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.
  • Arrange the date and time of the exam directly with the faculty member administering the exam.
  • Complete the Challenge Exam Payment Form, which will be emailed to you, 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 - (now found on MyUSM), outlining the numerical 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 UMS PLA Residency Policy - (now found on MyUSM), 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. 


Challenge Exam Faculty Evaluation Form - now found on MyUSM
Accommodations and PLA Exams