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Tactical Veteran: Save time, money with CLEP exams

Feb. 12, 2014 - 01:13PM   |  
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Whether you’re still in uniform or have already separated, you may be looking for a way to earn college credit that will have minimal impact on your busy schedule.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to learn about a subject on your own time without having to attend classes and earn college credit by simply passing an exam at the end? Thanks to CLEP exams, that possibility has been a reality for many years, and you too can take advantage of it.

The College-Level Examination Program has been popular with service members and veterans since it was first introduced, for good reason.

CLEP exams are just what the name implies: an opportunity to earn credit by examination. You choose a subject to study, set a date to take the exam, and if you pass, boom — you’ve earned college credit.

Thirty-three CLEP exams are currently available in subjects ranging from information systems and computer applications to English literature, with the value of an individual exam ranging from three to 12 credits. Testing takes place year-round.

Here are some more reasons to take CLEP exams:

■ It’s affordable. In fact, CLEP exams are free for active-duty members who take a test through DANTES, the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support. (However, this will apply only to your first attempt at a particular CLEP exam; if you fail a test, you must wait six months before you can take it again, and then you would have to pay the standard test fee of $80.)

■ You can study at your own time and pace until you feel ready to take the exam.

■ CLEP exams fit well with fluctuating schedules and short-notice deployments, since you don’t have to attend a regular class over a period of months, saving you a lot of time.

■ Active-duty CLEP exam takers may be able to obtain free study materials. Check with your installation education center; DANTES offers free, reproducible copies of individual exam guides.

Thanks to DANTES, CLEP exams can be taken on almost any military installation. When I was on active duty, I had the opportunity to take CLEP exams not only at my duty station at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, but I could also take them while on deployment to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia through the education center on that base.

If you’re about to separate or are already out of the military, you can still take advantage of CLEP exams. Many colleges and universities also offer them, although as a civilian, you’ll pay the $80 exam fee. Test sites also may charge an additional small administration fee.

Very important: Before you zero in on any particular CLEP test, check with the college of your choice to make sure it will accept the credit you earn from that exam. More than 2,900 schools accept CLEP credits, but not all schools do. So before investing your time and money, make sure they won’t be wasted.

If you’re interested in finding out more about taking a CLEP exam, stop by your education office on base or contact a college near you. CLEP exams can cover an array of subjects, which, for the most part, are your introductory courses that you’ll need to complete for any program of study.

There’s no reason to spend time and money taking these courses in a classroom when you can earn those credits on your own.

To learn more about CLEP exams, visit DANTES online at www.dantes.doded.mil/DANTES_Homepage.html.

The College Board also has a wealth of information at http://clep.collegeboard.org/.

In my next column, I’ll talk about DSST, another credit-by-exam program that’s not quite as well known as CLEP.

Steven Maieli is the founder of TransitioningVeteran.com, which highlights links to federal, state, for-profit and nonprofit veterans benefits and other resources. He also writes a blog on transitioning veterans’ issues at www.transitioningveteran.com/wordpress.

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