Accelerated Degree Diary 26 – How I practice to take a CLEP or DSST

Transcript located below video if available

Transcription below video if available


Hey guys this is Nathan.

It’s been a minute since I’ve done a video that showed me actually taking any tests, and that’s because I haven’t done any for a little while. I’m getting back into the swing of things and as I’m moving to tackle that stuff again, I was thinking of a couple of ways that I need to go about doing things and was like, oh, I haven’t really made a video about this, so I thought this one would be helpful.

I’ve talked a whole bunch about how I think the best way to prep for a CLEP test or DSST test is to take one of the practice exams. So, I have my CLEP book, my practice test book, with me. This one is actually the 2016 version but it’s good enough. I also have my notebook and a pen, which is everything that I need in order to take a practice test.

I’m in my office, which is awesome, and I’m just going to walk you guys through what I do in order to take one of these tests and make sure that I’m totally prepared to go take this and pass it. So far, this method has not failed me, so that’s pretty good. Here’s what I’m going to do:

I’m going to write down a whole bunch of things, and I’m going to try to do a little editing for this video. We’ll see how that goes. It’s honestly not something I do and I kind of suck at so, we’ll see. But I’ll just walk you through my process so…hang out with me! This one is going to be the American History CLEP, which I actually need for my degree program. I hope this is helpful.

The first thing I’m going to do is find the test that I need. I looked in the table contents here, and the one I need is History of the United States 1 Practice Exam, one that’s on page 245. Now it talks about a few of the things that are supposed to be in the test. Now remember, this is a 2016 book, so not only is it just a smidge outdated, but actually, I don’t find most of this information to be very useful. Some of these bullet points are useful, but for the most part I still need to know what I’m missing, so I actually just go through the exam. For this particular exam, we can see how many questions it has by jumping to the end here, and we see 96 in the answer key.

Now, we don’t pay attention to the answer key, we just jump back to the beginning of the exam. I also don’t write in the book because I like to be able to come back to the book if I do poorly and try to take the practice test again. Personally, I don’t remember what I wrote down for answers four or five days later, especially after I’ve been studying other things. So, if I just write things in my notebook instead of writing them in the actual book itself, then I keep the book pristine. That way I just can make marks in my notebook and use the test from this book again, to check myself again, because I won’t remember the answer key.

Alright, you can see here I’ve made five rows of five columns that go all the way to 96. That’s because I’m going to start taking this test from question one and I’m going to fill in my answers in my notebook here. When I get done, I’m going to score myself.

Okay, so I’ve finished writing down my answers in my notebook and now I’m going to go through and score my answers. I’ll score them by using a red pen, and I’m just going to mark the ones that I get wrong. I don’t need to mark the ones that I get right, just the ones that I get wrong. Again, I’m not going to be making marks in the book, I’m just going to be reading from it, (oh hey, look, I got the first one right) and then marking the ones I got wrong. Then I’ll count them up and divide them.

Okay, so I finished scoring my tests and I technically passed but not in a way that I’m satisfied with. When I do a practice test, I like to score 65 as the absolute minimum. If I score 70 or above, I’m good, I’m gold, I’ll schedule the test for this week, I’ll go take it and we’re done.
Scoring below a 70 always leaves me in a little bit of a lurch, but 65 percent is sort of like my cutoff point. I scored 55% on this particular test, and that means I’m going to read a book.

Most of my scores were sort of, well, the red is sort of all bunched right in here, which means I’m now going to go back and I’m going to say, “Okay, let me read some of these questions again that I got wrong and see what the subject matter is.” So, let me walk through a couple of those.

I know that I got 72 through 76 all wrong, which means there’s probably a particular subject matter in there that I really just don’t know very much about. There were two of those, where I got six in a row wrong. It was probably talking about something specific that I don’t understand right now. There were a bunch of other places where I got maybe like one or three wrong and then the other two that I got right and then another one that I got wrong and so on.

Inevitably you’re just not going to have little bits of information. How important is that? Well, in aggregate it could be important, but what I want to target is those strings of six in a row where I got them all wrong. Probably there’s one set of subject matter in there where now I can say, ah, if I can learn a little bit about this, and a little bit about those two concepts, I’m probably going to cover a big swath of the types of questions that are going to move me from that 55% range up to maybe like the 60, 65% range where I would feel comfortable going to take the test.

Luckily, information about American History doesn’t really change that much. Some things sort of depend on who’s telling it. So, depending on who may shift a little bit what perspective that you get or what a person wants to hear regarding which is the right answer to a question. But for the most part, it’s history, so the test isn’t going to change all that much. They might ask about different things that happened, but the stuff that happened is basically the same.

So, we have at least that going for us…or me. So, I’m going to look at… I’m actually going to look at 41 or 42 through 46, that I got wrong. Let’s jump back to those questions. It looks like they’re talking about the compromise of 1850 and the first half of the 19th century, which would have been the 1800’s I think. This is talking about 1818/1860…and then a question about the civil war…So, I’m pretty much going to focus my learning around the compromise of 1850, some of the events leading up to it, and American agriculture. It looks like the economic shifts and the compromise of 1850 are things that will be beneficial for me to know more about.

It looks like I got 72 through 77 wrong. I missed all of those questions. Let’s jump ahead and look at what the subject matter was. So, 72 was ‘northwest ordinances proclamation of 1763’ and then… this is a question about the supreme court… this is a question about the supreme court… this is a question about the election… Okay. So judicial things. Basically, I’m going to want to double check the primary circumstances of things that set the supreme court rulings, or at least some of the major supreme court rulings, in the late 1800s.

Again, that’s sort of like a broad swath, but it seems like it’s going to tackle a decent set of information that I’m expected to know about, what the people who are writing the test feel like is very relevant info for these tests. Also, again, you don’t want to specifically target learning about a particular question because they’re not going to ask THAT particular question again, most likely what’s going to happen is they’re still going to ask questions with that type of information.

So, when I look at this and it says, ‘the Supreme Court did this and this with this particular ruling’, it’s possible that they’re going to ask about that particular ruling again, but it’s very likely that they’re going to talk about supreme court rulings or major moments in the judicial system in the late 1800s. Things that were nation shaping… and focusing on economics and slavery and women’s suffrage seem to be a massively significant points, right? And I mean, that makes sense.

Anyway, so picking that period it looks like if I study right around pretty much the mid-1800s to late 1800s is going to cover a huge swath of the type of history that I’m looking at, specifically in those three areas: the abolition of slavery, judicial decisions right in that time period that were massively economically shaping or had to do with slavery, or women’s suffrage, or the major players in sort of those three things.

And that’s it. That’s what I’m going to learn about. That means I’m probably going to read one book, and I’m going to get it on audio book, and I’m going to listen to it over the next two or three weeks. And then I’m going to try this again and we’ll see what happens.

Questions? Hit me up.