Office for Prior Learning Assessment

PLA Course Challenge Examinations

Course Challenge Examinations 

Challenge examinations are developed by USM faculty members to match the 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, unless the faculty providing the exam is willing to grant an exception. They are used selectively in some, but not all departments.

Getting Started

Before beginning the challenge exam process students should make an appointment with Rusty Dolleman.  He 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. 

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. In order to begin this process, you must have written approval from the faculty and complete the online registration form. 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. 

Getting Started with a Challenge Exam 

Students who are approved to complete a challenge exam by their faculty are required to pay for the exam prior to completing it. The cost for taking a challenge exam is $100.00 for undergradute students. Students can make payment by completing the Challenge Exam Payment Form. You can scan your form back to us, drop off payment at any Student Financial Services office, or mail it in. Students wishing to mail payment can use the physical address listed on the form. Once the fee is paid, PLA will post the 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.

Posting Challenge Exam Credits

Upon completion of the exam, faculty will provide the PLA office with an evaluation outlining the grade and number of credits earned.  The PLA office will communicate with the student about their successful completion of the exam and the posting of credits.

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.


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