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Exams for Credit

Many distance learning students have studied independently or worked at jobs where they have learned the same knowledge that is taught in some of the college or university courses. There are various exams available which may give you credit without having to take the course at your online school.

The American Council on Education (ACE) determines passing scores for exams and the number of credits that may be granted for them. This does not mean that your school will agree to use those same scores or allow the same number of credits for them. That is why you must check with your school’s policy. You should get in writing from the school what they will allow regarding the number of credits you earn by exam and which credits are allowed.

In another article I discussed what the CLEP examinations are. However, there are other exams available which can also give you some credits that may be accepted by your college or university. Here is information about 2 of them that are widely accepted by many universities and colleges.

  1. The DSST (previously the Dantes Subject Standardized Tests)
    There are 38 DSST exams available in six categories - business, humanities, math, physical science, social sciences, and technology. CLEP has about the same number of exams but many are in different subjects. That means that if you are knowledgeable about one subject that is not offered in CLEP, you can possibly find it in the DSST exams and vice versa.

    The cost of $80 to take the DSST exams is approximately the same as the CLEP’s. Likewise there are extra costs for administration fees, transcripts, and study materials. The tests are similar in style as well, with most of them being multiple choice type exams. However, there are exceptions such as the DSST exam for Principles of Public Speaking, in which you must record an impromptu 4 minute speech in addition to the multiple choice section of the test.

    ACE recommends all of the DSST’s at 3 credits each. This is different from the CLEP tests in that some CLEP tests are recommended at 6 credits. The other major difference is that some of these DSST tests confer upper level credits whereas all of the CLEP tests give you lower level credits towards your Bachelor’s degree.

  2. The Excelsior College Examinations (ECEs)
    These are another set of exams in which you can earn credits which are acceptable at many colleges and universities. There are about 25 exams available in the arts and sciences and more than half of them are upper level credits. ACE recommendation for most of the exams is 3 credits with some that are 6 credits. There are also 17 nursing course exams. According to the Excelsior College website, “our nursing ECEs are the only nursing exams evaluated and recommended for credit by ACE CREDIT”. The nursing exam credits range from 3 to 8 credits.

    The cost of the ECE exams is rather high compared to the CLEP and the DSST exams. At this time, ECEs range from $235 to $345 making the cost about 3 times that of CLEPS and DSSTs. You may find that the extra cost is worth it, especially for the upper level credits and those that give you 6 credits.


If you have the knowledge that is offered in your distance learning college or university course, you can save yourself the time doing the work required while feeling as if you are accomplishing nothing. Check out these examinations to see if there is an exam that matches your knowledge. Check with your school to see if they will accept the exam and for how many credits. If they will accept the test for credit, then you can study for the exam and earn the credits without having to take that course, thus saving yourself some time and allowing you to enroll in a different course which you will find much more interesting.


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Content copyright © 2013 by Elizabeth Stuttard. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Elizabeth Stuttard. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger for details.



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