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CLEP, DSST, Excelsior, and Other Random College Exams

Updated on September 24, 2014

Cut the garbage! This is where you really save time and money. English pro in high school? There's an exam you can probably pass for college credit. Math nerd? Well...you can probably knock out a sickening number of math credits. Are you just really dang dedicated to getting your school done? You're on track to get it done with any combination of these exams.

This is not a means to complete all of your college, but it is a really good way to get a lot of them knocked out quickly. For those who are new to the exam for credit game, let me sum it up. These exams let you take a test for around $100 on a number of subjects, typically general education, and upon passing, you can earn 3 to 6 semester hours. Yes! Some of these actually award 6 semester hours upon passing! That's like taking two classes.

You basically have the CLEP, DSST, and Excelsior exams as the mainstream variety. To boot, many colleges are catching on and offering similar exams in many of the subjects they offer classes for. You need to check with your school to find out what exams they will accept for classes on your academic evaluation. You can probably print the academic evaluation out and write in what they accept. Once you find out the requirements for your school and what you can test out of, you can build a solid road map to completing your degree. Do not see this as an easy out....you do have to prepare for and pass these exams. You can if you prepare enough and evaluate if you're ready. If you do not pass an exam, you can retake the CLEP in six months and the DSST in 90 days. You have to pay for any take or retake but the fee is still cheaper than tuition.

I think my personal testimony will show you how incredible this concept is. I basically took seven classes online to attain my bachelors. Most of my degree requirements were fulfilled by these exams. I only had to take the core classes to get a bachelors. My first job in the Air Force was fixing medical equipment. Getting an associates through the Air Force was simple after the length of my technical training. I had 18 semester hours to complete and I used the exams to test out of all of them. I then applied for by bachelors through Thomas Edison State College and had my transcript sent.


After a few weeks I was able to download my academic evaluation. I printed it out and began highlighting; green for credits completed, and yellow for credits left to complete. Once I figured out what I had left to complete, I got an academic adviser on the horn and went down the line to figure out what CLEP and DSST exams I could take to fulfill the credits. I wound up with a bunch of identified exams and only seven classes. It took me about a year to get to my bachelors from that point. I literally tested out of most of my degree. It didn't hurt that I also took advanced classes in high school, but I truly believe most people can do this with enough work.

Try this. Once you find a college, apply, and get accepted, get a copy of your academic evaluation and print it out. Research the exams that may qualify for your class requirements, call your academic adviser, and go line by line to figure out what you may be able to test out of. Color code your academic evaluation and update along the way. I usually wrote in the class or exam I needed to knock out. Once it was done I highlighted it green.

On the subject of work, I remind the reader there is a large amount of it. This is not a free ride. It is merely a shortcut for the truly dedicated. To that end, there are many study resources. You can pick from a large variety of preparation material. It's everywhere and you have to do your homework since not all of these are of similar quality. If you're military you can sign up for the Peterson's website for free. The base library used to sign people up for this but I understand the base libraries are closing on most bases. Perhaps the Education Office can assist. If you're not, Peterson's still offers resources at a fee.

I will go into further detail on ways to prepare for these exams in the next chapters. The main point here is that you can earn college credit by studying for these exams and passing. If you're military, you don't have to pay. Find your closest test center, make an appointment, and present your ID when you show up for the test. Good luck!!! You can do this.

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