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Taking DANTES Standardized Subject Tests: DSST Exams for College Credit.

written by: Jenny Rae Armstrong•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 12/3/2009

Pump-up your online-learning arsenal with DSST exam knowledge.

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    The DANTES Subject Standardized Tests, or DSSTs, offers almost 40 exams in a variety of subject areas. Originally created to help members of the military obtain college credit while they were enlisted, DSSTs have become very popular with civilian learners as well, and can be a powerful tool in your online-learning arsenal.

    DSSTs are similar to CLEP exams, but tend to be more focused than their College Board counterparts. While CLEP exams offer “The History of the United States, 1865-Present,” DSST exams boast titles like “The Civil War and Reconstruction,” “Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union,” and “A History of the Vietnam War.” CLEP offers the standard natural sciences, biology, and chemistry exams, whereas DSSTs have tests on astronomy and geology. The focused nature of the exams makes them easier for dedicated students to study for, and perhaps more interesting.

    DSST exams are ninety-minute long multiple-choice examinations. Test-takers need to move through the test at a steady pace and avoid the temptation to linger too long over any single question. The DSST does not penalize you for answers you get wrong, so there is no reason to leave any question unanswered. Just take your best guess and keep moving forward.

    The American Council on Education recommends granting three lower or upper-level credits for each DSST, but it is important to check your college or higher-learning institution’s credit-granting policies before registering for an exam. Not all colleges accept every DSST, and some require test-takers to earn a particularly high score to receive credit. Most online external-degree programs are extremely open to granting credit for DSSTs, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Talk with your academic advisor before registering.

    DSSTs were entirely paper-based until 2006, when Thomson Prometric developed an internet-based version of all the DSSTs except “Principles of Public Speaking.” Now, the vast majority of DSSTs are given on computers at testing centers around the nation, and are available year-round. Thomson Prometric has taken over the administration of the DSSTs, but the tests are still free to military personnel, with the exception of a small registration fee. Civilians pay eighty dollars per exam, plus the administrative or registration fee required by the testing center. A complete list of DSST titles and test-taking centers is available at Thomson Prometric’s DSST website,