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

photo by Mary Gober

In the past three weeks we’ve defined distance learning (otherwise known as a non-traditional college route); discussed its pros and cons and taken a look at the two most common credit-earning exams: CLEPs and Dantes.

Now it’s time to discuss how to prepare for the exams.

Not only does earning credit-by-examination save considerably on per-credit cost, you also don’t have to purchase highly priced textbooks. I about died when Joshua started law school and we had to fork over $80 for the cheapest used textbook on Amazon. We hardly spent that much for all of our undergrad resources combined.

Most of the resources necessary to prepare for CLEP or Dantes exams we checked out free from the library!

Resources to Prepare for Credit-by-Examination

Get to Know the Exams:

The first step when preparing for any test is to familiarize yourself with the exam.

There are 33 CLEP exams. The Collage Board describes the tests and offers a few sample questions. The Official CLEP Study Guide is published by the creators of the CLEP exams and offers full length practice tests, as well as recommendations for preparing for the exam. We took numerous CLEP exams and found the Official Study Guide to be an invaluable resource for checking our readiness to take the exam.

If you want to take a Dantes, offers a detailed overview of each test with sample questions. The writers of the exam authored the Official Guide to Mastering DSST Exams to prepare students for their eight most popular exams.

Start studying:

Once you know what you need to study, it’s time to get busy!

Teaching Company Lectures: I absolutely LOVE these! The Teaching Company recruits distinguished professors from around the world to lecture on their area of expertise. They are fairly expensive, but we raided our library’s huge collection. The lectures cover everything from Mastering Differential Equations to The Classics of Russian Literature.

The best part? You can listen while you drive, do dishes or fold laundry! 

My very favorite professor is Timothy Taylor who teaches on Economics. I listened to these while still living at home with my family. The lectures were like a magnet. My siblings inched their way into the kitchen so they could listen too. Timothy Taylor even got an 8-year-old to beg to dry dishes, just so she could listen to the history of economics. Impressive, huh?

Instant Cert: Instant Cert is great for areas in which you need a lot of work. It uses a series of multiple choice questions with detailed answers to quickly help you grasp the pertinent information.

I was delighted with how quickly it helped me prepare for my most dreaded CLEP: College Mathematics. In fact, rather than this CLEP taking the most time to prepare for, I was ready to take the exam in only a couple of weeks.

 Membership is $20 a month and they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee: if you decide you don’t like it during the first month, just cancel and your money will be refunded (no questions asked!)

Instant Cert also hosts a forum, which you can access for free, that is full of great information about schools, tests, etc…

Dummies or Complete Idiot Guides: If you prefer an actual book, these series have guides to almost every subject imaginable. Sometimes if you’ve listened to a lecture on a subject, it’s useful to follow-up with a glance through one of these guides. I spent an couple hours reading over the The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Economics after listening to Timothy Taylor’s lectures and together they covered all I needed to know for the two Economic CLEP exams.


Thanks to a wonderful library system, we spent about the same on all four years of college credit than we did on just one of Joshua’s law books. (We purchased one month of Instant Cert flashcards and The Official CLEP Study Guide, and wouldn’t have needed to purchase it, but checked it out from the library SO many times we eventually decided it would be worth it! We also ordered a few other books that are no longer necessary.) Even if your library isn’t as extensive as ours was, preparing for a CLEP or Dantes exam is considerably less expensive than a regular college course!

Even if you’re going to a traditional college, I highly recommend that you consider testing out of some of your general education courses. It will save you time and money.

If you, like us, want to get your entire degree through examination, join me next week when we’ll cover the three major colleges that offer degrees non-traditionally and the pros and cons of each.

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

(Full disclosure: The links to products in this post are my referral links.)

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  1. Kasey says

    Books! Our friends just got their daughter settled into community college courses this summer and they spent a FORTUNE on her books. And then the resale value is drastically less than the original purchase price. I don’t get it!

    • anna says

      Me either! If a new edition comes out (which seems to happen *very* often!) the old one is practically worthless. What bugs me is when the only changes were reformatting and nothing substantial was actually added. Just thrown off enough you can’t use an old edition in class!

  2. says

    Here in Canada, you can’t easily access most of those tests. It’s a real pain. Even for AP tests, we’d have to drive 5 hours and stay in a motel for several nights to find a place where we, as homeschoolers, can take them.

    • anna says

      I’m so sorry Annie Kate! That sure makes it difficult. Would it be worth the drive if your child took several tests at the same time? It helped us to study for the tests in clumps: micro and macro economics and maybe business together; analyzing lit and British lit; etc.

      Also, I know that on at least one form of test (I’m not sure if it was Dantes) you were allowed to get a non-family member to proctor the exam. I don’t know if that would work, but I would contact them and ask!

  3. says

    This is a great post. I’m currently in school for web site design and development and would love to be able to listen to lectures while cleaning, working around the house, etc….

    I’m going to look for info. on graphic design on the website you referenced. Also, how exactly would I find out if my library had the Teaching Company Lectures? If there a certain area of the library I should look for these? I’ve never heard of them before. Thanks! 🙂

    • anna says

      They would be with the audiobooks. You could ask a librarian for sure, but I think if you search under “subject” for Teaching Company, they would show up.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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