The College Board vs. StraighterLine: Which Works Harder to Help You Finish College?

Barry Lenson

Help to Finish CollegeIf you’re a student who’s visiting the College Board’s website for the first time, you’ll probably feel like a little kid who just wandered onto the set of Willie Wonka. There are so many products that look just so delicious. There are AP tests that could save you time and money by eliminating the need to take some college courses. There are also CLEP exams that promise just about the same thing. Which program should you grab and gobble up first?

But how much can the AP or CLEP programs help you out? And would StraighterLine courses offer you a better way to earn college credit, save money, and get a faster start on college? Let’s take a closer look.

What Are AP Exams?

The Advanced Placement (AP) program is made up of two components: AP classes that are offered in high schools and AP tests that are administered by the College Board. To earn college credits through the AP program, you need to pass an AP test and have those credits accepted by your college.

There are currently 34 AP courses to choose from. Topics include languages, history and politics, math, science, and even specialized subjects like music theory.

“Most four-year colleges in the United States and colleges in more than 60 other countries give students credit, advanced placement or both on the basis of AP Exam scores,” the College Board states. However, the process for getting AP credits accepted varies from college to college. If you want to be sure that college credits will be accepted for the tests that you take, be sure to speak with admissions representatives at the colleges where you are applying.

You cannot take AP exams online; you have to take them at a high school or other test center that has been approved by the program.

The current cost for each AP exam is $89.00.  For a schedule of exam dates, CLICK HERE.

How Are StraighterLine Courses and AP Exams Alike?

Both offer you a way to earn college credits in more than 30 subject areas.  Plus, there is some overlap in subject matter. But you will discover some significant differences too. They include . . .

  • The AP program works especially well for students who are enrolled in high schools that offer AP classes that “teach to the test.” You can also purchase books that can prepare you for the tests, or take StraighterLine courses in the subject areas where you will be taking AP tests. Yet unless you are enrolled in a high school that offers AP classes, preparing is fundamentally up to you. 
  • You need to schedule and lock in AP exam dates ahead of time. In contrast, StraighterLine courses are flexible. You can complete your coursework at your own pace – even repeating different units if you desire - then finish your course and earn your grade whenever you are ready.  The result is that the outcome of your StraighterLine courses is often easier to control.
  • You can complete StraighterLine courses anywhere. There is no need to schedule a test and travel to take it.

Okay, What about CLEP Exams?

The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) lets you earn college credit for what you already know. Tests are given in 33 subjects, including English literature and writing, foreign languages, history, science, math and business. Exams are approximately 90 minutes long, with the exception of College Composition, which takes 120 minutes. Exams contain mainly multiple-choice questions. College Composition and a few other exams contain essay sections.

How Are StraighterLine Courses and CLEP Exams Alike?

If you spend a little time reviewing the official CLEP website and StraighterLine’s course descriptions, you will notice some similarities.  Both the CLEP and StraighterLine offer a way to earn college credits in more than 30 subject areas.  Plus, there is some overlap in subject matter.

But you will discover some significant differences too. . .

  • The CLEP doesn’t offer instruction, only an exam. The CLEP exams will only earn you credits for subjects that you already know or have studied. They require specific, separate study and preparation – a process that is known as “studying for the test.”
  • The processes for earning credit at your college are is quite different.  The official CLEP website states that 2,900 colleges and universities currently grant credit for CLEP, but adds that “each institution sets its own CLEP policy.” So some caution would be a good idea. Once you pass a CLEP test, your college should grant you the same number of credits that you would earn after taking a class – but be sure to ask ahead of time if CLEP results are accepted for credit at your college. Once you have completed a StraighterLine course, you can transfer the college credits that it earned to thousands of American colleges. To guide you through the credit transferring process, StraighterLine has established its own Credit Transfer Center. CLICK HERE to review policies and procedures.
  • You need to schedule and lock in your CLEP test date in advance. In contrast, StraighterLine courses are flexible. You can complete your coursework at your own pace – even repeating different units if you desire - then you can finish your course and earn your grade whenever you are ready.  The result is that the outcome of your StraighterLine courses is easier to control.
  • StraighterLine courses offer you a supervised, structured way to learn course material. The CLEP is only an exam that tests your knowledge in a particular subject area, not a form of instruction, so you are on your own as you prepare. If you need tutorial help while you are taking a course at StraighterLine, it is available online.
  • You can complete StraighterLine courses anywhere. There is no need to schedule a test in a remote physical location and travel to it.

Will StraighterLine, AP, or the CLEP Work Best for You?

The answer is, it depends on the subject, the depth of knowledge that you already possess about it, and the policies that are in force at the college you attend, or where you are applying. More and more students are deciding that StraighterLine works best because of its flexibility, economical costs, and other factors. But be sure to check out all your options and select the one that works best for you.

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