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On Education

My Thoughts on Testing Out of College

It’s been four months since I started my 18 Month College Challenge and I decided to give an update of my experience so far. So far I accumulated 55 credits in my first year of college. That means I have 65 left to complete. This current semester (Fall 2016) I’m taking 19 credits at Kingsborough Community College. I hope to complete 6 credits through testing out for Thomas Edison State University by the time this semester is over.

Some people made comments about my choice of education, saying that I’m going a bit too fast and that I should spend my time socializing in college, not just studying. While they make a good point about the importance of networking and college does provide a structure already set up that enables easy social interaction, they don’t seem to understand that I can network anywhere. I have no trouble making friends and people find me very approachable and open. Regardless of where I am, I can make a connection with someone else. It is more about having confidence in your social skills than the actual place you are in.

Others made comments that my process of obtaining degree is like taking a shortcut and causes me to lose out on high quality education. I agree. They’re right. There is just something special about learning in a classroom with discussion-focused lectures that cannot be replaced. Oftentimes, in those discussions, I’m opened up to new thoughts and ideas I never would have discovered elsewhere. This happened the other day in my Intercultural Communication class. The professor asked me to give an example of a cultural value held by Americans and the social institutions and behaviors associated with that value. I said consumerism and rattled off an entire list. She then went on to talk about capitalism and gave stories of people selling their kidneys to buy the latest iPhone. I was shocked she would actually go off on a tangent in her lecture and talk about capitalism. She opened my mind up to new ideas that I now want to explore and include in my personal finance curriculums. Professors like my Intercultural Communication professor are rare gems.

On the other hand, I’ve experienced a fair share of professors who honestly don’t deserve to be in front of a college classroom.

During my first semester at Kingsborough, my oceanography lab professor showed up late to every class, and by late I mean 20-30 minutes late. There were only a handful of times when he arrived on time. During class, he would exit the room and disappear for 40-60 minutes and come back at the end of the period to collect our lab assignments. I had to complain to the chair of the department to set that guy straight.

Last semester, I had a professor for microeconomics who treated everyone like high school students. My classmates would bully/make verbal comments and threats toward one girl in my class because of her medical condition. The professor didn’t do anything. Not only that, he was the slowest teacher I ever had. He would teach a new concept one day and then spend the next two days reviewing the same concept. The syllabus said we would learn around 9-10 chapters. In the end, we learned four full chapters and a partial amount of chapter five. It was ridiculous because I was bored out of my mind. I had already taken economics in high school, and the rate and depth of the concepts this professor was teaching was way below high school standard.

I had another professor who made us write only two essays for English I. This class was slow too because she treated everyone as if they didn’t know how to write. She made us use a book that had fill-in-the-blank templates and forced us to use the templates from the book for our essays. Otherwise, she would deduct points. My writing became choppy and rigid and you could see that my essays lost my voice. My boyfriend read my essay and wondered why one half of my essay sounded like I wrote it and the other half was dry. Using fill-in-the-blank templates are not the proper way to learn how to write. It might have been acceptable in fourth grade—not in college.

My classes in college during the first year weren’t challenging at all. They were too slow and I wished the level of content was set to a higher standard and was more intellectually/mentally stimulating. My boyfriend told me that the problem was my school and that if I went to a private liberal arts college with smaller class sizes, I would get the quality of education that I seek. He might be right, but I honestly don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars for a bachelor’s degree that really isn’t the best investment anymore, considering the rate of unemployment and underemployment among Millennial college graduates today.

I’m quite satisfied and happy with the way I’m doing things. Taking 19 credits in the traditional college setting is definitely much more challenging. I have a larger amount of work to do and there isn’t a day when I get to just stay at home and relax. I’ve been reading and writing everyday and I could feel my brain getting the mental challenge that it needs. I learned how to read faster. Also, I’m having slight difficulty managing my time, but I can manage and I know that I’m learning how to be more effective and productive through doing this. After this is over, I’ll be much more efficient with my time in other activities and people will wonder how I cultivated such a skill.

In regards to the simultaneous online college, I’ve been posting about how I studied for those exams and passed. I think I received 18 credits total so far through self-studying. People made comments about how employers look down on online college and how it’s not considered real education.

To be honest, self studying and testing out of college is actually my favorite part about my 18 Month College Challenge. Sitting at home reading a textbook and studying flashcards is boring and requires strong willpower and diligence. There is no one pushing me to study everyday and only I can motivate myself. This is difficult but actually a great thing because after graduation, no one’s going to be looking over my shoulder telling me I should initiate some projects at work or try learning something new. I am the one who’s solely responsible for my continuing education and project management after graduation. Tons of people misunderstand this and think education happens mainly in formal schooling. A large portion of Americans don’t even read one book per year after college. They miss the fact that education is life long and those who succeed are the ones who push themselves to continue learning.

Another thing that’s great about self-studying for college exams is learning to be resourceful. This is not something many traditional college students learn, but I was able to learn this only because I started taking on the 18 Month College Challenge. I’ve learned to look for various free resources and library books to help me understand the material better in the absence of a professor. I can see this resourcefulness spilling over into my non-self-study classes and activities. My Intercultural Communication professor was thoroughly impressed when she gave us an assignment to read about the dialectical approach, which was a philosophical piece, and because I had trouble understanding it, I found a Youtube video that explained the concepts step by step. This is resourcefulness, and resourcefulness will take me far in life.

On Education

How I Studied for the Psychology CLEP Exam

I took the Psychology CLEP exam two weeks ago and passed with a 72 out of 80. Passing score was 50 and I got three college credits. I spent one week preparing for this exam because I was about to go on vacation and didn’t want to take it in another city. I thought it was best to always use the test center that I’m most familiar with to reduce my exam anxiety. Don’t do what I did—I highly suggest you spend more than two weeks studying for this exam. This exam was much harder than I thought. Other people who took the exam said the same on online forums. I was surprised I got a 72 because it was one of the most difficult exams I’ve taken so far. It probably had a high grading curve.

Below are the exam details as written by the College Board.

Description of the Examination

The Introductory Psychology examination covers material that is usually taught in a one-semester undergraduate course in introductory psychology. It stresses basic facts, concepts, and generally accepted principles in the thirteen areas listed in the following section.

The examination contains approximately 95 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. Any time candidates spend on tutorials and providing personal information is in addition to the actual testing time.

Knowledge and Skills Required

Questions on the Introductory Psychology examination require candidates to demonstrate one or more of the following abilities.

  • Knowledge of terminology, principles, and theory
  • Ability to comprehend, evaluate, and analyze problem situations
  • Ability to apply knowledge to new situations

The subject matter of the Introductory Psychology examination is drawn from the following topics. The percentages next to the main topics indicate the approximate percentage of exam questions on that topic.

History, Approaches, Methods (8–9%)

  • History of psychology
  • Approaches: biological, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, psychodynamic
  • Research methods: experimental, clinical, correlational
  • Ethics in research

Biological Bases of Behavior (8–9%)

  • Endocrine system
  • Etiology
  • Functional organization of the nervous system
  • Genetics
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Physiological techniques

Sensation and Perception (7–8%)

  • Attention
  • Other senses: somesthesis, olfaction, gestation, vestibular system
  • Perceptual development
  • Perceptual processes
  • Receptor processes: vision, audition
  • Sensory mechanisms: thresholds, adaptation

States of Consciousness (5–6%)

  • Hypnosis and meditation
  • Psychoactive drug effects
  • Sleep and dreaming

Learning (10–11%)

  • Biological bases
  • Classical conditioning
  • Cognitive process in learning
  • Observational learning
  • Operant conditioning

Cognition (8–9%)

  • Intelligence and creativity
  • Language
  • Memory
  • Thinking and problem solving

Motivation and Emotion (7–8%)

  • Biological bases
  • Hunger, thirst, sex, pain
  • Social motivation
  • Theories of emotion
  • Theories of motivation

Developmental Psychology (8–9%)

  • Dimensions of development: physical, cognitive, social, moral
  • Gender identity and sex roles
  • Heredity-environment issues
  • Research methods: longitudinal, cross- sectional
  • Theories of development

Personality (7–8%)

  • Assessment techniques
  • Growth and adjustment
  • Personality theories and approaches
  • Research methods: idiographic, nomothetic
  • Self-concept, self-esteem

Psychological disorders and health (8–9%)

  • Affective disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Health, stress, and coping
  • Personality disorders
  • Psychoses
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Theories of psychopathology

Treatment of psychological disorders (7–8%)

  • Behavioral therapies
  • Biological and drug therapies
  • Cognitive therapies
  • Community and preventive approaches
  • Insight therapies: psychodynamic and humanistic approaches

Social Psychology (7–8%)

  • Aggression/antisocial behavior
  • Attitudes and attitude change
  • Attribution processes
  • Conformity, compliance, obedience
  • Group dynamics
  • Interpersonal perception

Statistics, Tests, and Measurement (3–4%)

  • Descriptive statistics
  • Inferential statistics
  • Measurement of intelligence
  • Mental handicapping conditions
  • Reliability and validity
  • Samples, populations, norms
  • Types of tests

College Board – CLEP Psychology

The first thing I did was watch crash course videos on Introductory Psychology because the resource is free. It went over the bare bones basics of a psychology 101 class in a funny way. I cannot truly say I actually learned something using this resource because I easily forgot everything right after watching it. What I can say though was that it was an overview/summary of all the material I needed to learn and provided a good framework for the information I studied using other resources.

Youtube – Crash Course Psychology

The next resource I used was REA. I purchased the Kindle version of the book on Amazon for $17 (it is now $19) because I read in the reviews that it’s cheaper than buying the physical book and a separate access code for the practice exams. If you buy the kindle version, you get a discount and can get online practice exams access code for only $1.99. I actually got the online practice exams for free because my access code gave me exams for the wrong subject and then I had to contact customer service to fix it.

I followed a specific method with this book. I read through this book once. After that, I used index cards and hand wrote flashcards based on the bolded vocabulary found in each chapter. I made sure my flashcards were divided by chapter by writing the chapter number on each flashcard because I didn’t want to get confused. After that, I practiced the flashcards by reading the word out loud and then trying to verbalize the definition without looking at the back. Once I got that down, I did it backwards by reading the definition out loud and then trying to think of the word the definition was for. After that, I scrambled the flashcards (making sure they were still grouped by chapter) and followed the same process again to make sure I wasn’t memorizing based on the order but based on actually knowing the material.

Then I took the online diagnostic exam, which I got an 86% on. I thought I did pretty well.

The next day, I took practice exam #1. I got a 73%. REA tells me the topics I should review based on the questions I got wrong. So I practiced flashcards again, but this time only the chapters I needed to review. There were words in the exam I didn’t know and weren’t in the REA book either, so I created new flashcards for those too.

The next day, I took practice exam #2. This time I got an 87%. It was my highest grade so far. Again, I reviewed my weak topics and created new flashcards for words that were found on the practice test but not found in the book.

Amazon – REA Introductory Psychology

While using REA, I used a little bit of InstantCert. I didn’t fully utilize this resource because I was getting fairly exhausted from creating my own flashcards. I probably reviewed only half the topics on InstantCert.


I believe my study plan worked because it incorporated different ways of memorizing and ingraining the knowledge into my memory. There was visual (crash course), kinesthetic (writing flashcards), and auditory (reading flashcards out loud).

Now, about the exam itself. It was difficult because there was a lot of information I didn’t study or think would be on the exam. For example, John Watson was not included in my studies as an influential person in the field of psychology. I studied everyone else but him. My mind went blank. There were FOUR questions about him and his work and I had no clue what he did. I had to use my scrap paper and write down the answer choices from all four questions and try to figure out what was the connecting choice that made sense among all of them. After getting home and doing a google search, it turns out I answered correctly.

I was so scared because, in the beginning, I had to skip a lot of the questions. It wasn’t until toward the middle when I started feeling confident about my answers. I ended up making educated guesses on about 25 out of 95 questions. They were questions I would never know the answer to because they were not included in my study resources and were very specific. To give you an idea, they asked which of the following chemicals would be used in a tranquilizer? The options had names of chemicals I can’t even pronounce. Or which of the five stages of the Kubler Ross model involves expecting divine intervention to extend one’s life? Or why would SSRIs be the preferred prescription for depression? Or what happens when you admit pseudopatients into psychiatric hospitals? Another question related to this was, what is the psychological term that describes why this behavior occurs?

That’s all I can say. Good luck to you on this exam.

On Education

My Review of TESU’s Lifelong Learning Strategies Course

TES-100 Lifelong Learning Strategies is the cornerstone for Thomas Edison State University. The course is mandatory for all students and is worth 1 elective credit. I completed this course in only two days time. It was basically like an orientation or an overview on how to navigate through the school’s website to find what you need. I learned more about the school in general. Something I learned was that the majority of the students are parents who work while pursuing their education. I like that the school is supportive and makes it easy for people who have other commitments. I also learned about school policies I otherwise would not have known and about the different ways to earn college credit online.

The course also recommended several great resources. I learned a lot about effective distance learning strategies.

UW-Madison Writer’s Handbook

Purdue OWL

The English Community

Khan Academy

The Critical Thinking Community


Free New Jersey State Library Card

On Education

How I Studied for the Personal Finance DSST Exam

I took the Personal Finance DSST exam today and passed with a 441 out of 500. Passing score is 400, so I got three college credits.

Below are the exam details as found on the DSST fact sheet.

This exam was developed to enable schools to award credit to students for knowledge equivalent to that
learned by students taking the course. This exam tests the ability to understand credit and debt; major
purchases; taxes; insurance; investments; and retirement and estate planning.

The exam contains 100 questions to be answered in 2 hours.


The following is an outline of the content areas covered in the examination. The approximate
percentage of the examination devoted to each content area is also noted.

  1. Foundations of Business – 10%
    • Financial goals, and values
    • Budgeting and financial statements
    • Cash Management
    • Economic terminology
    • Institutional aspects of financial planning
  2. Credit and Debt – 15%
    • Credit and debit cards
    • Installment loans
    • Interest calculations
    • Federal credit laws
    • Creditworthiness, credit scoring and reporting
    • Bankruptcy
  3. Major Purchases – 15%
    • Auto, furniture, appliances
    • Housing
  4. Taxes – 15%
    • Payroll
    • Income
    • IRS and audits
    • Estate and gift
    • Tax planning/estimating
    • Progressive vs regressive
    • Other (excise, property, sales, gas)
    • Tax Professionals
  5. Insurance – 15%
    • Risk management
    • Life policies
    • Property and liability policies
    • Health, disability and long-term care policies
    • Specialty insurance (e.g. professional, malpractice, antiques)
    • Insurance analysis and sources of information
  6. Investments – 15%
    • Liquid Assets
    • Bonds
    • Equities
    • Mutual funds and exchange traded funds
    • Other (e.g. commodities, precious metals, real estate, derivatives)
    • Sources of information
    • Time value of money
    • Asset/portfolio allocation
  7. Retirement and Estate Planning – 15%
    • Terminology (vesting, maturity, rollovers)
    • Qualified retirement accounts (e.g IRA, Roth, IRA, SEP, Keogh, 401(k), 403(b))
    • Social Security benefits
    • Wills, trusts and estate planning
    • Tax-deferred annuities

After the exam, I decided to look up how DSST exams are scored. The scoring scale ranges from 200 to 500 and is criterion-referenced standard setting. This means that regardless of how well other test takers of the same exam do, my score is not affected.

I already knew a lot of the information that I needed to study for this exam. I teach personal finance… I should know it.

There was knowledge that I learned in microeconomics and macroeconomics that helped me understand some concepts that were covered on this exam, as some concepts overlapped. Some concepts are GDP, business cycles, recession, unemployment, supply and demand, US fiscal policy, and US monetary policy.

And I know I complain about MLM, but I’ve been to enough financial service MLM presentations where the recruiter tried to sell himself as a financial planner/life insurance sales agent, that I could answer the questions on insurance just fine. At least I got something out of attending these sales presentations.

I learned about retirement planning from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and also from the work experience I had working at Bay Ridge Financial Group.

I read this Wikipedia article on debt

And then I read this Wikipedia article on credit

After that, I read this guide written by Michael Jay on how to buy a house. The link includes only a summary of the whole process, but I read (skimmed) through all 21 steps. I never bought a house before—neither did my parents—so the entire process was mysterious to me. If you bought a house before, then this website serves as a refresher for you.

Taxes were also mysterious to me and my experience of taxes is probably similar to many people in their 20s. My parents help me file my taxes, so the whole subject is perplexing to me. If you file your own taxes and understand what form is used for what, then this part of the exam will be easy for you. I studied taxes by watching youtube videos, which actually explained the subject very clearly.

I used InstantCert to make sure that I would get used to answering personal finance questions. The questions are fill in the blank, which exercise the brain more actively than multiple choice.

And then the last resource I used before taking this exam was Quizlet. Quizlet offers a 333 question multiple choice exam and it covers every area you need to know. I took it once and got a 99% and used that as an indicator that I was ready to take the official exam.

There was an awful lot of questions on insurance and underwriting on the exam.

During the exam, I had some difficulty with taxes, auditing, and time-value of money questions.

The videos I watched to learn about taxes were helpful, but not a single question was about which tax form/code is for what. More useful to know are the different kinds of taxes that exist (federal income, social security, medicare, sales, excise, property, estate, etc.)

I didn’t study auditing at all. I recommend briefly reading a Wikipedia article on it. It’s helpful to know anyway in case one day the IRS decides to pick on you for an audit.

I didn’t know much about time-value of money. During the test, I assumed it was about the decline in purchasing power of your money as time passes. There were 2-3 questions on this. Not that important, but you should read about it anyway.

On Education

How I Studied for the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP Exam

This exam was difficult to actually prepare for because there was nothing I could study. This test basically gives you a short poem or passage to read and you have to analyze and interpret it.This exam has an optional essay portion and TESC doesn’t require it, so I didn’t take it.

Literature never really was my strongest subject. However, TESC listed it as a requirement, and I read somewhere on the Internet that my college awards 6 credits instead of 3. So I thought, since I can get more credits for the same price and time dedicated to preparation, then why not? I passed with a score of 56! 🙂

Below are the exam details as written by the College Board.

Description of the Examination

The Analyzing and Interpreting Literature examination covers material usually taught in a general semester undergraduate course in literature. Although the examination does not require familiarity with specific works, it does assume that candidates have read widely and perceptively in poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. The questions are based on passages supplied in the test. These passages have been selected so that no previous experience with them is required to answer the questions. The passages are taken primarily from American and British literature.

The examination contains approximately 80 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. Any time candidates spend taking tutorials and providing personal information is additional to actual testing time.

Because writing about literary texts is central to the study of literature, some colleges may require candidates to take an optional essay section in addition to the multiple-choice section. The essay section is 90 minutes long and is made up of two 45-minute questions. One question asks candidates to analyze a short poem, the other asks them to apply a given generalization about literature (such as the function of a theme or a technique) to a novel, short story, or play that they have read. The essay section is still administered in a paper-and-pencil format; the essay responses are graded by the institution, not by the College Board.

Knowledge and Skills Required

Questions on the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature examination require candidates to demonstrate the following abilities.

  • Ability to read prose, poetry, and drama with understanding
  • Ability to analyze the elements of a literary passage and to respond to nuances of meaning, tone, imagery, and style
  • Ability to interpret metaphors, to recognize rhetorical and stylistic devices, to perceive relationships between parts and wholes, and to grasp a speaker’s or author’s attitudes
  • Knowledge of the means by which literary effects are achieved
  • Familiarity with the basic terminology used to discuss literary texts

The examination emphasizes comprehension, interpretation, and analysis of literary works. A specific knowledge of historical context (authors and movements) is not required, but a broad knowledge of literature gained through reading widely and a familiarity with basic literary terminology is assumed. The following outline indicates the relative emphasis given to the various types of literature and the periods from which the passages are taken. The approximate percentage of exam questions per classification is noted within each main category.


  • 35%–45% Poetry
  • 35%–45% Prose (fiction and nonfiction)
  • 15%–30% Drama

National Tradition

  • 50%–65% British Literature
  • 30%–45% American Literature
  • 5%–15% Works in translation


  • 3%–7% Classical and pre-Renaissance
  • 20%–30% Renaissance and 17th Century
  • 35%–45% 18th and 19th Centuries
  • 25%–35% 20th and 21st Centuries

I “studied” for this exam by using InstantCert. InstantCert provided prose, poems, and dramas to read and then asked untimed multiple choice questions. I didn’t complete all of the available questions—I only did questions when I had free time. This created a problem during my actual exam because I didn’t learn how to pace myself. I’m quite a slow reader so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the exam in time. I completed it with a few minutes to spare.

There were some tips I found on the Internet that I found beneficial. I was on and used some of the resources listed on the site.

The poetic glossary defined terms I needed to know for poetry. I read the experiences of previous test takers and they said they had a lot of questions on poetic terms. My experience was the exact opposite—I can say that I’m quite lucky in this regard. I was able to focus on interpreting the literature instead of frantically trying to recall definitions. Although on my actual exam there were approximately only five questions total that asked about poetic terms, reading this through the night before was helpful in that it gave me a new perspective on reading and analyzing poetry. By knowing the terms, I could identify certain aspects in poems and think about how the aspects contributed to the poem’s meaning.

I also briefly read through literary devices the night before. I say briefly because I read the poetic terms first, so some of the literary devices overlapped. Their definitions are worded differently and provided good examples so it gave me a new perspective of the same literary device. My friend told me one of the techniques that he uses for strengthening memory/recall of something is to have multiple ways of describing it. I believe it works.

Also, these definitions are quite handy for writing. I remember I learned literary devices in my high school AP English Language and Composition class. My teacher would print out the text to famous speeches and make us identify the rhetorical devices and write essays on how the devices made the speech meaningful, memorable, and inspirational. I forgot about that experience until I took this exam. After I took this exam, I continued to apply this knowledge in my own speech writing and found it helpful in making my speeches more effective. I also helped revise speech drafts for members in my local Toastmasters club and made one member incorporate literary devices. His speech ended up winning that night.

Literature, especially poetry, can be messy business because everyone can read the same thing, but interpret it differently. That’s why it’s not my strongest subject. I enjoy learning concepts and facts that are more concrete. The night before though, I found this article on Wikipedia on techniques for analyzing poetry. Apparently, there are certain things to look for when analyzing a poem. I liked this article because it made me appreciate and understand poetry more.

It also mentioned how when you read poetry out loud, you’ll understand it more than when you read it in your head. Poetry was originally oral and was made to be sung or chanted. Knowing this, I whispered or mouthed the poems during my exam. It definitely helped because I got a better feel for the rhythm.

One last thing… I was scared shitless when I took this exam and there was quite a chance that I would fail. My heart was racing in the beginning and I felt a strong sense of nervousness and anxiety. I had to calm down by praying for a few seconds throughout the exam and I believe this helped because when I didn’t know the answer, I simply tapped into my intuition.

On Education

How I Studied for the Introductory Sociology CLEP Exam

I took sociology back in high school since I was in the social science research major and was required to take electives in that area of study. It’s been a while, so I needed a refresher when I took this CLEP exam. A score above 50 qualifies for 3 college credits and I got a 61 on this exam.

The first and most important thing I did was I had to figure out what was on the actual exam. The College Board provided the information, which I’m copying and pasting below.

Description of the Examination

The Introductory Sociology examination is designed to assess an individual’s knowledge of the material typically presented in a one-semester introductory sociology course at most colleges and universities. The examination emphasizes basic facts and concepts as well as general theoretical approaches used by sociologists. Highly specialized knowledge of the subject and the methodology of the discipline is not required or measured by the test content.

The examination contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes. Some of these are pretest questions that will not be scored. Any time candidates spend on tutorials and providing personal information is in addition to the actual testing time.

Knowledge and Skills Required

Questions on the Introductory Sociology examination require candidates to demonstrate one or more of the following abilities. Some questions may require more than one of these abilities.

  • Identification of specific names, facts, and concepts from sociological literature
  • Understanding of relationships between concepts, empirical generalizations, and theoretical propositions of sociology
  • Understanding of the methods by which sociological relationships are established
  • Application of concepts, propositions, and methods to hypothetical situations
  • Interpretation of tables and charts

The subject matter of the Introductory Sociology examination is drawn from the following topics. The percentages next to the main topics indicate the approximate percentage of exam questions on that topic.

  • 20% Institutions, Economic, Educational, Family, Medical, Political, Religious
  • 10%, Social Patterns, Community, Demography, Human ecology, Rural/urban patterns
  • 25% Social Processes, Collective behavior and social movements, Culture, Deviance and social control, Groups and organizations, Social change, Social interaction, Socialization
  • 25% Social Stratification (Process and Structure), Aging, Power and social inequality, Professions and occupations, Race and ethnic relations, Sex and gender roles, Social class, Social mobility
  • 20% The Sociological Perspective, History of sociology, Methods, Sociological theory

The College Board also provided eight free sample questions.

Then I studied using the following resources:

I watched these recorded lectures given by Ann Swiddler, a professor at UC Berkeley. Some lectures felt very slow, so I watched them in 1.25x speed. While watching these lectures, I took notes so I could review them later rather than re-watching the videos.

I read through all of the sociology study guide notes on Cliff Notes and then wrote my own notes. This website provided a good summary of every topic in sociology. Something I wish this site elaborated more upon was population and urbanization. They do write about it, but it was hard for me to grasp. I had a lot of these questions on my practice tests and kept getting them wrong. Thank god there were barely any questions on this topic on the actual exam.

After that, I read CLEP Sociology – 2012: Condensed Summary and Test Prep Guide by David and Michael Haus, which I borrowed from the library. This small book that provided a summary of all the information I needed to know in outline/bullet point format. Because it was so short and brief, it was a great way for me to tie in and connect all the concepts I learned. This book was excellent for learning about famous sociologists and their contributions— a huge section in the first part of this book was dedicated to just this. From this book, I was also able to see whether there were some concepts I still didn’t understand.

I purchased the REA CLEP® Introductory Sociology Online Test Package. This online package included one diagnostic test and two full-length practice tests, timed. This was helpful in that I got a feel for what the actual CLEP exam would be like and I got to see what I got right/wrong. For the questions that I got wrong, I read the detailed explanations for why my answer was wrong and why another answer was the right one instead. I could say that doing this got me thinking from the shoes of the test makers.

The last thing I did was I bought an InstantCert subscription. This resource costs $20 a month, but it is well worth the investment since they allow you to study more than one topic at a time. That means that even though I was studying sociology at the time, technically, I could study for other subjects like math and science, as long as my membership didn’t expire yet. InstantCert is a good source to use for testing your knowledge because they use flashcard style techniques and make you fill in the blank instead of picking an answer from multiple choice. The fill-in-the-blank questions made me actively use my brain.

Some afterthoughts… Part of the reason I passed this exam was that I paid attention in my other classes at community college. There was information I needed to know in order to make educated guesses, such as forms of marriage and gender stratification from anthropology, mortality and aging rates from biology of aging, and health insurance discussed during microeconomics class. I can say knowing this definitely helped a lot in making the connections to sociology. Everyone’s exam is different, so I can only say this about the particular version of the sociology exam I took.

On Education

The 18 Month College Challenge: Graduating With A Bachelor’s Degree In Only Three Semesters

When I originally entered Kingsborough Community College in September 2015, I wanted to complete college at a rate of 12 credits per semester, which meant that it would take me 2.5 years to get an Associate degree and then 2.5 years to get my Bachelor’s degree after transferring to a four year institution. I would graduate in 2020, in five years rather than the standard four.

I wanted to go slow because I knew many people who graduated college without jobs/experiences and it was difficult for them to get hired in their field upon graduation. I figured, by taking fewer classes and expanding the time frame, I could use my free time to gain the experiences I need while getting good grades. This past school year, I’ve taught two nine-week personal finance seminars, volunteered teaching personal finance to high school students, coached privately, hosted Live Your Legend meet-ups, completed writing the first draft of my book, worked at a financial institution in Bay Ridge, worked as a property manager assistant, became a mentor for public speaking at my local Toastmasters club, and was the secretary for the club too.

I enjoyed doing all of this and I want to continue taking on this many commitments, because I can see that I’m finally beginning to reap the results of my hard work. Recently, I was elected Vice President of Education at my local toastmasters club and I started getting paid for doing work I actually enjoy. I am delighted to see everything finally falling into place. I know that if I keep up this momentum, then by the time I graduate, I’ll have laid the proper foundation and groundwork for my career and opened up doors for more opportunities.

I can’t keep up the momentum though. College is a huge drain on my focus and energy. This isn’t necessarily due to the classes being difficult or having too many assignments and exams. I am exhausted because I commute to school by bike, riding a total of 11 miles per school day, four days per week. On any given week, I ride at least 44 miles and though my body is used to it by now, I am exhausted and physically fatigued most of the time. This affects my ability to show up on time or early for my other commitments because I want to sleep instead. I developed a bad habit of taking two-hour naps in the late afternoon after coming home from school, in order to recover and start my work with a fresh mind. This makes it hard for me to sleep at night.

There was also something that happened last week that really just propelled me to make a 180 in terms of the rate at which I finish college. Because of my grades, I was selected to attend a three-day student leadership conference in upstate New York. I am honored to represent my college at this conference. Going to this conference will enable me to create a program at my college, and apparently, the program can be anything I want. And of course, since I love personal finance so much, I want to create a program that teaches students how to manage their time and their money well. This will be the first time I’m introducing to large groups a curriculum that’s created by me. Previously, I was teaching curriculums created by other organizations.

Unfortunately, two of my finals fall on the same dates of the conference. One professor was cooperative in letting me take the exam earlier, but the other was not. The latter was disappointed in hearing that I was attending this conference and he told me that I cannot take the final earlier. Instead, I have to miss the final, get an incomplete, and retake his class in the summer. Then I told him that I cannot take it in the summer because I’m going to Mexico for two whole months. Then he told me to take it in the fall—I can’t do this since it might affect my financial aid. In the end, I went to his boss and she gave me permission to take a make-up exam when I come back from the conference.

Although everything worked out in the end, the idea of one man affecting my entire summer vacation—a whole two months of my life—completely disturbed me. This issue kept me up at night, leading to only four hours of sleep on Wednesday, and creating painful headaches for three days straight. I never had headaches this painful.

I always created my life. I created a lifestyle involving traveling since it’s my passion. So when someone like my professor tells me to drop my plans of going to Mexico and to retake his class despite having an A in his class so far, I am outraged. He doesn’t understand why I want to go to Mexico. He thinks I am there just to have fun. Yes, travel is definitely fun, but I wanted to go because I found it crucial to my education, growth, and development. It is highly beneficial for me to learn to speak Spanish fluently and to immerse myself in a different culture, especially since I want to work in a field that involves working with and inspiring people from diverse backgrounds. This kind of experience isn’t something I can get from going to school.

Before, I viewed school as a commitment that co-existed with the rest of the activities in my life. And although I understand the value of school and I certainly learned a lot that will help me in my public speaking career, I now view school as a hindrance, as an obstacle, to my objectives and my purpose.

And so, I decided to cut down on my other commitments and focus on school for the time being instead. Rather than graduating with a Bachelor’s degree at a snail’s pace, I’m aiming to graduate at lightning speed in only 18 months. I started college on September 8, 2015, so this means I should be done by March 8, 2017.

Normally, this would be impossible, as there’s only so much time in a day to attend classes and study. But I did extensive research online and there actually is a way to finish quickly. It’s called degree-by-examination—or as my friend Isaac called it, clepping it—and there are many people who complete their degree almost solely through taking exams.

Out of all the sources I read, Degree Forum Wiki explains this process the best. According to Degree Forum Wiki, there are three higher education institutions in the United States that are regionally accredited and have generous transfer credit policies. Commonly called The Big Three, the three colleges are Excelsior College, Thomas Edison State College, and Charter Oak State College. The Big Three accepts all transfer credits from all colleges and from passing exams too. They are also inexpensive. Whereas students graduating from private colleges tend to owe upwards of $100,000 in student loans, most students completing their degrees from The Big Three pay less than $10,000 (depending on the tuition plan) and are debt free.

The degree is inexpensive because the schools make it possible to take exams for college credit. So what ends up happening is students self-study for a course at their own pace, and then they take exams, such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) offered by the College Board, the Dantes Standardized Subject Test (DSST) offered by the United States Department of Defense, the Excelsior College Exam (ECE), and the Thomas Edison College Exam Program (TECEP). The price of each exam ranges from $80 to $375. This isn’t a diploma mill or a scam. You actually have to study for the exams and pass.

I’ve thought about doing this for a while and at first, I was skeptical. Raised by traditional Asian parents, I was always taught that college name and reputation matters. My parents are pushing me to go to Harvard and it sounds like a good idea. They tell me that if I go to Harvard and introduce myself as a public speaker, then my audience will want to listen to me. After I thought about it, I realized it’s not true. When I watch the public speakers I’m inspired by, I don’t give a shit where they went to school. Heck, some of them didn’t even graduate from college. All I really care about is whether they can solve my problem with their presentation.

Upon further self-reflection, it doesn’t really matter much where anyone goes to college in the grand scheme of life. I’ve worked with so many middle-aged adults and I don’t care where they went to college either. I care whether they went to college, but as for where they went? Not really. What stands out more is their character and their experience and skill.

Since I decided to do this, I’m making the whole thing a challenge, hence the 18 Month College Challenge. I’m making it public and I’ll document my experience every step of the way. This is good for anyone who wants to replicate my process and it’s also a way for me gather my thoughts for writing my next book, which will be on higher education and student loans. I think this challenge will actually add credibility to me being a personal finance coach because I walk the walk on graduating college debt free and serve as a role model for others.

I understand I originally started this blog to write solely about personal finance, but I’m going to change things up. After January, I realized personal finance isn’t just about money—it affects every aspect of one’s life. The more I learn, the more I see how money is related to other fields. Besides, being the jack-of-all-trades that I am, I simply have so many interests that I want to write about. Thank goodness the domain of this website is based on my full name, which means I’m free to write about anything I find interesting.

So here’s the game plan.

I don’t want to test out of my degree 100% like many others do. I want to get an Associate degree in Speech Communication from the brick-and-mortar Kingsborough Community College and get a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the online Thomas Edison State College. I’ll be enrolled in both colleges at the same time.

At Kingsborough, I plan to complete my credits like this:

Semester Credits
Fall 2015 (completed 12/2015) 13
Spring 2016 (currently completing) 12
Summer 2016 8
Fall 2016 19
Winter 2017 8
Total 60


I’m not going to go to Mexico this summer. Instead, I’m going to take summer classes at Kingsborough to accelerate my graduation.

The plan for Thomas Edison State College is this:

Month Credits
May 2016 (Completed 5/28/2016) 9
June 2016 9
July 2016 9
August 2016 9
September 2016 3
October 2016 3
November 2016 3
December 2016 9
January 2017 6
February 2017 0
Transfer from Kingsborough 60
Total 120


I actually just took two CLEP exams this past Saturday and passed! I received nine college credits for passing. Thank God. I was nervous because it was my first time and I wasn’t sure whether I studied enough. I’ll write a blog post in the future on how I studied for and passed both.

That’s it for now. Bye.