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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Self-taught airmen and sailors soon will find it easier — and civilians also will find it far cheaper — to get credit for college-level knowledge without lifting a pencil, thanks to a far speedier electronic test scoring system.

Misawa is to host the first overseas national test center for the College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, according to education officials.

“We were selected because of our large contingency of Navy and Air Force folks together,” said Glenn Smith, education services officer.

CLEP exams measure college-level knowledge gained through course work, independent study, cultural pursuits, travel, special interests, military service schools and professional development, according to the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). The tests typically cover material taught in the first two years of college in subjects such as sociology, history and algebra. High scores translate into college credit.

The University of Maryland University College at Misawa will host the test center in its computer lab, Smith said.

The current offering of 14 CLEP tests will be expanded to include all 35, Smith said. Instead of a paper-and-pencil exam, students will test via the Internet with results scored electronically and immediately, Smith said.

“Right now, once a student finishes a test, we … mail it to Pensacola, Fla.,” Smith said, “and it takes sometimes four weeks to get results back.”

The center is to open sometime in July. The education office is waiting for a trainer from the States to set up the program and instruct test administrators on proper procedures, Smith said.

Next to go electronic after CLEP will be standardized subject exams offered through DANTES, officials said.

Like with CLEP, the range of DANTES tests will be increased and scoring will be much faster, said Tim Loy, Navy College director at Misawa. Also to expand in scope sometime in the future are Excelsior exams for upper-level college credit, Smith said.

Though sailors no longer are required to take college-credit exams before enrolling in a course, it’s still a good idea, Loy said.

“It’s very easy to get ahead, knock out all of your electives,” he said. The instant results available through the new test center should “definitely be a motivating factor,” he added.

CLEP tests will continue to be free to all active-duty military members, Smith said, while the cost to civilians and dependents will drop from $120 to $65 for electronic tests.

Misawa’s education center is located on the second floor of Building 653.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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