Is it possible to sit university exams without attending the course?

It’s more of a curiosity rather than a goal but if at the end of this or more specifically, a structured course such as the OSSU/MIT Challenge - then if you’ve done the course work and gained the knowledge - can you not simply just sit the exams somewhere and pick up a genuine qualification?

The only problem with self study is that if you don’t think of yourself as inferior to others with a University degree, you know others will be thinking it anyway and whilst it is possible to gain work and earn a good living from being self taught as I intend to do, having a degree would be very gratifying to say the least.

Has anybody looked into it previously?

Just speaking generally, why would a university do that? That would undermine their entire paradigm. And are you planning to pay the full course cost? If not, you are asking them to undermine their entire economic viability.

And most modern universities don’t determine your grade base on final exams, but on the coursework and projects too. You have to show that you can put in the time, do the work, follow directions, and participate in a structured environment. You usually have to fight to get them to accept each transfer credit from another accredited university and you want them to accept four years of course work from an unaccredited one?

I think that any university would say that that would devalue the degree. Any program that will do what you ask is probably just a diploma mill that will take your money and print an official looking certificate with your name on it.

Sorry, maybe the world should work the way you describe, but right now it doesn’t. I can see both sides of the argument.

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Well I wasn’t actually asking if a University would allow you to take an exam at their facilities and surely Universities don’t give out the accreditation, they merely facilitate the exams for their students?

I would have thought that the actual qualification would be awarded by the educational body for which ever country you were based in.

In Canada, and probably the US, you can get credit for learning outside the classroom and have it awarded towards a degree.

Google “Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition” and “PLAR” and see what pops up. Perhaps someone here may know what to Google for the equivalent in the US.

Yes it is possible because I have done it more or less. My degree in Computer Science is from Thomas Edison State University an accredited university in New Jersey, USA. There are a couple of other institutions like it but that is the one I am familiar with.

Way back in the mists of time I had been a Sanskrit major of all things. But my college had this newfangled thing called the Internet which was like Compuserve but much cheaper so I taught myself how to use it. Then the dot-com frenzy exploded and suddenly any warm body with an iota of internet skills could get hired for enormous (especially for a Sanskrit major!) amounts of money so I dropped out and began working.

Several years passed and I was established in my computing career but I decided to go back and finish my degree. You see I am of Indian origin and my father (Ph.D) and mother (double masters) saw me as somewhat of a “black sheep.” :smile: I looked into the various options and came upon Thomas Edison.

For my degree I used the existing college credits I had and supplemented them with some online courses, College Level Equivalency Program (CLEP) exams and an evaluation of my experience and skills. The last was quite rigorous. For instance I had Linux as one of my proficiencies and my examiner was a lady who had been a researcher alongside the original creators of Unix at Bell Labs and she really put me through my paces. Altogether it took me about a year and a half to finish the program.

Now the question one should really ask is is it worth it? If you just want a degree for the sake of having a degree like I did that’s one thing but I can’t say many employers will really care as long as you can demonstrate skills. Possibly it will make a difference for an entry-level person but only if it from a prestigious school (which a state college in NJ is not.)

Oh and I would like to add, Academic Computer Science is more theoretical than practical. The kind of things we learn at freeCodeCamp would be worth I think maybe 3 credits of 120 you would need to graduate. (In my opinion but I’m not a professional evaluator or anything.)


Close to the mark I’m afraid, the equivalency in credits would be quite low. But FCC gives you MUCH more in practical day-to-day programming skills. At university you just don’t have the time to experiment very much, you stick to what gets assigned and do that the best you can to keep up your marks. For many of the jobs out there FCC coursework is probably very attractive to an employer, assuming you know your stuff.

That’s great to hear Jaldhar and congrats.

For me, if it’s possible to do here in the UK, I’d be doing it mostly for myself, just to prove that I could. As for a job, I don’t think it would apply in my case as I intend to go freelance anyway once I’ve ‘graduated’ and I’m good enough to earn a living from this but I don’t think it matters where you get your degree from as far as UK employers go.

The reason I asked the question in the first place was because I’ve just enrolled in the free OSSU computer science course which is quite comprehensive and by the time I’ve finished, if indeed I do, I would imagine my knowledge on Computer Science would be comparable to a student studying in Uni, hence I was curious to know if it was possible just to take an exam.

I am a college professor. What you are suggesting is “challenging the final exam.” I teach chemistry, so there are not a lot of options for doing that because we require attendance for an immersive learning experience. However, at our university, I have heard through the grapevine that some instructors will allow you to do that in at least one program. (My daughter attends this program and that is what she heard.) If you want course credit, however, you would need to pay for the course. Now another option is simply auditing a course. Our university charges $75.00 to audit a course and you can choose to take all exams but you won’t get credit. However, if you choose to do that and you do well, the instructor may transfer that same credit into a full course later. You need to discuss this with the instructor in advance. I have personally done this for 3 students. If you are lacking confidence, that may be the way to go. Another thing you can consider is starting with summer courses. In our school, many summer courses, while intense, are only 4 weeks long. If you know the material, you can get credit for the course in only 4 weeks. Just some food for thought.

Have you looked into Open University? They actually pioneered a lot of the concepts of distance learning and adult education so I would imagine they have some good offerings plus they are located in the UK.

American universities will admit practically anyone if they can afford to pay. Tuition at a public institution will be higher for out of state students. The TESU program did involve an occasional visit to the campus but perhaps they have a workaround for international students.

Thanks for pointing out OSSU. I did not know about it and it looks pretty impressive. I don’t see Calculus on there. I had to take 2 semesters of Calculus (6 credits) as a requirement for the Computer Science major. Also all candidates for Batchelors degrees had to take 6 credits in English Composition and another 30 credits in various bits of Liberal Arts. Other than that the range of subjects seems pretty similar to what I studied.

Edit: My mistake; I see Calculus is in the OSSU curriculum.

To be honest, I haven’t looked into it too deeply. I saw the OSSU course earlier today, joined up, though I haven’t yet started and the thought occurred to me, were I to finish the course and have a good understanding of everything learned, would it be possible just to sit the exams - I mean theoretically, I could know just as much as someone who had done the course and obtained their degree yet I would be considered lesser as I was ‘self taught’.

OU are a good option if you want to learn in your own time from home but you’d still have to pay for the course, I don’t know if it’s possible or if they’d let you do the final term or something before sitting the exams but I’m more curious to know if we could go pretty much straight to the exams.

Hi @bantam75,

What did you eventually settle on? Would love an update on this since I find myself in the same situation.

it depends on the course. For my programming courses in college the professors did not require attendance, only that projects were turned in and you showed for the exam…so I did that.