In this section we will
consider effective preparation for the exams. Worth taking a time-out
however, to note that in addition to earning a bachelor degree by
examination, it is possible to complete an accredited master degree in
similar fashion, by passing a series of multiple-choice-with-essay exams.
Oh, and uh, you don't need an undergraduate degree nor indeed, any academic
credential to be admitted to the program.
Is this for real? Absolutely.
The Edinburgh Business School
of Heriot-Watt University, offers a distance learning Master of Business Administration degree, which is conferred
after passing nine 3-hour exams (9 exams if no exemptions or waivers
granted, and as few as 7 exams with waivers). No attendance, midterm paper,
thesis, or other rites required. Just turn up for and pass the exams. You
get seven years to complete the program, and a nominal two shots at each
exam (you may get yet another shot if other circumstances warrant, IIRC).
The cost of the program has risen significantly since I bought a
"course" in 1995. I can tell you that the self-study courseware
is second to none. Prices today, including exam fees (at about $100 a pop)
fall into two categories: cost of the electronic mediated courseware, and
cost of the paper-based courseware. You can chose one or the other. I know
they intend to drop the paper-based option sometime soon.
Heriot-Watt is a Royal
Chartered, state funded, British university situated in Edinburgh,
Scotland. I've been on campus, it is quite real and quite well regarded..
Very much depends on the
discipline but by way of quality relative to its peers (other Scottish universities) I would rank Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews in the top tier, with Aberdeen, Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt
next, followed by Stirling, Dundee and the "new" universities created
recently (c 1992). That grading is sure to upset someone but is offered to
provide an (opinionated) anchor to relative worth.
I said no undergraduate
degree or studies are required for admission to the program; this statement
requires further refinement. For full time and part time residential
students, an honors degree and two years "appropriate" work
experience are normally required in addition to an acceptable GMAT score.
Distance learning students are NOT ADMITTED TO THE DEGREE PROGRAM WITHOUT
AN UNDERGRADUATE HONOURS DEGREE OR OTHER EVIDENCE OF SUITABLE ACADEMIC
However, anyone can
take the individual course modules. If they should pass any two of the
compulsory courses, this will provide "evidence of suitable academic
attainment" and they will then be admitted to the MBA degree program.
The two modules passed prior to admission will count as full credit toward
the degree. I truly admire the thought that went into that one.
Effectively, not so much as a high school diploma is required to
enter the program, yet the bachelor degree requirement rules for admission
to the graduate school and to the MBA program, are still technically
enforced. The MBA can be earned without ever completing even one
Now back to preparation for
the bachelor degree proficiency exams . . .
Use practice tests in the
first instance to assess your current knowledge level. Once you have some
objective reading of your current ability, you will be able to tailor study
to fit the gaps. Links to practice test publications are provided within
the outlines presented in this chapter, and on the Critical Resources page
of the web site. The core of the test/study strategy is summarized in the
sit mock test
WHILE (NOTPASS MOCK EXAM)
Again, the purpose of
the, examine – revise –
examine strategy, is to
generate an objective estimate of the learner's current level of competence
and to provide direction for efficient focused study and revision (if
required and as required).
It is important to know the
test subject well enough that distractions (such as the angst of testing)
do not impede demonstration of competence. Being good at tests can assist a
marginal test candidate. The purpose of doing the mocks is to ensure you
never test as a marginal candidate, that you only test when you know what
the outcome will be, and that that outcome will be the one you want it to
- OBJECTIVE ASSESSMENT
Princeton Review's Cracking the CLEP is
useful for the CLEP General exams. It is comprehensive and can be a
very accurate predictor of performance in the actual exams (see the critique). The CLEP Official Study Guide
the College Board covers all the exams (from the horse's mouth), but
suffers from the relatively meager question sample size. Nevertheless, it
is essential you read this book and practice these example questions too.
Practice tests for the Excelsior College Exams are available free, and can
be accessed using the links provided on the BA in 4 weeks Critical
Resources page. Additionally, and a little confusingly, the College Board
also publish a book for the ECE exams called, the Official
Study Guide. Excelsior College offers more comprehensive
study packs for some of their exams.
Practice tests are available in book form from Thomson Learning in the
publication DSST: The Official Test-Preparation Guide
Individual practice exams are available for electronic download
at a price from here. The TESC practice exam book
used to come with a separate book of practice exams for DANTES. It may
Full exam practice tests are
available for free, and links to individual exams are provided on the
Critical Resources of this site. In addition, ETS publish a series of thin
volumes for the GRE subject exams, called Practicing to take the . .
Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
Literature in English
These contain the same type
exams as are available in the free download, but there are more of them in
the books (at least two exams), and the more practice you can get, the
better. Remember, these are the GRE subject exams, not the GRE general
exam, which is a completely different animal.
Princeton Review, publish the Cracking the GRE
[subject] book series. These are an essential tool if you are taking
the GRE subject exam in Biology, Literature, or Psychology. Click the
subject of choice for a link to the publication.
A critique of these and other GRE subject exams practice
materials as well as a wider briefing on the exams, can be found here on this web site.
Exam book available from Thomas Edison State College
(TESC) is called TECEP Test Description Book
. As noted, this used to come with a separate book of DANTES
practice exams - it may still.
One thing people often fear when practicing for these exams, is their
apparent poor performance. This is a standardized test. It would be very
difficult to determine a range of performance if contents were skewed to
produce an average "pass mark" of 90% (common in the U.S.).
Instead we have to have enough questions and grades of quality of
questions, that will accurately assess and reflect a range of abilities of
the total population of examinees. Bottom line, look for 40% to 45% raw
score for a standardized score of 50 (out of 80) in the subject and general
RULES OF THUMB
As a general rule, to be sure of passing a CLEP exam, ensure you're hitting
50% raw score in the mock tests, and you WILL pass each and every one.
As a general rule, to be sure of scoring an "A" (Excelsior and
COSC students only), ensure you're hitting 77% raw score in the mock tests,
and you WILL score an "A" every time.
In the penalty GRE subject exams (CLEP now exclusively CBT in
the US with no penalty for incorrect answers -see note *),
if you can eliminate even one of the five possible choices - pick an
answer! Do not leave the question blank. If you eliminate one choice as
definitely wrong, your chances of randomly picking the correct answer are
1/4. If, for the entire exam, for all the questions, you could only
eliminate one choice per question, and had to randomly pick the answer from
the remaining four possibilities, you will, on average come out 18.75%
ahead. That is, in a test of (say) 100 questions, you haven't a clue but
can eliminate one in five choices per question, your score is:
On the margin, if you are
struggling for a pass or to make an "A", such things matter.
Other treatments of this issue appear in various test prep books, this is
not an original thought.
In the no-penalty exams (CLEP-CBT* , ECE/Regents and
DANTES), make sure you leave no question unanswered Don't have a clue?
Don't matter. Pick an answer (one should never miss an opportunity to
state the obvious).
CONTRASTING PROFICIENCY EXAMinations
People often ask if one type
of exam is easier than another. It seems that the ECE/Regents and the TECEP
exams in particular are thought significantly more difficult. There is
one type of exam more difficult than the rest, and that is the GRE subject
exam, but that is because it tests the student with questions covering
undergraduate freshman to senior years across a whole academic discipline.
It is a comprehensive exam, but one that yields a great deal more credit
than any of the other types.
Looked at in terms of
credit-yield-per-unit-effort, GRE subject exams are not more difficult than
other exams. If an Excelsior College exam is akin consuming a ham sandwich,
the GRE subject exam is like eating a six course meal in approximately the
same period of time.
On the ECE/Regents exams, my
experience offers no evidence that they require different study or revision
approaches than those applicable to CLEP, DANTES or the GRE subject exams.
In fact, in the case of ECE multiple choice tests, I found that most of
these 3-hour exams could be completed in an hour or an hour and a bit.
In comparison, I took the
full 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete the GRE subject exams and the full
90 minutes to complete most of the CLEP exams (though a few CLEP exams took
only 60 minutes 30+30 - paper and pencil version). DANTES exams do not have
a time limit, but most agree 90 minutes is appropriate, and, for these
exams I took at least that amount of time to finish.
So, all else being equal
(knowledge of the specific subject), which it seldom is I grant, these data
would indicate the ECE/Regents tests are in fact a bit easier to pass AT
THE SAME LEVEL (upper or lower division) than other proficiency exams.
Looking at the results in terms of grade or percentile ranking, my
performances were remarkably similar for ECE, GRE, DANTES and CLEP
examinations, i.e. the outcomes were about the same.
As with the other exam types,
I used none of the recommended preparation material for the ECE/Regents
tests (too expensive) with the exception of the free tests and free notes
downloaded from the Excelsior web site. These notes are a vital preparation
tool. It may be however, that the exam-specific proprietary study materials
available directly from Excelsior College, will prove valuable to some
Incidentally, for the TECEP
examinations, TESC offers a book detailing all of the tests for about 20
bucks. You get a bonus DANTES test book thrown in. Though I ended up taking
no TECEP tests, I did intend to do so, and used the practice exams in this
book to revise. I found it most useful. Most TESC exams have a passing
score of 60% and may be a tad more difficult than DANTES or CLEP due mainly
to the higher pass threshold. The book is the "TECEP Examinations
Test Description Book", which to repeat, comes with a freebie
DANTES test book.
Bottom line, don't be afraid
to take the ECE or the TECEP exams, they are not significantly more
difficult than any of the other proficiency exams, level for level. You do
not necessarily need to buy Excelsior College study materials to pass their
exams (ECE). In fact, you do not need to buy the recommended books to pass
any proficiency exam. You do have
to make sure you understand the subject material before writing the test of
course. O, would that it were otherwise.
Web site copyright © Lawrie Miller 2001-2004