Are you thinking of taking a DSST exam but don’t know where to start? Maybe you are an active-duty military member looking to go back to school and are just beginning to explore your options? Whatever stage you are at, this article is jam-packed with information to help you get started on your DSST journey.
We’ll be covering it all, from breaking down what precisely the DSST exams are to discussing which tests have the highest and lowest passing rates. If you are confused by the number of tests available or are having a hard time figuring out which tests will potentially take the least amount of preparation on your end, you have come to the right place!
What is a DSST Exam?
The DSST exams are often seen as alternatives to AP, or Advanced Placement, exams but geared towards active-duty military members. These exams are designed to help active-duty members convert the knowledge that they might have gained during their service into college credit. This can help cut down on both the time and cost of college since these tests will allow you to test out of intro-level courses.
Non-military individuals can take DSST exams but at a cost. The exams are offered free to all active-duty military personnel as a way to help support their educational goals. There are tons of different testing options out there for receiving college credit without having to take a college course, but the DSST exam results are accepted at around 2000 various colleges.
The DSST exams each take two hours to take, and each subject is scheduled separately. This means that unlike a test like the SAT or ACT, where you take many topics in one sitting, each DSST subject will be taken during a different sitting.
Figuring out where to take your DSST exam will depend on whether you are living or working on a military base or looking to take the test in the civilian world. Many bases have testing sites, making it super simple for active-duty military members to take any of the DSST exams for free. While off-base testing centers offer the DSST exams, they may come at a small cost to the test taker, just because there are administrative fees associated with hosting a test.
Throughout this article and any research you do on your own about the DSST exams, you will come across the term DANTES a number of times, so it is worth discussing a little bit here. DANTES, which stands for the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, is the organization that funds the DSST exams for all active-duty military personnel. Their website offers excellent support and resources for anyone looking to take the DSST exams, but their focus is primarily on the active-duty military.
What DSST Tests are Available?
There are a total of 38 DSST tests that are available, and they cover a wide range of subjects. The DSST tests are broken into six categories, consisting of anywhere from 2 to 12 different tests. The categories are:
This includes everything from personal finance to business ethics and society. These tests aren’t considered the most challenging, but they aren’t typically considered the most straightforward DSST exams.
Humanities include tests such as introduction to world regions and principles of public speaking. Similar to business DSST tests, these tests all tend to fall in the middle, not considered to be too hard or too easy.
Math is one of the smaller categories with only tests including principles of statistics and fundamentals of college algebra. The tests in the math category tend to be some of the tests with lower pass rates, meaning they are often considered to be challenging.
This category includes everything from health and human development to environmental science. Tests in the physical science category range from some of the most frequently passed tests to some of the least frequently passed tests and everything in between.
Social science is the largest category of tests and covers introduction to law enforcement, a history of the Vietnam war, as well as many others. Since social science is the largest category of DSST tests, it makes sense that it has tests that are considered easy and have a high pass rate and those considered hard and have a low pass rate.
Technology is the smallest category, with only computing and information technology and fundamentals of cybersecurity. Both of these tests are on the list, which we’ll discuss more below, of the ten exams that were most frequently passed in 2021, making them some of the more accessible tests available.
If you are looking for a complete list of available DSST exams, check out the DANTES or Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, which is the parent organization that funds these exams for all active-duty military.
Each exam takes two hours to take and is taken separately from any other exams you might be taking. Most tests are regularly on military bases, military testing sites, or on some college campuses. Make sure you check with your local testing locations to see what tests you can get in your area.
What Score Do You Need to Pass DSST?
Scores on DSST exams can be a little challenging to think about at first, but it is really quite simple if you break it down. Scores range from 200 to 600, with a passing grade being 400 points. Think of this as the equivalent of getting a C on a traditional test. Ultimately, what score you get won’t matter as long as you pass since DSST results don’t count towards your GPA.
The best way to get a good score and to ensure that you will pass your DSST exam is to set yourself up well for success. This includes creating a study schedule, sticking to it, and investing in some suitable study materials to help you. We will discuss some study guide options later, but if you need help finding the best way to study for the DSST exam, try checking out one of our many articles on general test prep. They can help you create a study schedule and figure out what timeframe you will need to study for.
What are the Easiest DSST Exams?
Saying that one exam is easy and another is hard is a challenge because of how different each person is. The best way to categorize how easy or hard a DSST exam is would be by looking at the pass rates of students who have taken that exam in years past. In 2021 these ten tests were the ones with the highest passing rates:
- Technical writing
- Introduction to law enforcement
- Health and human development
- Fundamentals of cyber security
- Criminal justice
- Personal finance
- Introduction to business
- Money and banking
- Ethics in technology
- Computing and information technology
At first glance, it might seem like these are the easiest DSST exams, and while that might be true, these might also just be exams that active-duty military personnel is most prepared to take. It is nearly impossible to figure out exactly which reason is why these exams have the highest passing rate, but with each of these exams having a passing rate of over 65%, it is fair to say that they are frequently passed.
Which DSST Exams are the Hardest?
Similar to which exam is the easiest, a large amount of personal preference and interest will help you determine which DSST exam will be the hardest for you, but we can provide you with exams that tend to have lower passing rates. The exams with the lowest passing rates in 2021 are:
- Art in the Western world
- Introduction to Geology
- Principles of Finance
- Fundamentals of Counseling
- Fundamentals of College Algebra
If you take enough time to really prepare for your DSST exams, you can pass any of them. Although these exams all have passing rates of under 20%, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Make sure that you invest in a good study guide for the exam that you are looking to take, and you really take the time to study in the months leading up to your exam.
If you need help finding the best DSST study guide, we can offer some guidance, but since there are so many test options, you might have to do a little searching on your own. In general, Peterson's test prep makes an excellent all-around DSST study guide that is well-respected and relatively easy to get your hands on.
If you are looking for a subject-specific DSST study guide, try starting with the MoMetrix study guides since they have a great study guide for each exam. If you are planning on taking one or two exams, this might be the best path for you. On the other hand, if you are taking many exams, buying a book for each one might add up fast.
There are other options available for active-duty military members who are looking to prepare for any of the DSST exams without paying for any of them. This includes a number of free resources available from DANTES and other organizations aimed at helping fund the continued education of military members. Military education centers and military installation libraries are great places to start looking for study materials that won’t come at an extra cost.
Wrapping Things Up: What are the Easiest DSST Exams?
It’s hard to answer which DSST exam is genuinely the easiest, but there are a lot of DSST exam subjects that have high passing rates. Remember that these tests are designed to test your readiness to skip an intro-level course, meaning that they will be rigorous. With the proper preparation and suitable materials, any DSST exam can be easy if you put in the work necessary to prepare for the test.