While high school students across the country gear up to take their AP tests to hopefully earn college credit, two lesser known avenues for earning college credit by exam are CLEP and DSST tests. There are 33 CLEP exams and 37 DSST exams available for students to earn college credit without taking the college course. However, there are a few things to know before diving into these tests to maximize your outcome and understand their intent.
1. They save you both time and money
Each CLEP and DSST test will cost you $85 to sit for the exam. While there may be additional administrative fees at the testing site, and you may purchase study materials, this is far less than $1,782 – the cost of the average three-credit college course.
In addition to the financial savings, passing a CLEP or DSST exam will save you the time of sitting in a class and re-learning information you’ve already acquired.
“Instead of having them take a class that they feel like they’ve already had, a CLEP test is a way for them to get that credit without so much time and money,” said Kyle Jarman, Director of the CLEP Testing Center at Cameron University.
While it varies depending on each student and their familiarity with the material, Peterson’s recommends you spend at least six weeks preparing for a test, the test itself being an hour and a half to two hours. Again, the time you will spend studying for the test and taking the test will likely be much less than the minimum Carnegie unit of 144 hours for a three-credit class.
2. Check which course requirements your test will fulfill
There are over 2,900 colleges and universities that accept CLEP exam credit and 1,900 colleges and universities that accept DSST exam credit. But, these schools are only required to apply these as general education credits. This means that your credits may not count towards your major, minor, or other specific course requirements.
Of course, the first step would be to make sure that your college accepts any CLEP or DSST exams. Then, look into your school’s policies on credit by exam before assuming your CLEP or DSST exam credit will fulfill a certain major, minor, or university requirement. There may be limits on how many CLEP or DSST tests can apply to your course credits or institutions may require prerequisite classes be taken at the university. Talk to an academic advisor or guidance counselor about which tests you want to take and if they will apply to certain course requirements.
3. You should take exams for subjects in which you have pre-existing knowledge
The idea behind CLEP and DSST exams is that students who already have extensive knowledge in a subject do not have to waste time re-learning material. So, choosing a subject or subjects that you are already familiar with will allow you to simply review the material and therefore prove to a college that you are already proficient in it and taking the class is not necessary.
Say you took advanced biology classes in high school and had a particular passion for the subject, maybe even participating in a related club on campus. You may be a good candidate for the biology CLEP test. Or, perhaps you have worked in business for several years and are now deciding to go back to school to earn your associate’s or bachelor’s degree. There are several business-related CLEP and DSST tests for which you may have experience-based information. Look over the topics of tests you’re interested in taking to see if they will be applicable to your knowledge base.
4. Anyone can take CLEP and DSST exams
While DSST exams were traditionally taken by military members who wanted to earn their degree, they are now open to anyone who wants to receive college credit. Both tests also carry the misconception that they are only for adult learners, as high school students are more likely to earn credit through AP tests. Again, both CLEP and DSST tests are open to anyone who wants to take them – there is no minimum age. While they cater more to adult learners due to the independent study aspect, a current high school or college student may also take CLEP and DSST exams. In fact, many homeschooling students take advantage of CLEP and DSST credits.
5. If you do not pass the exam, you have to wait one to three months before retaking the test
Keep in mind the timeline for re-taking exams, as you will have to wait 30 days before retaking a DSST test and three months before retaking a CLEP test. This may be problematic to your academic schedule, and you will have to spend the time studying for the test again.
To avoid running into this problem, the most obvious thing to do is to pass the test the first time by studying proficiently. Create a study plan and stick to it, taking practice tests before the actual test to make sure you are prepared.
CLEP and DSST exams are extremely useful tools for anyone pursuing an undergraduate degree. They can save you time and money as you will not have to retake classes that you already have sufficient knowledge in. However, there are some things to keep in mind in terms of timing and what credits the tests can apply to at your college or university. Browse the CLEP and DSST exam options below to see which tests may be a good fit for you.
Available CLEP exams:
- American Government
- American Literature
- Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
- College Algebra
- College Composition
- College Composition Modular
- College Mathematics
- English Literature
- Financial Accounting
- French Language: Levels 1 and 2
- German Language: Levels 1 and 2
- History of the United States I
- History of the United States II
- Human Growth and Development
- Information Systems
- Introduction to Educational Psychology
- Introductory Business Law
- Introductory Psychology
- Introductory Sociology
- Natural Sciences
- Principles of Macroeconomics
- Principles of Management
- Principles of Marketing
- Principles of Microeconomics
- Social Sciences and History
- Spanish Language: Levels 1 and 2
- Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648
- Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present
Available DSST exams:
- A History of the Vietnam War
- Art of the Western World
- Business Ethics and Society
- Business Mathematics
- Computing and Information Technology
- Criminal Justice
- Environmental Science
- Ethics in America
- Ethics in Technology
- Foundations of Counseling
- Foundations of Education
- Fundamentals of College Algebra
- Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
- General Anthropology
- Health and Human Development
- History of the Soviet Union
- Human Resource Management
- Introduction to Business
- Introduction to Geography
- Introduction to Geology
- Introduction to Law Enforcement
- Introduction to World Religions
- Lifespan Development Psychology
- Management Information Systems
- Math for Liberal Arts
- Money and Banking
- Organizational Behavior
- Personal Finance
- Principles of Advanced English Composition
- Principles of Finance
- Principles of Public Speaking
- Principles of Statistics
- Principles of Supervision
- Substance Abuse
- Technical Writing
- The Civil War and Reconstruction