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  • DTP Success Team

DSST Exams: Reduce Student Debt and Graduate Faster!

Updated: Apr 14

Student holding diploma in the air.

Introduction to DSST Exams

Would you like to reduce your student debt and graduate faster?

DSST exams can help.

This article explores how DSST exams help students expedite their graduation dates and reduce tuition expenses by testing them out of general education courses.

These innovative and flexible exams offer a unique pathway to earning undergraduate college credits, paving a fast track to obtaining your degree while saving time and money.

DSST exams present an opportunity to stay ahead of the curve in this fast-paced, competitive world.

Whether you're a working professional or a motivated student eager to complete your college degree quickly, DSST exams offer a convenient and efficient way to earn college credits.

Don't let traditional academic college barriers discourage you from achieving your educational goals.

Let’s examine how DSST exams provide an alternative approach for students to complete lower-division course requirements.


Table of Contents


What Are DSST Exams?

Student researching DSST exams.

DSST Exams

DSST exams, also known as DANTES Subject Standardized Tests, are a series of exams designed to assess students’ knowledge in various subject areas.

Originating from the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) program under the United States Department of Defense, these credit-by-examination tests provide a unique way for individuals to demonstrate their knowledge and earn credits.

DSST exams are endorsed by the American Council of Education (ACE).


The American Council on Education (ACE)

The American Council on Education (ACE) website screenshot.

American Council on Education

As a recognized authority in higher education, the American Council on Education (ACE) approves national testing programs that represent college-level equivalencies based on sources of learning outside of a traditional college classroom.

National testing programs are standardized testing systems used nationwide across the United States.

These programs are designed to provide a standard way of evaluating educational achievements to assess and measure students' knowledge, skills, and abilities in various subjects and areas of study.

DSST exams are one of the main national testing programs used in academia.

A Practical Example: DSST Exams Are Like Advanced Placement (AP) Exams

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams Overview Screenshot.

Advanced Placement Exams Vs. DSST Exams

Some national testing programs, like Advanced Placement (AP) exams, are used by high school students to earn college credits.

AP exams grant students an opportunity to receive “dual credit,” which means they can simultaneously receive high school and college credit at the same time.

If a high school student performs well on an AP exam, they also test out to gain college credits that fulfill lower-division course requirements.

Similar to AP exams, DSST exams enable students to earn college credits and bypass traditional college courses.

Who Can Take DSST Exams?

Students discussing DSST exams.


DSST exams are designed to help a wide range of students earn college credits for knowledge they have learned through non-traditional means, such as independent study, on-the-job training, or military experience.

DSST exams are available for:

  • Working adults

  • Homeschooled students

  • College students

  • High school students

  • Online students

  • Military personnel

DSST exams offer students a unique opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in specific subjects required for an undergraduate degree.

By successfully passing a DSST exam, you demonstrate your comprehension of that subject and receive credits that apply to your undergraduate general education requirements.

These exams cover a variety of subjects, including business, humanities, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, and technology.

DSST exams are widely recognized and accepted by over 1,200 colleges and universities throughout the United States.

DSST exams are a valuable resource for students seeking a swift path to earning college credits.

Top 3 Benefits of Taking DSST Exams

Three women holding degrees that used DSST exams to help them graduate.

Benefit One: Accelerate Your Graduation Date

Do you want to graduate faster?

In that case, DSST exams offer an opportunity to accelerate the time required to obtain your degree.

Test out and say goodbye to semester and quarterly class schedules.

Testing out with DSST exams sidesteps the need to dedicate an entire semester to a traditional class.

Graduate sooner by testing out of your general education courses.

How Does Testing Out Work?

Student studying for his DSST exam.

Testing Out With DSST Exams

Instead of enrolling in an entire course and attending a traditional class, you study independently and register to take a DSST exam at a time that is convenient for you.

If you possess expertise in a particular subject, you can promptly register for your exam and challenge that course.

To enhance your chances of success, consider enrolling in a preparatory course to familiarize yourself with the exam's format and the various question types you may encounter.

Passing DSST exams allows you to instantly receive general education units to fulfill lower-division course requirements toward a college degree.

Once you pass your exam, you have successfully tested out of that subject.

Benefit Two: Reduce Your Student Debt

Student jumping in the air because he reduced his student debt using DSST exams.

Student Debt

DSST Exams Offer A Cost-Effective Way To Earn Undergraduate College Credits.

While traditional college courses have high tuition costs, DSST exams provide a cost-effective way to earn college credits.

Graduating with a bachelor's degree is a momentous achievement, but it comes at a high financial cost for many students.

Students often leave college with over $40,000 in debt.

That's a heavy burden to carry as they embark upon their careers.

Let’s consider that the average cost of one undergraduate three-credit college course is roughly $1200 and requires a semester commitment.

The cost of taking a DSST exam is $100, significantly lower than $1200, making it a wise and beneficial choice for students.

DSST exams help reduce the financial burden of student loans, allowing you to graduate with less debt.

DSST exams allow you to obtain college credits, saving you thousands of dollars on tuition, books, and other miscellaneous fees.

Benefit Three: DSST's Minimum Scoring Requirements

Student asleep from studying college subjects.

Scoring Requirements

DSST Exams Have Generous Scoring Requirements.

Students can easily earn college credit and accelerate their educational journey without the burden of excessively high pass standards.

DSST exam results are scored using a criterion-referenced method.

This system determines a passing score by evaluating a test taker's knowledge instead of comparing their performance to that of other test takers.

Your score is measured based on your personal progress, effort, and mastery of the material.

This feature makes DSST exams more accessible and attainable for a broader range of test-takers.

Devoting more time to studying and preparing for the exam significantly increases your chances of passing.

How Many Questions Must I Answer Correctly to Pass My DSST Exam?

Scantron sheet.

DSST Exam Pass Rates

DSST exams contain approximately 100 questions you must answer within 120 minutes (2 hours).

To pass most DSST exams, you must correctly answer an average of 58% to 62% of the questions.

The table below shows the passing percentage for each DSST subject exam.

Exam Title

Percentage Correct To Pass

50% - 52%

51% - 58%

48% - 50%

57% - 58%

DSST Business Mathematics

45% - 46%

​54% - 56%

​DSST Fundamentals of College Algebra


​63% - 66%

​54% - 58%

64% - 66%


How Are DSST Exams Scored?

Student getting receiving an "A+" score on her exam.

What Is A Passing Score?

DSST exams are scored between 200 and 500 points.

A 400-point score is equivalent to a letter grade of C in a corresponding college course.

In most cases, you must score 400 points or higher to earn college credit.

Do DSST Exams Affect My Grade Point Average?

Student holding diploma.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

One of the remarkable advantages of DSST exams is that they have no impact on your grade point average (GPA).

DSST exams allow you to demonstrate your knowledge and gain academic credits without the pressure of maintaining a perfect academic record.

If you share your test results with your college or university, the data is transferred as a "pass" or "fail."

DSST Exams Don’t Affect Your Grade Point Average (GPA)

Mastering DSST Exam Strategy: Making Educated Guesses

Student giving two thumbs up.

Strategic Guessing: No Penalties on DSST Exams

Have you ever wondered if guessing is allowed on DSST exams?

The good news is there's no penalty for incorrect answers.

You're encouraged to take your best shot at every question, so go ahead and make your best guess.

Ensure you fill in an answer for each question without any worries.

Don’t leave any answers blank.

DSST Exams: The New Community College

Community College classroom.

DSST Exams Vs. Community College

One of the advantages of community colleges is that they are generally more affordable than four-year institutions.

You can complete your first and second years at a community college, transfer to a four-year college, and finish the last two years as a junior and senior.

The first- and second-year courses you usually take at community colleges cover your general education and elective requirements.

These courses are also referred to as lower-division units.

Instead of attending a community college, you can fulfill your lower-division general education requirements by taking DSST exams.

DSST exams only apply to lower-division general education courses.

Once you’ve completed your lower-division general education requirements, you can transfer to a four-year college as a junior and begin your upper-division core courses (also referred to as residency requirements).

DSST Exams Are The New Community College

General Education Vs. Core Courses: What’s The Difference?

Student asking about General Education Courses Vs. Core Courses. What’s The Difference?

How to Balance General Education and Core Courses

Pursuing a four-year bachelor's degree often involves accumulating 120 college credit units, which can be a formidable challenge.

Remember, one course typically gives you three college credit units.


These credits are neatly categorized into two distinct sections:

  • Lower-division General Education (GE) units.

  • Upper-division Core Courses (also known as residency requirements).


General Education (GE) Courses

Student posing with parents on graduation day.

General Education

General education lower-division units are foundational courses that offer a broad spectrum of knowledge, encompassing subjects like business, humanities, mathematics, physical sciences, and social sciences.

By focusing on subject areas that you possess prior knowledge of or excel at, you can test out to amass a substantial chunk of college credits and successfully fulfill lower-division graduation requirements.

This approach can shave off a year or two from your degree timeframe.

Imagine graduating in two or three years instead of the conventional four years!

Here's a closer look:

General Education (GE) Courses | 60 Units (2 Years)

  • 30 Units: First Year

  • 30 Units: Second Year

  • DSST exams can only be applied to your lower-division general education courses.


Ways to Complete Your General Education (Lower-Division) Courses:

  • Attend a four-year college or university, entering as a first-year student.

  • Attend a community college.

  • Test out with DSST exams.

To save on tuition, you can take your general education courses at a community college or by testing out through DSST exams.

Core Courses

Student having fun with family on graduation day.

Residency Requirements

Core courses (also known as residency requirements) are upper-division units that represent the heart of your college experience.

These courses are taken during junior and senior years at a college or university.

Your core courses (upper-division units) must be completed at the college or university you graduate from.

Since every college or university sets unique residency requirements, you should consult your academic counselor to confirm your degree specifications.

Core Courses | 60 Units ( 2 Years)

  • 30 Units: Third Year

  • 30 Units: Fourth Year

  • Core courses are upper-division units that your specific college or university explicitly requires. To be awarded a degree from your institution, you must complete a specified number of core courses (residency requirements) at your college or university.

  • It is important to note that every college and university has specific residency requirements.

Consult with your academic counselor to review and confirm detailed requirements for your degree.

DSST Exam Subjects

Student view her DSST exam subject options.


DSST exams cover a wide range of subjects, ensuring an exam is available for students with various interests and academic goals.

If you are highly motivated to graduate quickly and have a strong interest or prior knowledge in a specific subject, consider testing out with DSST exams.

For instance, if you have hands-on experience in the medical or health-related field, you should find "Substance Abuse" and "Health and Human Development" exams passable.

If you work in security or have a career within the legal system, consider taking DSST exams such as "Criminal Justice" or "Introduction to Law Enforcement." They are excellent choices for individuals in these fields.

A great option is to take a free practice exam to preview the types of questions that may be presented on the DSST exam.

If you can correctly answer the questions easily, you may want to consider testing out of that subject.


DSST Subjects And Categories

Students holding graduation caps in the air.

Subjects and Categories

Here is the most recent list of DSST categories and subjects.

While DSST exams are designed to be accessible to students with different levels of knowledge, proper preparation is critical to passing successfully.







  • Fundamentals of College Algebra

  • Principles of Statistics

  • Math for Liberal Arts


Physical Sciences


Social Sciences



Before taking any exam, it's essential to review the exam's outline and ensure that you have a solid understanding of the subject matter.

DSST Exams: Duration And Results

Scantron showing a pass score.

Duration and Results

What is the exam duration, and when can I expect my results?

  • The proctored DSST exam allows 120 minutes (2 hours) for completion.

  • Upon finishing the exam, you'll promptly receive your results, providing instant feedback on whether you passed or failed.


DSST Exams: Test Centers And Registration Process

Computer room for DSST Exams.

DSST Test Centers Are Conveniently Located Throughout The United States.

As a working professional or full-time student, DSST exams provide an alternative, flexible, and convenient way to earn college credits.

When registering for a DSST exam, you have two options:

  1. Take your exam at a physical Prometric brick-and-mortar test center.

  2. Take your exam remotely with Prometric.

Both options have different benefits, and you can conveniently schedule your exam online.


DSST Exams: Physical Prometric Test Centers

Prometric Proctor for DSST Exams. Showing a student how to take the test.

In-Person Assistance

To schedule and register for your DSST exam in person, you must first locate a nearby testing center and reserve your appointment online.

Arrive Early

On the day of your exam, to ensure a smooth check-in process, it is highly recommended that you arrive at the testing center 30 minutes early with proper forms of required identification.

Locate a Test Center

For a list of test centers, click here.


DSST Exams: Remote Proctoring

Student taking a DSST exam remotely.

Take Your Exam Remotely

You can take your DSST exam online remotely from your personal computer.

A live proctor will monitor you throughout your exam.

Schedule your reservation to sign up for your DSST exam from the comfort of your location.

Pick the subject you'd like to test in, choose a suitable test date, and pay the exam fee online.

It's a convenient and straightforward process.

To schedule and take your exam remotely, please view our post:


DSST Exam Scores: How Will My Institution Receive My Test Results?

College diploma.

Institutional Score Recipient Code

Whether you take your DSST exam online or in person, it's crucial to know the 4-digit school code, which represents your college or university's Institutional Score Recipient Code.

Prometric will send a complimentary copy of your exam scores to your college or university using your institution's 4-digit Institutional Score Recipient code.

Prometric will send your score report,\directly to your chosen college or university, free of charge.

Be sure to confirm your score report code with your academic counselor.

The processing time for your college or university to receive the score report is typically 3 to 6 weeks.

Upon receipt, your institution will apply the earned credits toward your degree.


Follow-Up with Prometric

Student calling Prometric

Contact Prometric

Currently, Prometric doesn't allow you to input your Institutional Score Recipient Code during registration.

Until this feature is available, you must contact them directly for assistance.

Be sure to contact Prometric within two days after taking your exam and provide them with your four-digit institutional score recipient code. 

If you need assistance with your institutional score recipient code, please contact us, and we’ll do our best to assist you.


Contact Prometric at:

Toll Free: 1-877-471-9860


For more details, view our blog:

Pro Tip: To expedite the processing of your college credits, contact Prometric one day after your exam, providing them with your university's Institutional Score Recipient Code.
Each time you take a DSST exam, you must provide your 4-digit code to Prometric if you want your institution to receive your exam results.

DSST Exam Transcripts

Student taking picture with family on graduation day.


After completing your DSST exam, if you contacted Prometric with your Institutional Score Recipient Code, your exam results should have been sent to your institution.

However, you may still want to consider ordering an official sealed transcript if your school requires it or request a copy for your records.

For detailed steps on how to order a transcript, you can refer to our blog post:


How To Prepare For Your DSST Exams

Student studying for thier Civil War DSST Exam.

DSST Test Preparation

Proper preparation is crucial when it comes to successfully passing DSST exams.

Here are some practical test preparation tips:


1. Familiarize yourself with the subject content:

  • Start by reviewing the subject content outline for the DSST exam you plan to take.

  • Identify areas of weakness you need to review and create a study plan to strengthen your knowledge.


2. Utilize study materials:

  • Various study materials are available for DSST exams, including textbooks, online resources, and practice exams.

  • Utilize these resources to reinforce your understanding of the subject matter and familiarize yourself with the exam format.


3. Practice time management:

  • DSST exams are timed.

  • You will have 120 minutes (2 hours) to complete an exam, and preparing and practicing time management skills is essential.

  • Dedicate time to study and practice taking timed DSST practice exams to simulate the timed conditions you will encounter on the day of your exam.


4. Seek support:

  • Don't hesitate to seek support if you need help with certain concepts or additional guidance.

  • Contact our team at, and we’ll gladly guide you through our study methods.


5. Take practice exams:

  • Repetition and retention are critical to successfully passing DSST exams.

  • DSST practice exams are an essential tool to assess readiness for an exam.

  • They will help gauge strengths and weaknesses under timed conditions.

  • Take advantage of regularly taking practice exams to gauge your knowledge, identify areas for further study, and reinforce the retention of the material.

  • Make sure you time yourself under test-like conditions and aim to score 90% or higher on your practice exams.

Investing time and effort to prepare for the exam will significantly increase your chances of receiving a passing score!

Student Resources: Study Materials For DSST Exams

Laptop and tablet Resources And Study Materials For DSST Exams

Helpful Resources

Various helpful resources and study materials are available to assist you in preparing for DSST exams.

Here are a few options:


1. DSST Study Guides:

DSST study guides provide comprehensive coverage of the exam content and include practice questions to help you assess your knowledge of the subject matter.


2. Course Modules or Textbooks:

Utilizing educational course modules and textbooks are valuable study resources.

Many DSST exam subjects align with standard college and university courses.

Study for your final exam like you would for a typical college course.


3. Online Resources:

Numerous online resources (websites, forums, and video tutorials) provide additional study materials and practice questions for DSST exams.

Online resources may offer alternative explanations and examples to enhance learning and understanding of the material.


4. Practice Exams:

Preparing for a DSST exam can be achieved through practice exams.

Our DSST study guides and online resources provide practice exams that simulate the format and difficulty level of questions you may encounter.

Taking practice exams regularly can help reinforce and retain information.


5. Quality, Not Quantity:

Focus on the quality of the study material, rather than quantity, when utilizing study materials and resources.

Select materials that align with the specific DSST exam you're preparing for.


Worse Case Scenario

Image of quote: You didn't come this far to only come this far.

What If I Don't Pass On The First Attempt?

There's no need to worry if you don't achieve a passing score on your first attempt.

Remember, DSST exams offer an opportunity to learn from your experience and improve your performance without affecting your grade point average (GPA).


Retest Policy: 30-Day Waiting Period

After a 30-day waiting period, you can retake your exam.

This grace period allows you time to review more practice exams and focus on the specific areas where improvement is needed.

If you don’t succeed in passing an exam on your first attempt, you can try again without recourse.

If you take your exam at a Prometric test center, you’ll receive an email of your exam results with details on how well you scored in each section.

This will allow you to assess specific areas of weakness and an opportunity to study to improve your score.


DSST Online Courses

You must prepare for your DSST exam like any other end-of-course final exam.

Investing more time in studying and preparing for an exam increases the likelihood of successfully passing.

Evaluate your study methods and set realistic expectations for yourself.

Completing an online preparation course that offers quality resources in your subject matter is highly recommended.


DSST Practice Exams

Repetition is the key to successfully passing your DSST exam!

Take as many practice tests as possible, and continue to retake each exam until you score 90% or higher.

Be honest with yourself.

Did you study diligently to prepare for the exam and commit to a consistent study schedule?

Did you retake each quiz, final test, and practice exam until you scored a 90% passing grade or higher?

If that's not the case, commit to allocate additional study time and double your efforts.

Your chances of passing a DSST exam on your second try significantly improve when you invest time and effort to bolster your weaker areas.


Stay Positive: If At First You Don't Succeed, Try Again

Suppose you could not pass your DSST exam on your first or second attempt.

In that case, you can retake the exam until you successfully pass.

DSST exams do not affect your grade point average (GPA) and provide an affordable, time-efficient way to obtain college credits.

Ultimately, the time and money saved by utilizing DSST exams outweigh the tuition costs and time spent in a traditional college setting.

With the advantage of already being familiar with the types of questions asked, you can engage in focused preparation, addressing the areas where you need to improve and strengthen your knowledge.

A valuable aspect of a second attempt at passing your DSST exam is the familiarity gained with the types of questions that will be presented.


Students taking a picture at graduation.

Final Thoughts

DSST exams provide a distinctive and convenient route to earning lower-division undergraduate credits, expediting your progress toward meeting degree requirements.

With diligent preparation, utilizing study resources, and applying effective test-taking strategies, you can significantly enhance your likelihood of passing DSST exams and attaining valuable college credits.

Whether you're an enthusiastic student striving to graduate ahead of schedule or aiming to reduce your student debt burden, DSST exams offer a flexible and budget-friendly option for fulfilling your general education prerequisites.

Do not allow conventional obstacles to hinder your academic and career ambitions.

Embrace the opportunities that DSST exams provide.

If you have any questions or require further assistance, please feel free to contact our team anytime; we'll be delighted to help.

Best of luck with your testing!


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