College Credit by Examination – Testing Out of College Courses
Going to college is an exciting time in anyone’s life – whether you are a student just out of high school or a working adult looking to further your education and career opportunities. With more adult students than ever entering college later in life, many have extensive life skills and experience that could apply to classes within many degree programs.
With that being the case, we are often asked if there is a way for this type of student to “test out” of certain college classes.
Luckily, the answer is yes!
Many colleges and universities throughout the country accept specific college credits by examination that allow students to earn credit for their previous knowledge and life experience!
So, what does this mean for you?
By taking accepted examinations to test out of your college classes, you will not only have the opportunity to save time by accelerating your degree program – you will also save money on tuition costs! Depending on the type of college you attend, the cost per credit hour can be several hundred dollars. That adds up fast when pursuing a four-year degree! Although the examinations we will go over do have a fee attached, it is still adds up to substantial savings when you look at the long-term costs of tuition!
In the sections below, we will go over a few of the most widely accepted exams available for advanced placement in your degree program. We will also cover a couple of the common questions we get from students regarding credits by examination to help you get started in working towards your degree today!
Types of Exams
If you are interested in pursuing credits by examination, there are several different choices for reputable exams that you can take. Every college has their own unique policy as to how they handle credits by examination, so be sure that you review the school’s website or speak directly with an academic advisor before registering for one of these exams.
CLEP – College Level Examination Program
As one of the most popular exams to earn credits for previous knowledge and life experience, the CLEP exam is offered by the College Board and is accepted at over 2,9000 colleges and universities throughout the country.
There are several ways that a college may handle the credits earned from a CLEP exam, and it is essential that you understand your schools policies before moving forward with registering for one of these tests. Typically, you can earn three or more credits with each CLEP exam, and some colleges allow you to earn up to 60 credits through these examinations! However, this policy varies greatly and some schools have strict limits on the total number of credits you can earn by examination.
Additionally, some institutions will only allow you to have an “exemption” from a course when you have passed a CLEP test. In this case, you will not receive credits that count towards your degree program.
CLEP offers 33 different exams that cover topics typically taught in the first two years of a college degree program. The different subject areas covered through these tests include:
- History & Social Sciences
- Composition & Literature
- Science & Mathematics
- World Languages
The CLEP website makes registering for your exam a simple process with step-by-step information and resources. Each exam has a fee of $80 – which is non-refundable if you fail to pass the test. For an additional fee, you can also purchase an official study guide for all 33 tests, or you can choose to buy an individual study guide if you are only taking one or two CLEP exams.
Formerly known as DANTES Standardized Tests, the DSST program is a nationally recognized way to earn credits by examination. Although not as widely accepted as the CLEP exam, there are over 1,900 colleges and universities that recognize the DSST program and award credits for passing scores.
Like the CLEP, all of the DSST exams have been evaluated and recommended by the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit). The range of credits that you are able to earn through the DSST program varies by school, but most tests are equivalent to three credits towards your degree program.
DSST offers over 30 exams in a number of different academic categories, including:
- Physical Science
- Social Science
Each DSST exam has an $80 fee, and the tests are available to be taken at approved testing centers either electronically or on paper. Additionally, there are numerous study guides and resources available for purchase through the website in order to best prepare you to pass a DSST exam.
Originally designed for our military men and women, the DSST Program still offers unique incentives to service members that want to further their education. Fully funded DSST test centers are available throughout the country, and they offer free, first-attempt examinations to eligible military members!
ECE – Excelsior College Examinations
Another option for credits by examination is taking one of the Excelsior College exams. Hundreds of colleges and universities across the country recognize these tests for earning credit and advanced placement in a degree program. As this program is not as widely accepted as the CLEP or DSST, be sure to check with your academic advisor to see what your school’s specific policies are for ECE.
The ECE covers many subject areas, and they have more than 50 different tests that you can choose from. Their test categories include the following:
- Business & Technology
- Natural Sciences & Mathematics
- Social Sciences & History
The typical ECE exam will cost you around $110 – which does not include the cost of practice exams or study guides. However, they do offer payment plans as well as a “value package” that includes the practice exam, exam registration, and a free retake – all at a reduced cost.
Testing out of College Classes
As you can see from the information above, there are many types of examinations that you can choose to pursue in order to accelerate your degree program. If you are a high school student who would like to accelerate your future college education, you may also want to look into Advanced Placement testing! By taking AP exams in your senior year of high school, you can get a head start on saving time and money once you begin your college degree program.
Now that we have gone over the basic credits by examination information – what’s next?
The first thing to do is to decide how you want to move forward! To help get you started, we’ve answered a couple of the most common questions that we receive from those looking to earn college credit for their life experience.
Which test is the best choice for me?
The answer to this question isn’t black and white, and it greatly depends on the policies of your specific college. While most colleges go by the recommended credit values provided by CLEP, your school may have additional regulations on which tests are accepted and how many credits you can apply in total to your degree.
If your school accepts more than one of the discussed examinations, then it’s time to look into other factors to determine what the best choice is for you! Do all of the available tests cover the subject area in which you wish to receive credit? Which test has the most conveniently located testing center for you to attend? Do you need to purchase additional study guides or practice exams?
By answering the above questions and working closely with your academic advisor, you will be able to choose the test that gives you the best chance at earning the credits you desire!
What happens if I don’t pass the exam on the first try?
This can be a major worry for students that are spending money on an examination to earn credit for college. With all of the tests described, your exam fee is non-refundable – even if you don’t pass the test. That being said, all of the exams offer resources and guides to help you succeed on test day! If you question whether you are prepared to sit for your scheduled exam, we highly recommend purchasing the related study guide in advance of your test date.
So, what if you still don’t pass?
Don’t panic! While you may have forfeited the money spent on the exam fee, you also gained valuable experience and realized where your strengths and weaknesses are in the subject. Most tests have a waiting period before you are allowed to retake the exam (generally three to six months), so be sure to research this before committing to a test date. When it comes down to it, it’s better to take more time to prepare than rush towards completing an exam before you are ready!
For students who want to get the most out of their time at college, earning credits by examination are a great choice to utilize the knowledge gained through your life experience! While it is important to thoroughly research the individual requirements of your particular school, many of the top examination programs are accepted at accredited universities throughout the country. When you are ready to take the first step towards getting your future on the fast-track, consider the benefits of saving time and money through the process of credits by examination!