College courses are very expensive and it would be nice to be able to write some exams for college credit.
Exams including AP, CLEP, DSST, TECEP and ECE are standardized exams that are directly eligible for college credits. Other ways to test out of college courses include writing certification exams, prior-learning assessment (PLA) and individual college-based challenge exams.
There are several ways to prepare for these exams and some students are able to earn their entire college degree simply by writing these tests, popularly known as testing out.
Taking Tests for College Credit
CLEP and DSST originated from the Department of Defense to assist military staff and veterans to earn college credits outside a typical classroom. Since then, both the CLEP and DSST are available to anyone in the general public.
CLEP and AP are administered by the College Board, and DSST is administered by the Prometric. TECEP and ECE are administered by Thomas Edison State College and Excelsior College respectively.
Certification exams are conducted by many major corporations including large IT companies such as Oracle and Microsoft. Challenge tests are conducted by some colleges to allow their college students to test out of courses which they have some expertise in.
Of all the above tests, the CLEP, AP and DSST are the more popular ones and they are also the most inexpensive of all the college credit-eligible tests.
The CLEP, DSST, TECEP and ECE tests can be taken by anyone, but it is advisable that students graduate high school before writing these tests so as to obtain college-level credits. AP tests can be taken while students are still in high school for obtaining college-level credits.
Can I Test Out of a College Degree?
There have been many students who have simply written exams, without taking any college courses, for completing an accredited US college degree. This is generally easier to do with liberal arts and business degrees which are more generic in nature.
Many students such as Lawrie Miller from Bain4Weeks.com have been able to complete entire US college degrees in matter of weeks by taking CLEP and DSST exams.
But even with the more specialized degrees, such as STEM degrees or healthcare, students have been able to combine testing out with an assessment of their work experience for completing an entire US college degree.
Justin from Free-CLEP-Prep.com completed his entire liberal arts bachelors degree by writing CLEP and DSST exams. He further went on to setting up the Free-CLEP-Prep site with study guides that help students and veterans to prepare for the CLEP and DSST exams.
Which Colleges Accept CLEP and Other Exams for Credit?
Most colleges in the United States accept CLEP and DSST for a few college credits. But then again, most colleges only accept a handful of college credits by transfer and expect students to take most of their courses at the college, even if they have previously complete similar courses elsewhere.
But the Big-3 colleges comprising Excelsior college, Thomas Edison State college and Charter Oak State college accept an unlimited number of college credits that are earned by completing CLEP and DSST exams.
There are many other degree completion colleges that similarly accept unlimited CLEP and DSST exams for college credit. For a list of similar degree completion colleges, check out this post on the Top 25 Cheapest Online Bachelor Degrees.
How Many Credits Do Colleges Accept via Testing Out?
Most degree completion colleges accept 90 or more credits out of the 120 or so credits that are required for completing a US bachelors degree. The Big-3 colleges accept most of the 120 credits by credits transfer or exams except for Capstone courses and English literacy courses.
Disadvantages of College Credits by Testing Out
It is likely that a good score on the CLEP or DSST exam will be translated into a Pass grade in the college transcript upon transfer.
But Excelsior college will likely award the given score for Excelsior Credits by Exam, namely for its UExcel exams. Similarly Thomas Edison State college will likely award the letter grade or score for the TECEP exams.
The policies governing how the exams upon testing out transfer with or without the letter grade can change from time to time. It is always best to check with your college student advisor about this after you enroll, especially if you are hoping to increase your GPA using CLEP, DSST, ECE or other such exams.
CLEP, DSST Test Preparation
InstantCert is widely known as a good preparation for CLEP and DSST tests. There are also practice tests and guides available at Free-CLEP-Prep.com. Other practice tests are available at the Study.com and in the official CLEP study guides.
Peterson’s also includes CLEP and DSST preparation for a low monthly subscription fee, so its definitely another resource to check out.
Preparing for AP Exams
For the AP, many students attend AP classes at their high school. For those who do not have this option, the AP YouTube channel is a great source for AP courses from tutors in a variety of subjects.
edX has several AP courses and is worth checking out. Princeton Review has an AP cram courses with a separate fee for each AP subject course. These provide a quick overview of the test content along with practice tests.
For a fixed monthly fee, Study.com provides access to all its test preparation courses including for all the AP tests.
TECEP and ECE UExcel Tests Preparation
Finding affordable study resources for ECE (Excelsior College Examinations or UExcel) and TECEP (Thomas Edison College Examination Program) is not as easy as it is for the CLEP or DSST. The study materials from the colleges themselves are quite expensive.
Luckily, InstantCert has study guides for both the ECE and TECEP with a small monthly fee that covers all the test preparation guides and practice questions. Study.com also has ECE and TECEP study guides for the same fixed monthly fee that covers all the test preparation and credit-eligible courses.
Test Locations for CLEP, DSST and Others
For 2021, CLEP and DSST exams can be taken online via remote proctoring but DSST exams can also be scheduled at a test center. There are many tests centers in the US and several international locations.
AP exams are administered at several high schools in the US. If your high school does not currently administer the test, you can find out from your school about the nearest high school where you can take the test. There are also open test centers available for independent or homeschooled students.
You can locate alternate AP test centers by searching in the AP course ledger. International AP tests are generally administered by the US educational foundation in that country and by a few schools in some countries such as China. For example, in India, AP exams are conducted in the month of May at the USIEF.
Both the ECE and TECEP currently providing the option for online proctoring, so you can take the tests from the comfort of your home or at your office location. The online proctoring will be done by PearsonVue or ProctorU and there are instructions and videos to help you to get familiar with the online proctoring service before your exams.
Getting College Credits for Certification Exams
Both Thomas Edison and Excelsior college award college credits to students for completing industry certification exams. Certification exams are suitable for working professionals who have significant expertise in their area of work and are willing to upgrade any skill gaps to achieve the required certification.
All fields such as business, technology, nursing and many others offer a variety of certification programs. Here is more information from Excelsior and Thomas Edison colleges:
At WGU, many of the degree programs contain industry certifications as part of the curriculum and the certification costs are fully covered in the WGU tuition fees.
How Do I Get College Credit For Work Experience?
Though these are not exams, there is a standardized process followed for evaluating work experience and other forms of learning for equivalent college credits. Most students will be required to document all their learning and then work with a college professor who will assess their expertise in specific areas that are worth college credits.
To be eligible for this assessment, students are required to have considerable experience in their field of work. There is also a 3-credit mandatory course that students need to take which will prepare them for presenting their work portfolio in the format that is required for this evaluation.
What is a Challenge Exam?
Challenge exams are conducted by some colleges to test a student’s understanding of the topic before awarding credit. These exams are suitable for students who already have knowledge of the subject matter and can simply prove that with an exam score, without the need to take the college’s course on that topic.
Colleges that offer challenge exams are usually based on a competency model of learning whereby students can gain the college credits simply by proving their learning with the college’s own challenge exam. Each college will have its own set of challenge exams and there is no common or standardized way to administer challenge exams across colleges.
WGU is one such college that provides challenge exams for all its degree programs. These exams help students to save time and money by quickly acquiring the credits required for the degree. Due to the amount of time saved, the tuition fees are also greatly reduced this way.