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Beat Tuition with 4 ways to get Cheap College Credit

Feb 10, 2008
Did you know you can test out of college classes? If you have learned all about a subject, two organizations offer an option to take a test and qualify for college credit, plus two more ways to earn college credit fast. You should verify with your school that you can use these tests, but if you haven't selected a college or university yet, take the tests anyway.

The Advanced Placement Test, or AP Test, is the most recognized. The second largest is the College Level Examination Program, or CLEP test.

You use these to get credit for classes taken elsewhere or for knowledge you have gained on your own. Here are three examples.

- Let's say you took European history in high school. You take the test, you get college credit.
- Perhaps you are a native Russian speaker (or other language). You take the test to earn credits for that knowledge.
- If you are homeschooled, you can take a test for any subject you have learned in depth and want to transfer to college credit, such as calculus, biology, physics, English literature, and on.

How does this work? You take the test, and designate a university for the results to go to. If you haven't chosen one, don't worry, you can have the results sent to another school easily. Then, if the college accepts the test in lieu of the classes, you earn credit.

When I did this, I earned 8 credits for each test. Very cheap college credit.

AP and CLEP tests have a great return on investment for college credit: CLEP tests cost about $20 each, and over 1400 schools accept it. The AP test program costs $84 for each exam. AP truly is a standard with worldwide reach, as 15,000 colleges and universities participate.

Class attendance is optional, and really the purpose of the program is to skip classes in college. Take a look and see if you can use this for your future education plans. If not, student loans may help you get through.

Your third option to skip college classes but get credit: check with your university for an equivalency test. The school itself may have an in-house program as a way to demonstrate your proficiency with the material.

Ask about equivalency exams or testing out. Talk to your counselor, your professors, or the department that teaches the class you want to skip. If you can get the credit but don't have to take the class, that is serious financial college aid.

And the fourth idea: look at distance education, or what used to be called independent study. If you have the knowledge, you can short stop an independent class and finish the requirement very quickly.

Here is what I recommend. Sign up for a class that you have proficiency in through a self paced program. You'll have to pay a fee for the class. When you start the class, you will also receive the guidelines, telling you how to submit assignments and how often you can turn things in.

If it is truly self-paced, you can turn in assignments almost as fast as you can do them. Some classes have no homework, just tests. You may have a couple of midterms and a final. Ideally, you can review the material and take the tests just a few days apart, since you already have a background in this subject.
Doing this right, you could take the class and finish it in a month. No class time, and you get the credit. It's a good way to finish off a class you don't want to take over again in the class room. Make sure you know your stuff before you try it, and be sure you turn everything in.
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