Prior Learning Assessment

For many adults, getting a "jump" on earning college credit is critical to pursuing and completing a degree. Many adults with years of work experience can earn academic credit for the knowledge gained from some of those experiences. Through a process called "prior learning assessment" you can complete a thorough review and documentation of your work (portfolio) and have it assessed for college credit. How can I earn credit for life experience?

How can I earn credit for life experience?

First, credits are not granted for life experience but rather the knowledge you have attained and can demonstrate for those life experiences. This requires you to demonstrate through a testing process or documenting your knowledge and learning experiences through portfolio development and assessment. There are a number of resources and services available for you to consider that can assess your knowledge of prior learning experiences. Links to national programs and to colleges and universities in SREB states that provide portfolio development services and award credit are listed below. Some colleges and universities may allow you to "test out" or "challenge" a particular course based upon your prior academic or work experience. These department level examinations vary greatly from college to college (indeed may not be available at all institutions). While some departments may grant credit for passing an examination, many will simply "waive" a particular course requirement or allow you to begin study at a higher level. You should check with the colleges of your choice about their policies on the acceptance of such credits.

In summary, then Prior Learning Assessment is not just one method or tool. It includes methods such as:

  • individualized student portfolios or portfolio assessments, conducted by individual colleges or CAEL’s, a national online prior learning assessment service;
  • evaluation of corporate and military training by the American Council on Education (ACE); ACE publishes credit recommendations for formal instructional programs offered by noncollegiate agencies, or the ACE Guides;
  • program evaluations done by individual colleges of noncollegiate instructional programs that award credit for those who achieve recognized proficiencies, or the Evaluation of Local Training;
  • challenge exams, or customized exams offered by some colleges to verify learning achievement; these may be current course final exams or may be other tests developed at the department level for assessing general disciplinary knowledge and skill; and
  • standardized exams such as Advanced Placement Examination Program, or AP Exams, offered by the College Board; College Level Examination Program, or CLEP Exams, also offered by the College Board; Excelsior College Exams (formerly Regents College Exams or ACT/PEP Exams); and The DANTES Subject Standardized Tests, or DSST Exams, conducted by the Chauncey Group International, a division of Thomson Prometric. (From

Prior Learning Assessment is more than the acceptance of transferable credits.

LearningCounts is dedicated to helping adult learners earn affordable college degrees. We respect the learning that adult learners achieve in life, and recognize that it can be translated into college credit. SREB has partnered with LearningCounts, the national authority on Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), to give you the opportunity to document life and work experience to receive college credit.With LearningCounts, you can build an undergraduate portfolio demonstrating your knowledge and expertise learned outside the classroom. LearningCounts offers instructor-led and self-paced online courses that will help you align your learning (from work, military, or volunteering) to a college course, and show you how to build a portfolio to earn college credit. You can use the College Credit Predictor to receive a personalized Action Plan to help you identify your subject matter expertise and the best methods to earn college credit for what you know.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

The College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, is administered by the College Board and is the most widely accepted credit by testing program in the U.S. Successful scores on a CLEP exam, administered by computer, can be converted to credits in specific courses at many colleges and universities. The link above will take you to the CLEP site where you can review information about the exams, registration and fees, and credit policies relating to the program.

The College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT)

The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT) was established in 1974 to connect workplace learning with colleges and universities by helping students gain access to academic credit for formal training taken outside traditional degree programs. The American Council on Education's CREDIT program assists adults in securing credit for learning activities outside the traditional college and university. The program reviews examinations and training offered by business, labor unions, professional organizations, schools, and government agencies and assesses the equivalent credit that an individual might earn for those experiences. The link above will take you to the CREDIT program and to information on the National Guide to Educational Credit for Training Programs.

The Defense Activity for Nontraditional Educational Support

(DANTES) Getting the education you want should be a straightforward process. DANTES provides information, resources and programs that allow you to pursue your goal – all with the flexibility to accommodate your needs. Learn about the benefits and options available to help you Define Your Future. College prep courses help you identify your interests and strengths and improve your academic skills. You can even earn college credit for what you already know.


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