Saturday, September 13, 2008

College: the non-traditional way II

Last week I began discussing how we were able to be self-focused with our college studies, while completing our degrees more quickly and for a fraction of the cost of a standard college.

The first method is taking CLEPs. But CLEP tests will only get one so far. Colleges generally only award them lower level credit. But there are two other methods that we used to gain upper level credit: Dantes (or DSST) and the GRE.

DSST or Dantes Subject Standardized Tests: These were originally designed for the military, but civilians can now take them. Many colleges across the country accept all or at least part of them for credit (search to see if your college does here). And many of the tests are awarded upper-level credit!

DSST cover 37 subjects including Human Resource Management, Banking and The Rise and Fall of Soviet Russia, which I took.

The tests cover the subject thoroughly, but are multiple choice. Here is an example from the test on Soviet Russia.

The purpose of Gosplan was to
  1. coordinate secret surveillance of dissidents
  2. provide direction for economic development
  3. coordinate policies of the Orgburo and the Politburo
  4. train spies to infiltrate NATO
Practice questions for each of the exams can be found here. To prepare, I used the same sources as for the CLEPs--listening to the Teaching Companies lectures on Soviet Russia and using the Instant Certs program for review.

Graduate Record Examinations (GRE): This method only applies to a limited number of schools, including Excelsior, but is an amazing opportunity to earn credit.

Basically, the GRE is the admissions test for students who have completed their undergraduate degree and want to get into grad school. The reasoning is that if you score higher than the average Biology major on the Biology GRE, you have a good grasp of the subject and should be given credit.

If taking a GRE is an option for you, I would strongly recommend pursuing it. Yes, they're tough, but you can earn a lot of credit this way. Excelsior awards up to 30 credit hours if you score above the 80th percentile. That's right 30 credit hours for a three hour long test!

There are eight subject GREs including chemistry, physics and literature. They are definitely not easy and require hours and hours of studying to prepare for, but for me it was well worth it. I took the Literature GRE and loved getting to spend more time reading authors like Shakespeare and less on Joyce (though, yes, I did suffer through him too).

Like CLEPs and DSSTs, the GRE is a multiple choice exam. However, there are five answers to each question and a penalty for incorrect answers.

Two resources made studying effective and fun.

  • Princeton Review's Cracking the GRE was invaluable. Chock full of pertinent information with a full length practice test and detailed answers this book is worth every penny. Not only did it help focus my attention on the areas I was weak in, it cemented the knowledge I'd gained from all my reading.

  • Once again, I used the Teaching Company lectures. In literature alone, they offer well over two hundred lectures including in depth looks at the works of Twain, Milton and Shakespeare as well as overviews of Greek, British, American and Russian Literature! Okay, I really, really love the TeachCo! :)

By combining these three methods we were able to save hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars while getting our degrees.


CC said...

Never thought of some of these!

Carrie J said...

Thanks so much for this information. My son is preparing to graduate in a year and my oldest daughter is thinking about taking the GRE.

Brandy said...

These posts were really helpful! I have heard of things like this, but I appreciated the details of how you two did it. I'll tuck this away for my boys :0)