Saturday, April 14, 2018

Review of Study.com's CLEP Prep Program

Sometimes really nice things happen to you and you're not sure why. Just such a thing happened to me a couple of months ago when Study.com reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing their CLEP Prep courses on their absolutely AMAZING website. Given that Therese (16) is a junior in high school and is exploring multiple options at this point, I didn't hesitate. In fact, I challenge you to spend five minutes on this website and not be even remotely tempted by all they have to offer, whether your kids are public schooled, private schooled, in middle school, high school, even college, and homeschool! Just as an example of the specific homeschool material on the site, check out the Saxon Algebra I textbook section. When I say this site has everything, I mean that this site has EVERYTHING! And while I was provided a six-month subscription for the purpose of this review, I don't think I'll be able to live without it when those six months are up. You just get so much with this program. 



Study.com's CLEP courses are one of the best values on the site, though. It's no secret that college is very, very expensive. Any way one can find to cut those costs deserves serious consideration. CLEP, or the College Level Examination Program, is a great alternative to paying full price for four years of college. Similar to AP tests, CLEP tests assess your mastery of material and grant you college credit upon completion of the test. Unlike AP tests, CLEP tests can be taken at any time before or during college, and you don't have to take a CLEP course prior to taking the test. In other words, everyone knows that before you take an AP test, you will have taken, for example, AP English or AP European History. You then take that AP test and, if you get (usually) a 3 or higher, you gain college credit. With a CLEP test, though, you don't have to take a class prior to taking the test. In fact, in some cases, you only have to review the material for a few days. Study.com makes this so easy with its customized CLEP prep! This is how it works:
  • Study.com offers you a *free* 15 question practice test in your chosen test area.
  • You are then provided with detailed results so that you can see your specific areas of strength and weakness - you'll know exactly where you stand.
  • Finally, Study.com will give you specific recommendations from its test prep catalog of over 30 CLEP courses. 






Let's say your student is interested in taking the CLEP test in Western Civilization II (my history bias is showing here!). This is what it looks like when you click on that course:





Each of the lessons seen above is demonstrated as a video. All Study.com videos are short in length (around 5-10 minutes). Videos are accompanied by transcripts, which is excellent if you prefer to learn by reading, as Therese does, which I'll discuss momentarily, or if you like having the ability to go back and reference something written down (like Nicholas, 14, who will be using Study.com this summer) does. The transcripts also provide links to other relevant lessons. The video lessons are followed by short quizzes, as are all of the chapters. Finally, at the end of each CLEP course, there is a "final exam," meaning there is a mastery test to assess your readiness to take the CLEP test (because who wants to take a test like that, which, after all, does cost money, if you're not ready - especially when you can always go back through your CLEP course to revisit sections you may not have mastered!). Even better, Study.com offers flashcards to help you study each section of your CLEP prep course. They are right there online for you to use as much as you need to.

CLEP tests themselves (at least history CLEP tests, which are the ones I delved into!) are about 120 multiple choice questions and last 90 minutes. They are worth 3 college credits (or one class). The test itself costs $85, which is so much cheaper than your average college class (or any college class, for that matter)! The history classes that I have looked at on Study.com include about 11 hours of CLEP test instruction. The website does a neat service of breaking down for you how much study time that entails, depending on how much time you have before you take the CLEP test:


As you can see, Study.com has made it easy to prepare for these tests. They have also made it where you don't have to subscribe to their site for an eternity just to earn a bunch of college credit hours through CLEP testing. If you're diligent, you can subscribe for a couple of months and earn a *bunch* of hours worth of credit. What a tremendous savings. 

Do you know what's even better? Study.com offers advisers to work with you every step of the way. Perhaps you don't want to take the CLEP test for Western Civ II. Maybe you want to take Western Civ II for college credit. Believe it or not, you can do that on Study.com. They can help you take the course for credit that will transfer to thousands of colleges. So if you have test anxiety, or your test scores are too low to get into the school you want to go to, or you just can't afford college right now, see what Study.com has to offer.

Therese and Study.com

Therese is my eldest child, so she is my guinea pig in so many ways. She loves online learning, she loves learning at her own pace, and she is so ready to go to college in so many ways. However, as one of four kids, three of whom will be in college at the same time, she knows that she will have to pay for the bulk of college on her own. I'll admit that before I was contacted by Study.com, I had not really thought much about CLEP tests. When I had thought about them, I thought of them as the AP test's inferior little brother. I no longer think of them that way. They are different, not inferior. I hope I made the differences clear above, but they serve a different purpose than AP tests, which really only serve high school students in a traditional high school setting. That is not our family, and it's really not a lot of people trying to earn a college degree. Will Therese take any CLEP tests? I'm not sure, especially since she is doing dual credit courses from now on. Do I love knowing that the option is out there? Absolutely. Will she continue to take advantage of Study.com's CLEP prep courses? Absolutely (especially now that the madness of standardized testing, aka ACT/SAT is over - but, hey! She used Study.com for that, too! Did I mention that Study.com has EVERYTHING?).

Therese started out with the History of the United States I. Her reasoning was simple. Because of her chronic illnesses, she missed a lot of her freshman year, including a lot of US History I. Doing the CLEP prep course seemed like an excellent way to fill in the gaps in her knowledge and give me the confidence to add US History I to her transcript. Therese's favorite part of the this course was the ability to take the lesson two ways - either by viewing the approximately six minute videos, or by simply reading the transcripts. It's nice to have the choice. She also liked that if it was a topic about which she knew a lot, she could skip the lesson and go straight to the quiz. If she got the quiz right, the lesson would be marked complete. 

I really appreciate using Study.com this way - checking to see if Therese has mastery over the subjects that we kind of skated over while she was sick. My theory is that if she can do well enough in them to earn college credit, that means that she has earned the high school credit. It's a great "check" for both of us. As I said, now that we are ending the madness that is junior year, we are going to be using it in much that way to dot our i's and cross our t's.

I am so enjoying everything that Study.com has to offer. It can be used as supplementary for every grade 6-12, but I am going to be testing my theory that it can also be used as primary coursework for grades 8 and 10 next year (although Nicky will also be taking dual credit classes). Every time I go on the website I just see more and more things I want the kids to do. And especially now that I know where our nearest center for CLEP testing is (where the kids will be taking classes in the fall), I don't rule out a few tests. After all, I'll know in advance whether or not they'll pass. They can't miss after doing Study.com's CLEP prep classes.

Considering you have access to a free trial, you really have nothing to lose by checking out this comprehensive learning website. Although I'll warn you - you might find it hard to leave!


EDITED AND UPDATED - To be honest, I had forgotten about Study.com for awhile. The stress of getting Therese into and then off to college, combined with other family events, conspired to make me narrow my field of focus. The fact is, though, that this is truly the only resource you need if your homeschooled kids are in high school. This section of the review is after the disclaimer because I paid for my new subscription to Study.com myself. 


Because getting Nicholas (16) into college is my next hurdle, it is definitely this section of Study.com's Homeschool page that interests me the most.



He is taking most of his classes at a community college for dual credit, but it is always so helpful to have additional resources to flesh out the courses he's taking. Chemistry is the one I am eyeing right now for him, but for my twins (9th grade), I am most excited about Spanish 101 and Art 103 and 104. These are classes I very much want them to have a good preview of before they take them at community college in the next couple of years. Study.com breaks down all of its courses into bite sized chunks (the videos are often around 8 minutes), and the courses are taught by people well-qualified in their fields (teachers!). 

This material is probably best suited either for secular homeschoolers or for those homeschoolers who don't require that all of their subjects are taught with a Biblical worldview. There is nothing hostile to Christianity here that I have found, but the material certainly corresponds more to a public school education than to a Christian school one. For those homeschoolers looking to replicate a public school education at home, though, you're not going to do better than Study.com. I would have loved this option when I was in high school.

Again, you can use anything on this site as supplemental to what you're already doing. My kids' curriculum is all in place for this year, but because my twins love history, they are blowing through their course. Their year-long course will be done by December. I'm just going to find another history course on Study.com for them when that day comes. 

It's still early in the year (the updated date of this post is mid-September), so if you're looking for homeschool options, do yourself a favor and check out Study.com. With their free trial, you have nothing to lose. Make sure you have time when you set out to browse the site, though, because you will likely get lost in all of the exciting offerings!

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