The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) is a program where veterans or currently serving members can take end-of-course final exams in select college courses – usually first-year 3-credit introductory ones – and if passed, get credit for the course without having to take the course.
There are three different DANTES test categories:
- College Level Exam Program (CLEP)Of the three exams, CLEP tests are the most popular. There are 33 typical freshman-level exams in five subject areas: composition and literature, world languages, history and social sciences, science and mathematics, and business.
- Excelsior College Exams (ECE)For service members having experience in healthcare or teaching, ECE tests are a good choice as they are more focused in those two areas. The 55 exams fall into six categories: business and technology, education, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics, nursing and social sciences, and history.
- DANTES Subject Specialized Tests (DSSTs)These 36 tests are divided into the following six categories: business, humanities, math, physical science, social science and technology.
Most DANTES tests take around 90 minutes to complete. With each exam awarding on average three credits, taking 33 CLEP tests alone could earn 99 credits. However, be sure to check the school’s policy on transferring in credits as most would not accept that many on a transcript. But by combining DANTES and the ACE conversion credits awarded for military service, veterans can be well on their way to a degree.
The power of DANTES is awesome, yet highly under-utilized. It is a fast way to build up college credits and it does two things: gets you to a degree quicker and conserves GI Bill entitlement for the courses you must take later. Tests are free for military personnel having a Common Access Care (CAC), however, veterans and dependents must pay for their tests. But, the cost of the test in almost all cases is much less than if paying to take the course, and it conserves GI Bill benefits which could then be used later, for example, to pay for more expensive graduate school tuition.