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Everyone knows that a college degree can open doors, but it’s also common knowledge it comes at a cost… and it keeps growing. There’s no way to avoid it–college is expensive.

There are ways to trim those costs, though, and one simple way to accomplish that feat is through the use of CLEP and DSST tests. A degree is worth the investment, that part is not in question, but that ‘trimming’ doesn’t have to include an arm and a leg to make it happen when you get credit for the knowledge you already have.

But don’t listen to me, just try a quick Twitter search of “CLEP test” and you’ll see the proof in the digital pudding. (HINT: Look at No. 7)

It doesn’t matter what your status is as a student or what degree you are seeking, taking tests for college courses is a surefire way to save money and get an edge on completing a degree.

Jason Wetsch works in healthcare already, but was looking to find a path to take a step forward in his career. That meant going back to school, and getting a degree that will allow him to make the change he feels is best for his future potential.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t just mean jumping directly into nursing school: First came the prerequisites. That’s where CLEP and DSST tests come in.

Wetsch is planning on taking one of each, and is looking to trim a semester off of his time in school by taking the tests. In addition to saving the actual time it would take to sit through a full class, Wetsch also said the $85 fee will be much easier to pay for than the $1000 it would take for a class.

For students like Wetsch, especially those trying to pay as much out of pocket as they can, the savings alone is enough to invest in a test. The perks don’t stop there, either.

“It’s really convenient for me because I work full time too,” Wetsch said. “Being able to do this saves a lot of time for me because of working around a work schedule and other classes, so there really is a convenience factor.”

The good news? The math checks out.

A quick glance at tuition rates for public universities makes it clear. If you’re lucky, you can get in-state tuition for around $200, and if you are from out-of-state or look to a private school, that number can double or more. Some schools don’t even offer tuition based on credit hour: You sign up, get a range of credits you can take per semester and pay a flat fee.

Things can seem a lot more complicated than they used to be, and college takes more planning than ever.

That’s where CLEP and DSST tests come in. For an $85 fee, students can take College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests in a variety of subjects that can be used in place of up to three credit hours of full college credit. At the same price, DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) are available in more than 30 subject areas.

The best news? They help students make moves at the collegiate level without breaking the bank.


Need more proof? Let’s play out a scenario and see how the numbers add up.

We’ll even be generous, and set the tuition rate at $200 an hour, and also pretend the college in question caps the limit at 40 hours out of your 120 total hours of transfer credit from these exams. If you took 15 credit hours for four years, you’d wrap up your degree with a $24,000 bill.

Now let’s look at the alternative route. Even if it took 20 CLEP/DSST tests to achieve those 40 hours of transfer credit, that is still only $1700 worth of credit to finish almost three semesters worth of work.

Most of these tests are in subjects where students have existing knowledge, too, which means that it won’t take 18 months to prepare, schedule and take the exams. If we continue making generous assumptions in this scenario, and scheduled 6 months to arrange and take those tests, the results are still staggering.

In this model, by simply substituting a semester’s worth of preparation and credit-by-exam, this student would save $6300 and 18 months of time that could be spent getting a job and using that degree.

With that kind of math, only one question remains: Which test are you going to take?