Credit by examination can be a great way to earn credit for what you already know. But while popular programs like CLEP and DSST are the best known, different credit by examination programs are ideal for different situations. While CLEP is a great choice for those general education requirements, none of its exams are upper division. And while DSST has some upper division exams, they range all over various subject areas.
Excelsior College Examinations are another credit by examination program, and while it has a lot in common with the others, it also has some unique strengths that may be interesting to certain students. There are currently ECEs available in forty-one subjects. Interestingly, seventeen of these are specifically in nursing. The rest are spread mostly among the liberal arts, with a few available in advanced topics in business.
Why Take the Excelsior College Exams?
Earning college credit through one or more Excelsior College Exams may work for you if you see yourself described in one or more of the following:
- You are well read in a liberal arts field such as biology, philosophy, psychology, or sociology, and could prepare to pass the final exam of an advanced course in that field through self-study.
- You are an experienced nursing professional who has gone back to school primarily so that your academic credentials will catch up with the knowledge you've learned on the job.
- You need upper division credit.
- You are particularly self-starting, and can learn things on your own without assistance from an instructor.
How Do They Work?
Excelsior College Exams are offered in over forty subjects. Unlike CLEP and DSST, however, ECEs are accepted as transfer credit by fewer colleges and universities. If you plan to make use of ECEs, you will want to speak with your school to make sure that they'll be accepted. Be sure to explain that they are ACE evaluated, as this is a key factor for many schools in making this determination.
This is particularly true with the ECEs for nursing. However, since ECEs are offered by Excelsior College, one option to ensure that they will be accepted is simply to enroll in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing through Excelsior College itself. As an assessment college, you can be confident that Excelsior College and a select few similar schools will hole the most permissive possible attitude toward incoming credit of all kinds, including credit by examination.
Many colleges and universities will give you college credit for passing scores on DSST exams. The American Council on Education (ACE) recommends that three to six college credit hours (usually the equivalent of one or two courses) be awarded for each passed Excelsior College Examination. And unlike CLEP, some ECEs exams offer upper-division credit, which may even apply to your major! But it's important to check with your college advisor before testing. Factors you'll want to consider include:
- How much credit by examination does your college allow? Some schools will put a cap on the number of courses you can skip through standardized tests. If you plan to take several ECE exams, you may want to select a college that accepts the most.
- What is the minimum scored required to earn course credit? ACE lists minimum recommended scores for credit, but your school might post different score requirements. It's important to know how high you need to score in order to earn college credit for the test.
- Which exams will your college allow? Not all ECEs are relevant to all college degrees. If you're pursuing a degree in accounting, your college might not want to give you credit for one of the Nursing exams. Sometimes unrelated exam credit can count towards your elective requirements, but it's best to check with a school advisor before wasting your time and energy.
- Have you already taken a college course or a different examination, like CLEP, in a similar subject? Most schools won't accept credit from different sources that cover overlapping material.
Registration, Preparation, Scheduling, and Taking the Exam
Taking an Excelsior College Exam is a two part process. First, you register for the exam through their web site. Then, once registered, you have up to six months to schedule a time to take the exam at a Pearson VUE Testing Center.
Registration means that you have access to Excelsior College materials to help you prepare for the exam. A free content guide is available from Excelsior College for each of their exams. Each guide has an explanation and outline of the material covered by the exam, some example questions, and a bibliography of textbooks and other reference works available from Excelsior College to help prepare.
Generally speaking, if you get at least 70 percent of sample questions correct, you are ready to take the exam. If you're in the military and taking the ECE for free, it's important to be well-prepared and confident that you can pass. If you do not get a high enough score, you will need to wait 180 days before retaking an exam.
On arriving at the time you have scheduled at the testing center, you will take the exam on computer. The exams are similar to the final exams given at the end of an undergraduate course. On finishing, you will learn your score.