters that will really stand out from the crowd.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.