Posted in Credit by Exam, Tuition

The 10-Million Dollar Year: 2018

The 2018 goal for Homeschooling for College Credit is that each of our member families initiates ONE CLEP or AP exam in their homeschool.   This single act will save the homeschool community $10 million dollars in tuition next year.

College tuition costs have reached a fever-pitch, and many homeschool families worry how they’ll pay these rising costs while usually raising many children on one income.  Even well-funded families are questioning the wisdom of borrowing tens of thousands of dollars with no promise of a degree or employment after graduation.  Homeschooling for College Credit believes that by resourceful high school planning, parents who inject college credit into their homeschool can reduce the cost of their teen’s college education significantly.  We are a team of volunteers who use these principles with our own teens and freely help other parents walk this journey with support and encouragement.

Our kids are average.  If we can do it, you can do it.

The “average” cost of college is hard to calculate.  While we have access to a lot of data, the choices a parent makes are really the biggest factor.  For instance, if someone asked you the “average” cost of going out to dinner, you’d have so many variables, that you’d both under-estimate or over-estimate for all but a narrow set.  Colleges are like restaurants.  Sometimes you’re looking for value- which is to say you want a return on your investment and at a fair price.  Sometimes you’re looking for an experience- which is to say you hope to have an unforgettable adventure.  Sometimes it’s about price- getting the most out of what little resources you have.  Finally, some are looking for something very specific- their favorite fried chicken.

The community at Homeschooling for College Credit doesn’t presume to know the “best restaurant” for your family.  That’s a personal decision, and there aren’t any wrong answers- what we do know, is that there are ways to save time and money in every case.  Parents in our community aren’t “one size fits all” and our member families aren’t all strictly utilitarian or all strictly academic, they’re a mix.  An in this mix creates a well-rounded and dynamic opportunity for parents on all paths to save a little -or save a lot– of money for their family.

Based on The Department of Education tuition data, the average tuition costs by school type:

  • 2-year community college costs $135 per credit
  • 4-year state college costs $435 per credit
  • 4-year private college costs $1039 per credit

A 2-year degree typically consists of 60 credits (60x$135) and costs $8100.

A 4-year degree from a public college typically consists of 120 credits and costs (120x$435) $52,200.

A 4-year degree from a private college typically consists of 12p credits and costs (120x$1039) $124,680.

Around here, we call these tuition calculations “rack rate” because they don’t take into account any scholarships (merit, academic, athletic, or other), a Pell Grant (government funded gift to everyone meeting income criteria) or special incentives (internal programs given to some students under special conditions).  But, we always proceed from the position of rack rate, because if you can’t get the cost down in some way, that is exactly what you will pay. 

Simple math to reduce rack rate

CLEP and Advanced Placement exams (college credit awarded by exam) award 3-9 college credits per passing score.  A CLEP or AP exam costs roughly $100 dollars and will usually result in 3 college credits.  A family that initiates just one exam for their teen can expect a return on their investment of several hundred, to several thousand dollars.

  • Each CLEP or AP exam that results in 3 college credits at a community college results in a net savings of about $300
  • Each CLEP or AP exam that results in 3 college credits at public 4-year college results in a net savings of about $1200.
  • Each CLEP or AP exam that results in 3 college credits at a private 4-year college results in a net savings of about $3000.


The 2018 goal for Homeschooling for College Credit is that each of our member families initiates ONE CLEP or AP exam in their homeschool this year.

When each of our 11,500 members initiates one exam in their homeschool, as a collective community, we will save

Over $3 MILLION DOLLARS off the cost of a community college degree.

Over $13 MILLION DOLLARS off the cost of a public 4-year college degree.

Over $34 MILLION DOLLARS off the cost of a private 4-year college degree.


Now, if those numbers are amazing, just imagine if each family took 2 exams?  Or 14?

Injecting credit by exam opportunities in your homeschool, and then guiding your teen into a college that awards credit for their score, is one way you can be pro-active in reducing the cost of your teen’s college degree.  While its true that colleges differ in how many exams they will accept toward a degree, but there are over three-thousand regionally accredited colleges to choose from!  You don’t have to deep-dive into every college’s policy in high school, it’s easy enough to find colleges that accept 15, 31, or more credits by exam – most do.

Why don’t colleges tell parents about this opportunity?  They have no financial incentive! Despite my own background working as a college administrator, I hadn’t heard about CLEP until I stumbled upon it myself.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that our community college not only allowed students to complete 75% of their degree via CLEP and AP, but we were also an official testing center.  (Information available to anyone who asked, of course.)

With most regionally accredited colleges and universities accepting CLEP and or AP credit in some amount, it’s easy enough to take 1 CLEP or AP exam at the very minimum and use it at the school of your choice.   If you want to be a little more extreme, there are a small number of colleges that don’t cap the number of CLEP and AP credits you can bring in.  They are affectionately called “The Big 3” by those of us who obsessively look for opportunities in this category.  The Big 3.

Take encouragement from other families who have started this journey and have shared some of their success on our Facebook page.

We asked:  Has dual enrollment or testing out of a college course saved your family any tuition dollars?

Christine (Ohio) My daughter finished enough credits with CCP that she started as a sophomore. So she will have saved one year of college when she graduates.

Rena (Minnesota) About $25,000 so far.

Lori (Indiana) My son just completed a CLEP test and the cost of the class would have been over $500.

Karen (New Mexico) My son is going to start college with 32 hrs, maybe more if he takes any classes this summer. So, I would say that we’ve saved $12,000-$30,000 in having a year of college done.

Robyn (Florida) My daughter did AP and Dual enrolled. She received credit for all. She is only a sophomore in college now but a junior by credit. It was a nice cushion – but she will probably still spend 4 years at her University to graduate with the dual degree she wants.

Jennifer (Georgia) My daughter took 2 AP tests, 3 CLEPs, did dual enrollment at 2 different colleges and then used my husband’s GI Bill to continue her education. She’s 18 and will be graduating with her Bachelor’s degree this spring with zero college debt!! 

Jude (Iowa) I’m going to quietly admit savings of over 20k using Iowa tuition charges if I paid out of pocket. Net value is MUCH more, as her current school would have charged over $1k per credit hour had we not completed those courses.

Jenifer (New Jersey) AP tests saved us almost a full year of tuition (plus room & board.)

Tanya If we would have paid for last semester of Dual Enrollment it would have been $1100. To date, she has 39 college credits and is taking 11 this semester ($0). Thankful we chose this route.

Julie (Texas) My oldest two of six children both have debt-free college degrees, only possible because they did dual credit and credit by exam throughout high school. They each had about 70 hours before high school graduation.

Mary (Illinois) Between the reduced fees for dual enrollment and scholarships my daughter is expecting to get her associates degree the week after she gets her high school diploma for very little. It is worth looking into and pursuing this option. Besides it completely confounds most college representatives with the fact your child is graduating with college credit!

Susan (Ohio) We spent a total of around ten thousand dollars on my oldest son’s bachelor’s degree, including books! He used cheap community college classes, CLEP exams, DSST exams, and FEMA credits to save money before transferring to his final school for his bachelor’s degree, Thomas Edison State University.

Carissa (New Mexico) By the end of 2018 spring semester, my 15-yr-old will have 21 hours of college credits (and four **free** IT certifications) completed via dual enrollment. He is preparing to CLEP out of French I & II, all History requirements, Psychology, Sociology, all English requirements, and all Economic requirements.

Victoria (Missouri) To date, my daughter has taken 3 CLEPs, resulting in 11 credits (biology transferred to her community college as 5 credits). The cost, including testing center fee, for all 11 totals $300 plus about $50 for study materials (InstantCert and one or two used CLEP guides). So let’s say $350. If my student had taken the same classes at her community college at the current rate of $103 per credit, that would work out to $1133. Plus textbooks for the equivalent courses at about $250 (renting at today’s price). So at least $1383. Total savings so far: $1033.

Wendy (Texas) My dd is going to a private university, and she will go in with 9 hours of dual credit. That will save us about $8400. We are hoping to CLEP some, and each one will save us $2800ish. It is significant savings when going to a 4 yr school.

Teresa (Texas) First student graduated high school with 45 college credits. All transferred. And all but 5 (mostly 1 credit electives) count for the degree choice he made after attending4-year university. It is his second semester at the university and he is 2 credits from being a Junior. The tuition at his public university is almost $11,000/year (living at home), so to answer your question …..Y.E.S.!!! About $22,000!!!

Carol (Minnesota) – she used CLEP and dual enrollment to save SO much money that I wrote a story about her:   We just saved $96,780

Has dual enrollment or testing out of a college course saved your family any tuition dollars?  If so, let us know! Be part of our 10-Million Dollar year!

Posted in CLEP, Credit by Exam, High School, Transcripts

CLEP Science: 3, 4, 6, or 8 credits?

If your teen is studying Biology, Chemistry, or Physics in high school you may be considering a CLEP science exam at the end of the school year.  CLEP science exams are all listed as “6 credit” exams on the College Board website, but these exams are a little unusual.

College science courses are typically 3 credits when taken without a lab, but when a lab is taken, they are worth 4.  As such, if you’re looking up a college’s CLEP policy, you can “guesstimate” how they will apply your teen’s science exam based on the award given.

Here is an example of how the CLEP Biology Exam may appear on a college transcript.

If your college awards 3 credits- it’s only worth credit for Biology 1.
If your college awards 4 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 with lab.
If your college awards 6 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 & 2 without a lab.
If your college awards 8 credits- it’s worth credit for Biology 1 & 2 with lab.

Let’s go Deeper

What about the High School Transcript?

Generally speaking, when a teen takes a CLEP exam, the parent’s first question is whether or not they have to do something different on the high school transcript.

The short answer is “no” because a parent only awards high school credit, it’s a college that decides if and how much college credit is awarded.  Still, there is the question of awarding more credit, or removing a course, as a result of a pass/failed CLEP.

If you use the traditional model used by public and private high schools when students take Advanced Placement tests (AP and CLEP are part of the same company) you’ll notice that the student takes an AP course all year.  Later, at the end of the school year, students may choose to attempt an AP exam for potential college credit.  Whether or not a student takes the exam has no bearing on their AP grade, and neither does their score!  In fact, AP exam scores aren’t ready until the summer after the course was taken.

Whether or not your teen passes or fails the CLEP exam, you’ll want to be sure you give them high school credit.  Passing a CLEP exam is “frosting on the cake.”

Guidelines for High School Credit

1 semester of high school science = 1/2 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of high school science = 1 high school credit

1 semester of DIY college-level science = 1/2 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of DIY college-level science= 1 high school credit

1 semester of college science taken through a college= 1 high school credit

1 year (2 semesters) of college science taken through a college= 2 high school credits

Weighted Grades

There is a strong debate about whether or not to weight a grade or Grade Point Average (GPA) when a homeschool course preps for a CLEP exam.  The facts are that some public and private high schools do weight grades (5.0 quality points on a 4.0 scale) for College Prep, Advanced Placement, or accelerated courses – but a DIY college-level course is a grey area.

Not sure?  Ask yourself if the curriculum merits a higher quality point without CLEP.  If it doesn’t, then stick to a 4.0 scale.  If it does, then use a 5.0 with confidence! 

studentAs you start to look ahead to college applications, you can review the target college’s websites and see if they indicate wanting a weighted or unweighted transcript- some will have a preference.  Others state simply that all transcripts are recalculated onto a 4.0 scale.  You can do both if you’re undecided.


My advice is to follow the same approach for all 4 years of high school (weighted or unweighted) and if you decide to weight grades, be sure to write and include an explanation of your rationale.



You may also be interested in my other post  10 Ways to Take Science Labs at Home

You can look at the content of every exam at the College Board’s Official Website.

Posted in Credit by Exam, Curriculum, DSST

Ken Burns Documenatries & DSST

Ken Burns.  Ever hear of him?  He’s an American filmmaker.  Specifically, he is a history documentary legend.  His trademark is to use a lot of actual photos, video and audio clips from the time period, and create these really long multi-hour films.  These aren’t just boring educational films, these are award-winners.  Even adults who aren’t really “into” history usually enjoy Ken Burns’ work.

Today, I want to highlight 2 of his films: The Civil War (1990), and his newest release The Vietnam War (2017).  These two films just happen to align well with the two upper-level DSST exams  and fit in perfectly with a US History curriculum.   If your teen has studied US History, or better yet- taken either US History CLEP exam, the Civil War is a perfect fit right in between the US History 1 and US History 2.  For those who just studied US History 2, you’ve probably already covered a bit about the Vietnam War.   Either subject can be studied as an “Advanced US History” course, taken separately or as part of a year-long course.

If your teen has studied or is currently studying US History, the Civil War and Reconstruction DSST is a perfect fit right in between the US History 1 and US History 2 CLEPs.  For those who just studied US History 2, you’ve probably already covered a bit about the Vietnam War.   Either subject can be studied as an “Advanced US History” course, taken separately, or as part of a year-long course.

For those who haven’t started teaching US History yet, you can do it over 1 or 2 years.

If you were studying over 1 year, you’d cover the content like this:

United States History  (1 year / 1 high school credit/12 college credits)
1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
United States through Civil War Civil War and Reconstruction United States from Reconstruction The Vietnam War
CLEP: US History 1

(3 college credits)

DSST: Civil War

(3 college credits)

CLEP:  US History 2

(3 college credits)

DSST: Vietnam War

(3 college credits)

If you were studying United States history over 2 years, it would look like this:

United States History  (2 years / 2 high school credits/12 college credits)
1st Semester 2nd Semester 3rd Semester 4th Semester
United States through Civil War Civil War and Reconstruction United States from Reconstruction The Vietnam War
CLEP: US History 1

(3 college credits)

DSST: Civil War

(3 college credits)

CLEP:  US History 2

(3 college credits)

DSST: Vietnam War

(3 college credits)

I’ve included the documentary content and DSST exam help for both subjects.   In each section, you’ll also find a few selected study resources so you can DIY a course for your teen.  An upper-level exam credit by exam is rare.  If you have selected a target college and know that they accept DSST exams for college credit, these 2 exams will yield a total of 6 college credits in history / social sciences.  For those earning a degree in Liberal Studies, History, or Social Sciences, these two exams are very valuable because they won’t simply fill the “general education” but may fill part of an area of study or major!

If your teen hasn’t selected a target college, but you’re studying these subjects in high school anyway, I strongly encourage you to consider adding these to the schedule anyway.  The potential upside is very good since the average cost of upper-level credit is over $500-$1,000 per credit. In other words, these exams could save you somewhere around $3,000 – $6,000 in tuition if accepted by a target college.  You’ll save another $500-$2000 if you add in the two lower level US History CLEP exams.

If you don’t end up getting to use the exams for college credit, you’re only out the cost of the exams ($80 each).  All high school credit earned is ALWAYS counted on your homeschool transcript – regardless of whether or not the exam was passed or a college awards credit in the future.  That’s the way Advanced Placement (AP) works, and that’s a good model to follow.

Personal side note:  He also executive produced The Emperor of All Maladies (film) that is a knock-your-socks-off documentary about cancer. In 2011, the book was required reading in my graduate biology course at Harvard University.  I took a course called Newsworthy Topics in the Life Sciences through their Extension campus.  The book was nothing like I expected.  It was phenomenal.  When the documentary came out in 2015, I didn’t expect it to be great, after all, movies are never as good as books….I was wrong.  While I recommend the book, honestly, the movie “added” so much more to the book.  I recommend both!  The link above takes you to PBS site, but it is also to instant stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Civil War

NOTE:  I tried really hard to find a free source for this documentary, but haven’t been successful.  I hope you can find it at your library since it is a little pricey to purchase.  If you find a free (legitimate) source, please let me know so I can share it here.    

Link to the documentary on PBS (check your local programming)

Link to the box set (digital) and tons of reviews on Amazon

Link to Amazon Prime (pay per episode)

“The Civil War is a 9-part, 11-hour American television documentary miniseries created by Ken Burns about the American Civil War. It was first broadcast on PBS on five consecutive nights from September 23 to 27, 1990. Approximately 40 million viewers watched it during this broadcast, making it the most-watched program ever to air on PBS. It was awarded more than 40 major television and film honors. A companion book to the documentary was released shortly after the series aired.” –Wikipedia

The Wikipedia chart is helpful planning curriculum because it breaks out the date range covered in each episode!

No. Episode Original air date
1 “The Cause” (1861) September 23, 1990[8]
All Night ForeverAre We Free?; A House Divided; The Meteor; Secessionitis; 4:30 a.m. April 12, 1861; Traitors and Patriots; Gun Men; Manassas; A Thousand Mile Front; Honorable Manhood
2 “A Very Bloody Affair” (1862) September 24, 1990[9]
Politics; Ironclads; Lincolnites; The Peninsula; Our Boy; Shiloh; The Arts of Death; Republics; On To Richmond
3 “Forever Free” (1862) September 24, 1990[9]
StonewallThe BeastThe Seven Days; Kiss Daniel For Me; Saving the Union; AntietamThe Higher Object
4 “Simply Murder” (1863) September 25, 1990[10]
Northern Lights; Oh! Be Joyful; The Kingdom of Jones; Under the Shade of the Trees; A Dust-Covered Man
5 “The Universe of Battle” (1863) September 25, 1990[10]
Gettysburg: The First DayGettysburg: The Second DayGettysburg: The Third DayShe Ranks MeVicksburg; Bottom Rail On Top; The River of DeathA New Birth of Freedom
6 “Valley of the Shadow of Death” (1864) September 26, 1990[11]
Valley of the Shadow of Death; GrantLeeIn the WildernessMove By the Left Flank; Now, Fix Me; The Remedy
7 “Most Hallowed Ground” (1864) September 26, 1990[11]
A Warm Place in the FieldNathan Bedford Forrest; Summer, 1864; Spies; The Crater; Headquarters U.S.A.; The Promised Land; The Age of Shoddy; Can Those Be Men?; The People’s Resolution; Most Hallowed Ground
8 “War Is All Hell” (1865) September 27, 1990[12]
Sherman’s March; The Breath Of Emancipation; Died Of A Theory; Washington, March 4, 1865; I Want to See Richmond; Appomattox
9 “The Better Angels of Our Nature” (1865) September 27, 1990[12]
AssassinationUseless, Useless; Picklocks Of Biographers; Was It Not Real?

DSST:  The Civil War and Reconstruction Resource List

InstantCert DOES have flashcards for this test ($5 off use code 100150)

Official DSST Exam Content  (link to pdf)

Free CLEP Prep Study Guide and Practice Test 

Civil War Trust (a MUST SEE site)

History of the United States: The Great Courses Plus 

DSST officially suggests the following textbooks for your consideration when studying for this exam (the two with links are books that I own.  Both are excellent.)
1. Foner, Eric (2011). Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York, NY: Harper and Row, current edition.
2. Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2005). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Current edition.
3. McPherson, James (1988). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, current edition.
4. McPherson, James & Hogue, James K. (2010). Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 4 th Ed.


The Vietnam War

This is available for instant streaming now for free on PBS to watch on any device!

You can’t currently watch it using Amazon Prime, but they are selling the box set.

“The Vietnam War is a 10-part, 18-hour documentary television series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick about the Vietnam War. The documentary premiered on the Public Broadcasting Service on September 17, 2017.” –Wikipedia

The Wikipedia chart is helpful planning curriculum because it breaks out the date range covered in each episode!

Episode Original airdate
1 “Déjà Vu” (1858 – 1961) 90 minutes September 17, 2017
After a century of French occupation, Vietnam emerges independent but divided into North and South.
2 “Riding the Tiger” (1961 – 1963) 90 minutes September 18, 2017
As a communist insurgency gains strength, President Kennedy wrestles with American involvement in South Vietnam.
3 “The River Styx” (January 1964 – December 1965) 2 hours September 19, 2017
With South Vietnam near collapse, President Johnson begins bombing the North and sends US troops to the South.
4 “Resolve” (January 1966 – June 1967) 2 hours September 20, 2017
US soldiers discover Vietnam is unlike their fathers’ war, while the antiwar movement grows.
5 “This Is What We Do” (July 1967 – December 1967) 90 minutes September 21, 2017
Johnson escalated the war while promising the American public that victory is in sight.
6 “Things Fall Apart” (January 1968 – July 1968) 90 minutes September 24, 2017
Shaken by the Tet Offensive, assassinations and unrest, America seems to be coming apart.
7 “The Veneer of Civilization” (June 1968 – May 1969) 2 hours September 25, 2017
After chaos roils the Democratic Convention, Richard Nixon, promising peace, narrowly wins the presidency.
8 “The History of the World” (April 1969 – May 1970) 2 hours September 26, 2017
Nixon withdraws US troops but when he sends forces into Cambodia the antiwar movement reignites.
9 “A Disrespectful Loyalty” (May 1970 – March 1973) 2 hours September 27, 2017
South Vietnam fights on its own as Nixon and Kissinger find a way out for America. American POWs return.
10 “The Weight of Memory” (March 1973 – Onward) 2 hours September 28, 2017
Saigon falls and the war ends. Americans and Vietnamese from all sides search for reconciliation.

DSST:  The Vietnam War Resource List

InstantCert DOES have flashcards for this test ($5 off use code 100150)

Official DSST exam content (link to pdf)

Free CLEP Prep study guide and practice test

History of the United States: The Great Courses Plus  (lecture 76)

National Military Archives (government resource page)

DSST officially suggests the following textbooks for your consideration when studying for this exam: 
1. Frankum, Ronald B., Jr. (2011). Historical Dictionary of the War in Vietnam. Toronto: Scarecrow Press. Current Edition.
2. Goldfield, David (2011). The American Journey: A History of the United States. New York: Pearson. Current edition.
3. Karnow, Stanley (1983). Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press. Current edition.
4. Lawrence, Mark Atwood (2010). The Vietnam War. USA: Oxford University Press. 
5. Sheehan, Neil (1989). A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage. Current edition.
6. Tucker, Spencer C. (ed).(2001), Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History. Current edition

Posted in Credit by Exam, DSST, Self-Paced Learning

DSST: the “other” CLEP test

DSST isn’t a CLEP test, but it is a competing brand with CLEP – and similar in almost every way.  Since CLEP is more widely accepted than DSST (2,900 institutions accept CLEP vs only 1,900 accept DSST), is there any reason to take a DSST?  For some of you, yes!  In this post, we’ll cover the basics of DSST as well as the pros and cons of this exam.

DSST Official Website

DSST is a registered trademark of Prometric, a test development company.  In contrast, CLEP is a registered trademark of The College Board, also a test development company, but in this case, you’ve probably heard of The College Board’s other brands- SAT and AP. Most high school students take one or the other at some point, and resourceful high school students take CLEP.  But Prometric is less known for their tests and more known for their testing centers.  There are about 8,000 Prometric testing centers in 160 countries, making it the largest testing company you’ve probably never heard of.

A quick back-story:  DSST is formerly known as Defense Activity for Non-traditional Education Support (DANTES) so some of you with military knowledge may be familiar with this exam. For a number of years, only our military could take a DANTES exam, but in 2004, Prometric took over the exam process and opened up testing to everyone.  So, while our military can still take DANTES / DSST exams (for free) so can anyone else.  This is a great opportunity to those seeking credit by exam because the DSST catalog contains 36 exams covering topics that CLEP doesn’t cover (with one exception).  In other words, between DSST and CLEP, you have almost 70 different college subjects that can be completed by exam.

Tip:  when asking a college about DSST exams, you may want to refer to them as DSST/DANTES since some schools are more familiar with the DANTES name.

What’s The Test Like?

Like CLEP, the test is a multiple choice format.  In a CLEP exam, the student selects the best answer out of 5 possible choices, but DSST only lists 4 choices.  Technically, the probability of getting a correct answer is better with DSST (25%) than CLEP (20%).

What Subjects are There?

1. A History of the Vietnam War boy
2. Art of the Western World
3. Astronomy
4. Business Ethics & Society
5. Business Mathematics
6. Criminal Justice
7. Computing & Information Technology
8. Environmental Science
9. Ethics in America
10. Foundations of Education
11. Fundamentals of College Algebra
12. Fundamentals of Counseling
13. Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
14. General Anthropology
15. Health & Human Development
16. Human Cultural Geography
17. Human Resources Management
18. History of the Soviet Union
19. Introduction to Business
20. Introduction to Law Enforcement
21. Introduction to World Religions
22. Lifespan Developmental Psychology
23. Management Information Systems
24. Math for Liberal Arts
25. Money & Banking
26. Organizational Behavior
27. Personal Finance
28. Principles of Advanced English Composition
29. Principles of Finance
30. Principles of Physical Science
31. Principles of Public Speaking
32. Principles of Statistics
33. Principles of Supervision
34. Substance Abuse
35. Technical Writing
36. The Civil War and Reconstruction


Like CLEP, the exams are pass/fail.  Also like CLEP, a school may choose to impose a higher cut score than is recommended by ACE.  The following table shows the cut scores for “B” grades as well as “C” grades.  For most schools, the “C” grade score is sufficient.

Table of B and C scores

Upper-Level Credit

When college credit is earned, it’s generally grouped into “lower level” or “upper level” categories.  The lower level credits consist of 100 and 200 level courses, also often called “General Education” courses by most colleges.  There are exceptions, but most 100/200 level courses will meet the requirements of an associate degree or the first two years of a 4-year degree.

An edge that DSST has over CLEP, is that all CLEP exams are 100/200 level, while 7 DSST exams are classified as “upper level.”  It is always harder to find economical credit alternatives in the upper-level category, so it’s worth pointing out that this small list is the least expensive upper-level credit currently available.

A History of the Vietnam War

History of the Soviet Union (formerly The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union)

Introduction to Law Enforcement

Substance Abuse (formerly Drug and Alcohol Abuse)

The Civil War and Reconstruction

Fundamentals of Cybersecurity

Money and Banking

Test Preparation

Like CLEP, the best way to prepare for a DSST exam is to have your teen complete a full semester of study using a curriculum, and then follow up with dedicated exam prep.  Good resources for curriculum and test prep can be found in my The 10 BEST Resources tab.  Since companies that assemble online curriculum are always adding resources, I encourage you to always check edX for classes being offered in these subjects.  EdX courses are always free!

In addition, for those who enjoy the Great Courses (amazing, but expensive) their streaming service (think: Netflix for education), there are a TON of courses you’ll find that align really well to the DSST exams.  The Great Courses Plus

Unlike CLEP, my favorite prep company (REA) doesn’t have DSST prep books.  You can find prep books on Amazon, but you may want to check the customer feedback to assure you’re getting a book that actually aligns with the DSST exam.  DSST exams are refreshed on 3-year cycles, so it’s best to look for current publications or use the prep material distributed by DSST.  

Finally, my favorite online practice test company (Peterson’s) does have the full catalog of practice exams, so if you want to check your teen’s readiness, you can purchase a set of 3 online timed practice exams for $20.  They are considered by most to be a bit harder than the real thing, so solid scores on the Peterson’s tests (60%+) are a really good indicator of readiness.  The Free CLEP Prep site offers one free exam for several DSST exams, so it’s worth a visit too.


Posted in ACE, AP Advanced Placement, CLEP, Credit by Exam, DSST, Foreign Language, Saylor Academy

Single Exam Options

College classes usually require a lot of homework. Some college classes require a little bit of homework, but for some students, earning college credit by exam means skipping homework in college! If your teen is the type of learner who can read a book and pass a test, is a strong independent learner, likes to deep dive into a subject, then credit by exam is probably something to consider.  In addition, parents who plan credit by exam options are the teachers and selectors of the curriculum (because it happens in highschool at home) and there is no worry about what the college may or may not teach.

There are many alternative credit sources out there, and many require passing a series of tests or quizzes, but this post will focus on the single-exam option.

A single-exam option:  one test determines whether or not you receive college credit in a subject.  

Now, to be clear, I’m not advocating skipping a high school class.  Rather, I’m telling you that learning in homeschool can prepare your teen well enough to skip a college class.

Let’s look at this example:

Paul has studied German since middle school and is starting 10th grade.  His parents have used a variety of curriculum options, and he’s done fine, but last year he really had a breakthrough after his family went to Germany to visit family.  When they returned home, Paul was very motivated and put is heart into his German class.  He completed the 4th and final level of his Rosetta Stone German course.  Paul can speak, read, and write German pretty well!  Paul took the German CLEP exam and scored a 70.  That is an exceptionally high score and will qualify him for 9 college credit at most of his target colleges.  With such a high score, his homeschool advisor suggested he attempt the ACTFL  exam too.  His score resulted in 14 college credits.  Though the first 9 credits of his ACTFL exam will duplicate the CLEP exam credits he has (you can’t count them twice), the additional new 5 credits will give him upper-level credit at his top choice university.  At $900 per credit, Paul saved at least $12,000  by taking a single exam and getting 14 credits for his fluency in German.  (If the university tuition price goes up before he graduates high school, his savings will be even more impressive!)

It’s important to point out that not all colleges accept credit by exam, but you’re not going to send your teen to all colleges- you can be strategic in the schools you choose and consider whether or not it is worth your family’s time and money to use credit by exam.

To inject a personal note, when I first read about credit by exam, I was very skeptical.  In addition to thinking it was possibly untrue, I wasn’t sure that I was smart enough to test out of a college course.   Since I was working at a college at the time, I went down the hall and asked about CLEP.  Despite working there for 10 years, I had no idea that we accepted CLEP, we were an official testing center, and that we allowed our students to complete 75% of their degree through CLEP!!!  So, yeah, it’s a real option.

Using my employer’s testing center, I proceeded to test out of class after class. I found a college with better CLEP policy than my employer and tested out of an ENTIRE AA degree.  This was a test, I didn’t even need the degree.  But, that event changed my children’s lives forever, and it led me to start this community.  So, I share that story because it’s TRUE.  (And my IQ is unimpressively average)

List of single-exam options

CLEP College Level Exam Program:  33 different exams.  All credit is considered lower level (100/200) and all exams (except College Composition) are multiple choice pass/fail.  Cost:  about $100 each.  Accepted by about 2,900 colleges. Taken at a testing center.

DSST (formerly known as DANTES):  36 different exams.  Exams are lower and upper-level (100/200/300/400) and all exams are multiple choice pass/fail.  Cost:  about $100 each.  Accepted by about 1,400 colleges.  Taken at a testing center.

Saylor Academy:  31 different exams.  Exams are lower level (100/200) and all are multiple choice and require 70% to pass.  Cost:  $25 each.  Accepted by about 200 colleges.  Taken at home via webcam proctor.

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages:  Exams in over 100 languages.  Exams are lower and upper level (100/200/300/400) and credit is awarded based on the strength of your score.  Cost and requirements vary.  Accepted by at least 200 colleges for college credit.  (This exam is also accepted for government employment and teacher certification)

Advanced Placement:  38 different exams.  Exams are lower and upper-level (100/200/300/400) and all exams are a combination of multiple-choice and essay.  Exams are scored 1-5, and colleges generally award credit for a score of 3 or above.  Cost:  about $100 each.  Accepted by about 3,200 colleges.  Taken at a designated AP high school.

New York University Foreign Language Proficiency Exam:  Exams in over 50 languages.  Exams are lower and upper level(100/200/300/400) and credit is awarded based on the strength of your score – up to 16 credits.  Cost ranges from $150 – $450.  Accepted by at least 200 colleges for college credit. (This exam is also accepted for government employment and teacher certification).  Taken at a testing center.

UExcel (Formerly known as Excelsior) Exams:  61 different exams.  Exams are lower and upper-level (100/200/300/400) and all exams are mainly multiple-choice.  Credit is awarded as a letter grade (A, B, C, or F).  Cost is about $100.  Taken at a testing center.




Posted in CLEP, Credit by Exam, High School

Sample High School CLEP Schedule

I love making schedules for our homeschool – I actually love making them more than I like following them.  But, in reality, I think most of us get a sense of satisfaction when we check things off of a list.  I often have a few “leftovers” that get pushed to the next day, which makes me feel so unaccomplished.  If that ever happens to you in your homeschool (can you say 7 out of 10 Lifepacs?) I would suggest you are careful planning your teen’s CLEP schedule.  It’s so easy to get carried away.  (16 CLEP exams next year?  Yeah, that’s too many.)  Additionally, if this is your first year injecting college credit into your homeschool, whatever you were thinking about adding…. cut it way back.  Early success will be like rocket fuel later.  Early failure will be like sugar in the gas tank.

Jennifer’s recommendation:  no more than 2-3 CLEP exams during your first year of earning college credit – no matter what grade your teen is in.

My guinea pig (AKA oldest son) helped me learn that my knowledge and motivation about something is not enough to push everyone to the finish line. I share my mistakes so you can hopefully prevent them with your own kids.  A quick story:  I had just finished CLEP-testing out of an Associate’s of timeArts degree. Over the course of 6 short months, I averaged one CLEP exam every 10 days – while homeschooling my kids-  I had a schedule that worked perfectly (for me) and I was ready to implement CLEP tests into our homeschool immediately.  They weren’t really that hard.  But, my enthusiasm was tempered with homeschooling reality:


So, before we dive into a schedule, I want to tell you the difference between my CLEPping out of an exam, and the experience of my teens CLEPping:

As an adult, I’d already attended and graduated, from high school.  I had 4 years of slow learning – learning that included lots of reading, writing, researching, quizzes, studying, critical thinking, group discussion, reflection, and TONS of test-taking experience.  I also had about 30+ years of life experience that helped me pass many exams.  (Heck, I was present for some of the content on the US History II exam!)   An adult going into a CLEP exam prep process is pretty straight forward:  memorize, recall, use the process of elimination and life experience, choose the best answer.  It was simple.  But, NOT that simple for my son, and probably not for yours.  (I’ll spare you the disaster that resulted in a lot of frustration,  tears,  yelling, and a failed exam.)  So, when I started our schedule for my son’s second year of homeschooling for college credit, it went SO MUCH BETTER, because I followed a VERY SUCCESSFUL model used in high schools all over the country. I first learned this model as a high school student back in the 80’s, and it’s still in use today. I followed the Advanced Placement model.

Advanced Placement (AP), is a class followed by a college credit exam available to high school students.  Not surprisingly, it’s written by the same makers of the CLEP exam.  Students take it in the spring after about 2/3 of that year’s curriculum has been covered.  The student takes almost an entire course before they ever think about exam prep.  And, students who aren’t successful in the course don’t even have to attempt the exam if they don’t want to.   The exam, if the student takes it, has nothing to do with their AP course grade or high school credit earned.  In fact, AP credit by exam grades don’t even come in until July – well after the student has received their course grade. So, whether or not the student takes, passes, or fails the AP exam has nothing to do with the course grade or credit that led up to that moment.  It is that model that I follow in our homeschool and one that I’d encourage you to consider as well.

100% curriculum + CLEP test prep = Success


Don’t worry, you can change it – but this really is where you should start.  If you have no idea whatsoever of the subjects you’re going to plan for high school, you can use this very general rule of thumb* as a starting point.  This plan doesn’t include any technology, electives, or other fun stuff – but this is a good starting point.  Adjust as you see fit.

4 years of English  (ex. Language Arts, Composition, Literature)
2–4 years of Math (ex. Algebra, Geometry, Consumer Math, Statistics, Trigonometry)
2–4 years of Science (ex. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science)
2–4 years of History (ex. American, Western Civilization)
at least 2 years of a Foreign Language (ex. Spanish, German, French)

*if your state has a specific high school graduation requirement or subject taught laws, you’ll want to follow those instead.  Some states also distribute a “college-bound” suggested course of study.


With a generalized high school schedule, you can start picking specific subjects within each subject area. This is the point where you may want to match your teen’s high school subjects with CLEP subjects!  Here is a current list of all 33 CLEP exams:

English & Literature Exams

Math Exams

Science Exams

History and Social Sciences Exams

Foreign Language Exams

It’s worth noting that some learning is singular, while other learning is cumulative.  To give you an example, singular learning starts and stops within the subject.  You and I could learn everything we needed to know for Introductory Psychology without any prior exposure to the subject.  On the other hand, if we wanted to take the Calculus exam, we would have had to complete all of the math levels leading up to and including Calculus.  That exam requires significant foundational knowledge before learning that subject.  As you select subjects for your high school plan, you can use singular subjects anywhere you want, but cumulative subjects would be saved for later.  The exam links above take you to that exam’s content page so you can peek at what each test’s makeup.

Singular Subjects

Cumulative Subjects

American Literature

English Literature



American Government

History of the United States I

History of the United States II

Human Growth and Development

Introduction to Educational Psychology

Introductory Psychology

Introductory Sociology

Principles of Macroeconomics

Principles of Microeconomics

Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648

Western Civilization II: 1648 to the Present

Analyzing and Interpreting Literature

College Composition (w/ essay)

College Composition Modular (w/o essay)


College Algebra

College Mathematics



Natural Sciences

Social Sciences and History

French Language: Levels 1 and 2

German Language: Levels 1 and 2

Spanish Language: Levels 1 and 2


A NOTE ABOUT FOREIGN LANGUAGE EXAMS:  even though it says “Level 1” and “Level 2” it is only one exam that you take one time.  When you take the exam, the strength of your score determines the number of college credits awarded,  so don’t take this exam until AFTER you have significant fluency – multiple years of study.


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 1

U.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 Math

College Algebra

SCIENCE Chemistry Chemistry Natural Sciences


HISTORY Western Civ. I Western Civ. II Western Civ. I

Western 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!kids

Posted in CLEP, Credit by Exam, DSST, Math

Testing out of Math

For the non-mathy majors, you’ll likely only need 3 credits (1 course) in math for an entire bachelor’s degree!  This makes testing out of math extremely appealing (does that mean NO MATH CLASS IN COLLEGE?  Yep! That’s exactly what that means!)  I’m going to list all of the test-out options by their level of difficulty from lowest to highest.

When you find the math your teen needs for their degree (ex. College Algebra) be sure to also grab the maths leading up to that level.  While lower maths may not meet their degree requirement, they’ll frequently count as general education electives!  One final tip, you usually can’t use exam credit to replace a course you’ve failed at a college, and you also won’t get to duplicate credit you’ve already earned at a college.


DSST Math for Liberal Arts

CLEP College Mathematics

DSST Fundamentals of College Algebra

CLEP College Algebra

CLEP Pre-Calculus

AP Calculus AB

AP Calculus BC



Statistics can, but doesn’t always, count as meeting a math requirement.  It’s still a good exam to consider including anyway because it’s often a requirement for students heading off to graduate school.  Students who have completed Algebra 1 will be well-suited to tackle this material.  I used the Statistics DSST exam to meet my own grad school entrance requirement in 2012 (Thank you, Khan Academy.  They taught me everything I needed to know for that exam).

DSST Principles of Statistics   (all multiple choice)

AP Statistics   (multiple choice and free response)

(these two exams are considered duplicates, so choose one or the other – not both)


If this post makes your head spin and stomach drop, you might like my previous math post a little better:  Math Success 4 Math Averse