Earning credit by exams can help accelerate your bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

Overhead shot of a person filling out a multiple choice exam.Earning a degree can be one of the best choices you ever make. Not only do degrees open up new career opportunities, but earning a degree can help increase your earning potential immensely—and the higher the degree you attain, the higher your lifetime earnings.*

The question isn’t whether you should earn a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. The question is: how can you make earning a degree more feasible? The answer: with credit by exams and online education.

What Is Credit by Exam and How Can You Earn It?

Credit by exam is college credit you can earn by taking an exam to evaluate relevant knowledge that aligns with the learning objectives of specific academic courses or programs rather than attending and passing a specific course at a university. Each university sets its own policies on which tests they accept, what scores you must attain, and what type of course credits you can earn through exams. Nevertheless, most accredited universities accept some form of credit by exam and will allow you to apply those credits to general education and/or discipline-specific courses.

Earning credit by exam can help you fulfill core requirements for a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. This, in turn, can help you accumulate credits faster and earn a degree sooner.

There are five major tests you can take to earn college credit. These include:

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
Offered by the College Board, CLEP exams test college-level learning in a variety of subjects. You can take 33 different CLEP tests in a broad range of disciplines, from American literature to human growth and development to principles of marketing, making CLEP testing a good choice no matter which field of study you want to enter. CLEP exams currently cost $85 each.

DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST)
Originated by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), DANTES tests are now administered by Prometric. You can choose from more than 30 DSST exams and receive credit for both lower- and upper-level courses. Members of the military can qualify for DSST funding. For civilians, exams currently start at $80 each.

Excelsior College Examinations (ECEs) / UExcel Exams
Formerly known as Regents College Exams or ACT-PEP Exams, Excelsior College Examinations/UExel exams are offered by Excelsior College. You can choose from over 50 ECEs with the opportunity to earn lower-level college credit for business, technology, education, humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, nursing, social sciences, and history courses. The exams currently start at $110.

Advanced Placement (AP)
Available to high school students, AP exams test a student’s understanding in a specific subject. There are nearly 40 different AP exams. While most students complete a high school class focused on the subject of a specific AP exam, students do not have to enroll in a class in order to sign up for and take an AP exam. AP exams currently cost $93.

International Baccalaureate (IB)
Available at 4,000 schools in 150 nations, IB offers programs to high-school-aged students. While these programs are holistic in nature, students can take end-of-the-year IB exams, which they can then use to attain college credits. To take the exams, a student must be enrolled in an IB program. The cost of testing is built into the cost of the program.

How Can Online Education Help You Earn a Degree?

Earning credits through examinations can save you time and money. So can attending an online university. That’s because, when you earn a degree online, you can better control your time while earning your degree.

Unlike campus-based programs, online degree programs allow you to complete the majority of your coursework from home. Plus, you can earn your degree on a flexible schedule designed to allow you to continue working full time. This flexibility can help you earn your degree faster and maintain a better life balance. Some of the best online universities even provide the option of competency-based degree programs that allow you to accelerate your progress based on what you already know.

Earning a degree can help you advance your career and earn more over your lifetime. Thanks to credit by exam and online learning, you can make earning your degree a reality.

Walden University is an accredited institution that awards credit for a wide variety of examinations and offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees online. Visit Walden’s Center for Degree Acceleration for additional information and expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


*A. Carnevale, et al., Part I: Lifetime Earnings by Educational Attainment, The College Payoff, The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, on the internet at www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2011/collegepayoff.pdf.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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