How to get a degree




This series is primarily written to benefit mature adults who, for whatever reason, failed to start or failed to complete an undergraduate BA or BS degree, and who now seek some method of demonstrating and translating current competencies into academic credit and thence into an accredited, and widely recognized college degree.


The Web pages collectively provide a road map detailing the nuts and bolts of the process of gathering credit by examination and converting it into a bachelor diploma, and why it is that you, the motivated intelligent student will likely succeed in that endeavor. 


You may have spent the past ten or twenty years providing for and caring for your family, or have subordinated your academic ambitions to finance or otherwise help support those of your spouse or partner. You may have blown an earlier chance on a misspent youth and have long regretted the consequences. Whatever the reason, one  way or another you probably feel you have paid your dues and that now it's your turn.




The title of the series is BA in 4 weeks. Four weeks is the practical minimum amount of time in which this process can reasonably be completed. The process includes the completion of all degree credit requirements. There will probably be an additional delay while administrative gears whir and turn, before the actual degree diploma is cranked out.


It's estimated that 15% to 20% of motivated adults could complete the process in under a month if inclined to do so. I think it entirely likely that fully 60% of motivated adults taking on this project, could complete degree requirements within six months. I am as sure as I can be that close to 90% of motivated adults could complete degree requirements within a year.





Estimated percentage of motivated, intelligent, adults capable of earning degree by examination in time t


BA within 1 month

15% +


BA within 6 months



BA within 1 year








My opinion is based on the practical experience of having earned two bachelor degrees largely by examination, encompassing forty proficiency exams for a total of 190 semester hours credit. I note that 92.6% of all credit hours appearing in my USNY/Regents/Excelsior college transcripts were awarded for passing proficiency exams.


The 15% to 20% passing in four weeks is not an estimate plucked out of thin air. These exams are "normed" relative to the performance of a population of young college students. Experienced, motivated adults, who set themselves the task of completing these tests, can typically outperform their younger brethren by quite a margin.


The 15% to 20% of students who can consistently score "A"s in these exams or score in the top 20% of all students, can likely pass most of the same exams (within the top 50%) with no study at all. This is not because the exams are a sham, but because these adults have accumulated a wealth of knowledge over the course of a lifetime that has direct application in these tests.


If you have less knowledge coming into the process, it will take you longer to complete it. How much longer depends on your existing knowledge base, how efficiently you study, and your native wit.


Now clearly, if you spent your life reading comics or watching TV soap operas, and were never intellectually curious, you're going to have a harder time of it. However, most reading this series and intent on completing a degree, are self selecting for success. To read even this far demonstrates curiosity and motivation. This series isn't for everyone, but it is for those who have the motivation to read it through to the end and implement the suggested strategies.


There is nothing in the actions proposed in this series that I and others as average adult learners have not already proved doable, and that you, at least our equal, cannot do too. This series is not borne of theory and wishful thinking but of practical experience and demonstrable accomplishment. It is not a prospectus for the gifted elite, but a usable guide for ordinary men and women who dare to do something extraordinary.





It should be noted that examinations are not the only route to college credit. Portfolio assessment is one alternative. This method requires that you map some demonstrable skill to a college credit course. For instance, assembly language programming 301 and (say) microprocessor systems design and peripheral interfacing 457 (from XYZ university) course requirements might be met and competency demonstrated by presenting narrative, source code, and schematic, of a Z80 based single board computer you designed in the 1980s (liberal arts credit - engineering credit would be time limited). You may have written a killer budget report for financial year 1995/1996 that could be used in evidence to garner credit in the equivalent Financial Management course FIN3AXD at UCLA. Alternatively, you may just play the banjo like a banshee and have sniffed out a college credit course that maps to that demonstrable skill. The key point is that the competency for which you request credit must have a corollary in some accredited college course. You choose the course and the college. Very flexible.



The other main source of credit is via the traditional route of class, assignment, exam/assessment. Many if not most adult learners starting out on this journey will already have some credit, though it be decades old, upon which they can call. Note though, that for the purposes of this series we assume no prior credit.




Credit can only be awarded or earned by credit transfer from a regionally accredited institution, from a foreign institution (once credit has been properly evaluated for equivalency), for some ACE evaluated certifications, or otherwise earned by demonstration of competencies.


Competency in a subject can be demonstrated by sitting and passing a prescribed standardized exam, or by submission of a portfolio which provides evidence of your proficiency in a subject that has a corollary in some college level course offered by a regionally accredited institution.













It is likely that most people will earn their degree using credit earned in a variety of ways. The game here is not necessarily to earn all credit via examination, or by way of portfolio assessment, or even to do it all in a month. The trick is to make efficient use of your existing credit and native talent to achieve your goal. This series seeks to provide a template that you can apply in whole or in part to your particular set of circumstances where and when you think it appropriate.




The title, BA in 4 Weeks, is used as a vehicle to convey possibilities and to provide a convenient platform for exposition of methods and techniques. There is no imperative that the process be wrapped up in a month. The process may be completed in as little as 4 Weeks but does not have to be completed in that time frame. Clearly, learners can pace themselves as best suits their unique abilities and circumstances. 





BA in 4 Weeks describes how legitimate college credit and a fast, economical associate’s (AA or AS) degree or bachelor degree (BA or BS), may be earned by way of standardized proficiency exams, comprising CLEP, DANTES (DSST), ECE (formerly ACT/PEP), GRE subject, and TECEP. Distance learning focused regionally accredited assessment colleges and universities accepting 100%  exam based credit include, Charter Oak State College ( COSC ), Excelsior College (formerly Regents college of the University of the State of New York (USNY)), Thomas Edison State College (TESC), and the Board of Governors (BOG) and Board of Trustees (BOT) BA degree programs offered by several universities in Illinois.


Both 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 on. All can be earned by testing out. Degrees from Excelsior College offer students using exam-based credit,  the singular opportunity to construct a first class grade point average (GPA), which may prove useful in submission of academic transcripts to graduate schools or in application for employment.


Accelerated, accredited master degrees are listed and will be reviewed in-depth. Graduate degrees covered include MA, MBA, M.Ed., MS, M.Eng., MSc, LLM, and Ph.D. All graduate programs listed are 100% distance learning degrees, and the majority are administered entirely online. Many disciplines are represented, including, master degree offerings in Liberal studies and in the Sciences, in Accountancy, Business Administration, computer engineering and computer studies, political science, psychology, teaching, religion, and the Social Services.






1. Legitimacy of the institution  - defined as, state funded, and recognized by the government of the country as an institution of higher learning, or, in the case of US institutions, they may be public or private, but they must be regionally accredited.


2. Programs must be truly distance learning programs - There must be no requirement for any visits to the administering institution or its agents, other than occasional local excursions for the purposes of writing proctored exams. Note that programs listed may recommend and offer face to face seminars and other personal encounters, but none are required


Click here for more on inclusion criteria






The colleges and universities listed and featured in the body of work comprising, BA in 4 Weeks, are either US regionally accredited or the foreign equivalent thereof. Served advertisements of institutions appearing in are screened to remove the worthless offerings. Since specific advertisers and advertisements cannot be determined a priori, filtering occurs after the fact of a first appearance.


Advertisements for regionally accredited institutions, DETC accredited institutions, and the foreign equivalent of regionally accredited institutions, may appear on this website. Rarely, the advertisements of not yet accredited institutions that are in the author’s view, otherwise legitimate, may also appear. 


Third party vendors are also screened and those whose niche is the promotion of unaccredited colleges and universities, are removed. The remainder who promote schools, promote overwhelmingly, accredited schools, but even they from time to time may deal in material pertaining to unaccredited schools. Every effort is made to filter the undesirable, but this is not an exact science and there is no way to predict what others may decide to publish on their websites.









ACCREDITATION – further reading

All references to colleges and universities are to regionally accredited institutions. "[A]ccredited" where it appears means regionally accredited. Click the links below for more on accreditation in US Higher Education.





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
Association for Biblical Higher Education












Copyright © Lawrie Miller 2001-2004

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