I’ve only met a few people in real life who’ve taken Statistics, and of those who did, most told me that hated it. When I found out I needed 3 college credits in statistics to get into grad school, I was very nervous. I ended up DIYing a “course” for myself that prepared me to test out of Statistics and Probability using the DSST standardized exam, and it wasn’t even terrible. I’ll share that plan with you in this post.
For those in our Facebook groups, I have probably shared bits and pieces of this story before, but this is the first time I’ve sat down and written it all out as a full plan of action. This plan would work for a high school class, and is designed to be self-paced and ultimately result in 3-college credits via the DSST Principles of Statistics exam.
Pro Tip: Not every college awards college credit for this brand of exam, but even if your teen’s undergraduate college doesn’t award college credit for this DSST exam (which is to say they can’t use it for their bachelor’s degree) prospective grad schools may still consider this exam as a demonstration of proficiency. That was my experience when I emailed 7 different universities asking about statistics for graduate admissions. All 7 replied that a passing score on the DSST would qualify. Ultimately I used this exam for that very purpose, for admissions into my Master of Science degree at Canisius College in New York. -Jennifer
My Math Background for Context
I’ll share my background so you can use it to assess whether your teen has more or less math preparation than I had before the test. Very briefly, you should know that I’m not a “math person” and the last real math class I took was Algebra B (a watered-down version of Algebra 2) in 1986. I earned a “C” in that class. Barely. My first associates degree was in culinary arts, so the math required was called “Culinary Math” and is a variation of arithmetic that is specific to the trade. Also in the 80’s, I went on to teach that same class at my community college for about 15 years, so my my arithmetic skills were strong. My next degrees came almost 20 years later and I took a math class called Mathematics for Liberal Arts which was a pretty light course for non-math majors that included a lot of arithmetic, some graphs, and a bit of personal finance. That’s the sum total of my math skills before starting this journey.
Credit by Exam: DSST Principles of Statistics
My goal was to solely prepare to pass this multiple choice exam. Based on the exam outline, I found 2 resources that lined up perfectly and used those. While you can go very deep, this exam does not require depth, it requires breadth. I found that this exam required a better understanding of the vocabulary of statistics over the “math” of solving the problems. Often the questions simply provide a chart and ask you questions about the chart. Questions like that won’t require calculation at all.
Exam: 100 multiple choice questions
Time: 2 hours
Testing locations: Locate a testing center near you
Cost: $85 (your testing center will also have a fee, usually about $20)
Standard calculator (non-programmable) is permitted.
Exam Facts Sheet: Principles of Statistics pdf
|Scoring Range||Score Range||Passing Score|
Failed Exam? If your teen fails, they can try again in 30 days
High School Credit: I would award 0.5 (1/2) credit if the student completes this entire program, even if they don’t take or don’t pass the DSST exam.
Jennifer’s Study Plan: 1-3 months
My individual plan was built around 2 products, both free. It took me about 6 weeks to work through all of the content, but I know others who spent 6 months and even a few who could have done it in 6 days, so go at your own pace.
One thing that was a little unique about this subject, is that it didn’t get “harder” as the classes went on. There were hard things and easy things all scattered about. If your teen gets caught on an especially hard unit, maybe skip it and move to the next thing. They’ll want to come back later, but don’t let it delay progress.
- Annenberg Learner Against All Odds video course
- Khan Academy Statistics & Probability online course
Annenberg Learner + Khan Academy
Annenberg Learner is a foundation that supports and distributes educational video programs for the professional development of K-12 teachers. The video course I used is called Against All Odds. While there may be enrichment activities on the website, I only used the videos. Had I not stumbled upon these videos, I don’t think I could have passed the exam. These videos are EXCELLENT and I consider them critical to my passing the exam.
“The new Against All Odds is intended as a one-year introduction to statistics. Made up of vivid real-world examples, our goal is to present statistics in the context of its contemporary use. Host Dr. Pardis Sabeti guides viewers through the wide range of statistical applications used by scientists, business owners, and even Shakespeare scholars, in their work and daily lives.”
Length: 32 videos
I believe they designed the series for a teacher to show one video per week for 32 weeks to a class, perhaps to augment a course. My plan was much more aggressive. Since the videos are only 6-14 minutes, my pace was more accurately 1-6 videos per session. Sometimes I had an easy time with the subjects, other times I needed to watch a video or work the practice set several times. If I didn’t fully understand something, I watched the video again until I did – I worked every practice problem on every test and quiz. This is the KEY to preparing to earn credit by exam. Move at your own pace so you have full and total mastery of each section.
Since there aren’t practice problems, I enhanced my course by using Khan Academy for practice questions, quizzes, and tests from their Statistics and Probability course. Since Khan Academy is completely free and includes its own videos, you can spend as much time as you need on a section when you get stuck.
- Take notes on everything you don’t already know.
- When given, use Khan Academy quizzes and tests.
- Much of the exam is understanding terms and words.
1. What Is Statistics?
Statistics is the art and science of gathering, organizing, analyzing and drawing conclusions from data. And without rudimentary knowledge of how it works, people can’t make informed judgments and evaluations of a wide variety of things encountered in daily life.
As a first step in visualizing data, we use stemplots to understand measurements taken by the U.S. Army when they size up soldiers in order to design well-fitting gear and supplies for modern warfighters.
Khan Academy: Unit: Analyzing Categorical Data (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
Meteorologists use histograms to map when lightning strikes and this visualization technique helps them understand the data in new ways.
Khan Academy: Unit: Displaying and Comparing Quantitative Data (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
4. Measures of Center
It’s helpful to know the center of a distribution — which is what the clerical workers in Colorado Springs found out in the 1980s when they campaigned for comparable wages for comparable work. Mean and median are two different ways to describe the center.
Using the example of hot dog calorie counts, we use boxplots to visualize the five-number summary and make comparisons between different types of frankfurters.
6. Standard Deviation
How can we compare sales at two franchises in the Wahoo’s restaurant chain? Standard deviation helps us quantify the variability in sales.
Khan Academy: Unit: Summarizing quantitative data (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
7. Normal Curves
A nature preserve that’s tracked bird migrations through New England for decades records tons of bird-related data; everything from wingspan measurements to arrival dates provides examples of normal distributions.
8. Normal Calculations
Visit the Boston Beanstalks club for tall people. Height is normally distributed and we can use membership cutoffs and population data to calculate z-scores.
9. Checking Assumption of Normality
Production at Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs provides a number of distributions that look normal — but are they?
Khan Academy: Unit: Modeling data distributions (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
Plotting annual numbers of Florida powerboat registrations and manatee killings suggests an uncomfortable relationship for the marine mammals.
11. Fitting Lines to Data
Winter snowpack in the Colorado Rockies can predict spring water supply. Plotting annual measurements in a scatterplot lets resource managers draw a regression line that helps them forecast water availability.
Twin studies track how similar identical and fraternal twins are on various characteristics, even if they don’t grow up together. Correlation lets researchers put a number on it.
13. Two-Way Tables
One city surveyed the happiness of its residents. Two-way tables help organize the data and tease out relationships between happiness levels and opinions about aspects of the city itself.
14. The Question of Causation
This historical story describes how researchers untangled the relationship between smoking and lung cancer.
Khan Academy: Unit: Exploring bivariate numerical data (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
15. Designing Experiments
We move beyond observational studies — like one of marine life in the remote Line Islands — to designing experiments that manipulate various subject groups — as in the case of a medical study about osteoarthritis treatments.
16. Census and Sampling
The U.S. counts every resident every ten years — or at least tries to. Statisticians use sampling from a population as an alternative to a complete count, as utilized at a potato chip factory.
17. Sample and Surveys
A visit to the University of New Hampshire Survey Center illustrates how pollsters create accurate surveys. They can then use details from their sample to make inferences about a whole population.
Khan Academy: Unit: Study Design (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
18. Introduction to Probability
Probability is the mathematics of chance behavior — and can help predict events such as the daily weather, or whether an asteroid will collide with Earth.
19. Probability Models
Casinos are as well versed in probability as statisticians and probability models help them maintain the house advantage over gamblers.
Khan Academy: Unit: Probability (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
Khan Academy: Unit: Counting, Permutations, and Combinations (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
20. Random Variables
The Challenger space shuttle disaster was blamed on faulty O-rings. How can probability calculations on random variables help predict the chances of this kind of failure?
Khan Academy: Unit Random Variables (Take all quizzes and test. Rework until you can score 100% on each. Use Khan Academy videos in this section for extra support.)
21. Binomial Distributions
Sickle cell disease is an example of binomial distribution in families with two parents who are carriers for this genetic trait.
22. Sampling Distributions
Heights of third graders in one class. Quality scores for circuit boards at a factory. Taking multiple samples allows us to visualize the sampling distribution of the sample mean.
23. Control Charts
This quality control method helped Quest Diagnostics streamline and improve their system for processing and testing lab samples so they could meet their nightly deadlines.
24. Confidence Intervals
A battery manufacturer tests just a sample of its product to verify its claims about battery life. A margin of error and a confidence level help quantify its accuracy.
25. Tests of Significance
Is a newly-discovered poem really written by William Shakespeare? Using statistical analysis of his known word use, researchers set up null and alternative hypotheses to investigate.
26. Small Sample Inference for One Mean
A brewer uses this technique to monitor quality differences in multiple batches of the same beer.
27. Comparing Two Means
Comparing the activity and calorie expenditure levels of Western office workers and African hunter gatherers adds some surprising new data to the science of obesity.
28. Inference for Proportions
Managers have no clue what conditions actually motivate their workers best, as shown by research conducted by Teresa Amabile, host of the original Against All Odds.
29. Inference for Two-Way Tables
Host Dr. Pardis Sabeti’s own research examines possible genetic resistance to deadly Lassa fever in West Africa. Using Inference for Two-Way Tables helps untangle potential relationships.
30. Inference for Regression
Historical story of how statisticians built the case against DDT as the culprit behind plummeting peregrine falcon population numbers.
31. One-Way ANOVA
Does holding a heavier clipboard make you estimate that a jar of coins has more money in it than if you’re holding a lighter clipboard? Psychologists use One-Way ANOVA to analyze the data from this experiment.
This review of the course through the preceding 31 video modules provides an overview of the practice of statistics and helps students appreciate how statistical methods can help them better understand their world.
All test questions are in a multiple-choice format, with one correct answer and three incorrect options. The following are samples of the types of questions that may appear on the exam.
- A 100 question multiple-choice exam has 4 choices for each question. If a student selects all choices
randomly, how many correct answers could the student expect?
- A bag contains 15 marbles, of which 8 are red, 5 are blue, and 2 are white. Two marbles are drawn
randomly from the bag one after the other, without replacement. What is the probability that both
marbles are red?
- A random sample of 100 values of x is taken from a distribution whose SD is k. What will be the
approximate value of the standard error of the average of x?
- If Ho is the null hypothesis and P is the observed (computed) significance level, then
a. “small” values of P are evidence for Ho
b. “small” values of P are evidence against Ho
c. “small” values of P give no information for or against Ho
d. a rejected Ho “corresponds to a negative value of P”
- Which of the following pairs of parameters is sufficient to define a specific normal curve?
a. The average and the standard deviation
b. The range and the standard deviation
c. The average and the chi-square (x 2 )-value
d. The standard deviation and the chi-square (x2 )-value
Answers to sample questions: 1-C; 2-A; 3-B; 4-B; 5-A
Take a REAL Practice Test
DSST has partnered with Prometric to offer a free 50-question official practice test for this exam. You will have to register, but will begin the test immediately.