How to Earn an Online Degree by Examination

The Legitimate Way to "Test Out" of College

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Several websites have popped up recently claiming that students can earn a degree by taking tests or get their bachelor's degree in less than a year. Is the information they're selling a scam? Not necessarily.

It is true that experienced students and good test-takers may be able to earn legitimate online degrees quickly and primarily through test-taking. However, it isn't easy and it's not always the most fulfilling way to experience college.

This information isn't a secret and you shouldn't feel obliged to take out your credit card for details that are publicly available from the colleges themselves. Here's what you need to know:

How Can I Earn a Degree by Examination?

In order to test your way to a degree, you can't just sign up for any program. When planning your next steps, you will need to be particularly cautious to avoid diploma mills with unethical practices - even listing a diploma mill degree on your resume is a crime in some states. There are several regionally accredited online colleges that are competency-based and offer flexible ways for students to earn credit. By enrolling in one of these legitimate online colleges, you may be able to earn the majority of your credits by proving your knowledge through taking tests rather than completing coursework.

Why Should I Earn a Degree by Examination?

"Testing out of college" is probably a better choice for experienced adult learners rather than incoming freshmen.

It might be right for you if you have a lot of knowledge but are being held back in your career due to the lack of a degree. If you are coming right out of high school, this course may be particularly challenging as the tests tend to be difficult and do require a substantial amount of studying for students that are new to a topic.

What Are the Drawbacks?

Earning an online degree by taking tests has some major drawbacks. In particular, students miss out on what some consider are the most important aspects of the college experience. When you take a test instead of a class, you miss out on interacting with a professor, networking with your peers, and learning as a part of a community. Additionally, the required tests are challenging and the unstructured nature of studying alone can lead many students to simply give up. In order to be successful with this approach, students need to be particularly driven and disciplined.

What Kinds of Tests Can I Take?

The tests that you take will depend on your college's requirements. You may end up taking university tests monitored online, university tests monitored at a designated testing location (such as a local library), or external tests. External tests such as the College-Level Exam Program (CLEP) can help you bypass courses in specialized subjects such as U.S. History, Marketing, or College Algebra. These tests can be taken with proctored supervision at a variety of locations.

What Kinds of Colleges Accept Test Scores?

Keep in mind that many "earn a degree fast" and "test out of college" advertisements are scams.

When choosing to earn a degree primarily through examination, it is essential that you enroll in a legitimate, accredited online college. The widest form of accreditation is regional accreditation. Accreditation from the Distance Education Training Council (DETC) is also gaining traction. Regionally accredited programs that are well-known for awarding credit by exam include: Thomas Edison State College, Excelsior College, Charter Oak State College, and Western Governors University.

Are Degrees-By-Examination Considered Legitimate?

If you choose an accredited online college, your degree should be considered legitimate by employers and other educational institutions. There should be no difference between the degree you earn through proving your knowledge through test taking and the degree another online student earns through coursework.