Credit by exam programs are standardized tests written and administered by a company (not college) that assess college-level knowledge in various subjects. Credit by exam tests are not “textbook specific” so you can prepare using any material you like. Credit earned by exam is considered “potential” college credit until it is accepted by a college.
The DSST exams (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests) used to go by “DANTES” and used to only permit military test takers, so your college may still use that term or put their DSST acceptance policy inside the “military section” of their website. Since 2006, however, they were acquired by Prometric and are available to everyone. Knowing that these exams used to have restrictions explains why DSST info can be a bit harder to find, and why they still lag behind CLEP in popularity and acceptance.
It’s very likely that a college will accept DSST without publishing the policy on its website. As a rule of thumb, if a college accepts CLEP and AP, there is a strong chance they also accept DSST, but fewer colleges accept DSST than accept CLEP and AP.
A DSST exam is essentially just like a CLEP exam. If you like CLEP, you’ll like DSST. It’s a multiple-choice exam taken on computer that provides an instant score and potential college credit. Like most credit by exam, you can prepare using regular homeschool curriculum followed by test prep.
Exam cost: $100
Credit: 3 potential college credits
There are several exams offered through DSST that are not offered through CLEP or AP (e.g., The Civil War and Reconstruction), so if you’re trying to bring more credit by exam opportunities into your homeschool, DSST is worth looking at.
DSST vs CLEP vs AP
Credit level: CLEP and AP only award lower level (100-200) credit while 2 DSST exams are evaluated for upper level (300-400) credit. If you’re sending the credit to a community college, it will automatically come in as lower level, but some universities will award upper-level credit.
Duplication of credit: If an exam covers the same content as another course or exam, a college won’t award credit twice.
Credit award: all exams are evaluated as 3 college credits
Format: AP exams are “free response” with pencil and paper while CLEP and DSST are multiple choice taken on a computer. In all practical terms, you won’t notice much difference between a DSST or CLEP test, but the popular opinion argues that since the DSST questions only offer 4 possible answers (compared to CLEP’s 5 answer choices), your odds of guessing are better with DSST. My personal opinion is that the aesthetics of DSST exams are more attractive and easier to read due to a nice use of fonts and whitespace.
Exam administration: official testing center or home-proctoring
Revision dates: like all credit by exam brands, exams can be revised as often as the vendor wants. CLEP and AP exams are rarely updated, but DSST exams have all underwent significant revision since 2018. Unofficially, I track exam revisions by watching the American Council on Education national database. When an exam is significantly revised, the old exam is replaced or removed.
Choosing prep materials: Look for publication dates of July 30, 2018 or newer for all prep materials or practice tests you’re considering.
- A History of the Vietnam War
- Art of the Western World
- Business Ethics and Society
- Business Mathematics
- Computing Information & Technology
- Criminal Justice
- Environmental Science
- Ethics in America
- Ethics in Technology (potential revision in 2023)
- Foundations of Education
- Fundamentals of College Algebra (may duplicate CLEP)
- Fundamentals of Counseling
- Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
- General Anthropology
- Health and Human Development
- History of the Soviet Union
- Human Resource Management
- Introduction to Business
- Introduction to Geography
- Introduction to Geology
- Introduction to Law Enforcement
- Introduction to World Religions
- Lifespan Developmental Psychology (may duplicate CLEP)
- Management Information Systems
- Math for Liberal Arts (may duplicate CLEP)
- Money and Banking
- Organizational Behavior
- Personal Finance
- Principles of Advanced English Composition (may duplicate CLEP)
- Principles of Finance
- Principles of Public Speaking (not readily available)
- Principles of Statistics
- Principles of Supervision
- Substance Abuse
- Technical Writing
- The Civil War and Reconstruction
Preparing to take a DSST is easy to do when your teen has already taken a high school course in the subject. If that’s the case with your teen, simply use any of the exam prep products recommended below. Exam prep shouldn’t take more than a few weeks in this case.
If your teen is starting from scratch, then you’ll need to build a course. You can do this by layering your favorite high school curriculum with other resources and build exam prep into the course. When learned from scratch, it is reasonable that your course and exam prep will take a full semester.
How much high school credit?
If your teen learns the subject, award high school credit. Generally 0.5 credits are awarded for 1 semester and 1 credit is awarded for 1 school year. Whether or not they pass the DSST, they have still earned high school credit!
Official Study Materials
These are exam preparation materials written by or endorsed by DSST / Prometric and should be considered very reliable.
Peterson’s Subscription (prep material and practice tests, pay monthly) “Petersons.com Peterson’s is an official DSST prep provider and provides monthly, unlimited access to test preparation for over 150 exams. Students get unlimited test prep for all of the exams they plan on taking, including 30+ DSST subject tests.”
Take a DSST Practice Tests (official practice exams by Prometric) No cost.