How to Get Your Bachelor’s in Less Time, For Less (Part III)

photo by Mary Gober

Now that we’ve defined distance learning (otherwise known as a non-traditional college route) and discussed its pros and cons, it’s time to get practical.

Distance learning operates under the assumption that you don’t have to sit in a classroom in order to learn. You can study anywhere, anytime and then test your knowledge using standardized tests. If you score well enough, you “pass” and earn credit.

Some students may want to complete their entire degree through distance learning. (I’ll share how in coming weeks.) However, you don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach. Many colleges allow you to test out of at least some courses and have credit applied.

For example, here is a list from OTC (a local college where I grew up) of the tests OTC considers equivalents of their courses and what score you need to have the test count towards your credit. Search your school’s database or talk to an advisor to find what tests they accept.

Two Major Types of Credit-Earning Tests


College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams:

CLEP exams are the most popular way to test out of entry-level college courses. For a 90 minute test that costs just $77*, you can earn between 3 and 12 credit hours! Nearly 3000 accredited colleges nation-wide award credit for at least some CLEP exams. (Check here to see if your college accepts CLEPs.)

CLEP exams cover 33 subjects including biology, Spanish, calculus and American literature. With the exception of foreign language and composition CLEP exams, the exams are made up of multiple choice questions.

Taking a CLEP exam allows you to choose your course material, save money, and gain your degree more quickly.

There are limitations to CLEPs: they don’t cover all areas and colleges generally only award lower-level credit for them.

Dantes Subject Standardized Tests (DSST/Dantes):

These tests were originally designed for the military, but civilians can now take them. Like CLEPs, Dantes exams cost a fraction of earning credit traditionally. Dantes exams are $80* for a 3 credit-hour exam and many of the test are even awarded upper-level credit! Nearly 2000 colleges across the country accept some Dantes exams for credit. (Search here to see if your college awards credit.)

Dantes exams cover 38 subjects including “Human Resource Management,” “Principle of Statistics,” and “The Rise and Fall of Soviet Russia.”

These exams are more difficult than CLEPs, but are multiple choice. Though Dantes require studious preparation, you can study at your own pace with the materials you choose.

(* Most testing facilities charge a $15-20 fee for administering the test.)

Coming up…

Next week I’ll share the wonderful resources we used to prepare for these exams. Then, we’ll take a look at three colleges that let you obtain a degree entirely through examination. I’ll wrap it up with answers to common questions.
Have a question? Email or comment and I’ll do my best to answer it!  

linked up at Works for Me Wednesday and Frugal Friday

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  1. Kasey says

    You are a wonder! This is such a terrific thing you are doing…putting all this info in one place. Maybe it excites me because we are “in this phase” right now, but I think it is the nicest thing!!

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