Testing Out of Classes

While some people choose to wait a year or two after high school to attend university, there are numerous reasons why it is better to attend college immediately after graduation. One of these, of course, is that material learned in high school will still be fresh in your mind. Chemistry and physics concepts, foreign language skills, and important mathematical formulas will be easier to recall. One way to use this to your advantage is to "test out" of some of your classes. This is an option offered by many colleges. Students pay a fee and take an exam covering the material addressed in the course. Obtaining a passing grade will result in the credit hours for that course being awarded to the student who achieves a passing score on the exam. Although a grade will not be issued, the student receives full credit just as they would if they had taken the course. Testing out of subjects you are comfortable with can help you graduate sooner and spend less on tuition. The tests you are required to take to obtain college credit in this manner are variously termed; such tests may be part of the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) or Advanced Placement program. Check with your college to determine the protocol. The basic idea is that you have already acquired the knowledge to pass the course, and can prove it by successfully passing a test. Many people save thousands of dollars on the costs of undergraduate degrees by using CLEP and AP tests.

A key point to remember is that you should not wait too long to test out of classes. Try to do it as soon as possible after you arrive at college to ensure you will still be able to remember and apply the relevant concepts. No matter when you take the tests, you should take at least a few hours to review the essential material. Subject reviews often cost as little as $10, and some testing centers even provide them at no charge. Many colleges will allow students to obtain up to 50 or 60 credit hours by "challenging courses" or testing out of classes. Taking full advantage of this option will allow you to spend less on tuition, avoid attending classes that do not interest you, and enter the world of work earlier.

One situation in which testing out of classes may be a good option is when you find yourself in a scheduling conflict. For example, you may make an error and match the correct lab section with the wrong lecture for one of your courses. By the time you realize your mistake, the lecture may be full, meaning you will have to take it during a future semester. This can mean you won't graduate on time, and will likely cause future scheduling problems as well. Testing out of this class is a fast and easy way to solve this scheduling problem and get back on track.

While testing out of classes is often a wise idea, sometimes it may not be the best approach. Science students who decide to test out of introductory chemistry or physics, for example, may miss out on some of the essential theories covered during the course. Consequently, they may be unprepared for more advanced classes in these subject areas. It is wise to test out of basic classes that do not directly relate to your major. If you're a science student, for example, you might consider testing out of electives like American History, English Literature, or Algebra. Testing out of these courses will not only give you the opportunity to concentrate on classes that apply directly to your major, but you'll also have a greater chance of passing, since you probably studied these subjects extensively during high school.

Last Updated: 04/24/2014

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