DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST)

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In 1974, the United States Department of Defense's Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) program instituted a credit-by-examination program called DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) for members of the military. In 2004, these examination were acquired by Prometric, and in 2006, they were opened up to civilian as well as military test-takers.[1] Because the examinations are no longer associated with DANTES, "DSST" is no longer considered to be an acronym. Rather, "DSST" is now the full official name of the suite of examinations.

Function of the Test

DSST Study Guide

Similar to how the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams enable high school students to earn college credit for knowledge obtained in high school, the DSST examinations are designed to enable adult candidates to receive college credit for knowledge acquired outside of the traditional college classroom.[1][2] The DSST examinations and College Board's CLEP examinations serve similar purposes. However, whereas the CLEP examinations focus on low-level college courses, the DSST covers both low-level and high-level courses, identified by DSST as "Baccalaureate" and "Upper Baccalaureate."[3]

The thirty-six DSST exams are divided into six categories: Business, Humanities, Math, Physical Science, Social Sciences, and Technology. Specific subjects covered range from general introductory courses such as Introduction to Computing to highly-specific upper-level courses such as Fundamentals of Cybersecurity or A History of the Vietnam War.[3]

In 2014, 41,243 computer-based DSST exams and 1,250 paper-based DSST exams were taken. Overall pass rates were 61.21% for computer-based exams and 41.36% for paper-based exams. The computer-based exam with the lowest pass-rate was Business Mathematics, with only 1 out of 103 (0.97%) of test takers passing the exam. The computer-based exam with the highest pass rate was Principles of Supervision, with 91.2% of the 12,208 test takers passing the exam. The Principles of Supervision examination was also the most popular exam by far, followed by Human Resource Management (3,850 test takers, of whom 44.62% passed) and Introduction to Computing (3,280 test takers, of whom 70.27% passed).[4]

Test Administration

DSST Flashcards

DSST exams are typically administered at test centers at individual colleges and universities.[5] The examinations are typically computer-based and cost $80 each to take.[1]

DSST exams used to be scored on a scale from 20 to 88, with passing scores varying from 44 to 49 depending on the specific subject. New and "refreshed" DSST exams are now scored on a scale from 200 to 500, with a passing score of 500 for all exams.[6]

Guessing is not penalized on any DSST exam. Incorrect answers are counted the same way as omitted answers. In addition, all multiple-choice questions are weighted evenly in determining the final scaled score.[6] The percent of questions which candidates must answer correctly to pass a given examination varies. On the low end, candidates must answer 36-41% of questions correctly on the Principles of Supervision exam to pass, and on the upper end, candidates must answer 71-76% of questions correctly on the Art of the Western World exam in order to pass.[6]

Although DSST has a list of recommended passing scores and recommended credit awards for the DSST exams, the passing score for each examination is ultimately determined by the policies of each individual institution of higher learning. Similarly, each individual school determines how many credits to award for each examination.[3]

Unsuccessful candidates who wish to retake a DSST exam must wait 90 days between attempts.[7]

Candidates with disabilities who require special testing accommodations should submit professional documentation of the disability to the test site administrator, who will forward the documentation on to Prometric for review and approval. Candidates must allow at least 30 days for arrangements to be completed.[7]

Test Format

Test Structure

The DANTES Subject Standardized Tests series provides tests that, if passed, grant the test taker college credit. Tests in this series usually contain about 100 multiple choice questions, and provide around two hours to complete the entire exam. Depending on the test, there may be extra tasks. For example, the Principles of Public Speaking test also requires that the tester gives an impromptu speech.

Test Environment

Testing for DSST exams takes place at Prometric Testing Centers. There, candidates must arrive in a timely manner, and provide a government issued identification that contains both a photo and signature. Personal items are not allowed in the testing room. This includes bags, wallets, smart watches, phones, foods, and drinks. A locker will be provided by the testing center to store all personal items in.

Test Content

  • Sample DSST Introduction to World Religions Practice Questions
  1. The most rapidly growing religion in North American and Europe is ________.
    A. Christianity
    B. hinduism
    C. Islam
    D. Judaism
  2. Jesus's ministry included all of the following aspects EXCEPT:
    A. Miracles
    B. Liberalism
    C. Parables
    D. Eschatology
  • Sample DSST Ethics in America Practice Questions
  1. Aristotle's concept of happiness was called:
    A. euphoria
    B. eudaimonia
    C. delirium
    D. ekstasis
  2. Who said, "Non-violence does not mean weak submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the putting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant."?
    A. Gandhi
    B. Jesus
    C. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    D. Golda Meir
  • Sample DSST Principles of Public Speaking Practice Questions
  1. Which of the following are effective listening techniques?
    A. Interrupt to ask questions; paraphrase
    B. Focus; don't form opinions too soon
    C. Lean forward; tap on the table
    D. make eye contact; avoid being defensive
    E. a, b, and d
  2. What is involved in language comprehension?
    A. Hearing sounds, processing words and organizing them, understanding abstract components, interpreting meaning
    B. Hearing sounds and understanding their meanings
    C. Speaking the same language as the sender
    D. Indentifying word units, knowing their meanings, understanding their syntactical use, processing abstractions, interpreting meaning
    E. All of the above
  • Sample Here's to Your Health Practice Questions
  1. Many factors contribute to an individual's wellness. Which of the following has the greatest ability to affect an individual's health?
    A. Heredity
    B. Access to health care
    C. Environment
    D. Behavior
  2. What is arsenic?
    A. A naturally occuring element in nature
    B. An inorganic compound used in various products
    C. Both of the above
    D. Neither of the above

Answers to Sample Questions

Intro to World Religions: 1;C 2;B Ethics in America: 1;B 2;A Princples of Public Speaking: 1;E 2;D Here's to Your Health: 1;D 2;C


  1. ^ a b c DSST: What is DSST? And how is it related to Prometric and DANTES? July 3 2015
  2. ^ DSST: Test Takers July 3 2015
  3. ^ a b c DSST: Test Preparation July 3 2015
  4. ^ DSST: FY14 DSST Pass Rates July 3 2015
  5. ^ DSST: Locate an Institution July 3 2015
  6. ^ a b c DSST: Exam Scoring 101 July 3 2015
  7. ^ a b DSST Test Taker Bulletin July 3 2015