PDE Search

PLA Resources for Students

Prior Learning Assessment is a way to save time and money in your quest for a college degree. If you are thinking about going to college, consider the options below and find out how you might qualify for credit as a result of learning acquired on the job, in the military, in the community, from life learning experiences, and through independent study. Below are common types of prior learning assessment used at institutions in Pennsylvania.

Institutions may award credit to students who earn acceptable scores on standardized subject exams. Students pay a fee to take each exam and to have the score report sent to the college. Institutions then award college-level credit based upon the score earned. Acceptable score requirements and credit awards for these exams may vary among institutions. Check with your institution of interest. 

Below are examples of organizations that offer subject exams that are commonly accepted at institutions across Pennsylvania. For more information, contact the institution where credit is sought or visit one of these sites.



Earning credits at more than one institution is common for today's college students.  Many begin at a community college and transfer to a four-year college or university.  Some "swirl" transferring between four-year institutions and community colleges.  Others take college courses while enrolled in high school or pick up courses at home over the summer.

In Pennsylvania, students can learn how to maximize their credit transfer and reduce credit loss by accessing the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center (PA TRAC).

Avaliable at PAcollegetransfer.com, this free interactive website helps students and advisors find course to course transfer information and access multiple resources that make the transfer process easier.

Students may receive college-level credit in some degree programs for earning an industry-related license or certificate. Students with one or more licenses or certifications (such as Microsoft certification or electrician’s license) may submit documentation of the license or certification to the institution for evaluation. The institution then determines the amount and type of credit to be awarded. For more information, contact the institution where credit is sought.

A challenge exam is designed to test whether a student has mastered the subject matter of a particular course. The objective of the exam is to verify a student’s claim that he or she knows the material taught in a specific course and, therefore, does not need to take that particular course at the college or university. Passing a challenge exam often results in the institution awarding college-level credit or waiving a prerequisite course. Check with your institution regarding opportunities for challenge exams and the level of competency needed for course credit.

Portfolio Assessment is a process through which a student demonstrates prior knowledge and experience in order to earn college credit. The student compiles pertinent information into a portfolio and submits it to a content-area expert at the institution for review and the determination of credit. Review of the portfolio is based on policies established by the institution the student plans to attend. Many institutions follow established guidelines for the evaluation of prior or extra-institutional learning recommended by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and the American Council on Education (ACE). Portfolios must reflect college-level work. Typically Fees are charged to cover the cost of evaluation. For more information, contact the institution where credit is sought.

Service members can often receive college credit towards a degree based on training, coursework, and occupational specialty earned in the military. To receive credit, the institution will require a review of the service member’s military transcripts. Military transcripts can be requested from:

In general, institutions award college-level credit based upon the American Council on Education’s recommendations. For more information, contact the institution where credit is sought or check out the links below:

Still have questions concerning PLA? Get answers fast at FAQs for Students and Administrators.

For additional information, please contact:

Division of Higher & Career Education |
Pennsylvania Department of Education - Postsecondary and Adult Education
333 Market Street, 12th Fl | Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Phone: 717.783.8228 | Fax: 717.722.3622
ra-collunivseminfo@pa.gov | www.education.state.pa.us