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.