Office for Prior Learning Assessment

Welcome to PLA

The Office for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) provides pathways by which students can earn credit for college-level learning acquired outside of a traditional academic environment. Pathways to academic credit include standardized exams, credential review, and academic portfolios.

It is important to note that not all students have assessable college-level learning from outside the classroom. PLA processes are pathways that depend on students' demonstation and documentation of prior learning, not promises of credit based solely on experience or positions held.  

Examinations

The PLA Office posts credit for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams that students may have taken while in high school.  These credits are posted free of charge:

  • Advanced Placement (AP) exams that have been passed with a score of 3 or higher.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Higher Level (HL) exams that have been passed with a score of 5 or higher. USM does not give credit for Standard Level (SL) IB exams.

The PLA Office assists students in identifying college-level exams that are appropriate to their learning and degree requirements.  Options include:

The PLA office arranges and posts credit for challenge examinations. Challenge exams are developed by USM faculty members to match the content of specific courses. The purpose of a challenge exam is to determine student competency in a specific course. These tests are available only to USM students who are matriculated in a degree program, unless the faculty providing the exam is willing to grant an exception. They are used selectively in some, but not all departments.

Students who would like to explore their exam options should contact the PLA Office directly at 207-780-4663 or priorlearningusm@maine.edu. Students can also visit the PLA Office in person in Luther Bonney Suite 253.  No appointment is necessary.

Credential Review

Credentials and certificates issued by outside agencies may be eligible for college credit if they include verifiable college-level learning.  Students who possess such credentials should visit https://usm.maine.edu/prior-learning-assessment/pla-credential-review for more information. Credit from these reviews is posted free of charge.

Students who would like to explore their credential review options should contact the PLA Office directly at 207-780-4663 or priorlearningusm@maine.edu. Students can also visit the PLA Office in person in Luther Bonney Suite 253.  No appointment is necessary.

Academic Portfolio Assessment

Academic portfolios enable qualified students to demonstrate their college-level knowledge in writing.  This is most useful in the case where no specific exam is available.  Portfolios require that students engage in a self-reflective process regarding what they have learned through their work and life experiences, and how that learning meets specific outcomes. 

A student might complete a portfolio that meets the outcomes for: 

  • a specific course (or courses) within their major, if approved by faculty from that department. 
  • elective credits within a major, if approved by faculty from that department.  
  • a USM undergraduate Core Curriculum requirement.
  • general elective credit. 

Academic portfolios include a letter of intent, a resume, a narrative, and any supporting materials needed (certificates, awards, letters of recommendation, etc.) to document mastery of course learning objectives.  Students may complete portfolios for multiple courses or requirements within the same document. 

Students who would like to explore their portfolio options should contact the PLA Office directly at 207-780-4663 or priorlearningusm@maine.edu. Students can also visit the PLA Office in person in Luther Bonney Suite 253.  No appointment is necessary.

Military Credits

Official military transcripts are reviewed by USM's Veterans Services Coordinator. Please direct inquiries about military transcripts and any credits posted from military transcripts to: 

Lorraine Spaulding 
Coordinator of Veterans Services
235 Luther Bonney Hall 
88 Bedford Street 
Portland, Maine  04104-9300  
lorraine.spaulding@maine.edu
207-780-5232.  

NOTE: 

USM's Office for Prior Learning Assessment reserves the right to revise, amend, or change items set forth in our policies, procedures, and equivalencies at any time.