Office for Prior Learning Assessment

PLA Course Challenge Examinations

Course Challenge Examinations

Faculty member and Student

 Course Challenge Examinations are standardized exams.

Challenge Examinations are developed by USM faculty members to match content of specific courses. The purpose of a challenge exam is to determine students’ competency in a specific course. These tests are available only to USM students who are matriculated in a degree program. They are used selectively in some, but not all departments.


Getting Started

Before beginning the challenge exam process, students should:Review the Challenge Exam Guidelines.

  • Make an appointment with the Director. Ashley can be reached by phone at 207-780-5909 or by email at At this appointment, you’ll talk through whether a challenge exam is the best way to demonstrate your learning.

  • Submit the Registration Form with signatures of the faculty and the department chair.

  • Work with the PLA office and the faculty to determine the exam date.

There are a couple of things for you to know before you engage in a challenge exam. Keep in mind that challenge exams are given at the discretion of the faculty and their department chairs. In order to begin this process, you must have written approval from the faculty. Challenge exams are generally not given for courses for which a standardized test like CLEP or DSST already exists. Exams are course-specific and are created by instructors and their departments. Exams might be completed through an interview, an oral presentation, a performance or demonstration, or a written test. Students may not engage in more than three challenge exams.

Posting Challenge Exam Credits

Upon completion of the exam, faculty will provide the PLA office with an evaluation form outlining the number of credits earned and the payment procedure. The cost per credit hour is $50 for undergradutes and $100 per credit hour for graduate students. Students can make payment by completing the Challenge Exam Payment Form and mailing or dropping off payment. We are able to accept check or cash in the Office for Prior Learning Assessment. The Student Financial Services offices on all three campuses are able to accept cash, check, or credit. Students wishing to mail payment can use the physical address listed on the form.When these credit fees are paid, PLA will post the earned credits and the grade earned to the student’s USM transcript. Students will receive an email notification of the credit being posted. Challenge exams appear as transfer credit on the student’s USM transcript.

Federal financial aid cannot be used to pay for challenge exam credits. Students interested in using military benefit or vocational rehabilitation funding to pay for challenge exam credits should contact Lorrie Spaulding, our Veterans Services Coordinator at for more information.