FAQ #4: The difference between online classes and credit-by-exam tests

Q: Hillary, how is the way you took courses different than taking online classes?

A: The main difference between credit-by-exam testing and online courses is the lack of a professor to guide you in the credit-by-exam method. Credit-by-exam courses put the burden of learning upon the student. However, this doesn’t mean that the student is alone in learning: the student has the opportunity to select resources and advisors as needed. The structure of online courses parallels a traditional college course, including a specified textbook to learn from and interaction with a professor and other students.

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

How to Reduce Test Anxiety

How do you respond to taking tests? Testing is one activity that is a part of life for most of us, and despite its ubiquity, it brings feelings of dread to many people. Tests crop up in school, work, extra-curricular certifications, and even workouts! Because tests are a perennial part of life, I share two test-taking techniques that have helped me manage my testing nerves.

Out of all the types of tests I’ve taken, such as end-of-the-school-year tests, computer tests, quizzes, CPR tests, CLEP tests, language exams, and swimming tests, the one type of test that most unnerved me (and gave me good skills for taking credit-by-exam tests) was piano syllabus tests.

The piano program I participated in had one test for Levels 1 through 10. At each level the student was required to learn specific music theory, demonstrate music skills, and play a certain number of pieces from different eras. I typically completed one level yearly, so every spring I would put my acquired knowledge to the test. It was a doable task, to be sure. But something about having to prepare such a well-rounded set of skills and have them all top-notch on a particular date made me nervous.

When the testing day came, I needed to remain calm. Scheduling the test in the morning was helpful, so I didn’t have as long to worry. Meanwhile, I trained my mind toward the test benefits—I had learned new repertoire and bolstered my music skills. Once I arrived to the test location, I mentally pictured myself walking out of the room after the test having done my best. This post-test visualization is one of the most helpful tips I have for test taking. The more vividly I could picture myself successful at the finish line of the test, the more peace I had while waiting to begin. Visualizing success is well known to athletes who report improved performance and confidence.[1]

Another strategy is to confront my worst fears. This wasn’t as effective on the day of the test, but a day or two before testing this strategy was quite helpful. I would imagine what would happen if I broke down into tears during the test—embarrassing for sure, but nothing else would happen. I would get it back together and continue. If I failed the test, I could retake the test at the next available opening, or I could review the material on my own and then move forward without completing this level. Though the path to move forward after failure depends on the specific test, there will almost certainly be a way to move forward.

Testing can bring up many of the more uncomfortable emotions such as fear, anxiety, nervousness, nausea, loss of focus, and even physical pain. Who in their right mind would purposely do something to trigger these emotions? I know why we do. Once I have tackled a test, I am stronger. I have not shrunk from what I know must be done. This boldness brings new resolution to the test taker. So, pass or fail, let’s conquer our tests!

What are your favorite ways to combat test anxiety?

[1] Matt Mayberry, “The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success,” https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242373 and

Carolyn Gregoire, “The Brain-Training Secrets Of Olympic Athletes,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/11/mind-hacks-from-olympic-a_n_4747755.html.

FAQ #22

Q: How do I determine parameters for my study, and how do I know when I’ve studied enough?

A: This is a difficult aspect of credit-by-exam testing; however, with each test you take, you have more experience to gauge this for yourself. The three things that helped me know that I was studying relevant information were the test outline from the test creator, pretests, and the Exam Specific threads on DegreeForum.net.

The test outline is the number one source to help you choose the resources you will use because it shows how much emphasis the test will place on individual subject areas. Pretests, especially those from the test creator, will indicate if you are studying the right topics and give you ideas of concepts to review. After you take around three tests, you will learn how your practice test scores translate to actual test scores, and how familiar you need to be with a subject to be comfortable in the test room.

The Exam Specific thread can help you pinpoint how ready you are to test. You’ll find practical suggestions such as: Did you nearly ace Peterson’s practice test? You’re probably ready to test because Peterson’s practice test for this subject is harder than the actual exam. Have you extensively studied topic X? Good, because the test focuses on it.

CLEP Official Study Guide

Product Review: CLEP Official Study Guide

Sometimes the hardest part about taking a credit-by-exam test is finding the right materials to use to prepare. College Board, the creator of CLEP, has made this process easier by offering the CLEP Official Study Guide. This book gives students an overview of each of the 33 CLEP tests and also provides a nearly full-length practice test for each subject. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details.

Annually updated

The official exam guide is published yearly and updated to match any changes that have been made to each test. Without having a copy of the past year’s edition to compare with the current edition, it can be tough to tell what (if any) changes have been made. Sometimes book reviewers will note changes on bookseller websites like Amazon, or you can check DegreeForum.net for posts related to changes. If you are using an older edition of the book, you can double-check the test description online to be sure nothing has changed (e.g. an online calculator is still part of the test).

If you are only planning to take one or two CLEP tests, you may prefer to buy the individual exam study guides. The individual guides feature the same information as is in the book. You may save a little money if you only need a guide for one test: the book retails for $24.99, while the individual exam guides cost $10.00 each.

Not a study guide?

An important note is that the CLEP Official Study Guide does not provide the material to use for studying. In this book CLEP offers suggestions on which textbooks and other resources to use. This information can also be found for free by selecting a specific exam at https://clep.collegeboard.org/exams. While you’re there, you can download the exam’s resource guide to view a small selection of free practice questions.

Is it worth it?

By now you may be wondering why this guide is worth purchasing. If CLEP offers textbook suggestions and practice questions online for free, why purchase this guide? What this book can give you is a more accurate practice test experience. With the longer practice tests, students can better gauge if they are ready to take the test and get a feeling for taking the actual test. Plus, the test questions are developed by CLEP, so although you won’t find the same questions on an actual test, they will be very similar.

When you’re looking for a handy resource to get you started on learning to take CLEP tests, the CLEP Official Study Guide is a great way to start! The guide is available at bookstores nationwide, Amazon.com, and at the CLEP website.

This is an unsponsored review to share one of my favorite CLEP products. 🙂