Testing Out: The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part II

Narrated ‘Aisha: “Whenever Allah’s Apostle was given the choice of one of two matters, he would choose the easier of the two, as long as it was not sinful to do so.” (Bukhari)

Testing Out

As we covered in the last article, college is an investment of time and money. There are two ways to maximize your return on college even when you receive the same degree at the end. This is done minimizing time or money (but ideally both). 

The absolute best way to minimize your college time and money burden is by bypassing useless classes. By useless classes, I’m referring to general education requirements that pretty much every school mandates but which are not relevant to your intended field of study. This is the Poli Sci 101 and the Psychology 101 classes that you’ll be forced to take when you’re majoring in something like Mechanical Engineering or Biology.

So how do you bypass this?

By testing out of the class.

AP and CLEP

There’s two ways to do this. One is through AP exams. I’d strongly encourage everyone to take as many AP classes as they can handle in high school. Then take the exam and make du’a. You can knock out an incredible amount of classes with AP exams. It’s not unheard of to shave an entire semester or two (or even three or four) off of college with AP exams.

However, let’s say that AP wasn’t an option. For whatever reason, either your school didn’t offer those classes, or you felt you couldn’t pass those exams, or you took the exams and failed, whatever. Let’s say you’ve graduated high school and AP exams are no longer something you can take advantage of. You can still test out of college courses with CLEP exams.

CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program and is administered by College Board, the same people who make SATs and AP exams. They cover 36 subject areas and are accepted by over 2,500 colleges in the country. CLEP exams are completely multiple-choice and, if you pass them, take the place of an entire semester long college course. Let that sink in. One $80 exam that’s all multiple choice and you just tested out of a semester’s worth of lectures, essays, group projects, homework, and boredom. You pass that test and you’re done. I found CLEP exams to be infinitely easier than AP exams and the threshold for passing is (generally) much lower. You can purchase study books for CLEP exams which cover all the material tested and have one or two practice exams.

Now, schools don’t usually advertise CLEP exams to students and many college advisors will actively discourage students from taking them (mine certainly did). As I mentioned in the last article, while you should always accept advice from others, you make your own decisions. College advisors work for the college, not you, and colleges have a vested interest in minimizing the number of students testing out of requirements which net the college thousands of dollars per student. Take their advice (on all issues, but this one in particular), with a huge grain of salt.

Do your homework

Some schools cap how much credit you can earn with CLEP and AP, but not all do. This is something to take into account when you choose which college you’re going to because it’s going to affect how much time and money you will be spending in college. The university I went to had no such restrictions and alhamdulillah, between CLEP and AP, I tested out of 61 credits. Basically half of a bachelor’s degree. Even if you decide that you’re not going to graduate early, you at least have a decreased credit load that’ll open up your time (and wallet) for other activities. Since a lot of colleges categorize students into freshman/sophomore/junior/senior by number of credits, not year in college, it also had some nice unforeseen perks such as being able to sign up for classes early and get better campus parking. All in all, testing out of required classes was one of the best moves I made in college.

In our next article, we’ll insha’Allah talk about choosing which college to attend. In the meantime, if you haven’t read the previous article, check it out here:

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part I: Get in the right mindset

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part II: Testing out

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part III: Choosing a college

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part IV: Choosing a major

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part V: Mapping your journey

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part VI: Creating a calendar

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part VII: Going beyond the classroom

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part VIII: How to study

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part IX: Dealing with failure

The Muslim Man’s Guide to College Part X: To MSA or not to MSA?

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