Note: SpeedyPrep gave us free access to their CLEP prep programs for a period of six months in exchange for this review. We’ve also used them in the past without the review incentive. There are no affiliate links in this post, but I sure wish there were, because I would be an outspoken SpeedyPrep promoter with affiliate links, as opposed to an outspoken SpeedyPrep user without affiliate links, which I currently am. Also, this topic is confusing to a lot of people, and it could save you a ton of money, so read carefully.
What you need to know about us:
Point 1: We have always homeschooled our kids. Two graduated from high school, one on time despite losing a year of schooling due to illness, one at 16. We’ll call them Hannah and Marissa, because those are their names.
Point 2: Steve and I are buried under pointless college debt–boo. We don’t want that weight on our kids’ shoulders.
Point 3: Marissa is 18 and is well into her junior year of college with no debt and without leaving our roadtrippin’ family. She is scheduled to graduate at 19 with an entrepreneurship degree for running her art business. While she did take a few online classes and a couple Dantes tests, most of her college credits have been through CLEP, with tests taken at various testing facilities around the country.
Summary of Marissa:
- 18 years old
- 66 college credits so far (69 after next week)
- no school debt…and not because we’re rolling in it–hello, music missionaries!
- still with us in our home-on-wheels making memories like you see in these pictures–hooray!
Point 4: Hannah is also using SpeedyPrep. More on that below.
What is Speedy Prep?
SpeedyPrep is an online study guide that will prepare you to take the CLEP exam.
What is a CLEP?
A CLEP exam tests your proficiency in an area, such as, oh, algebra, literature, or in Marissa’s case, business law. If you pass a CLEP test, you prove that you have college level knowledge on that topic and are thereby awarded college credit for that class.
In layman’s terms, that means you don’t have to shell out the big bucks or hock a limb to suffer through endless lectures on something that you either already know or aren’t ever going to need for anything beyond graduating from college. (You should also know that I’m not opposed to college, because maybe you can’t tell that from that last sentence. Ahem.)
By way of example, when I was going to college, I had to take a placement test. The placement test told the powers-that-be that this English major-to-be was already very proficient at math. Did they give me credit for that knowledge? No. They bumped me up into calculus where I literally learned nothing I am using today and lowered my GPA with a B. I had to pay a hefty chunk of change and lose a lot of sleep to take that class. I did, however, write a stellar poem on the pointlessness of calculus for English majors…and read it out loud to the entire class…and the professor.
We all make mistakes.
Marissa does not need to take calculus in college. She took a CLEP, similar to my “placement test,” except hers awarded her credit and saved her beaucoup bucks. And she hasn’t burned any bridges with math profs. Smart.
What is college level knowledge?
If you take a college level class and score a C, it is equivalent to passing the CLEP. I don’t know what other students do, but Marissa strives for an A every time. That doesn’t actually matter, because, even though you are scored, it’s marked as a pass/fail, and that’s all your university will ever know.
Back to SpeedyPrep.
SpeedyPrep prepares your student (or you) to take and pass the examinations, so your student can prove at least a C level of knowledge at the college level.
What can you expect?
SpeedyPrep is an online program. It offers videos and question-and-answer study aids–Marissa has always called them flashcards. The student must do the flashcards and get each answer correct several times to prove she knows it. At that point, the progress bar moves forward.
Once the progress bar reaches 90-100%, the student is ready to take the CLEP exam. If the student does not pass, SpeedyPrep will refund their money. SpeedyPrep told us they have a 95% pass rate for students who completed 90% of the SpeedyPrep material.
While the questions on a CLEP exam are multiple choice, the questions in SpeedyPrep are fill-in-the-blank. Here’s why this is great:
- There’s no memorizing an answer as opposed to learning a concept.
- There’s no guessing. You really have to know something to fill in the blank correctly.
- You get the added benefit of practicing your spelling. Marissa has enjoyed the added challenge of having to spell everything perfectly, which is an area where she has struggled in the past. (She likes to learn and improve herself, so others might find this aspect frustrating and not want to improve their spelling. That’s not SpeedyPrep’s fault.)
Let me explain how this works from the perspective of someone who is getting a lot of answers wrong in Spanish. There is a question. You answer it right once in a while and get a bite of cheese or a cookie, but mostly you answer it wrong. No cheese. No cookie.
SpeedyPrep then teaches you the answer! They explain why certain answers were right and certain answers were wrong. You only need to study what you got wrong, because, duh, you already know the rest. It’s a very efficient method of learning.
SpeedyPrep keeps asking until you’ve gotten it correct multiple times. That’s a lot of cheese and cookies. (You provide your own cheese and cookies, just so you know.)
The videos, while great, are not going to get you that coveted, cheap college credit. They are a supplement, a contextual aid, a brain melder to connect the points you’re learning with the flashcards. Is “melder” a word?
Is SpeedyPrep enough?
That is an excellent question. SpeedyPrep says that this is everything you need to pass the exam. Is it?
That depends entirely on the student. Marissa and I emailed back and forth with Elise (isn’t that a beautiful name!) from SpeedyPrep. This is some of what she said:
“We have a number of testimonials from students who only used SpeedyPrep to prepare for their exams. Some say they looked up online videos for their subject and used the College Board resources.”
The College Board resources are recommended books and practice tests designed intentionally to get a student ready to take the CLEP.
When deciding whether to add material to your or your student’s studies, Elise said to consider the following:
- Does the student have high school or some other form of experience with the subject? CLEPs test on college level knowledge.
- Teenager’s brains are still developing, so their comprehension and analysis skills are not all there–ha ha. That was fun to write. This is important to consider if using the course with someone under 16…or sometimes under 26. (I jest about the 26, but brains are still developing until around that point.)
- Does the student feel she has learned the content of the flashcards and the explanations in particular, not just the answers?
Essentially, it comes down to this, according to Elise: “Everyone needs to do the level of work that makes them feel they know their subject.”
Marissa took a practice test that was rated more difficult than the CLEP, and she did not get the result she was hoping for. Based on that last quote from Elise and Marissa’s preferred approach to learning (the book and SpeedyPrep and practice tests), we got her the book. You may or may not want/need a book, but for $15, Marissa needed that cushion and confidence. Also, she likes to pass with, say, a 15-20 point buffer–no squeaking by for that girl.
Marissa certainly could have passed many of her previous CLEPs without the book, only using SpeedyPrep. Business law is a 300-level class at Liberty, so it’s harder.
She’s taking another practice test right now (with her lucky Lego horse–I made that up) after completing SpeedyPrep and reading one business law book over the past two days, so this sentence right here will be replaced with her results in about two hours. Update: she passed with a 20-point cushion!
For the actual CLEP exam, Marissa reviews her SpeedyPrep flashcards and reads over her notes from her readings–that’s it. No late-night study-fests with college peers and Mountain Dew. I’ll let you know right here how she does.
What if I’m not sure about college?
Enter Hannah. Our sweet Hannah is not sure if college is for her or not. She’s also not sure if she will be able to test for credit or pursue a different option, since, let’s face it, not everyone is a good tester. A couple months of SpeedyPrep and one of the lighter exams (Analyzing and Interpreting Literature is her course of choice) will give her an idea if this path is for her or not.
Because the CLEP credits are accepted at many universities, and because they are good for 20 years, she is nothing out for getting a few credits under her belt.
Is this parent-heavy?
Absolutely not. I have not done one single thing for Marissa or Hannah during their use of SpeedyPrep. Okay, so I may have made them brownies, and eaten them, which may have made this parent heavy, but the course is still not parent-heavy.
Bad joke? Thought so.
Also, I am taking the Spanish CLEP myself, and I stink. Fortunately, I already
slept through passed that class in college and got my degree, so I’m just refreshing my lack of knowledge.
Additional thoughts for other frugal and/or large families:
If you sign up for a subscription to SpeedyPrep, you can forsake all else and have all your kids eat up college credits like crazy. Some people do this. We don’t, because, well, we’d rather eat up cookies, but some do.
Let’s do some real world math here (that I did not learn in calculus class) using Marissa’s chosen school, Liberty University in Virginia (all Liberty pricing taken from collegecalc.org):
Over four years the cost is $143,236 for in-state students. With scholarships, grants, and holding a tin cup outside fancy restaurants, that cost average comes down to around $84,792. If you are typical and you take five years to get out, those numbers are $179,045 and $105,990. Liberty is a middle-of-the-road school in the cost department, so some schools will have you choking down much bigger numbers. It almost makes a person want to toss her cookies.
Those are a lot of big numbers. Let’s break it down further, shall we?
Last year the cost per credit hour at Liberty University was $374 (not counting books).
Let’s see what a credit hour would cost Marissa using Speedy Prep and a book and studying her material in one month, which is how she rolls:
- Book–average $25, cheaper on Kindle
- SpeedyPrep monthly fee–$19.95 (lower if you buy multiple months)
- Cost of the exam: $80 (I heard this might be going up to $85)
- Sitting fee: $20 (proctor fee for the college where you test; it varies)
Total: $144.95 for an entire class. Let’s say that’s a 3-credit class, so divide by 3.
Total per credit hour: $48.32
If that were a six-credit class, it would be $24.16 per credit hour, and that’s including books.
Now, let’s get a little more hairy. Let’s jack those prices up:
- Books (while we can usually find our books around $21, with her business law book costing $15, let’s say she wanted two books and they were pricey, so let’s say $60, even though we never paid that much. Not even close.)–$60
- SpeedyPrep fees (let’s say Marissa is really struggling or got sick (she did get sick twice while studying for business law) or hiked the Grand Canyon and lost a few days (which she also did), so let’s say it took her 3 months to get competent, even though it didn’t, but let’s just say)–$53.87 for three months. (Price goes down per month in bulk, remember. Also understand that Marissa prepped for and passed some tests in under two weeks.)
- Exam fee (let’s say the cost of the exam bumped up to $85 already, because it will, and why deny reality)–$85
- Sitting fee (let’s say this is one of those ridiculously priced coastal testing facilities–California and New York prices, where we say, um, thanks, we’ll wait until we get to, say, Nevada, but let’s just say we don’t have a choice because there will be an earthquake and California will fall into the ocean if Marissa doesn’t test right now–let’s just say)–$40
Grand total for the entire test: $238.87
Grand total per credit hour: $79.63
If it were a six-credit class, that would be $39.82 per credit hour.
You do understand that the average college class is three credit hours, right, with some being six? So when Liberty says $374 per credit hour, they mean $1,122 or $2,244 per class plus books.
Colleges require specific books at cookie-tossing prices. Since neither CLEP nor SpeedyPrep requires any certain books, you can do whatever you need to if you feel you need additional reinforcement on a topic beyond what SpeedyPrep offers. Books? Sure. Online research? Go ahead. Whatever works for you.
Does your head hurt? I should have paid more attention in calc.
These are the “scores” per credit-hour for a three-credit class:
- Liberty per credit hour (not including books): $374
- CLEP using SpeedyPrep and books (high estimate): $79.63
- CLEP using SpeedyPrep and books (our typical cost): $48.32
And you don’t need to get the books if you don’t want to. If you feel you need additional support, you can watch online videos, search for more information, or go to the library…my favorite place…especially at Christmas when they have cookies. Grin.
Have I talked too long?
I still want to say one more thing. Marissa’s degree is estimated to run her $27,000 before financial aid. It would be cheaper if she switched schools, and we paid for a coaching service–we’re thinking Hannah’s degree will be even less.
Additional thoughts for my fellow roadschoolers:
SpeedyPrep takes up no shelf space, but it does require an internet connection, especially if your student is watching the videos. Our students watch the videos. We have had trouble in the past with not having enough data left for videos, but libraries are nice and free. Since we’ve upgraded our technical-words-that-give-us-internet-connection, we have had no problems.
Also, there are testing facilities throughout the country. We take a picture at each one for Marissa’s “college passport,” which is a thing.
Will it stay on the road with us?
Definitely! Absolutely! Without a doubt!
We have another few months in our subscription. Marissa is testing for business law this week and then starting her natural sciences studies. I believe she will get one or two more CLEPS in using SpeedyPrep before she has maxed out her CLEPing–in other words, there aren’t any classes left for her entrepreneurship degree that she can CLEP for.
Meanwhile, Hannah can work on a CLEP to see if testing is the way to go for her.
SpeedyPrep is a wonderful aid in preparing for CLEPs. Here’s why:
- challenging (so the student is adequately prepared)
- involves learning rather than rote memorizing
- exam pass guarantee
- helpful staff
- saves money–lots and lots of money
- child can live at home and share all the family adventures–woo hoo!
Want to know more?
I know this topic can be confusing. I was painting my hair grey trying to figure this all out a couple years ago. Click any of the links below for more information, and subscribe to our newsletter updates to hear more about how we are getting Marissa through college debt-free. And you can always ask us questions in the comments. Seriously, I won’t think you’re a dummy! This can feel overwhelming at times.
Here are some helpful links from SpeedyPrep. I highly recommend the FAQ page. And, seriously, they are very good about answering questions.
- SpeedyPrep home page
- About Speedy Prep
- FAQs–read these! They’re very helpful!
- Courses offered
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