CLEPs - what do me miss out on?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by bceagles, Mar 16, 2019.

  1. bceagles

    bceagles Member

    This topic came up in a recent post and I would like to get some opinions and perspective.

    The blanket statement that is always stated on this forum is that testing out is cheaper, I know this is the case but for this discussion (and to help illustrate this for anyone new) let’s do the math.

    Here is the cost breakdown:

    My local community college is currently quoting tuition at $128 per credit hour, so a typical 3 credit course will look something like:

    3 credit hours x $128 = $384

    If we get lucky and get the text book for $50

    This puts the cost of a course at $434*

    *This does not include any additional fees (application, technology, lab, etc.)

    My local community college is currently quoting the cost to take a CLEP at:

    $87 exam fee

    $28.50 testing fee

    Let’s say that the test prep material costs $20

    This puts the cost to CLEP out of a course at $135.50

    $434 vs $135.50. So CLEPs are roughly 70% less expensive than taking a Community College course.

    The other benefits of testing out include, but not limited to:

    *no classroom attendance

    *work at your own pace

    *multiple choice exam, in most cases

    Etc, etc, etc. - yes, I’m Im beating a dead horse here a bit.

    I want to get feedback about what a student gives up by testing out. A recent post brought this point up and I kinda get it, but I still favor testing out.

    *less learning the material and more just prepping for a test

    *learning from an instructor

    *collaborating with classmates

    *working on projects

    *deeper topic research

    *dialogue in the classroom

    *creating relationships and building your social/professional network

    And everything else that goes along with physically being on the campus and in the classroom.

    Especially when it comes to these lower level / Gen Eds, I think it is fair to make the statement “How much of this will a student actually retain? Why waste classroom time and money on them”.

  2. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Research has shown that college students don't retain much of what they learn; retention is worse in online courses. The passing score on a CLEP test is based on what a "C" student would make after taking an equivalent course. You can choose to do the bare minimum to barely pass a CLEP just like you can do the bare minimum to pass a course, except being a "D" student wouldn't be good enough to pass a CLEP. Some schools used to award an "A" or "B" for higher CLEP scores. In short, a CLEP is similar to a final exam in a course; it's just standardized. At a college, a final exam can be as hard or easy as an instructor wants it to be.

    What one misses out on when studying for standardized tests is similar to what one misses out on when taking online courses. It is possible to network in an online course, but it's not as easy as networking on campus. However, networking with classmates is not the only way to network. Social media makes it easy to network nationwide.
  3. JBjunior

    JBjunior Active Member

    What you miss out on depends on what your goal is. Testing was about 50% of my undergrad and without testing it would have been considerably more time, more money, and more road blocks to degree achievement. I wasn't looking for networking, I wasn't looking for the "experience," I was looking to gain knowledge that is verifiable by an acceptable method and could confer a degree. There is a reason why these things are available in the undergrad and not at the graduate level. Depending on the undergraduate degree, it can be a mishmash of subjects/classes anyway and you aren't expected to be an expert at any of them. Depending on your goals, your path may need to be modified and there may be more appropriate methods.
  4. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    The way I think about it (mostly) is that virtually everything you miss out on falls under the heading “intangibles.” What that means to me is that everyone is going to feel differently based on their values. One thing not previously mentioned is athletics. That was a huge part of my B&M college experience and it clearly wouldn’t happen with an online school
  5. bceagles

    bceagles Member

    “Intangibles “, that’s the best way to put it!

    After going thru testing out of the majority of my EC undergraduate degree, my opinion was that testing out is the only way to go.

    Now that I’ve gleamed some oppositing perspective, I can see that taking the traditional approach in some cases / instances makes sense. If you have a very deep interest in a particular subject or if the professor is know to be extraordinary. Most of this would occur at the upper level (300-400) most likely.

    It appears that on average colleges will accept 30 ish CLEP credits. I still don’t see any reason to not maximize this at a minimum.
  6. foobar

    foobar Member

    Insight. With CLEP exams we tend to learn facts, concepts and structures in a sterile manner. We don't necessarily get the hidden human behavior lessons when studying for a CLEP history test, or gain an understanding of why we still do double-entry bookkeeping in the age of computers. I'm not saying that you would always get this in a classroom course but it is far more likely. An acquaintance with Bloom's taxonomy (Google would be your friend here) would help to understand this issue.

    Second, a traditional college-age student can learn a lot about people in a college classroom. Colleges tend to be extremely diverse relative to most people's experiences. Notwithstanding the current college admissions scandal, you can get a very interesting mix of class, race, culture, and religious background in a classroom that you are unlikely to see in a neighborhood or workplace. Even places as diverse as New York City are a monoculture of sorts, just different from northern Minnesota or West Texas.

    I'm not saying this is the case for every college - there are schools with a depressing sameness of experiences in their student bodies.
  7. bceagles

    bceagles Member

    I do feel that a classroom experience gives the student the opportunity to engage in dialogue, meet people, gain perspective from others experiences, find the professor whose style and message really resonates, experience professors who are not a good fit, debate topics with those who have opposite opinions, make friends, etc.

    There is value in the classroom for sure, even for those who say these “intangibles” are not important to them. How will you know if it’s an experience you can benefit from, without going thru it?

    All this being said, I am still strongly in favor of testing out.

    I’m beginning to look at “testing out” from the eyes of a younger student, high school to typical college age. I have kids getting close to high school age and am working thru how I might incorporate CLEPs into their overall plan

    My thought is that if between the middle of Junior year of High School and summer of Senior year of High School, my kids can take a minimum of 30 credits via CLEP, then they can be ahead out of the gate. More aggressively, they could potentially have earned an associates degree before leaving High School and enter College as a Junior. I understand that this is going to depend on a number of variables, i’m speaking hypothetically of course.

    Will they miss out not being part of an official/unofficial cohort of students in their particular program? They will loose the opportunity to be in the position of “Jane and I have been taking the same classes since we were freshman” or “I know Steve, we both went thru the XYZ program at State together”. Are these experiences worth the time, expense, and effort? Would you not know your college “best friend” had it not been for College Algebra 101 at 8am on Friday morning that you both got stuck taking because that’s the only time it was available?

    Sorry about over thinking this, just looking for feedback to help get my idea sorted out.
  8. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    For starters, Modern States will allow you to take their free online CLEP (or AP) prep course. If you do that, they'll also give you a CLEP voucher to pay for your exam, and if you are charged a testing center fee, they'll reimburse you. So, currently, the oop for CLEP is $0

    Hard to beat zero.

    I used CLEP / DSST for my entire AA degree. Any possible deficits, as a result, were filled in the time since. I CARE about education. I CARE about my education. I CARE about my ability to think critically. I don't care if the stuff I memorized for 100 level biology or history is still front and center in my brain.

    I think we're over-emphasizing the relevance of gen eds in the grand scheme of life.
    JBjunior likes this.
  9. JBjunior

    JBjunior Active Member


    Assuming you are familiar with Modern States, are there any hidden sales pitches or roadblocks to using it? I don't have a need but my wife can use it and I want to promote it to my military co-workers who are working toward a degree. We get CLEP testing for free but it might help them study.
  10. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Jennifer can answer your other questions, but if a person is not in need of a voucher, I wouldn't recommend using Modern States as a main source of study. Several people have reported that their courses are not enough or are barely enough to pass the tests.
    JBjunior likes this.
  11. JBjunior

    JBjunior Active Member

    Thanks. I will have to check what else may be available. When I was taking CLEPs I primarily used REA books and Peterson free practice tests for military, which really helped. The thought at the time was that the Peterson tests were actually harder, not sure if that is still the case. A quick look online leads me to believe Peterson is no longer offering them for free to the military but offer a discount now.
  12. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I mainly used Instantcert flashcards. Some people don't like the flashcard format, though. I also watched some Annenberg series on and read a free e-book for psychology.
    JBjunior likes this.
  13. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Two of my kids tried Modern States, and unfortunately, neither liked it.
    JBjunior likes this.
  14. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Since Jennifer hasn't logged on yet, I'll answer the other questions. There's no catch with Modern States. You just need to complete their video courses, which have homework. I think they also incorporate edX lectures in some of their courses. The organization runs off of donations. It's not like which makes money off of ads.
    JBjunior likes this.
  15. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Very familiar- they rec'd a large donation that funds the program- there is no business behind it. It's simply a prep course, and how much you need to go deeper depends on the person. Think of it like an SAT prep course. You wouldn't use it to *learn* math, but the practice problems show you what you need to know for the exam. I like REA books & Peterson's practice tests for test prep, but you might need more "meat" in there if you're starting from scratch - example English Comp will be hard if English isn't your first language. Math through Algebra 2 if you're attempting College Algebra and so on.

    EDIT to add- there are a ton of study resources for CLEP. It's big business, but there are freebies too. I have a large file since that's the kind of thing I write about in my homeschooling group, but if you want specific resources, you can't beat InstantCert Specific Exam Feedback Forum. It's worth the $20 to get in there and get what you need for your exams. ($15 if you use a coupon like 100150)

    The point of Modern States, imo, is to get the voucher.
    JBjunior likes this.
  16. Stoic

    Stoic New Member

    To be honest with you, I think not much depending on your age and current status in the work force. Online courses that fulfill LL requirements in my opinion are mostly composed of reading, cramming, examinations. Offline courses won't be much different, since they will be composed off the same thing. What changes is the networking aspect of things, but the chances of making a positive network relationship in English 101 in a community college in your 30's+ is slim.

    I think a younger person will benefit more out of in class attendance for LL requirements because I guess is part of the linear progression into the workforce for young people. Also, it allows them to not jump ahead specific time periods where they are supposed to have fun and build relationships out of high school. But I still think taking CLEP exams to fulfill the LL requirements is the smart persons approach since UL courses are the ones that generally require effort and research and therefore better network opportunities might come out of them.
  17. TEKMAN

    TEKMAN Semper Fi!

    What happened to FreeUniv? The site used to provide open sources materials align with CLEP exams. Did it become Study.Com?
  18. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

  19. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    You can now get free CLEP (and AP) materials through Modern States.
  20. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I want to love them, but two of my kids tried Modern States, and neither was a fan. :-/

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