Frequently Asked Questions









What sort of online BA degrees can I earn


Both online bachelor of science and  bachelor of arts degrees are offered in a wide variety of academic and professional disciplines in the Liberal Arts, in Accountancy, Business Administration, Computer Information systems, History, Nursing, Psychology, and in many other disciplines. A number may be earned wholly or in large part by testing out.


Many online colleges and distance learning universities, such as the University of Phoenix, offer online courses and exams  as their primary  vehicle for degree credit accumulation. BA in 4 Weeks stresses the use of standardized proficiency challenge examinations to fulfill these requirements. The focus of the text is credit by examination.
















What is credit by examination?

A 1. For our purposes it can be defined as college semester hour credit awarded for passing standardized proficiency exams of various hues.Exams are offered by:



·  CLEP -           College Level Examination Program

·  DANTES -     Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support

·  ECE -             Excelsior College Exams (AKA Regents Exams)

·  GRE -            Graduate Record Exams (subject exams only)

·  TECEP -       Thomas Edison College Examination Program


 There are other exam programs, but these are the ones we'll be detailing.





·Can I earn a degree entirely by testing out?


A 2. Yes. You can earn an accredited bachelor degree exclusively  by way of proficiency examinations.




· Where and how can I earn a degree by examination?

A 3. "Where", would be




·     Charter Oak State College, CT (COSC)

·     Excelsior College, NY (formerly Regents College of the University of the State of New York)

·     Thomas Edison State College, NJ (TESC).

"How", is the subject of this series . . . read on.



Q · But are these "real" colleges or scams?

A 4. All three institutions are regionally accredited. Regional accreditation is the standard of fundamental legitimacy for colleges and universities in the United States. A variety of internet fora are consumed by debates focusing on nuances of accreditation, which often quickly descend into theology. However, you could do worse than adopt a utilitarian approach by following the admonition: if it's a US school, it has to be regionally accredited to warrant consideration.

Incidentally, if you are currently in an undergraduate program at a U.S. non regionally accredited school, you  may want to consider British politician Denis Healy's  First Law of Holes: when you're in one, stop digging. There are many regionally accredited distance  undergraduate programs available rendering reliance  upon non regionally accredited offerings unnecessary. This point, of course, has for years has been a mantra of the eloquent grandee of Distance Learning, Dr. John Bear.


Further reading on the topic available on the Net:


US Department of Education

Army National Guard Institute

British Council (on US education)

The Advising Quarterly


Regional Accrediting Agencies

Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
New England Association of Schools and Colleges 
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Northwest Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools 
Western Association of Schools and Colleges


National Accrediting Agencies

Distance Education and Training Council

Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges




· How many semester hours do I need to get a bachelor  degree?

A 5. Normally you must accumulate 120 semester hours of credit in the correct ratios defined by kind (lib arts, science, etc), subject,  and level (upper and lower division), in order to qualify for degree conferral. If all of the earned credit were to be derived from testing, this would most often translate to between seven and thirty-five examinations



· At the higher end, is it really likely I can pass all these  exams?

A 6. It is entirely possible for some to take and pass all exams necessary to meet the requirements for a BA or BS degree without extensive study (details follow). For the rest (the majority), some study and new learning will be required. How much study and how much new learning will depend upon an individual's existing knowledge base, how efficiently they study, and their native wit.


 It is entirely possible for those adequately prepared by life's experiences, through occupation, prior formal education, general reading, personal interests (e.g. politics, history, physics, literature), to  review and test out in all necessary disciplines, in four weeks.



Q · Is it practical? Are there enough hours in the day to do it?

A 7. The average 3-semester hour credit takes 90 minutes to complete, not three hours. It is easily possible to sit three examinations per day and I (and I expect many others) have done so on many occasions.

Where 3-semester hour exams are three hours in length, it is still possible to sit three exams per day. It is not true that if an exam is completed in less than the allotted time, you cannot immediately move on to the next exam, you can. Again, I have sat three 3-hour  exams in one day (more than once) that have taken an average of one hour to complete, and have immediately moved on to the next exam, and I am no genius.



· Are there venues that will allow multiple testing ?

A 8. Enough test stations will allow you to take more than two exams per day. US military bases will allow you to take as many exams per day as you can cram into their test station's hours of operation. All  Sylvan centers (ECE exams) will allow three 3-hour exams per day Monday through Friday. You can knock off three ECE exams in about 3 to 4 hours. That's nine semester hours credit.

The exceptions would be GRE subject exams where it is not possible to sit multiple exams in a day, but in these cases, a total of 30 semester hours can be granted for a pass above the 80th percentile. A score above the 80th percentile is very doable. I have done so on two occasions, others here have done so on  three or four occasions. Those who can't meet that requirement can still garner 18 or 24 semester hour credit with a pass above the 40th percentile if enrolled in COSC.



· What are the costs?

A 9. The cost per 3-semester hour test varies by exam type, and prices are always subject to change, but, including administration fees, average costs 2004 were in the ball park of $70, $70, $120, $150, $250, per  3 semester hours, for DANTES, CLEP, ECE lower division objective, ECE upper division objective, ECE essay.

Note that further saving can be had by using CLEP General Exams at around $70 per 6 semester hours, and GRE subject exams at around $130 per 30 semester hours. Note again that prices include an estimate of exam administration fees.

The first set of exam results transcripts are sent to the institutions you nominate at no extra cost. The issuance of subsequent transcripts will involve additional charges.

If a learner enrolls in an Excelsior College program, there is no fee for transcription of credits. The initial enrollment fee is around $995 and a graduation fee of around $495. The total amount paid to the college therefore, need be no more than $1500 or there abouts (prices subject to change). This then represents the fixed costs, to which must be added the variable costs associated with garnering credit.

Total costs including books, exam fees, transcripts, and all college fees, will be around $4000+, to complete a 120 semester hour bachelor degree, from scratch in anywhere from four weeks to one year*.

Clearly, the more transferable credit you have in hand going into the process, the less new credit you will require, and thus the lower will be the variable component of total costs.



*If enrolled longer than a year there is a Student Service Annual  Fee and an Information Service Fee totaling  about $495 to consider




Q · Isn't it better to use portfolio assessment?

A 10. I had plenty of prior credit going into my first degree, and a bunch of documented evidence to support any claim to credit via portfolio assessment. After doing a couple of competency exams, I decided it was clearly the way to go. Your mileage may vary. There's no doubt that it's quicker to do the exam if you know the subject and if a suitable exam exists. If not, portfolio is certainly a good way to go. Portfolio may also be your best choice in the first  instance. You must decide that.


*Note also that as of July 2001, CLEP is going over to computer based testing (CBT). I don't know the details yet as far as it relates to multiple day testing, but I think that positive side effect is likely inherent in this change. I've tried the sample trial test software, and it's similar to the ECE computer based tests and nearly indistinguishable from the GMAT CBT. See update.









Web site copyright © Lawrie Miller 2002