Posted in financial aid, Tuition

Careful Borrowing for College

“When a student debtor is approved for financial aid, those funds are sent and administered by that student’s college’s financial aid office. The financial aid office takes out the necessary money to pay the college for that student’s course load,” LendEDU research analyst Mike Brown writes.

Whatever money remains is sent to the student loan borrower in the form of a refund check. The refund check is intended to be used for living expenses or other school-related expenses, but there is no way of keeping track of where that excess money is spent.”

The above story appeared earlier this month on a site called College Fix, as part of LendEdu’s report.  But, it’s old news, students have been doing this since my early days in college administration (1990’s) but the distinction now is that the amount of money they can borrow is staggering.

First of all, know that your teen can borrow money to attend college.  The federal borrowing guidelines allow for borrowing for 150% of the length of a degree program (if you’re pursuing a 4-year degree, you are eligible to borrow for 6 years)   Your teen will be allowed to borrow $57,500 for their bachelor’s degree per current guidelines.  If they stay in school and continue onto a master’s or doctorate degree, they’ll be able to borrow $138,500 per current guidelines.

Second, know that you can borrow money for your teen to attend college.  In short, parents can borrow whatever deficiency exists between their teen’s borrowed amount and the cost of attendance according to current guidelines.   As you can imagine, there is little incentive for colleges to keep tuition prices affordable when parents and teens can simply borrow for their teen to attend any college at any cost.  

Last week, I wrote about how none of us has unlimited time, talent, or resources.  An encouragement to parents as they guide teens toward high school graduation.  Today, I want to take a shot at helping your teens make smart(er) borrowing choices this fall by avoiding some of the common issues they’ll face as they sign their financial aid “package” documents in the coming months.

Most of the time, a financial aid package is nothing more than a loan or many loans.  If your teen is receiving grants or scholarships, those are gifts that don’t have to be paid back- and should be clearly identified in their package.



2017 CNN Money
credit: CNN Money 2017


Let’s look at the above example from CNN Money.   If you can get past the sticker shock of a family borrowing $53,342 for ONE YEAR, you’re looking at a total borrowed amount of $217,368 between the parents and teen by the time he’s finished.   If future borrowing matches this sample, the teen will borrow at least $22,000 and the parents will borrow at least $195,000.

United States Department of Education reports that it takes, on average, SIX years to complete a 4-year degree.

Parents here know that you can complete the first 2 years of almost every college major for pennies on the dollar in high school by using:

  • credit by exam programs like CLEP and AP in some amount
  • free tuition through your state’s dual enrollment program. List of States
  • using your community college to complete transfer courses or full degrees.

Let’s assume you’ve been exceptionally efficient with your teen’s high school program.  You’ve injected college credit where it makes sense, and you’ve found a program that allows them to transfer a full Associate degree into their Bachelor’s degree program perfectly.  You’re still faced with the question of how to fund “the last 2 years.”

It might surprise you to learn that I think borrowing for the last 2 years isn’t a problem.  In fact, there is a lot of data that tells us most of the problems and unnecessary costs happen in the first 2 years.   Everything we talk about here – credit by exam, dual enrollment, distance learning, transfer credit- it all saves time and money off the first 2 years.  If you have to borrow, your best shot at using your money wisely is to fund their last 2 years.  The last 2 years are harder to “hack” with alternative or inexpensive credit.  So, if you’re trying to stretch every last dollar, it’s best to hang tight, and use it (or borrow) at the very latest possible moment- but when the finish line is within your view.

Look again at this financial aid package- there is one line I want you to notice:


Did you see the “Financial Need” row?  Where did that number come from?  It should surprise you to learn that the college doesn’t cost $51,845- but the college wants you to borrow that amount.  (Albion College in Albion, Michigan)  If you go to the college’s cost page, you’ll see a breakdown like this:

Tuition & Fees  $39,313 USD
Room & Board  $11,066 USD
Books & Supplies  $800 USD
Other Expenses  $906 USD
Annual Cost of Attendance
$52,085 USD

(final cost differs slightly from CNN’s graphic- but not significantly)

The amount the college expects you’ll “need” to attend there makes a lot of assumptions!  Tuition and Fees are what you’re going to get a bill for.  $39,313 isn’t flexible, and if you allow your teen to attend, they’ll have to pay that amount.

But, they’ve assumed your teen will live on campus (not everyone does) and will purchase the meal plan (board) which not everyone does.  Further, they’ve written in a loan for $1706 to cover projected books, supplies, and “other” expenses (pizza?) that your teen may or may not have.  Either way, those aren’t billed costs, so 100% of that money will be given to your teen as a “refund check.”

If your teen signs their financial aid package as written, but chooses to live at home, your teen will receive a “refund check” for  $12,772.  If they do live on campus, their refund check will be $1706.

This isn’t a “refund,” it’s a “cash advance loan.”

“Polling “1,000 student loan borrowers who are currently enrolled at a four-year college,” LendEDU sought to determine “how many are using student loan money to help pay for their spring break trips this year.”

Nearly 57% of respondents affirmed that they would be using financial aid to help finance their vacations.”  -LendEDU

spring break

10 Careful Borrowing Tips

  1. Borrow only the amount you’ll be billed for.  The “extras” that the school automatically includes can usually be budgeted for or paid for using cash. Your package probably includes money for buying textbooks (smart students rent or buy used textbooks!) as well as things like parking passes.  If your teen’s financial package doesn’t spell this out for you, you’ll need to get those numbers yourself.
  2. Declining a loan will require a lot of paperwork, and will likely confuse the financial aid office.  Our family experienced this last year when my husband’s employer paid 75% of his MBA degree, and though we needed to borrow to pay his portion, the financial aid office automatically offered him a loan to pay 100%.  When he declined their “generosity,” he had to sign no less than 5 forms before they agreed to reduce his loan amount to just the part of tuition he owed.
  3. Earn the maximum allowable credit in advance.  Whether you choose CLEP, AP, or dual enrollment, this advanced credit shaves money and time spent finishing a degree.  Some colleges allow 15-30 credits in transfer, but others allow as many as 90!  This reduces the time spent finishing a bachelor’s degree by 1-2-3+ years!
  4. Many majors are available through your state’s colleges and universities via distance learning- reducing housing costs to zero.  These degrees are identical to those earned on campus, so if your teen is studying something that doesn’t require “hands-on” labs, you may be able to avoid borrowing living expenses and dorm fees entirely.  Good majors that work with distance learning:  psychology, history, business, communications.
  5. Juniors and seniors can earn scholarships!  Scholarships aren’t only for incoming freshman.  Check the professional association linked to your teen’s major- majors like nursing or business usually have huge scholarship opportunities.
  6. A part-time job can have big rewards.  Many companies offer tuition reimbursement in some amount.  List of 100 employers.
  7. Price shop.  You may not realize this, but hundreds of colleges offer the same degrees.  As a general rule, public colleges/universities in your home state are usually a fraction of the cost of attending a public college/university in another state.  Private colleges don’t often care what state you’re from but are almost always the most expensive choice.
  8. Credit shop.  If your teen worked hard in high school to earn college credit, choose a college that recognizes their credit.  While having completed 1-2 classes may not necessarily sway your decision, some of you will have teens with 1-2 YEARS of college credit in the bank- it’s worth finding a school that will take it all.
  9. When in doubt, wait it out.  If you’re not sure – or if your teen isn’t sure that they need a 4-year degree in their field, take the time to be sure.  Use their credit earned toward a 2-year degree or take a gap year.  Additionally, doing unpaid volunteer internships offer an exceptional opportunity to explore careers without borrowing a dime.
  10. If you must borrow, save the loans for the last 2 years. It is nearly impossible to find discounted tuition for upper level (300/400 level) courses, but if you start homeschooling for college credit in high school,  you can cash-flow the first two years of almost any degree… and that is what I call resourceful high school planning!


Posted in Career Planning, College Majors, High School

Unlimited Time, Talent, and Resources

The motivational/inspirational quote always goes something like this:

“What would you do if you had unlimited time, talent, or resources?  Do that!” 

If you love that quote, you’re not alone.  But, you might not appreciate this post very much, and I want to talk to you about how time, talent, and resources fit into the homeschooling for college credit journey.

None of us has unlimited time.

None of us has unlimited talent.

None of us has unlimited resources.

I understand the concept of the quote- it’s not meant to suggest any of us literally has no parameters, it’s an exercise meant to open up the world of possibilities.  What’s not to love?

As parents of homeschooled teens, we have the privilege of also being their guidance counselor.  If I were advising your teen, it would be easy enough for me to encourage – inspire- motivate – the sky is the limit…. but that’s only because I don’t know him/her.  I don’t know how he what kinds of problems he loves to solve, his fears about his future, or what makes him tick.  I don’t know his heart.  Inspirational quotes are meant to encourage everyone, and as such, they aren’t very specifically useful to anyone.

I think homeschooling parents have a unique opportunity that we are almost going to miss if we subject ourselves to the shallow one-liners that guide mainstream teens.  Frankly, the “college at all costs” trend of the day is costing our economy and teens a lot of lost time and resources.dream

  • Currently, about 1/2 of the teens that start college won’t finish.
  • Of students who finish, the average time to complete a 4-year degree is 6 years.
  • Studies tell us that about 1/2 of the teens that start college haven’t selected a major or will change it at some point.
  • Finally, we know 2/3 of students are going to borrow money to fund their education.

This is a very informative snapshot of whether or not current wisdom is working.  I don’t think it is.  Education data is one of the most heavily researched topics in modern history – and we have data!  There are big differences between college students in 1940 and 2018.  It’s true that in 1940 only about 5% of the population held a bachelor’s degree whereas today it’s much higher, about 1/4th to 1/3rd depending on your source. But, something to note, however, is that graduation rates among those who started college in the 1940’s and finished, was better than 90%.  In other words, fewer started, but most finished.  Today we get more teens into college, but don’t get many out on the other side with a degree, instead they come out with debt and shame for “failing.” Why?

The biggest shift  I’ve observed over the past 10 years, is that the focus of the entire K12 education system is spent focused on 1 goal: getting teens into college.  All effort, all energy, all finances, all must give way to the idol of college admission.  In my opinion, that’s the wrong goal.  Your teen can get into college.  Every community college in the country allows your teen to walk in and enroll.  Getting in isn’t the problem.  Now, if the question is instead “can my teen get into ABC college?” That I can’t answer.  Maybe.  Maybe not… but of the 12,000+ college options, that question seems narrow to me.

The better question to ask in 2018 is if your teen can get out of college. When the goal is getting out (with a degree, with minimal debt, and in a reasonable amount of time), then we’re going about the process making better decisions and giving our teens solid guidance.  We’ve removed the romance and hype that surrounds the “college experience” and we’re using good judgment and wisdom.

Let’s do a small experiment.  Imagine that YOU (the parent) decided to pursue a college degree this August.  Given the option, would you study to become a doctor or a nail technician? Even if you’ve never studied either formally, you can guess what each would involve.  Would you set a budget, or are you comfortable just borrowing whatever it costs?  How much time would you like to spend on your degree?  1/2 year?  6 years?

Though I don’t know you, I’m going to predict the following:

  • You have a really good idea about what kinds of sacrifices and brains would be required to attend med-school.

  • You would never borrow $50,000 to become a nail technician.

  • If you’re borrowing $150,000 you’d be very sure that there is a stable career on the other side of it.

  • You have a really good idea about your strengths, weaknesses, talents, and type of job you’d like to have/avoid.

  • If I suggest you become a pharmacist, a chef, or a landscaper- you can understand what that is, and know whether or not you’re a good fit for that occupation.

Why?  Why do you know these things?  Because adults have a very good understanding of time, a very good awareness of talent,  personality, and adults have a very real understanding of debt.  Frankly, adults are better at making decisions because we’ve had more time on the planet.  Our teens need us to help them rule in and rule out an occupation that is a poor fit.


The Science of Choice

As it turns out, science and psychology study behavior and choice, and how it intersects with happiness, satisfaction, and action.  Rather than give you yet another expert who will interfere with your good intuition (because no one scientist is ever regarded as an expert by everyone), I want to highlight one of the key principles of choice that I think is very relevant to parents who are also their teen’s guidance counselor:  Fewer choices. 

There are several famous studies that follow decisions made by people choosing between a couple options, and many options.  As it turns out, when people have a very large pool of options, they are almost always unsatisfied with their decision whereas when they’ve only had to choose between a couple options, they are quite satisfied.  The experts believe that this is because we can’t realistically evaluate too many things at once- that if we were trying to choose between 20 of something, it’s harder to trust that we’ve really compared all of the pros and cons, thus an anxiety of missing a piece of the puzzle that may have been important to make the best decision.  It’s much easier for our mind to consider 3 choices and select one with confidence.

  • Good question: “after graduation, do you think you’d like to go straight to college or go on a mission trip for 6 months in Haiti first?”  Of course, you’ll tailor the question that to fit your family, but when we start with too many options, the teenage brain just can’t discern between them.  This helps the teen evaluate a timeline, gives them a voice in the choice, but isn’t overwhelming.
  • Hard question:  “where would you like to go to college?  You can go anywhere you want!”  Clearly, no person can rationally evaluate “anywhere” and “anything” well.  How many of us could do that?  How many of us know about “all” colleges everywhere?  None of us.  Bring down the choices into bite-size pieces.
  • Good question:  “since you love music and are so gifted, have you thought about becoming a music teacher?”  This uses adult wisdom to zero in on a potential career option that uses the student’s talent in a specific way.  Even if the teen isn’t interested in becoming a music teacher, the yes/no decision is not overly complex for a teen.
  • Hard question:  “I know you love playing music, but it isn’t really a good way to make a living. Can’t you think of something else you could do to support a family?”  This is another example of “anywhere” question.  Of the zillions of career options, you’ve only removed one.  This question is too big.
  • Good question:  You’ve earned 27 credits in high school, if you go to ABC College they’ll let you use all of them, but if you go to XYZ College, they’ll only take 23 of them.  The difference here is only 1 class, how would you feel about having to retake once class? Is it worth choosing one over the other?”   This question is great because it helps the student on so many levels.  Besides narrowing it down for them (assuming you’re ok with both college choices) it brings forward a simple decision about time, work, or cost.

If this exercise is bringing you back to raising a toddler, it’s the very same principle!  We think that because we prefer to have many choices that it’s better for us, but we develop deeper confidence and security when we can consider a question carefully in smaller bites.  Further reading:  Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze


What Happened to Average?

If you’ve spent a few minutes in any homeschool group, you’ll hear many parents label their teens as “gifted” or “challenged”  but when is the last time you’ve heard a parent declare proudly that their teen is “average?”  Huh?  Average has gotten a bad reputation being synonymous with “not trying hard enough” but the truth is that most of us are average intelligence with average talent.

Statistically speaking, about 75% of us fall into the same category of cognitive ability or intelligence: average.  That is to say that while there are degrees of average, most of us are about the same.  There are students with profound limitations, just as there are those with profound intelligence, and they are represented on the far ends of a traditional bell-shaped curve.  So, within the category of average, what makes someone different?  You already know the answer, and it has many terms, but they all mean the same thing:  hard work.  Hard workers almost always out-perform lazy workers, this isn’t news.  But as a teen’s guidance counselor, we need to be realistic with our teen’s determination to become a successful student.  In short, are they hard-working students?  What about talent?

  • Academic Work Ethic: By the time your teen is in 10th grade, you already have a good idea of their academic work ethic. We need to be honest – some occupations and college majors require significantly above average work ethic.  Medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering.  These careers are elite because they require exceptional academic work ethic.  Students who are successful in these college paths are those who enjoy the challenge of difficult academic work and rigorous schedules.  They enjoy school and strive to be exceptional students, who happen to be using their gifts and talents to pursue difficult subjects.
  • Talent: Most of us have a talent or something we are “naturally” good at.  As an example, we all know someone who can play anything on the piano, paints or draws well, who picks up new languages effortlessly or can cook anything without a recipe. Within our social circle, these people stand out to us, but, when grouped with other talented people, they appear more average.  This makes assessing our own teen’s talent very challenging.  As an example, perhaps I’m the best baker you know – but if you were to put me in a room with thousands of talented bakers, I’d be near the bottom.  I’m a good baker among amateurs, and that’s only because I went to culinary school.  I’ll never be a world-famous pastry chef, but I could work as a decent baker if I had to.  It’s not my talent.

How do we, as parents, reconcile having average teens?  How do we reconcile being average?  I don’t pretend to have that answer for everyone, but I do believe that if we teach our teens to work hard on what they’re doing, and praise their work ethic instead of only their results, we teach them that they do have control over one narrow aspect of their success:  their effort.  If you can help them match their talent with something that they feel motivated to apply effort toward, you’ll probably be on the right track for guiding them towards success.

Education at Any Cost

The notion of having unlimited resources was unheard of 50 years ago.  Once upon a time, students worked hard to earn a scholarship, parents had a college fund, or some students worked their way through night classes.   Once upon a time, the cost of college was a significant barrier to a student earning their degree.  While that sounds like bad news, the up-side to that barrier, was students weren’t allowed to rack up thousands of dollars of debt willy-nilly.

If you graduated high school in the 80’s or 90’s like I did, teens who borrowed for college (like I did) were faced with an “annoying” student loan payment of $50-$100 that lasted for 5-10 years.  Today, student loans aren’t annoying, they’re crushing.  Teens today who borrow face repayments of $300-$1200 per month for 10+ years.  Further, those debts, unlike our mortgages or credit cards, aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Borrowing rules changed in 2008.   Your teen, unlike you, will be allowed to borrow through the government guaranteed student loan program the first  $57,000 for their degree without any restrictions or your consent, and then they can continue on to graduate school and receive funding until they reach the cap of $138,500.  Once at that cap, they’ll have to seek alternative sources like parents, banks, or credit cards.  Parents, who usually have some collateral, are tapping into their 401K funds, IRA retirements, and home equity to pay college tuition.  As such, colleges haven’t much incentive to keep costs in line with inflation, and we’ve seen a huge rise in tuition and student loan debt.  To make matters worse, many people are entering into marriage, each bringing their own student loan debt into the family.


If you think this is an exception, you might be surprised to hear that 2/3 of students are borrowing money to follow their talents, passions, and dreams without the wisdom and counsel of their parents.  The young lady caller phoning Dave in this clip was probably encouraged by her coach, but as she soon found out, that passion has a price.  Be sure to hang around through the end.

I’ve written here before about my own son’s scholarship opportunities that we deliberately didn’t pursue with him after high school (diving) because the scholarships would have created significant long-term debt for him. In 4 years, we never met another parent in the league that that thought the way we did.  Everyone we met was quick to mortgage their home or tap their retirement to fund their teen’s education.  If we’d had a large college fund, we may have considered the situation differently, but the point is that we each have limitations.  Having the ability to borrow nearly unlimited amounts of money allows us to pretend those limits don’t exist, but it’s our teens who pay the price.

College budget tips you can start today:

  • While you’re still teaching them at home, inject college credit opportunities into your curriculum.  There are “easier” and “harder” ways to do this, but there is something for everyone.
  • Encourage your teen to earn low-cost college credit in high school.  Some states allow reduced or no cost tuition to teens that qualify.  Join your state’s Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook Group to help navigate the process.
  • If your teen doesn’t qualify for reduced or no-cost tuition, DIY a plan using credit by exam resources that you can arrange on your own.  The tabs at the top of this website provide free planning help.  By using CLEP, DSST, and Advanced Placement exams in high school, your teen can complete 1-2 full years of college credit at home.
  • Just because your teen graduated high school, that doesn’t mean they can’t use credit by exam to finish maxing out their 100 and 200 level credits. Even if it takes another year or two, keep making smart financial decisions. I tested out of an AA degree using CLEP at age 36 just for fun!
  • Unless your teen has an exceptionally high PSAT, ACT, or SAT, do not expect a full ride academic scholarship.  Partial scholarships should be evaluated against the cost of all 4 years, not just freshman year.
  • Parents who work for a college or university in a full-time job usually get free tuition for dependents.  Besides being a teacher, colleges hire cooks, secretaries, janitors, IT professionals, electricians, and safety workers.  It’s worth looking!
  • Many companies will pay for your teen’s tuition.  I have a good list of 100 employer scholarships here.
  • Some schools have guaranteed scholarships for teens who meet academic or geographic conditions.  I have a good list here. 
  • Almost every traditional state university in the country offers distance learning.  If your teen doesn’t need a “hands-on experience” for their degree, consider using your state university – but as a distance learner.  By living at home, your teen can save at least $10,000 per year.
  • Help your teen research the “ROI” for costs that they will spend on their degree.  ROI is a business-school term that means “Return on Investment.”  Some degrees have exceptional ROI.  As an example, nursing, which can still be started at a community college for about $8,000 returns an average annual salary of $68,000 per year based on last year’s census by The Department of Labor. Additionally, while nurses are encouraged to earn a bachelor’s degree, many hospital employers will pay the tuition for nurses to do so while working.
  • Even for teens who are on the lower-average side academically, there are opportunities for college classes that can be done at home in a self-paced setting with online proctoring.  This allows teens (like mine) to make enormous progress, but at their own pace without barriers like taking notes during a lecture, or memorizing huge chunks of content.  General degrees in liberal arts or business are easy to complete this way and can be very affordable.  (about $15,000 total)
  • Talk with your teen about the budget, their responsibility, and what you plan to contribute to the process.

In closing, I urge parents to understand that you an say “yes” to a college degree while also saying “no” to the snares that trap young students, especially those that result in student debt without the credential to repay it.

If you’ve homeschooled in high school, your teen has already witnessed that education and learning don’t have to look the same for everyone.  Your teen has an opportunity to follow your lead by being resourceful and open to thinking outside the box.  There are dozens of different ways to make a college degree affordable!


Posted in ACE, Alternative Credit Project, Transfer Credit

Program Closing: Alternative Credit Project

I’ve posted from time to time about The Alternative Credit Project, so I’m sad to report today that the program is closing down effective 3/31/2018.  At the risk of this post reading like a bowl of alphabet soup, I’m going to try and keep this simple, but we have a lot of initials in the next few paragraphs and I want to be sure you guys have this info.

First, if you’ve never heard of the Alternative Credit Project, you’ve nothing to worry about. I’m going to mention programs in this post that you may have heard of, and may even be participating in, but the Alternative Credit Project was a program within a program and has no bearing on college credit earned outside of the ACP.  In other words, the providers will STILL offer courses, but they’ll do so independently now.

Alternative Credit Project was a program within a program

A quick overview:  The Alternative Credit Project ACP was a grant-funded program of American Council on Education ACE that started late 2014.  The program selected 6 alternative college credit course providers (Saylor Academy, Straighterline, EdX, Ed4Credit, Pearson, and Sophia) and then found about 50 colleges that would guarantee (in writing) that students who completed a course in the program could receive college credit at the participating colleges.

The reason this was a noteworthy program:   As a program within a program, we saw that some of the colleges who signed up to accept credit were “new players” in alternative credit acceptance, and by agreeing to participate, parents now had the option of using inexpensive home-based self-paced college credit resources in their homeschool and have a written guarantee that their teen could use them at a participating college.   This was a “backdoor” method of bringing alternative credits into a traditional college that otherwise wouldn’t be a target school for families.

Who will feel the greatest sting? Our families in Colorado will be hit the hardest.  Colorado Community Colleges signed on, and this meant parents who wanted to DIY their teen’s dual enrollment could use this program and earn college credit for about $25 per course.  (Colorado does offer tuition-free dual enrollment, but only in 11-12th grades, so resourceful parents could supplement their program and really rack up college credit starting earlier than 11th and extending later than 12th)  The big benefit in play was that once a course is on a transcript in Colorado, the other public Colorado community colleges/universities automatically accept it in transfer.  So, by extension of this program, parents knew their teens would get college credit first at the community college level, but then also at the 4-year university in the future.  It was a very sweet deal.

The rest of you who feel the sting of this are probably building your own dual enrollment program from scratch.  Remember, not all states allow teens to dual enroll, and in those that do, only a handful offer that for no charge- so a great number of our parents look for low-cost alternatives that can be done at home.  Additionally, testing scores and age requirements in some states restrict enrollment in some programs, leaving parents feeling like they are “wasting” valuable time.  I wrote about one of my own son’s school year here Straighterline and my 10th Grader’s Spring Semester when he used Straigherline to complete a full year of college in 10th grade, a year before our state allowed him to enroll in our (free) dual enrollment program.

You’ll still be able to DIY home-based dual enrollment program for your teen, you’ll just have to plan more carefully.

College Partnerships

College partnerships are written agreements, much like we see in many states at the community college level.  Some of your states have written agreements called Articulation Agreements that guarantee the transfer of courses taken at the community college into that state’s public college/university.  These guarantees give parents confidence that their teen’s college credit earned in high school can be used later, thus saving a lot of time and money!  The Alternative Credit Project had roughly 50 partnership agreements with colleges that may not have otherwise had agreements with their community college!  In other words, the program was finally the “in writing” promise parents wanted in place before signing up for these alternatives (inexpensive $) courses.

Straighterline already has over 100 written college-partnerships in place, making them a clear leader in this area.  That is far more than the ENTIRE Alternative Credit Project had in place.  Clearly, Straighterline didn’t “need” the ACP program, but for the other 5 players (Saylor Academy, EdX, Ed4Credit, Pearson, and Sophia) these partnerships were ground-breaking.  On their own, most of those course providers have only a small handful of written partnerships, making transfer less secure.  To be fair, many colleges claim to accept credit of that type (ACE), but I like certainty.  To, to be frank, prior to the Alternative Credit Project, I rarely suggested any of these credit providers since the transfer was so shaky.  ACE publishes a list of colleges who say they will consider transfer credit, but I’ve found too many mistakes in that list to consider it useful.

In other words, without the guarantee of the written ACP transfers, we are back to relying on partnerships created by each of the individual course providers (Saylor, EdX, Sophia, Pearson, Ed4Credit, Straighterline) and since each are a little different in terms of business model,  how aggressively they “go after” formal partnerships varies.  It’s not surprising the the the largest partnership list was created by Straighterline, a profitable company – while the lowest cost provider, Saylor Academy, is a non-profit and lacks the resources to be as aggressive setting up that structure away from ACP.

Does this Affect You?  Has your teen has earned /is earning college credit through Saylor Academy, EdX, Ed4Credit, Pearson, Sophia, or Straighterline?  If no, then no worries, this won’t affect your teen’s college credit at all.  If yes, you’ll need to take steps to be sure their college credit is secure.  I’m going to write out the step-by-step process, but time is of the essence, so if you hit a roadblock, message me for help.
  1. Find out if the course they are taking / has completed holds ACE or NCCRS college credit separate and apart from their participation in ACP.   Go into the ACE Database  and type in the organization’s name- search for your course.  For those using Saylor, check the NCCRS Database the same way.  If you find the course, it’s going to be worth college credit once ACP closes, so even if you change target schools, it is still worth college credit.
  2. Make sure that all of your teen’s ACP courses have been added to their ACE transcript TWICE.  Your teens ACP course should have an entry under ACP, but then also under the original provider (if applies).  You should be able to view their courses under both headings!! As an example, if your teen completed the American Government course through Straighterline, the first entry would be in the “Alternative Credit Project Ecosystem” heading with a course number and completion date:
American Government (StraighterLine)

ACPE-0072 Course 04/14/2017
and then separately, the same course would appear under the Straighterline heading with its own course number and the same completion date:
American Government*

OOSL-0063 Course 04/14/2017

3.  If you find that the course(s) is only available for college credit under the Alternative Credit Project and does not have stand-alone approval for credit, that course must be completed and submitted BY YOU / YOUR TEEN  to ACE by 3/31/2018 midnight (EST).  Even though the program is closing, there is still a strong possibility that colleges will honor the relationship if you completed the course while the relationship was in place.


Saylor Academy is being very proactive in obtaining ACE / NCCRS approval for the courses that will otherwise appear “unaccredited” once the ACP program folds.  Specifically, there are 8 courses that are at risk.  They are:

BIO101: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology         ACPE-0023
BUS101: Introduction to Business                                        ACPE-0107
BUS103: Introduction to Financial Accounting                      ACPE-0113
CHEM101: General Chemistry I                                            ACPE-0034
MA121: Introduction to Statistics                                         ACPE-0017
PHYS101: Introduction to Mechanics                                   ACPE-0008
PHYS102: Introduction to Electromagnetism                       ACPE-0007
POLSC221: Introduction to Comparative Politics                  ACPE-0071

I contacted Saylor Academy’s Executive Director Jeff Davidson and asked if he expected these 8 to be ACE approved before ACP expired, and he wrote me this very encouraging note:

“Hi, Jennifer-   We are submitting ALL of our “ACPE” courses to ACE for re-review this month.  I suspect ACE will not allow a “lapse” for those courses if they are unable to complete the review by 3/31, but I can not 100% definitely guarantee that. I would be shocked if there was a lapse, so I’m 95% confident there will not be. So please express that super high level of confidence. “

Before I leave you with the list of ACP partnership schools, know that helping you learn the transferability of courses is my TOP PRIORITY.  Why?  Because everyone has their own set of preferences for choosing our teen’s classes.  We have different budgets, skills, even teacher preferences that we get to choose with them.    Transfer, on the other hand, colors everything and must be known in advance.  

In order for YOU TO BE YOUR TEEN’S BEST GUIDANCE COUNSELOR, you have to know and understand how/why a course that you THINK should transfer will or won’t.   Know that I’ll post updates as they happen, and we’ll follow the progress of how the partnership schools react once they’ve severed ties with ACP.  Additionally, I’ll keep you up to date on the ACE / NCCRS college credit status of Straighterline, Saylor, EdX, Ed4Credit, Sophia, and Pearson.   

ACP Partnership Schools (through 3/31/2018)

Alternative Credit Project Home Page

American Public University
American Public University, Transfer up to 90 credits
Antioch University Midwest
Antioch University Midwest. Transfer up to 60 credits
Antioch University Online
Antioch University Online. Transfer up to 60 credits
Antioch University Santa Barbara
Antioch University Santa Barbara, Transfer up to 90 credits
Antioch University Seattle
Antioch University Seattle. Transfer up to 90 credits
Arapahoe Community College
Arapahoe Community College. Transfer up to 45 credits
Bastyr University
Bastyr University. Transfer up to 45 credits
Bellevue University
Bellevue University. Transfer up to 90 credits
Brandman University
Brandman University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Capella University
Capella University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Cardinal Stritch University
Cardinal Stritch University
Transfer up to 60 credits
Central Michigan University
Central Michigan University
Transfer up to 60 credits
Colorado Northwestern Community College
Colorado Northwestern Community College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Colorado State University - Global Campus
Colorado State University – Global Campus
Transfer up to 60 credits
Colorado Technical University
Colorado Technical University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Community College of Aurora
Community College of Aurora
Transfer up to 45 credits
Community College of Denver
Community College of Denver
Transfer up to 45 credits
Dallas County Community College District
Dallas County Community College District
Transfer up to 45 credits
Davenport University
Davenport University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Fayetteville State University
Fayetteville State University
Transfer up to 64 credits
Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University
Transfer up to 64 credits
Franklin Pierce University
Franklin Pierce University
Transfer up to 45 credits
Front Range Community College
Front Range Community College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Goodwin College
Goodwin College
Transfer up to 90 credits
John F. Kennedy University
John F. Kennedy University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Kaplan University
Kaplan University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Lakeland University
Lakeland University
Transfer up to 30 credits
Lamar Community College
Lamar Community College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Miami Dade College
Miami Dade College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Monroe Community College
Monroe Community College
Transfer up to 36 credits
Morgan Community College
Morgan Community College
Transfer up to 45 credits
National Louis University
National Louis University
Transfer up to 40 credits
Northeastern Junior College
Northeastern Junior College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University
Transfer up to 64 credits
Northwestern State University
Northwestern State University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Notre Dame College
Notre Dame College
Transfer up to 32 credits
Otero Junior College
Otero Junior College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Pikes Peak Community College
Pikes Peak Community College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Pueblo Community College
Pueblo Community College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Red Rocks Community College
Red Rocks Community College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Rowan University Global Learning and Partnerships
Rowan University Global Learning and Partnerships
Transfer up to 30 credits
Sinclair College
Sinclair College
Transfer up to 90 credits
Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Stark State College
Stark State College
Transfer up to 40 credits
SUNY Empire State College
SUNY Empire State College
Transfer up to 90 credits
Texas Woman`s University
Texas Woman`s University
Transfer up to 15 credits
Thomas Edison State University
Thomas Edison State University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Trinidad State Junior College
Trinidad State Junior College
Transfer up to 45 credits
Transfer up to 60 credits
University of Baltimore
University of Baltimore
Transfer up to 15 credits
University of New England
University of New England
Transfer up to 65 credits
Walden University
Walden University
Transfer up to 90 credits
Wilmington University
Wilmington University
Transfer up to 75 credits
Youngstown State University
Youngstown State University
Transfer up to 30 credits


Posted in DSST, Math

Resource for DSST Math for the Liberal Arts

A very common question that parents ask is, “What should we use to study for the CLEP or DSST test?” A great way to find resources is to go directly to the source – the CLEP and DSST websites. That is exactly what I did to find the following resource for the DSST Math for the Liberal Arts test. This is a new test that came out January 2017 so there are no “tried and true” resources recommended by others. In fact, I couldn’t find any recommendations which propelled a search of my own.

A search of the DSST website led me to their Exam Facts Sheets. One of the resources listed on the DSST Math for the Liberal Arts Exam Sheet is Thinking Mathematically, Sixth Edition. The sixth edition (2014) of this book costs over $200 on Amazon. However, the fifth edition (2011) costs less than $10.


You do not need the most current edition of textbooks. Older editions have much of the same content with generally only minor updates. You will also find more free resources available on the internet with older editions. Search for lectures on YouTube using the textbook title.

Thinking Mathematically, Fifth Edition

Robert Blitzer

ISBN 978-0-321-64585-2

Image result for thinking mathematically blitzer

How the Book is Organized

Each chapter is divided into several sections. Each section contains Examples (problems with solutions) and Checkpoints (problems for the student to work out). Answers to all Checkpoints are found in the back of the book. Additionally, there is an inexpensive DVD-Rom available with videos showing the solutions (more on that later).

At the end of each section is an Exercise Set that contains the following:

  • Practice Exercises
  • Practice Plus (additional practice)
  • Application Exercises (word problems)
  • Writing in Mathematics (essay questions)
  • Critical Thinking Exercises
  • Technology Exercises (not in every chapter, using a calculator, etc)
  • Group Exercises

The answers for all of the odd problems in the Exercise Set are located in the back of the book.

At the end of each chapter is a Chapter Summary, Review, and Test. Answers to all review questions are in the back of the book. Answers and step-by-step solutions for the tests are found on the Blitzer ThinkingMathematically youtube channel.

Helpful Resources in the Book

Answers abound! A cheap, used math textbook is of no value without the answers, but in this situation, answers and solutions are readily available.

  • Answers for Checkpoints, odd-numbered problems from the Exercise Set, and Review Questions are located in the back of the book.
  • ThinkingMathematically youtube channel has answers and step-by-step solutions to the Chapter Tests. See the example below.
  • An inexpensive (around $6) DVD-Rom (ISBN 978-0-321-64640-8) is available that features a set of complete lectures covering every Checkpoint and answers and step-by-step solutions to the Chapter Tests. WARNING: This is an older  DVD (2011) and is intended for use on Windows XP or Vista or Mac OS 10.4. Using Windows 10, I was only able to access the Checkpoint videos. I copied the ones that worked into a file on my computer for easy access because the DVD menu didn’t work. Even though I was not able to access everything on the DVD, there were still 822 Checkpoint videos which will be very helpful!

Correlation Btw DSST and Thinking Mathematically

Completing a college textbook might seem daunting to your high schooler. But do they need to finish the whole textbook? No! As you can see from the chart below, 4 out of the 15 chapters do not cover content in the DSST exam. You would not need to work through them. In addition, chapters 6-12 cover 75% of the exam’s content so you would want to spend the bulk of your time in those seven chapters.

DSST Math for the Liberal Arts Thinking Mathematically chapters
1. Real Number Systems 11%* 4, 5
2. Sets and Logic 16% 2, 3
 3. Metric system, conversions, and geometry 12% 9, 10
4. Algebra, graphs, and functions 11% 6, 7
5. Linear Systems and Inequalities 8% 7
6. Exponents and Logarithms including Financial Literacy 22% 8
7. Counting, Probability Theory, and Statistics 20% 11, 12
* Percentages indicate the approximate amount of the exam devoted to this content area.

The following chapters have content not tested on the DSST:

     1 Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

     13 Mathematical Systems

     14 Voting and Apportionment

     15 Graph Theory

The total that I paid for the book and DVD was $18.23! When you consider the teaching resources available – answers in the textbook, YouTube videos, and DVD-Rom – this could be a very inexpensive, self-teaching resource for the DSST Math for the Liberal Arts test.

Posted in CLEP, High School

CLEP for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Grades

If you’re planning CLEP exams as part of your teen’s high school journey, you’re probably worried about selecting a first, or next, exam.  Should your teen take Natural Sciences or Chemistry?  Humanities or American Literature?  When is the best time to take Composition?  Since my goal is to help you become your child’s best guidance counselor, I’m going to give you the tools to make that call yourself!

Through my own testing journey, I’ve found that CLEP exams tend to represent one of two exam types:

CLEP Exam Types

  1. Individual subjects
  2. Cumulative subjects


CLEP Exam Types

How and when your teen prepares for any given exam depends first on the exam type.  This is actually a really big deal- and may make the difference between success and failure!

An individual subject is one that you can approach with no pre-existing knowledge about the subject, and learn it well enough to pass an exam.  A few examples of these exam types are American Literature or Sociology.  In both cases, you can start learning from scratch without any kind of disadvantage.

An example of a cumulative subject is one that does require prior knowledge.  Exams in this category include College Algebra or Spanish.  In the case of College Algebra, you can’t begin the study of the subject without previous math preparation (ideally completion of Algebra 2) and in the case of Spanish, you’ll have to learn Spanish before taking the exam.  In both cases, where you start is a significant factor in determining how fast and how easily you can learn the material.

Why should you care?  Because in order to choose the best time for your teen to take a specific course/exam, you need to know where it best fits into your homeschool program.

Some exams fall neatly into categories, others can go either way.  I’ve sorted them for you.  Exams in the “Decide for Yourself” category are multi-disciplinary or require at least familiarity with elementary content before approaching the subject at the college level.  Meaning they incorporate more than one subject.    The exam titles in the list are active links,  so you can click the title to explore the content decide for yourself.

Clearly Individual Subject Exams

Clearly Cumulative Subjects


Tips for Individual Subjects & Exam Prep

  • Learning creates the foundation of knowledge, test prep memorizes facts and figures.  Make a learning plan that includes both.
  • If your teen typically studies one subject at a time, estimate 1 month of learning and test prep for each subject.  (Monday-Friday about 3-4 hours per day = about 60 hours, or 1/2 high school credit)
  • If your teen typically studies multiple subjects at a time, estimate about 60 hours divided over the course of your block, trimester, semester, or unit that you use.
  • I’ve never met someone who told me they were over-prepared for their exam.  When in doubt, allow a little extra time.
  • Some subjects offer exams in 2 parts (US History, Western Civ., Economics) and lend themselves to a full year of high school study.  The mid-year point is a good time to take the first exam, end of year is a good time to take the second exam.
  • Keep in mind all CLEP subjects are 100/200 level college learning- that makes availability of resources abundant!!  Discarded textbooks, thrift store finds, and online MOOCs are excellent sources of learning material. Learning material doesn’t have to be current.
  • Exam prep material should match the current edition of the exam so your test prep matches what they’ll be tested on.
  • Group subjects together to build on knowledge (Psychology, Educational Psychology, Human Growth and Development all have some cross-over)
  • Start with a subject your teen likes.
  • If reading level isn’t at or above the 12th grade level, learning the content might not be enough to pass.  Study the subject now, continue to work on reading level, and take the test in a year or two when reading level is higher.

Tips for Cumulative Subjects & Exam Prep

  • You’ll want to investigate what pre-existing knowledge is necessary to learn the subject.  For instance, Calculus requires first knowing Precalculus which first requires College Algebra which first requires Algebra 2 (high school).  The exam prep material assumes all preexisting knowledge is in place.
  • All college level sciences require a good foundation in high school level sciences.  For instance, college level chemistry assumes knowledge of high school level biology and chemistry as well as algebra.  Starting from scratch for CLEP Chemistry will be exceptionally challenging without that base- but not impossible.
  • Both composition exams and the Analyzing Literature exam assume strong command of college level language (reading and writing).  If you use standardized tests in your homeschool, your student should be testing beyond 12th grade Language Arts before you begin exam prep.
  • Foreign Language CLEP exams cover 2 semesters of college foreign language.  Your teen should have completed at least high school level 1 and probably 2 before attempting.

Now that you have a good understanding of if an exam will make up a subject in your homeschool, or if it will follow a year or more of study, you’re ready to make a schedule!  You can read my entire original post about creating a sample here:

Sample High School CLEP Schedule

In short, only YOU can decide where CLEP exams make sense in your homeschool schedule.  It’s based on what they’ve done, and what they plan to do in the coming years.  In part, it also helps to know if you’re planning to use dual enrollment options, and whether or not they have zeroed in on a college major.  The more information you have, the more specific you can be – but being uncertain isn’t a reason to do nothing.  If you have a teen with the knowledge, a CLEP exam can be a wonderful “final exam” in the bank.  The exam scores can be held for 20 years before being used, so the risk/reward ratio really supports testing while its fresh in their mind.

This is only ONE sample of how a family might inject CLEP credit into their homeschool.


9th Grade
Subject Area Semester 1 Semester 2 CLEP Exam
ENGLISH 9th Grade English 9th Grade English (N/A)
MATH Algebra 1 Algebra 1 (N/A)
SCIENCE Survey Science Survey Science (N/A)
HISTORY United States History United States History U.S. History 1U.S. History 2
FOREIGN LANGUAGE Spanish 1 Spanish 1 (N/A)
ELECTIVE Typing Photography (N/A)

In this sample, we are laying a foundation for future exams in English, Math, Spanish, and Science….but we’re not there yet.  We are going to allow some foundational learning to happen first, and then we’ll inject college credit when our teen is better prepared.  Instead, in this year, we are using a full year curriculum for United States History, and taking the U.S. History 1 exam at the half-way point, and then U.S. History 2 at the conclusion of the school year.  These two exams work perfectly together!


10th Grade
Subject Area Semester 1 Semester 2 CLEP Exam
ENGLISH 10th Grade English 10th Grade English (N/A)
MATH Algebra 2 Algebra 2 (N/A)
SCIENCE Biology Biology Biology CLEP
HISTORY World History World History (N/A)
FOREIGN LANGUAGE Spanish 2 Spanish 2 Spanish -maybe?
ELECTIVE Physical Education Health (N/A)

In this year, we continue to develop English and Math skills but are attempting two very big CLEP exams.  Both Biology and Spanish cover a full year of content, so we’ll play this by ear.  If our teen isn’t a solid “A” student, we may wish to eliminate the exams from our girl4plan or wait until later to attempt the.  Spanish is a tough call because if you’re only allowing 2 years of study, it’s now or never.  On the other hand, a 3rd or 4th year of Spanish would be ideal since we’re aiming for a high score (Level 2).  On the other hand, if we stop now, we have time to learn a second language.  As we go into 11th grade, we may have the added option of taking college courses through dual enrollment, which throws a monkey wrench into things a bit.  For the purpose of this sample, we’ll assume you’re only using CLEP.


11th Grade
Subject Area Semester 1 Semester 2 CLEP Exam
ENGLISH 11th Grade English 11th Grade English (N/A)
MATH College Algebra with PreCalculus College Algebra with PreCalculus College MathCollege Algebra
SCIENCE Chemistry Chemistry Natural SciencesChemistry
HISTORY Western Civ. I Western Civ. II Western Civ. IWestern Civ. II
ELECTIVE American Literature American Literature American Lit.Analyzing & Interpreting Lit.
ELECTIVE Music Appreciation Art Appreciation Humanities

We are experiencing major traction now.  In fact, while the CLEP exams all align perfectly to the subjects on the schedule, it may be too aggressive for all but the most motivated students.  I included them anyway so you could see how it fits together.  If you’ll take a moment to look at the SCIENCE row, the Natural Science CLEP exam would be perfect at the close of the 1st semester because that exam is 50% biology (taken last year) and 25% chemistry – a student with solid knowledge of biology and a cursory knowledge of chemistry can pass this exam without addressing the physics segment.  Chemistry, as its own exam, is difficult and should only be considered after a full year of robust chemistry study.  If I could also draw your attention to Humanities, that exam requires knowledge of music and art, but also a lot of the Western Civilization knowledge intersects with this exam, making it a perfect fit for this schedule.


At this point, my advice is that you’ll select remaining courses and exams that align with a target college.  College policy, awarding of credit, and accepted exams should all make their way into the conversation when selecting a college.  It’s reasonable that a college might not take all your teen’s hard work, but if a college doesn’t accept most of it, you may want to reconsider!  An encouragement to choose wisely comes from my friend Carol.  She allowed me to share her story with you.   We just saved $96,780

And by the way, were you keeping count?  How many potential college credits does the 11th grader in the sample have?


Our teen also took a total of 13 exams (I included Spanish) over the course of 3 years. Since CLEP exams cost about $100 each, the total financial investment was about $1300. Since a family can pay as they go, it allows most people to budget and plan for a good portion of their teen’s college education well ahead of time!  Not to mention the savings associated with books, meals, dorms, etc. that happen later.

Assuming the sample student attends a college that accepts all 60 credits, our sample student will have 2 years completed toward their bachelor’s degree, may have already earned an associate’s degree.  (We still have 12th grade left, and can fill in courses for a degree if we want)

For those wondering about the cost savings, you may want to revisit my post listing the current Cost of Tuition in the United States and calculate your potential savings based on the kind of college your teen may attend.  In general, if a college credit costs $325, your teen earned 60 of them for $1,300 over 3 years instead of paying (or borrowing) $19,500.  Now THAT’S something to get excited about!

Posted in AP Advanced Placement, CLEP, SAT, Saylor Academy, Straighterline,

Forms of ID when Homeschooling for College Credit

Parents of teens earning college credit in high school may be shocked to find that many exams require identification.  For those with a driver’s license, that’s usually enough, but many of you have teens without a driver’s license. What can they do?

You’ll find some very different policies regarding the acceptable forms of ID based on the test your teen is taking.  I’ve done my best to collect the most current information from the more popular exams we talk about here, but know that companies can change their requirements at any time!  Please, allow yourself enough time to confirm and also obtain acceptable ID for your teen.


CLEP (College Board)

Identification: Your driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued identification that includes your photograph and signature. You will be asked to show this identification to be admitted to the testing area. The last name on your ID must match the name on your registration ticket. The ID you bring must meet the following criteria:

  • Be government-issued.
  • Be an original document—photocopied documents are not acceptable.
  • Be valid and current—expired documents (bearing expiration dates that have passed) are not acceptable, no matter how recently they may have expired.
  • Bear the test taker’s full name, in English language characters, exactly as it appears on the registration ticket, including the order of the names.
  • Middle initials are optional and only need to match the first letter of the middle name when present on both the ticket and the identification.
  • Bear a recent recognizable photograph that clearly matches the test taker.
  • Include the test taker’s signature.
  • Be in good condition with clearly legible text and a clearly visible photograph.
  • Military test takers must bring their military ID.
  • Homeschooled students and high school students: If you do not have the required government-issued ID, please complete a Student ID Form (.pdf/55 KB) which is valid for one year. The form must be accompanied by a recognizable photo with a school or notary seal overlapping the photo. The form must be signed in front of a school official or notary. If you fail to present appropriate identification, you will not be tested.
  • Examples of other types of acceptable indentification include:
    • Government-issued passport with name, photograph and signature
    • Driver’s license with name, photograph, and signature
    • State or Province ID issued by the motor vehicle agency with name, photograph, and signature
    • Military ID with name, photograph, and electronic signature
    • National ID with name, photograph, and signature
    • Tribal ID card with name, photograph, and signature
    • A naturalization card or certificate of citizenship with name, photograph, and signature
    • A Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) with name, photograph, and signature
    • Source link

SAT & AP (College Board)

Note:  AP Students taking AP exams at their high school do not need identification.  More information about AP exams:  AP Bulletin for Parents

Test center staff will compare the information on your Admission Ticket and your photo ID with the test center roster to confirm your registration and identity. You cannot be admitted to the test center if any of the information does not match. This includes the use of a nickname on one item but your full name on another. Source link

The staff is not required to hold your seat if you did not bring acceptable identification.

ID Checklist

ID documents must meet all of these requirements:

  • Be a valid (unexpired) photo ID that is government-issued or issued by the school that you currently attend. School IDs from the prior school year are valid through December of the current calendar year. (For example, school IDs from 2015-16 can be used through December 31, 2016.)
  • Be an original, physical document (not photocopied or electronic).
  • Bear your full, legal name exactly as it appears on your Admission Ticket, including the order of the names.
  • Bear a recent recognizable photograph that clearly matches both your appearance on test day and the photo on your Admission Ticket.
  • Be in good condition, with clearly legible English language text and a clearly visible photograph.

Note: Not all of these requirements apply to Talent Search identification documents used by students who are in the eighth grade or below at the time of testing; however, Talent Search identification forms must bear an original student/parent signature.


Check Your ID—Every Time

Even if an ID got you into a test center before, it does not guarantee it will be acceptable in the future.

Acceptable ID Examples:

  • Government-issued driver’s license or non-driver ID card
  • Official school-produced student ID card from the school you currently attend
  • Government-issued passport
  • Government-issued military or national identification card
  • Talent Search Identification Forms (allowed for eighth grade and below)
  • SAT Student ID Form (.pdf/490KB); must be prepared by the school you currently attend or a notary, if home-schooled

Unacceptable ID Examples:

  • Any document that does not meet the requirements
  • Any document that is worn, torn, scuffed, scarred, or otherwise damaged
  • Electronic document presented on a device
  • Any document that appears tampered with or digitally altered
  • Any document that bears a statement such as “not valid as identification”
  • Credit or debit card of any kind, even one with a photograph
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security card
  • Employee ID card
  • Missing Child (“ChildFind”) ID card
  • Any temporary ID card

More About Names

If you need to make a change to your name after registering, please contact Customer Service at least 30 days prior to your intended test date. Middle names and initials are optional on your documents; however, if provided, the middle initial must exactly match the first letter of your middle name on your ID.

More About Photos

You may not be allowed to enter the test center, let alone take the test, if test center staff cannot sufficiently authenticate your identification from the ID you present. Your score may even be withheld or canceled.

Admission to the test center is no guarantee that the ID you provided is valid or that your scores will be reported. All reported or suspected cases of questionable ID or test-taker identity are subject to our review and approval before, during, and after the test administration.

ID Requirements Apply All Day

You should keep your ID and Admission Ticket with you at all times while at the test center, including during breaks. You may be required to show your ID and Admission Ticket and/or to sign a test center log multiple times and at various points throughout the test administration.

If it is discovered after your test administration that you used a false or invalid identification, your test scores will be canceled, and you will forfeit your registration and test fees. Your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) (if you are under 18), your high school, and the colleges and programs you have designated to receive your score reports will be notified and may be told why your scores were canceled. Law enforcement authorities may also be notified when fraud is suspected, and you may be banned from future tests.

If you fail to comply with these identification requirements and policies, you may be dismissed from the test center and your scores may be withheld or canceled. If you are dismissed from the test center prior to completing the test because of invalid or unacceptable ID, or failure to comply with these ID requirements and policies, your test fees will not be refunded.

If You Do Not Have Acceptable ID

If you do not have another form of acceptable ID you may be able to use the Student ID Form (.pdf/490KB). This form must be prepared and authenticated by the school you currently attend or by a notary if you are home-schooled. A current photo must be attached to the form in the area indicated before the form is notarized. This form is only valid as ID if you are testing in the United States and for test-takers under 21 years of age.

If You Are Waitlisted

In countries where waitlist status is used, you must present an acceptable school- or government-issued photo ID that has been issued in the country in which you are testing. Foreign passports, foreign national IDs, or IDs from foreign schools will not be accepted.

If You Are 21 or Older

If you will be 21 or older on test day, the only acceptable form of identification is an official government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, that meets all of the requirements above. Student ID cards are not valid forms of identification for test-takers who are 21 or older.

Testing in India, Ghana, Nepal, Nigeria, and Pakistan

The only acceptable form of identification is a valid passport with your name, photograph, and signature. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Testing in Egypt, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam

A valid passport or valid national ID card with your name, photograph, and signature are the only acceptable forms of ID. If you travel to another country to test, you must provide a passport as identification. There are no exceptions to this policy.

DSST (Prometric)

Q.4 What form of ID should I bring to the testing location when I take a DSST exam?

A. Prior to the test administration, all test takers must present current and valid picture identification such as a driver’s license, passport, or picture student identification. DANTES funded eligible military test takers must provide a valid Common Access Card (CAC). Only test takers should be permitted into the testing room. Unauthorized visitors are not permitted in the testing room at any time. Source link

Straighterline (Proctor U*)

Proctor U is the 3rd party online proctoring system currently used by Straighterline.  Proctor U’s website:  Always have your ID ready before connecting to a proctor. If you are unsure of what identification is needed for your exam, please reach out to your instructor for clarification. In some instances, a second ID may be required. This includes a school ID or passport. Source link

Straighterline’s Proctoring Page:  Source link

Two forms of IDs, one of which must be a government-issued photo ID, as proof of identification. Valid forms of government identification are as follows:

  • U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card
  • Driver’s license or ID card issued by a State provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address
  • ID card issued by federal, state or local government agencies or entities, provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address
  • U.S. Military card
  • Foreign passport

Saylor Academy 

OPTION 1 – Proctor U*

Proctor U is the 3rd party online proctoring system currently used by Saylor Academy.  Proctor U’s website:  Always have your ID ready before connecting to a proctor. If you are unsure of what identification is needed for your exam, please reach out to your instructor for clarification. In some instances, a second ID may be required. This includes a school ID or passport. Source link

Saylor’s website:  When it is time for you to take your test, log in to ProctorU and press the blue button under the “My Exam” tab to launch your proctoring session. To verify your identity, your Proctor will ask you to use a webcam to show a form of identification, and then answer a number of questions based on public record information.  If you live outside of the United States, ProctorU will not have access to public record information, and you will instead be asked to show a second form of ID. Source link

OPTION 2 – Private Proctor

Detailed information is not provided for this option.  Source link  While the proctoring instructions do state that the proctor must  “Verify student identification prior to entering the testing area” there are no further instructions.  My recommendation is to contact Saylor Academy well in advance for clarification.  Saylor Academy Help Center. (Software Secure)

Study uses Software Secure AKA Remote Proctor Now as the third party proctoring service.  Study’s proctored exam instructions simply state a student must provide “a photo ID.”  Source link




Acceptable Forms of Identification

Only the following forms of identification are acceptable. If it is not on this list, it is not acceptable, and you will not be admitted to test.  Source link

Current official photo ID

Must be an original, current (valid) ID issued by a city/state/federal government agency or your school. Note: School ID must be in hard plastic card format. Paper or electronic formats are NOT acceptable. Your first and last names must match the ticket. The photo must be clearly recognizable as you.

ACT Student Identification Form with photo  

You MUST present this ACT Student Identification Form (PDF) with photo if you do not have a current official photo ID as described above. It must be completed by a school official or notary public; neither may be a relative. All items must be completed.

ACT Talent Search Student Identification Form 

If you are participating in an Academic Talent Search program and were not required to submit a photo with your registration you must present your ACT Talent Search Identification form. If you are participating in an Academic Talent Search program and were required to submit a photo when you registered, you must present either a current official photo ID or an ACT Student Identification Form with photo.

Unacceptable Forms of Identification

You will not be admitted if you present any forms of ID other than those listed as acceptable. The following are examples of unacceptable identification:

  • ACT ticket alone
  • Birth certificate
  • ChildFind ID card
  • Credit, charge, bank or check cashing cards, even with photo
  • Diploma
  • Family portrait or graduation picture, even if the name is imprinted on the photo
  • Fishing or hunting license
  • ID issued by an employer
  • ID letter that is not an official ACT identification form
  • Learner’s driving permit (if it doesn’t include a photo)
  • Temporary/replacement driver’s license (if it doesn’t include a photo)
  • Organization membership card
  • Passport or other photo ID so old that the person presenting it cannot be identified
  • Personal recognition by anyone, including members of the test center staff, classmates, parents, counselors, and teachers
  • Photo ID of parents
  • Photo with your name embossed or printed on it by a photographer
  • Photocopies or reproductions
  • Photos issued by a business for promotional purposes (e.g., amusement parks)
  • Police report of a stolen wallet or purse
  • Printed, stamped, or photocopied signatures
  • Published photo, including yearbook or newspaper
  • Report card
  • Social Security card
  • Telephone calls to counselors, teachers, or school officials
  • Traffic ticket, even with a physical description and signature
  • Transcript, even with photo
  • Web page with photo




*Proctor U :  While not disclosed on any the websites I visited, Proctor U has the ability to use a process called Acxiom-X identifiers.  These identifiers could require your student to answer a number of “unique” questions that they should know about themselves.  The best resource I found identified potential 115 questions in their question bank.  Acxiom’s website states

“The Acxiom Identify-X Authenticate process uses unique data generated questions to identify an individual and then verifies these individuals through our high-quality database, offering greater security to the end user.

Acxiom’s identification platform utilizes demographic and geographic data in challenge questions with nearly 900 data elements for more than 300 million individuals. Identify-X Authenticate data comes from public, publicly available and non-public proprietary databases. Identify-X Authenticate data is current and regularly updated daily, weekly and monthly, depending upon the data source.”

Obviously not all of these would apply- but examples of possible Acxiom questions that could be asked during identification verification when using Proctor U include:

  • Based on your driver’s license do you wear corrective lenses?
  • What professional licenses do you hold?
  • What subdivision do you currently reside in?
  • What state does your relative Joe live in?
  • How many fireplaces did you have in your last residence?
Posted in CLEP

The Easiest CLEP?

If you haven’t heard it yet, there is a pervasive myth that Analyzing and Interpreting Literature is “the easiest CLEP” and “passable with no study.” In this post, I’d like to explore what makes this CLEP “the easiest” for many students, and an unexpected “nightmare” for others.

Official Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP Page

Unlike many other CLEP exams, this exam doesn’t have to follow a semester or year-long course.  Instead, this exam is a literature comprehension exam and must be attempted only by those with strong reading ability and endurance.  If you choose to offer a literature course for your teen (American Literature and English Literature both also offer CLEP exams) this exam fits in well.  Unlike the American or English Literature CLEPs, this exam requires no recall of specific works or authors – just reading.  This exam is worth 3 college credits.

NOTE:  This exam used to be worth 6 credits.  If you took this exam prior to Feb 28, 2015, your college may honor the old assessment and award 6 credits.  Exams taken from March 1, 2015-current are valued at only 3 credits. 

Already confused? watch my “What is CLEP?” video

What is analyzing and interpreting literature?  It is the academic process of breaking down a piece of poetry or prose into components and using critical thinking to understand their meaning. 

cautionThis CLEP at home -vs- COLLEGE ENROLLMENT

A basic undergraduate literature course will usually expose the student to both classic and contemporary literature.  The scope will include poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction.  In college courses like this, professors often require an “Anthology” book instead of a textbook or whole pieces of literature.  Passages about slavery, politics, romance, and history are likely to be included in most literary anthologies.  Courses in literature will almost always involve extensive discussion and often some type of controversy.  Additionally, a college literature course generally requires a lot of writing. College courses are based on the premise that the attendees are adults, so no consideration is given to your teen’s age.    Choosing a “more conservative” or “more liberal” college doesn’t assure that the teacher’s opinions will match yours.   All things being equal, I like this subject as a CLEP exam instead of a college / dual enrollment course for teens that have read extensively.  

If you want simple:  use this exam after or alongside a regular high school literature curriculum (or following several years of reading widely).  Test prep for this exam can be done in a couple days because the bulk of the content is simply reading comprehension.  There are a few literary terms your teen should become familiar with.  More on that later.   In our home, I consistently use a layering technique to teach my children subjects that will also be part of a CLEP exam.  This exam, however, is a little different.  The best approach here is just to wait. Wait until they read well.  I put a video on youtube explaining how to layer resources.

For the curious, my husband and I took this exam in March 2007.  My score was 59, his was 50.  I liked this exam, but he hated it!  -Jennifer Cook DeRosa

The Easiest CLEP

When I started preparing for this exam in 2007, I read time and again that I didn’t need to study- it was by far the “easiest CLEP” ever, and that “everyone” passes.  I spent a little bit of time googling literary terms (they’ll be included at the bottom for your reference) and I grabbed my husband to join me.  (Afterall, everyone passes!)  The multiple choice exam asks 80 questions in 90 minutes.  The kicker is that you’ll have to read a long passage and then answer a handful of questions about the passage.  The “easy” part here is that you don’t have to have preexisting knowledge about the works on the test.  They won’t ask you who the main character of Such-and-Such was, or who wrote a particular novel.  In short, you can walk in cold.

When you read a passage and understand it well,  you’ll probably do great on the questions that follow.  Each test is random so you may end up with “easier” passages, like those from Huckleberry Finn or Emily Dickenson.  Lucky you!  Now, the problem comes when the passage is extra long, extra technical, extra wordy, or just extra “old-fashioned.”  The problem, is now you’re faced with a handful of questions you probably won’t get right.  If your version of the exam has 12 long passages and you only really understood 4 of them, it’s not going to turn out well for you.   You really need to understand most of your passages and answer most of the questions correctly.  (It’s also possible to understand the passage and miss questions, but we’ll hope that’s not the case!)

What kind of passages?

Francis Bacon. (1561–1626). Essays, Civil and Moral.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

“He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public. Yet it were great reason that those that have children should have greatest care of future times; unto which they know they must transmit their dearest pledges. Some there are, who though they lead a single life, yet their thoughts do end with themselves, and account future times impertinences. 1Nay, there are some other that account wife and children but as bills of charges. Nay more, there are some foolish rich covetous men, that take a pride in having no children, because they may be thought so much the richer. For perhaps they have heard some talk, Such an one is a great rich man, and another except to it, Yea, but he hath a great charge of children; as if it were an abatement to his riches. But the most ordinary cause of a single life is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous 2 minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles. Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects; for they are light to run away; and almost all fugitives are of that condition. A single life doth well with churchmen; for charity will hardly water the ground where it must first fill a pool. It is indifferent for judges and magistrates; for if they be facile and corrupt, you shall have a servant five times worse than a wife. For soldiers, I find the generals commonly in their hortatives put men in mind of their wives and children; and I think the despising of marriage amongst the Turks maketh the vulgar soldier more base. Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hardhearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so oft called upon. Grave natures, led by custom, and therefore constant, are commonly loving husbands, as was said of Ulysses, vetulam suam prætulit immortalitati [he preferred his old wife to immortality]. Chaste women are often proud and froward, as presuming upon the merit of their chastity. It is one of the best bonds both of chastity and obedience in the wife, if she think her husband wise; which she will never do if she find him jealous. Wives are young men’s mistresses; companions for middle age; and old men’s nurses. So as a man may have a quarrel 3 to marry when he will. But yet he 4 was reputed one of the wise men, that made answer to the question, when a man should marry,—A young man not yet, an elder man not at all. It is often seen that bad husbands have very good wives; whether it be that it raiseth the price of their husband’s kindness when it comes; or that the wives take a pride in their patience. But this never fails, if the bad husbands were of their own choosing, against their friends’ consent; for then they will be sure to make good their own folly.”

Are you exhausted?  Was that ok?  How would your teen do with that?  Is the essay content too mature?  This passage is a good representation of this exam.  If your teen hasn’t read classic literature, this exam will give him trouble.   If your teen is a slow reader, this exam will give him trouble.  If your teen zones out after a half hour of hard reading, this exam will give him trouble.  This exam asks 80 questions and allows 90 minutes.   If 1/2 – 3/4 that time is spent reading, they’re left with only about 15-20 seconds per question.

When I took this exam, I felt my mind starting to wander somewhere around the first hour.  It took a lot of focus to get through the last questions, and toward the end, I was simply “pushing through and hoping for the best.”  My husband’s experience with this CLEP exam was enough of a turn off that he didn’t want to attempt any others after this one.  He told me his last 20 or so questions were all marked “B” because it seemed like a good choice- he just wanted to get through it.   My 17-year-old son took this exam and hated it (but passed) and told me it was exhausting.

As to not discourage you, others find this exam really enjoyable!  I’ve asked our Minnesota Homeschooling for College Credit group leader Jenny Bergren to share some words about her daughter’s experience with this exam.  She took it a couple months back and had a great experience.

My daughter just took and passed her first CLEP- Analyzing and Interpreting Literature. She got a 65 and found it to be easy. She even finished 25 minutes early. 

Regarding her daughter’s background:

She’s my reader and poetry writer. I expected it to be easy for her because this subject is her strength. She already knew how to understand and analyze literature before she started studying. She does it for fun!   

Regarding her daughter’s prep for the exam:

She went through the Modern States course to get the free voucher but the only thing she learned was a few terms. She did say the practice tests were a lot harder than the real test. She scored abysmally on the second practice test (29 right out of 80?).

How it went:

I told her not to worry because I’m taking her to Chick-fil-A whether she passes or not. 😉 She wouldn’t talk about what was on the test specifically because she said you have to agree not to. But she did say she enjoyed the passages that she read.

Anything else?

When I asked her what was the most helpful in preparing for the test she said the chapter in your book regarding taking a test. She was so glad that she had read the part about not canceling the test score because they ask you repeatedly. Not that she wanted to. But when they ask you more than once it makes you feel like you are doing something wrong!

Thanks for that feedback Jenny!

Is this the easiest exam? 

About 75% of those who take it WILL PASS.

Analyzing and Interpreting Literature


The Analyzing and Interpreting Literature exam covers material usually taught in a general undergraduate course in literature. Although the exam does not require familiarity with specific works, it does assume that test takers have read widely and perceptively in poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. The questions are based on passages supplied in the test. These passages have been selected so that no previous experience with them is required to answer the questions. The passages are taken primarily from American and British literature.

The exam contains approximately 80 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 98 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. Any time test takers spend taking tutorials and providing personal information is added to actual testing time.

An optional essay section can be taken in addition to the multiple-choice test. The essay section requires that two essays be written during a total time of 90 minutes. For the first essay, candidates are asked to analyze a short poem. For the second essay, candidates are asked to apply a generalization about literature (such as the function of a theme or a technique) to a novel, short story, or play that they have read.

Candidates are expected to write well-organized essays in clear and precise prose. The essay section is scored by faculty at the institution that requests it and is still administered in paper-and-pencil format. There is an additional fee for taking this section, payable to the institution that administers the exam.

Knowledge and Skills Required

Questions on the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature exam require test takers to demonstrate the following abilities.

  • Ability to read prose, poetry, and drama with understanding
  • Ability to analyze the elements of a literary passage and to respond to nuances of meaning, tone, imagery, and style
  • Ability to interpret metaphors, to recognize rhetorical and stylistic devices, to perceive relationships between parts and wholes, and to grasp a speaker’s or author’s attitudes
  • Knowledge of the means by which literary effects are achieved
  • Familiarity with the basic terminology used to discuss literary texts

The exam emphasizes comprehension, interpretation, and analysis of literary works. A specific knowledge of historical context (authors and movements) is not required, but a broad knowledge of literature gained through reading widely and a familiarity with basic literary terminology is assumed. The following outline indicates the relative emphasis given to the various types of literature and the periods from which the passages are taken. The approximate percentage of exam questions per classification is noted within each main category.


35%–45% Poetry
35%–45% Prose (fiction and nonfiction)
15%–30% Drama

National Tradition

50%–65% British Literature
30%–45% American Literature
5%–15% Works in translation


3%–7% Classical and pre-Renaissance
20%–30% Renaissance and 17th Century
35%–45% 18th and 19th Centuries
25%–35% 20th and 21st Centuries

Score Information

Credit-Granting Score for Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

ACE Recommended Score*: 50
Semester Hours: 3

Each institution reserves the right to set its own credit-granting policy, which may differ from that of ACE. Contact your college as soon as possible to find out the score it requires to grant credit, the number of credit hours granted, and the course(s) that can be bypassed with a satisfactory score.

*The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated CLEP processes and procedures for developing, administering, and scoring the exams. The score listed above is equivalent to a grade of C in the corresponding course. The American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, seeks to provide leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues and to influence public policy through advocacy, research, and program initiatives. Visit the ACE CREDIT website for more information.

Study Resources for Learning to Read Literature

The most relevant preparation for the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature exam is attentive and reflective reading of the various literary genres of poetry, drama, and prose.

You can prepare for the exam by:

  • Reading a variety of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction
  • Reading critical analyses of various literary works
  • Writing analyses and interpretations of the works you read
  • Discussing with others the meaning of the literature you read

K12 Curriculum

When I taught my own teens how to analyze literature, some of it was organic and spontaneous, but I really enjoyed the way Teaching the Classics (IEW – Adam and Missy Andrews) gave me tools to facilitate analysis in a homeschool setting.  If you use their product, you’ll want the DVD and workbook, but you can use it with all your children.


Textbooks and anthologies used for college courses in the analysis and interpretation of literature contain a sampling of literary works in a variety of genres. They also contain material that can help you comprehend the meanings of literary works and recognize the devices writers use to convey their sense and intent. To prepare for the exam, you should study the contents of at least one textbook or anthology, which you can find in most college bookstores. You would do well to consult two or three texts because they do vary somewhat in content, approach, and emphases.

A recent survey conducted by CLEP found that the following textbooks (first author listed only) are among those used by college faculty who teach the equivalent course. You might find one or more of these online or at your local college bookstore. HINT: Look at the table of contents first to make sure it matches the knowledge and skills required for this exam.

Abcarian, Literature: The Human Experience (Bedford/St. Martin’s)
Arp and Johnson, Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense (W.W. Norton)
Booth, Norton Introduction to Literature (W.W. Norton)
DiYanni, Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (McGraw-Hill)

Literature Resources:

Luminarium Anthology of English Literature Great Books Online
Voice of the Shuttle Literature (in English)

Online Classes:

A fully online free course offered by Harvard via the edX partnership Modern Masterpieces of World Literature  (they have others too, even for poetry!) has a CLEP Analyzing and Interpreting course.  Homeschool Buyer’s CO-OP just added a 3-month subscription option (you used to have to buy a whole year if you wanted a discount) that is 25% off.

The Great Courses Plus  (think: Netflix for streaming educational content) has a number of literature courses, but the one you’ll want to look at is called Life Lessons from The Great Books.  They spend a great deal of time analyzing and interpreting the type of literature on this exam!  (First month is usually free)

 Free online CLEP course by Modern States Education Alliance    Modern States is a free online class with little checkpoints after each lesson.  If you complete their entire course, they will give you a voucher to take a FREE CLEP EXAM.  We have had dozens of parents report back to me that they’ve done this with MULTIPLE exams, not just one, and one mom even told me they paid her proctoring fee!  We don’t know when this program offer will expire, but until then, get your free exam! 

After Learning to Read Literature….Test Prep

For test prep and practice tests:  The best CLEP prep book on the market for this exam is the  REA Analyzing and Interpreting Literature.  You’ll notice I linked you to the older version- you can pick it up for about $4 on Amazon, and it has much better reviews!  You *can get a new version too (about $30), since both include practice tests in the back that explain “why” an answer is right or wrong, I HIGHLY recommend it in one form or another.  You can also check your local library!

Literature Guides:

(Secular) Sparks Notes are a modern version of the old yellow and black CliffsNotes.  You’ll be impressed with their catalog of about a zillion titles – also quizzes, essays, and everything you need to analyze any major literary work.  Did I mention these are free?

(Christian) Progeny Literature Guides are also like Cliffs Notes but from a Christian worldview.  Homeschool Buyer’s CO-OP has 30% off sale for members (free to become a member) and flat $5 shipping.  They sell the guides in 3-pack bundles. These are available electronically or paperback (am I the only one that still loves paper!?). For a sense of scope, a 3-pack would cover 3 books, consistent with 1 semester of high school.

Literary Terms:

This exam slips in literary terms that your teen needs to be aware of.  For instance, they might ask about a story’s mood or tone.  They might ask which passage best-demonstrated satire or foreshadowing.  I suggest using flashcards to memorize the vocabulary.  You don’t need to learn hundreds of terms, but the popular terms will certainly appear.

Cyber English literary terms page has the best free list I’ve seen in a while!

InstantCert has an online flashcard study program and a Specific Exam Resource file where members share feedback about the exam in real time.  Use code 100150 to get $5 off the $20 cost.

A fully online free course offered by Harvard via the edX partnership Modern Masterpieces of World Literature  (they have others too, even for poetry!)

The Great Courses Plus  (think: Netflix for streaming educational content) has a number of literature courses, but the one you’ll want to look at is called Life Lessons from The Great Books.  They spend a great deal of time analyzing and interpreting the type of literature on this exam!  (First month is usually free)


If you’re looking for more opportunities to earn college credit studying literature, Shmoop has several ACE CREDIT® recommended literature courses.  I bring this up because besides the 3 CLEP literature exams (American, English, Analyzing and Interpreting Literature) no one has more college credit options for literature than Shmoop.  Each of their literature courses are worth 3 college credits.

  • American Literature
  • Classical Literature
  • Foundations of Literature
  • Literature in the Media
  • Shakespeare’s Plays
  • Women’s Literature
  • The Bible as Literature
  • Contemporary Literature
  • Holocaust Literature
  • Introduction to Poetry
  • Modernist Literature
  • Victorian Literature
  • British Literature
  • Drugs in Literature
  • Introduction to Drama
  • Literature 101
  • Shakespeare in Context
  • Western Literature

book boy