Beyond the CLEP: More Options for Life Experience Credit
By Chris Diehl
March 05, 2009
If you are a returning student, a shortage of time and money might prohibit you from enrolling in college full time. However, you can gain college credit for what you already know by taking one of several exams that test your knowledge in a particular subject.
While the best known credit-by-examination program is the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), there are three other tests that are recognized by many colleges and universities: the DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests), the TECEP (Thomas Edison State College Examination Program) and the ECE (Excelsior College Examination, formerly called the Regents Exam and ACT PEP).
These examinations allow students to earn college credit by demonstrating knowledge of a subject comparable to somebody who has completed college coursework in that subject.
All three programs offer (primarily) multiple-choice tests in a variety of subjects and areas of academic interest. The basic differences between the tests are price, subjects covered, colleges that accept the tests and where the test can be taken.
The DSST is a paper-based test administered year-round to about 80,000 students (most of them adult learners) across the U.S. More than 1,900 colleges and universities recognize the test and award college credit based on a student’s score.
Each exam is made up of multiple-choice questions. The number of questions ranges between 70 to 100. There is no penalty for incorrect answers, and students are encouraged to answer every question. The DSST program offers exams in 37 different subjects in the following categories:
- Mathematics: (examples: Fundamentals of College Algebra, Principles of Statistics)
- Social Science: (examples: A History of the Vietnam War, General Anthropology)
- Business: (examples: Money and Banking, Business Mathematics)
- Physical Science: (examples: Astronomy, Physical Geology)
- Applied Technology: (example: Technical Writing)
- Humanities: (examples: Ethics in America, Introduction to World Religions)
Cost: $70 per test
When: Colleges that administer the test can set their own scheduling and decide how frequently they will offer it. Check with your test location about scheduling a test date (a listing of test locations is available at http://www.getcollegecredit.com/).
Test duration: Approximately 90 minutes.
Scoring: Allow 4-6 weeks for your score report to be returned. Your score will be sent directly to you, unless you request for it be sent elsewhere or to a college. If you seek to take the test again, you may only do so six months after your original test date. If you take the test before then, your score will be invalid.
The Chauncey Group International, Ltd.
664 Rosedale Rd.
Princeton, NJ 08540-2218
Once offered only to students enrolled at Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, this paper-based test is now available to students across the country.
Unlike other exams, it is the student’s responsibility to find a proctor to administer the TECEP (unless the student is taking the test at TESC or in New Jersey). The test proctor can be a full-time professor or professional staff member at a college or university, or a full-time librarian at a local library.
There are currently more than 50 TECEP tests in subject areas like: English Composition, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences/Math, Business, Human Services and Free Electives.
While most tests require you to answer 100 multiple-choice questions, not all TECEP tests follow this format. For instance, the Anatomy and Physiology test requires you to answer 200 questions. Technical writing has no multiple-choice questions at all, but is made up entirely of writing questions. Marketing communications has 30 multiple-choice questions and seven essay questions.
Cost: $150 per college credit for students not enrolled at TESC; $75 per college credit for students enrolled at TESC. For example, if you are a student not enrolled at TESC and you take a subject test that will cover two credits at your college, your total fee for taking the test would be $300.
When: You can select your own test date, as long as it corresponds with both your schedule and your proctor’s. If you take the test at TESC or anywhere in New Jersey, there are specified test dates listed on the TESC Registration Bulletin (Page 17).
Scoring: On 100-question multiple-choice tests, TESC generally recommends a passing score of 60. However, scoring is done on a pass/fail basis only; your raw score is not included in your transcript and you cannot review your examination after it has been scored. Pass/fail notices are mailed about within a couple months after taking the exam. Scores are NOT available by phone.
If you fail, you can repeat an exam, but you have to wait three months before taking it again, and you may repeat it only once. If you retake an exam, you must register and pay the full fee. If you retake the test before the three-month period, your scores will be voided and you won’t be able to take the test again.
Thomas Edison State College Program
101 W. State St.
Trenton, NJ 08608-1176
The ECE is a computer-based exam administered through Excelsior College that is accepted at nearly 900 colleges and universities. You do not necessarily have to be attending the college to take the test for credit. The test is free for students on active duty in the military.
There are 53 undergraduate-level examinations. Each test has up to 160 multiple-choice questions (if an essay is needed, there are fewer questions) and is sorted into one of five basic categories:
- Arts and Sciences: (examples: English Composition, Microbiology, World Population)
- Business: (examples: Labor Relations, Organizational Behavior)
- Education: (example: Reading Instruction in the Elementary School)
- Nursing, Associate: (examples: Fundamentals of Nursing, Maternity Nursing)
- Nursing Baccalaureate: (examples: Adult Nursing, Management in Nursing)
Cost: The test can cost anywhere from $75 to $395.
When: The test is given up to six days a week (excluding Sunday) at most test centers. From the date a student receives his or her Authorization To Test (ATT) letter, he or she has nine months to take the ECE test. Students must schedule their test at a Prometric Test Center. A list of test centers can be found at http://www.excelsior.edu/.
Scoring: Students will receive a letter grade as their final score. While Excelsior College recommends credit for a “C” or higher, each college can set its own minimum score level. If the test didn’t require an essay, students can receive their score immediately after taking the exam. Tests with essays take longer to grade; scores are received between 45 and 75 days.
Excelsior College Examinations
7 Columbia Circle
Albany, NY 12203-5159
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