How High School Students Can Earn College Credit Without Attending Class

The dream of every student is to earn college credit without attending class. By taking a test, high school students (and college students) can do that.

Maybe the dream of every student is to earn college credit without attending class. By taking a test, high school students (and college students) can do exactly that! Credit by examination is a legitimate way to earn college credit for students of any age. Here’s how you or your child can earn college credit without going to class.

What is Credit by Examination?

Credit by Examination is one of the several ways you can earn college credit. Unlike Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses where you only earn college credit by after attending class and completing all the required coursework, you can literally earn college credit by passing an exam.

All you have to do is pay an exam, testing center fee, and transcript fee. In most cases, the total fees are less than $100. If you pass the test, your college can accept the exam as college credit for the equivalent of one or two semesters of college credit. It depends on the exam and the school’s credit transfer policy.

Exams are computer based and take approximately 90 minutes to complete. There are a few exams that might be written and have longer time requirements.

If you play your cards correctly, you can even earn a college degree in two years!

Who Can Do Credit by Examination?

Almost anybody can do credit by examination. Here are a few examples:

  • College Students
  • Working Adults
  • High School Students
  • Homeschool Students
  • Members of the Military

In fact, one of the leading exam providers, CLEP, offers bulk discounts to schools and districts that offer their exams to high school students!

For a long time, credit by examination was a popular option for members of the military and working adults that work full-time, have families, and most importantly don’t have the spare time to sit in a college class. It was (and still is) cheaper and more time-effective to take an exam to “test out” of course material you already know.

As college costs continue to rise, an increasing number of teenagers and young adults have become prime beneficiaries of taking exams to save money and even earn their degree sooner!

How High School Students Can Earn Credit

This is how high school students can earn college credit without attending class. It can also be a good option when a similar Advanced Placement or Dual Enrollment exam isn’t offered.

High school students can use the knowledge they already learned from previous class to take the exam. This saves them money and time while their friends enroll in the same classes in college and experience deja vu.

Below are a few tips to for high school students to be successful with this testing method:

  • Take notes
  • Order exam study guides
  • Schedule an exam immediately after you complete the class in high school

If you can still take the exam when the content is “fresh” or only requires a light review, your odds of success are much higher.

This can be a great way to “test out” of difficult subjects like Chemistry that you take as a high school junior and again in your freshman year of college. Taking the exam after your junior year is completed can give you college credit before you even begin college. If you wait too long, you might feel like you need to retake the class to learn the information once again.

Advantages of Credit by Examination

There’s a lot to like about Credit by Examination.  Here are a few benefits:

  • Exam fees ($100 or less) are significantly cheaper than similar college courses
  • Anybody can take an exam
  • Exams can be taken year round!
  • No class or homework prerequisites before taking an exam
  • Exams for every field of study

Unlike AP exams that can only be taken once a year, credit exams can be taken any time of the year. All you have to do is find a testing center and schedule an exam during their normal business hours.

Disadvantages of Credit by Examination

There are also a few downsides to Credit by Examination:

  • Every college has different acceptance policies
  • You still need to study for the exam
  • There are brief waiting periods between exams
  • Exam credit doesn’t influence college GPA
  • Not well suited for advanced undergraduate degrees

The largest disadvantage of Credit by Examination is that every college has different acceptance policies. With some schools, it’s possible to get an entire degree using this method. Other colleges might only allow you to transfer the equivalent of one or two semesters (15 to 30 credits) of exam credit before you must begin attending classes.

Before you begin taking every test offered, you should contact your school (or potential college) to review their transfer policy. Not every college accepts the same tests. As a general rule of thumb, you can usually receive credit for your “general” classes like American History 101 or English and Composition that every student must take their freshman year.

The Different Credit by Examination Tests

There are actually many different exams to choose from. Some are university specific and others (CLEP and DSST) are more universally accepted.


CLEP Exams are offered by The College Board, the founders of the AP and SAT exams, and are your best option for entry-level courses that are your 100 and 200-level classes.

There are over 33 different exams to choose from in a variety of academic subjects. They also have a section on their website that shows the acceptance policy of college for CLEP exams. This can make the planning process extremely easy.


DSST is another exam that is accepted by most colleges. Although they also have some more basic courses including Statistics and Math for Liberal Arts. Relatively speaking, there are fewer DSST exams than CLEP exams. But, this can be an excellent option to get credit for any field.

UExcel Exams

One of the credit by examination-friendly schools is Excelsior College. They have their own version of exams that can be beneficial if you plan to earn a degree from Excelsior.


Another “Clep-friendly”college is Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey. Their institutional test, the TECEP can also be a good option if you plan to earn your degree on-campus or remotely with Thomas Edison.


Credit by Examination is a rather unconventional way to earn college credit. This makes it a great way to save for college and can be better than any merit scholarship. Not only do you save money, but it lightens your college course load, and, it means you can also graduate early if you can take enough exams.

Plus, credit by examination is a good complement to taking AP and Dual Enrollment courses that can also save you money in college.

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