Office for Prior Learning Assessment

PLA Course Challenge Examinations

Course Challenge Examinations 

Challenge examinations are developed by USM faculty to determine student competency in specific courses. These exams 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. Challenge exams might take the form of an interview, an oral presentation, a performance or demonstration, a written test, or a combination of formats.

Challenge exams are given at the discretion of faculty who teach the courses in question. If a CLEP or DSST exam already grants credit for a particular course, a challenge exam will generally not be available. Exams are limited to one attempt per course, and may not be attempted if the student has previously earned credit in the course. 

Getting Started

All students wanting to earn credit through a challenge exam at USM must take the following steps:

  • Gain written approval from a faculty member who teaches the course in question. PLA staff are available to help contact the appropriate faculty member, and in obtaining a copy of the course syllabus. 
  • Complete the Challenge Exam Registration Form.
  • Arrange the date and time of the exam directly with the faculty member administering the exam.
  • Complete the Challenge Exam Payment Form and return it with payment. The fee for a challenge exam for matriculated students at USM is $100, Payment can be made via cash, check, or credit card at either Student Financial Services Office or the PLA Office. Students wishing to mail a payment should use the physical address listed on the payment form. Payment must be received before the student takes the exam. 


Posting Challenge Exam Credits

Upon completion of the exam, faculty will fill out the Challenge Exam Faculty Evaluation Form, outlining the grade and number of credits earned.  The PLA Office will email the student regarding any posting of credit.  Credits earned through challenge exam at USM do not affect GPA.

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.

As outlined by the USM PLA Residency Policy, credits earned by challenge exams count toward student residency if a) students are matriculated, and b) the exams are created and evaluated by USM faculty. 

Accommodations and PLA Exams

The USM PLA Office is committed to helping students with documented disabilities gain equitable access to PLA exams. Students seeking accommodations on PLA exams should first contact Rusty Dolleman, Director of Prior Learning Assessment, at 207-780-5909 or  Students will be asked to provide documentation of any disability for assessment by USM Disability Services Center staff before any accommodations can be granted.  

Accommodations requests should be submitted as early as possible. The USM PLA Office cannot guarantee that any particular accommodations request will be approved. 



Challenge Exam Registration Form
Challenge Exam Faculty Evaluation Form
Challenge Exam Payment Form