“Testing in” vs “Testing out”

One saves you time and money, while the other saves neither. Do you know the difference?

A student who scores very well on the GED exam (high school equivalency) is awarded college credit at a number of colleges in the country. Two weeks ago I asked an admissions employee at my local college if the high school equivalency exam they use (HiSET) can also be worth college credit when a student scores very high. Her answer surprised me.

“Yes! The student can test into English 101.”

No, I think she misunderstood my question, so I rephrased it, “Does a student get English 101 credit on their transcript if they score well on the HiSET exam?”

“Yes! They won’t have to take any of the remedial classes.”

We went around a few more times until I was sure she understood my question and I was sure I understood her answer. In fact, the answer is “no” that a student can NOT test out of English 101 using this exam, rather they are testing in to English 101.

When a college admissions employee easily mixes up the differences between the two, I know for sure this topic deserves a blog post!

Testing in is when you take a test so that you qualify to take a class.

Admissions tests, placement tests, SAT, Accuplacer, Compass, RISE, and similar brands are used to show college readiness and allow your teen to place into a class.

Testing out is when you take a test instead of taking a class.

Testing Out

Testing out has serious financial and time benefits! At over 80% of colleges, you can test out of introductory classes using a standardized exam brand like Advanced Placement (AP), CLEP, DSST, and several others. When you test out, the college awards credit in the class and you get to skip it… and the registration, and the tuition, and the fees, and the textbook cost, and the homework!

Since CLEP is currently FREE to anyone with a voucher from Modern States, it’s currently my favorite way to stockpile college credit that you can use later.

CLEP exams are accepted in some amount at most colleges, and in many cases, your community college may allow you to use CLEP for as much as 75% of an associate’s degree!

Don’t rely on your college to tell you how to test out of a class – they have zero incentive. You’ll have to look this up for yourself.

Testing In

Testing into a class is only an advantage when you’re facing a developmental class. As an example, let’s say your college requires an admissions or placement test score of X before you can enroll in English 101. In that case, hitting the target score means you won’t have to take developmental or pre-English classes before you get permission to register. Since developmental and pre-English classes usually cost full price and don’t count toward a degree, you’ll want to avoid these classes whenever possible.

Using Test out to Test in

On occasion, you can use a test-out option to test into a higher level class. As an example, perhaps a high score on the Biology CLEP exam will allow your student to bypass the Introduction to Biology prerequisite course normally needed for Anatomy & Physiology. Whether or not the college awards credit takes a back-seat to the advantage of getting to register directly into the needed class.

Advanced Standing

Colleges that forbid testing out of classes may occasionally award “advanced standing” for a student with a high test score. Advanced standing isn’t a time or money saver, but it can give your teen access to classes they might not otherwise have access to. As an example, suppose your teen’s university requires every student to take 2 years of a foreign language for a bachelor’s degree. Most students will take that language as a 1 & 2 sequence (French 1 & 2, Spanish 1 & 2, etc.). A student who scored well on an AP or CLEP exam won’t be exempt from the degree requirement, but they may qualify for taking a higher sequence (French 3 & 4, Spanish 3 & 4, etc.).


Stockpile college credit by exam. Since Homeschooling for College Credit teaches resourceful high school planning, the best plan is the one that gets your teen to their goal! If you know your teen’s goal (target college / target major) planning is easier, but if this goal isn’t yet formed, the safe bet is to bring college credit into your homeschool where it makes sense. Don’t worry TODAY about whether or not your teen’s credit by exam will be used in one way or another. If your teen is studying French, take the French AP or CLEP exam! If your teen studies history, take the history exams. How and where they get to use these exams can be worked out later. There is simply no down side to stocking up on this kind of credit!

Other posts you light like to read…


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

2 thoughts on ““Testing in” vs “Testing out”

  1. Our student’s target college doesn’t accept CLEP College Composition. The target college also does not accept the local community college’s introductory college composition class (where dual enrolled students receive free tuition). The local community college will not place students into a higher composition class no matter how high students score on Accuplacer, SAT or ACT exams.

    However, we have found that we still save time (an entire semester) and drudgery (2 timed essays instead of a semester’s worth of busy work and meaningless papers) by using the CLEP College Composition to bypass the “required” 1st semester writing class at the community college by being placed directly into the 2nd course (which satisfies target college requirements).

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