If you need to be guided practically every step of the way in order to complete a task, take the course. If you do NOT suffer from test anxiety, and have an extraordinary ability to stay focused, and are NOT easily distracted by less-than-encouraging comments, take the exams. When I went through the ADN program, courses were not an option, not that I would have chosen them anyway. I like the exams because I could take as long or as short a time as i wanted to take the exams. The downside is that if you are not motivated, a years from now, you can find yourself not having taken the first exam because there is no direction and nothing making you study.