Posted in CLEP, DSST, Math

DSST Math for the Liberal Arts vs. CLEP College Mathematics

What is the difference between the DSST Math for the Liberal Arts and CLEP College Mathematics exam?

~a question asked by MANY homeschool moms

Exam Information

DSST Math for the Liberal Arts

This exam was developed to enable schools to award credit to students for knowledge equivalent to that learned by students taking the course. This exam covers topics such as real number systems; sets and logic; metric system, conversions and geometry; algebra, graphs and functions (as applied to real-life applications); linear systems and inequalities; exponents and logarithms including financial literacy and counting, probability theory and statistics. The exam contains 80 questions to be answered in 2 hours. The use of a non-programmable calculator is permitted in this exam.

Passing Score for Math for the Liberal Arts
ACE Recommended Score: 400
Semester Hours: 3

CLEP College Mathematics

This examination covers material generally taught in a college course for nonmathematics majors and majors in fields not requiring knowledge of advanced mathematics.

The examination contains approximately 60 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. Any time candidates spend on tutorials and providing personal information is in addition to the actual testing time.

Questions on the College Mathematics examination require candidates to demonstrate the following abilities in the approximate proportions indicated.

  • Solving routine, straightforward problems (about 50% of the examination)
  • Solving nonroutine problems requiring an understanding of concepts and the application of skills and concepts (about 50% of the examination)

The subject matter of the College Mathematics examination is drawn from the following topics. The percentages next to the main topics indicate the approximate percentage of exam questions on that topic.

A scientific (nongraphing) calculator, the TI-30XS MultiView™, is integrated into the exam software and available to students during the entire testing time. Students are expected to know how and when to make appropriate use of the calculator.

Information about the scientific calculator, including opportunities to practice, is available here.

Passing Score for College Mathematics
ACE Recommended Score: 50
Semester Hours: 6

Overlap Between the CLEP and DSST Exams

The following information is taken from the DSST Math for the Liberal Arts fact sheet and the CLEP College Mathematics information page. This was my best attempt to match up the content of each test, however, I do not guarantee 100% accuracy! If you see any errors, please leave a comment and I will update the chart.

Blue indicates content overlap between the DSST and CLEP math exams. In some instances, the overlap is assumed because it is a foundational concept.

DSST Math for the Liberal Arts

CLEP College Math

Real numbers: Natural Numbers, Integers, Rational Numbers, Irrational Numbers, The real number line. Operations with real numbers and their properties (including the distributive properties) Properties of numbers and their operations: integers
and rational, irrational, and real numbers (including
recognizing rational and irrational numbers)
Percentages; Fractions and reducing fractions; conversion between decimal numbers and fractions; operations with fractions (including distributive property)
Prime and composite numbers; divisibility rules; prime factors of composite numbers Elementary number theory: factors and divisibility, primes and composites, odd and even integers, and the fundamental theorem of arithmetic
Absolute value
Systems of Numeration: Place value or positional value numeration, Base 10 expanded forms; base 2 numbers; conversion between base 10 and base 2; (Including Roman Numerals)
Introduction to metrics and U.S. customary unit systems
Conversions between metric and U.S. customary unit systems, including Dimensional Analysis Measurement: unit conversion, scientific notation, and numerical precision
Properties of lines and angles Parallel and perpendicular lines; Properties of circles: circumference, area, central angles, inscribed angles, and sectors;
Perimeter and area of 2D geometric objects; Area, Surface area and volume of 3D solid objects Properties of triangles and quadrilaterals: perimeter, area, similarity, and the Pytharorean theorem
The Nature of Sets
Subsets and Set Operations, (setbuilder notation; roster form, using sets to solve problems) Set relationships, subsets, disjoint sets, equality of sets,
Using Venn Diagrams to Study Set Operations  and Venn diagrams
Infinite sets
Operations on sets: union, intersection, complement, and Cartesian product
Simple and compound statements; qualifiers “and” and “or” and their symbols; conjunction and disjunction; conditional and biconditional statements including Qualifiers Logical operations and statements: conditional statements, conjunctions, disjunctions, negations, hypotheses, logical conclusions, converses, inverses, counterexamples, contrapositives, and logical equivalence
Truth value of a compound statement including Truth Tables
Types of Statements ( Negations of Conditional Statements and De Morgan’s Laws
Logical Arguments including Euler Circles
Fundamentals of Probability including the Counting Principle
Permutations and Combinations Counting problems: the multiplication rule, combinations, and permutations
Events Involving Not and Or
Odds and Conditional Probability Probability: union, intersection, independent events, mutually exclusive events, complementary events, conditional probabilities, and expected value
Mean, Median and Mode; Range Numerical summaries of data: mean (average), median, mode, and range
Variance and Standard Deviation Standard deviation and normal distribution (conceptual questions only)
Graphical representation (including Bar graph, pie chart, histogram, line graph, scatterplots etc.) Data interpretation and representation: tables, bar graphs, line graphs, circle graphs, pie charts, scatterplots, and histograms
Properties of Logarithms
Logarithmic and Exponential Functions
Percents, percent change, markups, discounts, taxes, profit, and loss
Simple Interest; Compound Interest Interest: simple, compound, continuous interest, effective interest rate, effective annual yield or annual percentage rate (APR)
Present value and future value
Installment Buying
Student Loans and Home Buying
Investing in Stocks and Bonds
Order of operations
Simplifying expressions; equations with one variable; proportion problems
Evaluation of formulas
Solving Linear Equations including applications and systems Solving equations, linear inequalities, and systems of linear equations by analytic and graphical methods
Interpretation, representation, and evaluation of functions: numerical, graphical, symbolic, and descriptive methods
Graphs of linear equations in the rectangular coordinate system; Graphing and solving Linear
inequalities; Graphing and solving systems of
Graphs of functions: translations, horizontal and vertical reflections, and symmetry about the x-axis, the y-axis, and the origin
Linear and exponential growth
Functions including polynomials (not to include rational, exponential and logarithmic Functions)
The Rectangular Coordinate System and Linear Equations in Two Variables


Posted in CLEP, DSST

English Composition Resource List

Narrative writing –
Informative writing –
Argumentative writing –
Critical Response writing –…sponse.pdf…essay.html

Audience and purpose analysis –…dience.pdf…d-content/
Pre-writing strategies –…chniques-0
Drafting –…0Paper.pdf

Identifying elements in arguments/analyzing arguments –…uments.pdf…uments.htm
Types of evidence –…-argument/

Finding sources –…f-sources/
Evaluating sources –
Credibility in sources –
Using sources –
Citing and documenting –
Citation styles –…se-1360722…c-citation

Quizlet flashcards –…ash-cards/

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 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, 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