Some homeschoolers dedicate their high school years to studying for and taking tests for college credit. For some degrees, this is an excellent option. Know before you begin what your ultimate goal is. Some colleges do not accept credit by exam, so check before beginning. If considering a university that does accept these credits, it is an excellent way to complete the freshman year of college.
Following is a list of some of the more popular credit-by-exam programs. There are others. Credit earned by exam will need to be transferred to (and accepted by) the four-year college from which you ultimately earn your bachelor’s degree.
Colleges that grant credit for these tests might have a limit to the number of credits allowed. For instance, Central Washington University limits all credit-by-test to 45 quarter credits (combined CLEP, AP, DANTES, etc.). Northwest University limits PLA (prior learning assessment) to 30 semester credits.
Advanced Placement (AP)
Most universities appear to accept AP credits. The test is scored on a 0-5 scale. Credit granted depends on the score. The colleges I’ve looked at grant credit for scores of 3-5. However, be careful about this option. Some grad schools want to see the actual college class, not AP credit, on a student’s transcript.
College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
Tests cost $70, and good scores can earn 3-12 college credits. This is a huge savings in both time and money provided that the school from which you want to graduate accepts CLEP scores. Some colleges accept CLEP tests (Central Washington University, Northwest University, Washington State University, Western Washington University); others do not (University of Washington). CLEP policies can change at any time. Verify that the specific test being considered will be granted credit in a subject that is required of the student.
DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST)
Cost varies by test. The fee is less than traditional college classes. Good scores can earn 3 college credits. Again, verify that the schools you are considering will give college credit for these tests. (fwiw, DANTES is an acronym for Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support; these were originally developed for military personnel, but are available to civilians, too.)