Monday, January 31, 2011

60+ Credits in 60 Days: 60+ Credits in 60 Days: Civil War & Reconstruction...

60+ Credits in 60 Days: 60+ Credits in 60 Days: Civil War & Reconstruction...: "60+ Credits in 60 Days: Civil War & Reconstruction DANTES: 'This was my first DANTES test. I got a 73, which is an A at Excelsior! I w..."

Macroeconomics CLEP

I took the CLEP Macroeconomics exam this afternoon and passed with a 63. I prepared on and off for this exam over the course of several months--usually studying for a few hours and then abandoning it because I realized that it made more sense to take a different test next due to cross-over efficiencies, etc. I started in earnest a week and a half ago and put in an hour or two each day--mostly with IC but I also read through a Cliffs Economics book and a Pass Your Class guide.

As far as the subject material goes, it's not my thing. Some of it is intuitive--but most of it doesn't gel for me. I needed a lot of repetition to get some of this to sink in. This is the second CLEP I took solo (I went to the testing center and took only one test)--the first was Statistics. I'm finding these tests more difficult than all the computer and psych-type tests. It actually makes me question why I'm pursuing a business degree because I really don't dig this stuff at all.

Earlier this week I took the CLEP practice test and got 45/60. Not terrible--but some questions that I didn't know--I REALLY didn't know. I took my first Petersons the next day and got 49/80. I took the second today and got 60/80. I never got around to the third one.

I had a lot of trouble logging in at the testing center but once I got started everything was fine. I paced myself and finished with four minutes to spare. I went back and looked at all but a few I had marked for review--but only changed one answer.

I think it might be helpful to give anyone reading this post some perspective of my ability vs. my score if I describe the stuff I DIDN'T know come test time:

I could not complete with confidence any of the bank reserve problems. It's a simple enough formula and concept, but these problems didn't have any loan amounts and focused on the "extra reserves" which I just could not get my mind around--despite knowing the basic formula and using it successfully when practicing. The answers I was coming up with were so bad they weren't even options! Another thing I can't do is tell why most curves are shifting and what it means. I did know some basics--but it didn't help me much on the test. I also couldn't remember if you should increase or decrease gov't spending to combat inflation. Even still, due to lucky guessing and perhaps some good basic (as opposed to deep) knowledge, I scored a 63. Not great--but I passed with room to spare.

I was feeling great for the first 20 or so problems--but the middle 40 almost killed me. This was the first test where I thought there was a serious chance that I didn't pass. 

60+ Credits in 60 Days: Civil War & Reconstruction DANTES

60+ Credits in 60 Days: Civil War & Reconstruction DANTES: "This was my first DANTES test. I got a 73, which is an A at Excelsior! I wasn’t planning to take this exam, but after taking both US ..."

Intro to Computing CLEP / MIS DSST

I have been studying for all 3 computer exams at the same time. It was harder to do this than I expected, but still a wise choice. I am an average home computer user (with no business experience) and had a lot more to learn than I realized. 

I studied for the Intro DSST for 4 weeks. The exam was harder (deeper) than expected. There were a lot of questions for which I needed to know 3 facts and I often only knew 1 or 2.

Study materials I used:

Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101 – I should have started here. It has good explanations and pictures for many topics. I read through all of “Computer Basics” and some of “Databases”.
InstantCert – I read all 3 sets of flashcards for the computing exams.
Petersons practice exams for Intro DSST
DSST site – quiz, official practice test, and fact sheet 

Then I studied another week for the CLEP exam. Having taken the Intro DSST first really helped. I also started studying for the MIS DSST and that was helpful for the CLEP exam. With all of this studying, the exam was easier than I expected.

Study materials I used:

InstantCert – I took notes on the CLEP and MIS sets of flashcards.
Petersons practice exams for CLEP 
Official CLEP Study Guide practice tests for 2009 and 2010

Again, having prepared for the Intro DSST exam and taken notes on the MIS flashcards were important parts of doing well on this CLEP exam.

Lastly, I studied for 3 more weeks for the MIS DSST. I won’t know my score for several weeks, but the materials I used covered the exam topics pretty well. I was glad I reviewed the material from the previous 2 exams also.

Study materials I used:

InstantCert flashcards
Petersons practice exams for MIS
Study Guide by MISin08 - Google Docs – Thank you!
MIS Glossary - DCN: Glossary
DSS glossary - DSSResources.COM Glossary - great reference glossary
Management Information Systems DSST Study Guide - – This was my first time to use this site as a main study resource. I thought it was quite helpful. I used it last, that way I knew which material was important to read and which material I could skip (such as some parts of wikipedia pages).
DSST site – quiz, official practice test, and fact sheet 

Having the chance to earn 6 credits, including 3 upper-level, by taking these exams, which do build on each other, is a great opportunity. 

Analyzing & Interpreting Literature CLEP

I relied heavily on my experience with taking many reading comprehension tests and reading literature in English class during my public school education and that came through for me. Since this is not my favorite subject, I was trying to be happy with a passing score, so I was shocked (as usual) by matching my highest score of 78! 

Study materials:

Literary Terms - I should have looked at examples of the main terms better and not just the definitions. It would have helped me to recognize them more quickly and saved some time.

Literary Devices

Literary Terms : SparkCharts - I looked up just a few items here.

CLEP Official Study Guide – practice test

If you need more practice with this type of test, I have seen the REA book and the Petersons practice exams recommended. (A lot of people have decided to take this exam without studying. At least, learn more about this exam and decide based on your own background how much study time and materials you will need.)

My exam had 78 questions about 12-15 reading passages, which were 20-50 three-inch lines long. Each had about 5 questions but a couple had 8-10 questions. 

The passages are visible for reference on the page of each question. (You don’t need to go back and forth between the pages/questions to look up the answer.)

During the official practice test, I tried different methods of taking the exam, like reading the questions first and then reading the passage. The methods did not change my results, but I felt more comfortable with reading the passage first and then answering the questions. 

On the exam, I decided to read each passage and question as it came for better concentration and felt more settled to answer the questions. I consider myself to be a slow reader. I read each passage once and tried not to get hung up on any one detail, since they might not ask about it. I did try to work quickly and kept a pace of about 1 minute per question. That is not enough time to think about things too deeply, which may have been good so that I did not over-think anything. 

This is always the type of exam that I have no idea how I am doing. If I had used the other exam technique (read questions first), I would not have had a funny experience. I read a poem and thought I understood it. Then one of the questions told me an important fact about the author. It turns out that fact was what the whole poem was about, which I had completely missed!

Biology CLEP

I studied for 4 weeks. It is a lot to learn in that amount of time. I was surprised to get a 77! It was the kind of test where you don't wonder which questions you missed, but which questions you got right! I am always surprised by my score, but this was a little higher than my practice tests and I thought the actual test was harder. The wording of the questions and answers was tricky. Knowing lots of facts and vocabulary does help to narrow down the possibilities. It covers a lot of material and I did not get more than 2 questions on any one topic. I did not have any trouble finishing the practice tests on time, but I did have trouble finishing the real test. I left the multiple question chart problems for last. There were about 15-20 of that type of question and I was not sure I left enough time for that many.

I used:

REA Biology – These have always been helpful and I love having practice tests.

Biology Smart – This is an awesome book. It makes a lot of topics simple and easy to learn. It is great to use with the REA book. Biology Smart (Smart Series) (9780679769088): Deborah Guest: Books

Cliff’s Notes online – I used their glossary and “cheat sheet”.

Tools & Resources: Biology Glossary - CliffsNotes

Tools & Resources: Biology Cheat Sheet - CliffsNotes

Peterson’s practice exams – These were great for preparing for the real test. The third one is extra difficult, but it is worth at least reading through because some of the new material is on the real exam. (There might be AP exams to use for practice also.)

Official CLEP Study Guide - for exam topics and practice questions 

I have also read that IC has over 800 flashcards to study for this exam. I did not have time to try them, but I am sure they would be an excellent resource to add.

Since I just started studying for the Natural Science exam, I have found that the REA study guide for General Exams, which includes Natural Science, has a Biology section which would have been a good starting point. It also has several items that would have helped on the test.

Note: Before you go to all of the work of studying for and taking this exam, be sure that your college will accept it for the credit that you need for your major and make sure that any lab requirements can be earned separately.

This exam covers the following;

Applied bacteriology
Cell biology
Cell physiology
Diagnostic bacteriology
Infectious diseases
Medical microbiology
Microbial aerosols
Microbial genetics
Microbial physiology
Microbial toxins
Molecular biology
Recombinant DNA
Tissue culture
Courses with the word “microbiology” in the title (e.g., dairy microbiology, applied microbiology, diagnostic microbiology, industrial microbiology, and soil microbiology)

Astronomy DSST

I thought this was a tough exam. I knew that I had gotten about half correct, and I was hoping that I had guessed well enough on the rest for a good score. The exam had more depth than I expected. There were only 82 questions, which I think makes it hard to get a really high score. I studied 4 weeks and got a 57, which is an A at Excelsior.

I chose different materials than what were recommended (Cliff Notes online). I chose the Idiot’s Guide because I wanted to use a book format that was up-to-date. Idiot’s Guide had worked well for the Civil War DSST. Since there have not been a lot of very high scores on the Astronomy test, I wanted to try for a better score, but as you can see, it did not work for me.

Here is what I used to study:

Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy – I wanted a book that was up to date plus it has a CD with lots of excellent pictures. I enjoyed reading from an astronomer’s perspective, which made it easy to understand the concepts except for a couple topics. When I was studying it, I thought it would be too deep for the test, but that was not true. I did need to back up and look elsewhere for some of the basics, like tides, moon phases, Kepler’s laws, early astronomers, etc.

The Sky Observer’s Guide – Golden Guide – It taught the basics about actually looking at the night sky.

Pass DSST Astronomy the Easy Way – This book is not enough to know for the exam by itself, but it did help me on several questions.

IC – There are excellent pictures and explanations which helped on several questions.

Astronomy Study Guides - SparkNotes – quizzes and fact sheets on sun and planets – I was getting about 2/3 of the answers correct.

Explorations An Introduction to Astonomy! - online textbook – I used the quizzes and was getting about 2/3 of the answers correct. I should have paid more attention to the quiz answers and looked at the chapter summaries and the web tutorials may have been helpful, also.

Astronomy - CliffsNotes – I looked up a couple things but did not use this site. From others experiences, it may be more adapted to a college level course than the Idiot’s Guide was.

I thought that all of the other websites mentioned looked good but I did not use them.

Star evolution handout – - This was great, but not deep enough to answer all of the questions asked on the exam.

DSST Fact Sheet – I did not do well on this practice exam.

Having multiple questions on some of the topics helped me piece together some of the answers.

I did earn an A and got to spend a lot of time studying for this exam. I was disappointed, though, by the number of answers that I did not know and that all I had learned was not deep enough for this exam.

I have always wanted to learn about all of this and I really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to getting to do some sky observing and will be able to use all that I have learned for the rest of my life.

Extra note: I really liked the Wiley Self-Teaching Guide for Chemistry and just noticed that they have one for Astronomy also.

US History I CLEP

This was my first CLEP test. I got a 77!

I plan to study for a month on future tests, but I had some extra time and studied for 6 weeks for this one.

REA study guide was perfect for this test.
Barrons EZ 101 filled in extra facts.
I liked the Resource: A Biography of America videos and website.
InstantCert was good for review.
I also had the Official CLEP Guide to make sure I was learning the correct material.
Peterson’s practice exams were confusing me. I decided to just read through them and was learning the material better that way.

I plan to use all of the above for US History II. This time I’m going to start by reading the Peterson’s to get an overview of the material and see if that works better for me.

It seemed like there were more colonial questions than the 30% the guide said. I had studied that a lot so it wasn’t a problem. Don’t skip that time period. I had studied for a harder test, but it did cover some knowledge of every topic.

I was surprised to learn so much about American Government and the Civil War that I’m thinking about taking the extra time to study for and take those tests, also.

Update: – I really liked the AP Quizzes for US History II. I wish I had used them for US History I.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Career Success

There are a few things that I've learned, and want to share, so hopefully others will post their helpful tips. Keep in mind that I'm in sales, so the tips I have are from my experience, but I think that they're useful for almost everyone.

1) Network, Network, Network Are you on LinkedIn? Why not? It's not Facebook, it's just a neat way to stay in touch with people you work with. Create a professional looking profile and "connect" with everyone you know. I connect with both clients and co-workers alike. Most people I know that have gotten a job lately have great skills, but have also used a connection inside a current company to secure an interview. Seriously. With over 500 resumes coming in for each job, recruiters probably won't find you. An employee referral is the best way to get a job. If you stay in touch with everyone you've ever worked with, it's much more likely that you'll have a friend at a company you're applying for. Don't be embarrassed to link in to someone. It is mutually beneficial. You may need them in the future and they may need you. It's good for all as long as they don't dislike you or would ever give you a negative referral.
2)Dress for Success I know I'm not the first one to say it, but I can't believe how often people don't follow this basic advice. I now work from home, but at my first real B2B sales job, I was in a semi-casual office. Yes I would rather be wearing crocs and a sweatshirt, but I got my Ann Taylor credit card and made an effort to dress better than my peers. People can't help it - if you're dressed up, you just look professional. I was in my 20's and got three promotions in just a few years. Of course, it was due to hard work, but I was asking management for a chance to let me be an "outside" sales person. They KNEW I could dress the part, and could picture me going out to visit a major client.

3)ACT professional Yes you are at work 40+ hours a week and some of the best friends you may ever have are with you. But BE CAREFUL. Best advice ever given to me was in business, you never know who you'll end up reporting to, treat every person as if they could be your boss tomorrow. It's true!! I recall a colleague that went to a trade show with me. While we were out of town, we had a few drinks and she told me all about how she fudged her expense reports. Guess what? About 6 months later she ended up reporting to me. I had to approve her expense reports. She was uncomfortable and ended up seeking employment elsewhere.

4)Don't be Arrogant The biggest mistake I see when I'm hiring for entry-level jobs is that kids come out of college thinking that they're better than everyone. If you don't have enough experience, I can see that on your resume. If I weren't considering you for the position, I wouldn't be wasting our time by interviewing you, so be enthusiastic and willing to learn. I love it when someone says that they're a great fit for the role because they're a hard worker and want to be mentored. I don't want someone with very little experience telling me how to do my job. I've posted this here before, but the worst case was a girl I interviewed that told me that once she got her MBA, she would immediately be in executive management. (wow? So that's all it takes? )

5) Intern or Volunteer You want to get hired and KNOW you'll be great, but don't have the experience. Why won't anyone give you a chance to prove yourself? Don't wait for someone to give you a chance. You can create your own experience. Pick what you want to do and see if you can get an internship or do volunteer work. In medical sales, I see tons of applicants with unrelated experience and degrees applying for jobs. This is fine in a great economy, but if you've never done the job, why would I hire you and train you from the ground up if there are 50 other people that have experience in the industry? I took a pharmacy tech course and spent almost a year volunteering for four hours a week at a hospital pharmacy to gain the clinical experience I wanted. A friend of mine that wants to break into sales contacted me and offered to work for me and my boss for free, making cold calls and helping us with customers just to break into B2B sales. Those are just two examples, but the possibilities are endless. No one wants to give their time away for free, but if you do so, you'll end up getting paid back for your free time and then some through new job opportunites.

6) Know office basics This is really minor compared to the other points that I've brought up, but I see newly graduated kids all the time that can't use a computer very well. I am so sick of training people on how to use Outlook and other basic Microsoft functions. Take a community college course or read a book. Understand how businesses use the calendar function and know your way around a spreadsheet.

7) Sell yourself appropriately What I mean by this is don't be too shy to list your accomplishments. I never consider interviewing someone whose resume doesn't make me think that the candidate is the most amazing person in the world. You can act humble in the interview, but your resume should make you sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread. Think of your greatest accomplishments. They should be on your resume and you should find a way to relate them to the job you're applying for.

8)MANAGE UP I can't stress this enough. I know so many great employees that don't treat their boss well. It sounds so dumb, after all, if you work hard, why should you care how you treat your superiors? Simply put, people like to hire and work with people they like. Treat your boss with respect even if you think he/she is an idiot. Don't trash talk behind his back. Even if you think it won't get back, it will. I have seen great people be "managed out" of the business and mediocre people retained just because of the way they interacted with their boss. Don't suck up, but your manager is a human being. Remember that and you'll go far.

9)Feedback and Patience The very first promotion I tried to get, I failed. There were 50 internal applicants for one job. I was very young and was very good at what I was doing. In the interview process, it got down to just me and another very experienced employee, who wasn't nearly as good as I was. When she got the job, I was devastated. After all, everyone knew that I was better, right? Rather than throwing a major temper tantrum or having a negative attitude, I requested a feedback interview from the hiring manager. I found out that the person that got the job had been applying for years. Even though the hiring manager felt that I would have done a better job, she just couldn't say no to the more experienced employee any more. I felt a lot better and gained a commitment to be at the top of the list of interviewees the next time the position opened.

10)Technical Writing No joke - get your resume critiqued. If you don't have the money to pay to have a professional look at it, then ask a friend or a relative that has experience looking at resumes. Even someone who's a hiring manager will have seen many resumes and have some words of wisdom. Resumes are difficult and perhaps the single most important piece of securing an interview. You can't afford to blow it or assume that the recruited or hiring manager knows what you were thinking. Be open to criticism, even very serious criticism. The person reviewing your resume should be brutally, even painfully honest. Yes I have seen resumes so bad that I've shown them to other employees and we've had a good laugh. Please don't let that be your resume that we're all giggling about. If you get noticed, let it be in a good way.

InstaCert - The Easiest Way To Complete Your College Degree

If you're in interested in taking CLEP exams to test out of up to 2 years at your college, then I want you to know about InstantCert.It's inexpensive; for one low price you get unlimited access to pretty much any
test you need to prepare for.

The important thing, though, is that it flat out works!  The average person studies for
a week or two (while working a full time job), and then passes his or her test
to instantly earn 3 college credits.

If this is something you're even remotely interested in, then what you need to
do is check out their member discussion forum at

First of all, it's completely FREE.  It's a big community where many InstantCert members go to
discuss how their tests went, share study tips and resources, and help each other
achieve their goals.

If you're curious and want to try their product out, don't forget to use your exclusiveDISCOUNT CODE.  Make sure you enter the following code: "63245" when you subscribe.
That code will take 25% off your first month when you do a standard subscription.

To read more about the product itself, head over to

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Online Colleges Offering Credit for Life Experience

Many reputable colleges and universities allow you to earn credit for life experience. They do not, however, allow you to earn your entire degree through life experience. Only diploma mills make those kinds of promises!
How credit is awarded and assigned varies widely by university, but there is always a specific limit to the number of alternative credits you may earn toward your degree. Most of the colleges listed below offer a combination of portfolio credit, credit by examination (CLEP, etc.), and military experience/training credit.   
Important considerations:
  1. All portfolio credit programs are NOT created equal. Some colleges, like Columbia College, have stringent requirements. Central Texas College, on the other hand, simply asks for a page or two description of your experience with supplemental proof.
  2. Never assume that your credit will transfer to another university. Always double check with the admissions department where you plan to transfer. 
  3. Certain programs like Champlain (below) do not always award portfolio credit, but they will accept portfolio credit awarded by another university that has been added to your transcript.
Online colleges offering credit for prior learning
Every institution in this list is regionally accredited, a must for any online degree program.
Dallas Baptist University
Portfolio credit
Credit by examination
Military credit
University of Wisconsin
Credit for Military Experience
Credit for Training Programs
Credit for Specific Subject Examinations
Credit for Work and Life Experience
Credit by Test Out
CLEP examinations
Vocational-Technical College Transfer Credits
Columbia College
Credit for Prior Learning (Portfolio credit)
ACE accredited corporate courses
Excelsior exams
CLEP Exams
Certified Professional Secretary Program
Defense Language Proficiency Tests
International Baccalaureate
Basic Law Enforcement and Corrections Training
Military Service & Training
MU Fire & Rescue Training Institute
Pilot’s License
University of Massachusetts – Amherst
Information is located on the University Without Walls portion of the Amherst website. Credit for life experience applicants must complete a rigorous process to receive credit.
Champlain College
External credentials
Challenge exams
CLEP exams
Will accept portfolio credits added to your transcript at another university.
“May” offer some life experience credits for certain programs
Military training and education
Central Texas College
Portfolio evaluation
Military training and education
Western New England CollegeMay award up to 30 credit hours of portfolio credit through its partnership with Charter Oak State College. See WNEC’s website for more details as requirements vary.
CLEP exams
Military education and experience
Experience evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE)
Liberty University
Portfolio assessment (Credit for life experience)
CLEP exams
Malone CollegePortfolio credit
Western Governors UniversityWGU does not offer actual credit for life experience, but they will let you waive certain courses in order to finish your degree faster. Here’s an excerpt from their site to explain the process: WGU’s competency-based approach lets you take advantage of your knowledge and skills, regardless of how you learned them. Even when you don’t directly receive credit, the knowledge you possess may help you accelerate the time it takes to complete your degree program.