Office for Prior Learning Assessment

Welcome to PLA

We respect the learning you bring to USM. With Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), you can potentially use that learning as a basis for college credit - saving you time and money as you work toward your degree.

PLA allows us to build a bridge between your practical/life knowledge and the academic learning we provide on campus and online.  Our pathways to academic credit might include: testing options, credential review, and academic portfolio development. These assessments are available to the general public as well as USM students.

Standardized Testing 

We may offer credit that can be posted to your transcript free of charge for some high school testing.

Already knowledgeable in a subject area? We offer three kinds of computerized tests where you can demonstrate your basic knowledge:

  • CLEP - USM faculty reviewed exams passed with a score of 50 or higher (offered on-site at USM).
  • DSST - USM faculty reviewed exams passed with a score of 400 or higher (offered on-site at USM).
  • UExcel - USM faculty reviewed exams with a grade of B or higher.

For details about scheduling any of the above exams, please visit the Credits By Examination page. 

Language Examinations 

NYU and BYU (FLATS) language exams let you earn up to 8 general elective language (LAN) credits. You can take one of the language exams in roughly 2.5 hours at the Portland Campus Testing Center.  

NOTE: Spanish and Hebrew NYU language exams are live proctored online and not administered at the USM testing center.

Challenge Exams

Hoping to place out of a course in an area not covered by available CLEP, DSST, or UExcel exams? In certain cases, a faculty member might develop an individual test to assess your knowledge of course material. You can earn credit for the course if you pass the exam.

Credential Review

You may be able to earn credit for some licenses, certificates and other credentials from organizations outside the University. We can review your license or certificate to determine whether credit is applicable.

Academic Portfolio Assesment 

If there's no available exam to help you demonstrate what you've learned, we can work with faculty members to help you create an academic portfolio to reflect your knowledge. Your portfolio will include a letter of intent, resume, a narrative, and any supporting materials you may have (certificates, awards, letters of recommendation, etc.) to document your mastery of course learning objectives. Portfolio credit options include general electives, subject­ specific electives and individual course equivalencies.


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

Information is also available at the Veterans Services website.


Important Information
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.