Back To CourseHow to Choose a College: Guidance Counseling
7 chapters | 46 lessons
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Stacy has taught college English and has a master's degree in literature.
Earning credit by exam is an excellent way to save money and time on your college degree, but it's important that you understand when and how to use credit by exam to make the most of it. A little research up front can ensure that you choose the right exams and maximize the benefit. Choosing a college that accepts credit by exam can help you significantly cut the cost of your degree and make sure that you're done in four years or even less!
You may already be familiar with one kind of credit by exam: Advanced Placement. Advanced Placement, or AP exams, offered by the College Board, are available in a variety of academic subjects, and qualifying scores on these exams can earn students college credit at participating campuses. Because these exams are taken while still in high school, they can allow a student to earn credit towards a bachelor's degree before even setting foot on a campus.
Typically, students need to enroll in an AP course at high school, which prepares them to take the AP exam at the end of the year. The more exams a student passes, the more credit he or she can earn. Coming to college with credits allows a student to spend less time and money on a degree, which can help reduce student debt, so it's no surprise that AP exams are a popular choice for college-bound high school students.
AP may be the most well-known credit-granting exam, but it's certainly not the only one. There are other exams that function on the same premise: qualifying scores can transfer to credit at participating colleges and universities, but the way that students find, prepare for and take these exams differ from AP. Three of the most popular options for credit by exam are College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, UExcel exams and DSST exams. CLEP, like AP, is administered by the College Board, UExcel is offered by Excelsior College and DSST is administered by Prometric.
All exams are accessible to anyone, are affordable (typically under $100 to take) and offer widely transferable credit for those who earn passing scores. Unlike the AP, none of these exams are tied to classes, so students can prepare for them on their own time in any way they choose. All of these exams operate under the principle that learning isn't only measured by hours spent in the classroom. How can you save money on the cost of your degree using credit by exam? Follow these steps:
Step 1: Choose your exams
Some of the most popular credit-by-exam options are psychology, calculus and college composition. Not a surprise, considering these courses are common general education requirements and often prerequisite courses for many different majors and degrees. What may surprise you is that by satisfying these requirements with credit-granting exams, you could be saving yourself a lot of time and frustration, in addition to tuition dollars. Many colleges are so over-enrolled that students have a difficult time getting into popular general education courses and can end up waiting an extra semester or even an extra year trying to get a spot. This can seriously increase the time it takes to earn your degree.
By satisfying GEs and prereqs with credit by exam, you can avoid the stress of trying to add an already over-enrolled course to your schedule, you don't have to sit in a crowded lecture hall, and of course, you don't need to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars earning those credits. As you're making your college decision, it's worth factoring in credit-by-exam acceptance into your criteria.
If you choose the right campus, you may be able to complete all of your general education requirements by exam, essentially cutting the cost of your degree in half! Talk to an academic advisor at the college you are interested in to learn which exams the college accepts and how many credits you can earn from them.
Step 2: Prepare for your exams
Once you've decided which exams you want to take, you need to study! Because there's no course attached to these exams like there is for AP, you'll need to lead your own study effort. This can seem daunting, but we have tips for efficient and effective preparation.
First, it's important to determine the scope of your exam. The websites of the exam providers typically have content guides that explain what the exam covers so you know what to study. You can find a variety of free study resources online. Your local library is also an excellent resource for free study materials, though it's likely what's available there won't be a perfect match for what's covered in the exams.
Choosing study resources that match well with what's covered in your exam can drastically decrease the amount of time it takes to earn the credits. By choosing the right resources and dedicating yourself to a study schedule, you could earn a semester or even a year's worth of credit after just a few weeks of studying!
You can study for credit-granting exams while you're taking other classes, before you enroll or during school breaks. Earning credit in this manner is a lot more flexible than earning it through a traditional course, which is great for people who are working while in school, are parents, or are just trying to fast-track their degree completion.
Step 3: Register for your exam
Unlike the AP exams, which are generally only offered once a year at a high school, you can take CLEP, UExcel or DSST exams year-round at one of hundreds of testing locations around the country. Because of the wide availability of these exams, you don't need to register for an exam until you feel confident that you can pass it.
Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to take a final exam for a traditional course until you felt completely ready? That's pretty much what taking a credit-granting exam is like, except that you also have complete control of when and how you prepare for it. Some exams are offered more frequently than others, so it's good to look into the schedule for the exams you're interested in early to make sure you get the best testing date for your needs.
Step 4: Send your scores to the campuses of your choice so you can get the appropriate credits.
It's really important that you take responsibility for your credits and follow up with your institutions to make sure your credits transfer properly.
Credit by exam can be a great way for students to save thousands of dollars on your education, but it requires a lot of self-motivation. First, you need to properly research which exams are right for you to take. Not every college accepts every exam, so it's crucial that you find out if the college you want to attend accepts credit for the exams you're planning to take. If saving money with credit-granting exams is something you want to pursue, you should consider applying to colleges that have a generous credit-by-exam acceptance policy.
To maximize your time and money savings, you should look into free study resources that are well-matched to the exam you plan to take. Your local library is another great resource. Once you've taken your test, be sure to follow up with your campus to ensure that your credits transfer appropriately. Keep copies of all of your scores for your records. The effort involved to find, prepare for and earn credit by exam will all be worthwhile when you see the money you save on your tuition.
When you are finished, you should be able to:
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Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
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Back To CourseHow to Choose a College: Guidance Counseling
7 chapters | 46 lessons