How I Passed the US History II CLEP

So, I’ll just open with an explanation: I waited until nearly the end of my undergraduate studies to fulfill the requirements of my lower-level general education. As a result, I was taking Literature and Music Appreciation while I was wrapping up Probability and Statistics and my Senior Project, and it certainly took away time I could have used toward those more major core classes. But, it was my own fault. I could have knocked those lower-level gen-ed requirements out sooner if I hadn’t put them off.

In the end, however, I was left with my Interpreting the Past requirement as the last standing thing for my entire catalog of studies. I didn’t want to take a history course if I didn’t have to, as that would mean dedicating another two to three months in a class. So, I took a co-worker’s advice and looked into CLEP. After verifying with my advisor and the person overseeing credit transfers at my university, I decided on US History II due to the expectation that living through some of what it would cover (from 1980’s on) might help me out.

For the sake of establishing proper context, I must clarify that I have not studied any American History beyond what is gained from watching main-stream movies and television series since my pre-2003 high school years.

I originally planned to take the test around March and purchased the official CLEP study companion, 2020 version, around January or February. After COVID-19 happened, all of the testing facilities for CLEP in my area were closed until further notice, which left me unsure of when I would actually be able to test for it. Focusing on keeping up with other priorities, I let studying for the CLEP go to the wayside. So, testing facilities reopened unexpectedly in June and I found myself totally unprepared. I immediately started searching online for ways to study quickly.

My main efforts led to Modern States, which is a site that offers free study materials (courses) for preparing to take AP and CLEP exams. I was mainly looking for a good source of study to simply prepare, but Modern States also provides a voucher to pay for the test fee at https://clep.collegeboard.org/ if you complete their course and provide them with a screenshot of your course progress showing you passed their practice exams successfully. This alone saved me $89 when I went to take the test, and so I highly recommend you do this even if you also plan to use another source for a lot of your study and preparation. In addition to providing a voucher to cover the CLEP exam cost (for which you pay nothing out-of-pocket), they also provide instructions on how you can submit proof of payment and completion of your exam at the testing location, and they will then mail you a check to reimburse for that cost, as well. Utilizing this essentially makes taking the exam free.

Modern States also offers links to other resources to help you study, which can be found under the Resources tab at the top of the US History II course section. I will say that purchasing the official CLEP study companion compiled by College Board is a toss-up, given that a lot of the questions in the practice test of the companion were also provided in the Modern States tests. At least this was the case for US History II.

I must admit that I don’t believe Modern States alone will get you where you need to be, and I certainly don’t believe I would have passed the US History II CLEP if I’d relied on it exclusively. I watched all of the A Biography of America videos and regularly visited USHistory.org, both of which are included in the Resources section of Modern States. I took all of the Khan Academy modules and section tests that were related to the period of US History covered for the US History II CLEP (1865 and forward – starting with Reconstruction), though I didn’t actually read or watch videos on Khan Academy for study. I also searched online and came across several good practice testing locations like USHistoryQuiz.com, HistoryTeacher.net and a faculy member’s website hosted at a southern California independent polytechnic school. I would regularly come back over several weeks to attempt these quizzes and practice tests, and I would make sure I read any summary that was provided against each question after it was answered – whether correct or incorrect. Another good place to look, which likely includes some of the places I’ve already mentioned, is the Free study resources section on this page at Free-CLEP-Prep.com. I’m pretty sure this is how I originally found the HistoryTeacher.net website.

In the end, I felt the test was a bit harder than what I was expecting going into it, but I managed to pass with a 65, which I presume puts me right in the middle of the passing ground that was between 50 and 80 (the test score ranges from 20 to 80, and 50 was needed for credit at my university). In reality, I used what I knew from studying to make an educated guess by ruling out answers I felt didn’t apply to questions I was unsure of. Whether or not I got those particular questions correct, I can’t say, given that a simple score is all that you get without knowing which particular questions were missed. Still, the only thing I actually purchased to prepare was the 2020 CLEP study companion, which just had 120 question practice test. I took the practice test once two days before my actual exam. I would say, without question, that the Modern States and other online resources that I used either to study or take practice tests were the most beneficial part of my preparation.

If you have the time and patience, reading the provided textbook on Modern States is definitely helpful, and it provides a lot more specifics and information than you will get by just watching the short videos that the professor lectures in.

With that, best of luck!

eCryptFS – Accessing Encrypted Drive from LiveUSB Linux with Known User Password

Thanks to another imperiled user at LinuxMint.com’s community forums (credit given below), I’ve discovered an easy method to access encrypted drives/partitions using a Linux Mint LiveUSB when the actual system is not able to be used to boot and access the drive for data recovery. This method assumes that the ecryptfs-utils package was used to encrypt the drive, and that the wrapped-passphrase was stored on the drive.

In the past, encrypted drives or partitions using eCryptFS required you to note a lengthy passphrase in order to recover the files – or, at least, this was displayed upon installation of Mint, Ubuntu and other distros after installing and encrypted the home directory.

However, simply knowing the user’s login passphrase is all that is needed for newer encrypted setups, as it appears eCryptFS now automatically stores the wrapped-passphrase on the drive where the data is encrypted to allow for recovery using just the user’s login credentials. Below are some rather simple and straight-forward steps for accessing an encrypted drive from a LiveUSB boot in these conditions:

  1. Simply mount the partition/drive from inside the graphical file manager. This was Nemo in my case, using Linux Mint.
  2. Open a terminal and enter the following command:
    ecryptfs-recover-private .ecryptfs/<USERNAME>/.Private/
  3. If it finds the location provided, enter Y (or simply press Enter, if it is the default option) when presented with Try to recover this directory? [Y/n].
  4. If you’re fortunate, it will find the wrapped-passphrase and then ask Do you know your LOGIN passphrase? [Y/n]. As long as you do (and there’s no reason you shouldn’t if you’re trying to recover your own data), then simply hit Enter or submit Y to reach a prompt to enter the login password for the user of the encrypted home directory.
  5. If all goes well (correct password, included), you’ll be met with INFO: Success! Private data mounted at [/tmp/ecryptfs.dIWKskOD].
  6. The last thing you need to note is where it has mounted the encrypted data, as it won’t be in the /media/ directory where your drive/partition is initially mounted using Nemo. For me, it was placed inside of the /tmp/ directory somewhere like /tmp/ecryptfs.dIWKskOD/. It doesn’t hurt anything to keep the terminal window open in case you need to reference it again, though I imagine it will be the only directory starting with ecryptfs. in its name.
  7. Simply navigate to the provided location and you’ll find the files from the drive/partition unencrypted to access and/or copy to a backup location.

I hope this helps. Also, note that if you’re drive is failing – as in my case – you may also want to use something like ddrescue to attempt salvaging as much data as possible.

Best of luck!

Credit: Thanks to fabien85’s post at the LinuxMint.com forums.