Office for Prior Learning Assessment

Student & Advisor Page

The Office for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) offers several ways for students to earn credit for what they already know and have accomplished.

Frequently Asked Questions

We also have resource pages for faculty and employers if you’re interested.

What is PLA?

Prior learning assessment is a way for students to demonstrate the things they have learned outside of the college classroom in ways that might result in academic credit. PLA allows us to build a bridge between your practical/life knowledge and the academic learning we provide on campus and online. This can include knowledge gained from a profession, credentialed training programs and life experience. Our pathways to academic credit might  include: testing options, credential reviews, and academic portfolio development. These assessments are available to the general public as well as USM students.

What types of PLA options does USM offer?

PLA offers a full array of assessment services:

How do students hear about PLA?

Students engage in the PLA process throughout their time at USM. Some students hear about PLA during the admissions process. Some are referred by professional and/or faculty advisors. Others connect with PLA at the end of their career to post a few final credits to help them reach their educational goals.

How do I know if PLA is right for me?

Many students come to USM with experiential learning that might be appropriate for academic credit if you have a background with work experience, corporate training, military service/training, business ownership, volunteering, or civic leadership, PLA might be right for you.

Still not sure? Take our PLA pre-assessment to connect with us about your options.

Is PLA available to everyone?

Yes! PLA is available to students who are engaged in degree programs at USM, as well as those students who simply want to add a couple of credits to a college transcript. We are here to help you meet your educational goals!

How much does it cost?

PLA costs depend on the service you are using. Many of our services are free:

  • AP credit evaluation and posting
  • IB credit evaluation and posting
  • UExcel credit evaluation and posting
  • External Training/Credential review credit evaluation and posting

Other services have costs attached to them:

  • DSST exams - $80 for exam, $30 test administration fee
  • CLEP exams - $87 for exam, $30 test administration fee
  • NYU exams - $300-$400 for exam, $30 test administration fee
  • BYU FLATS exams - $50 for exam, $30 test administration fee
  • Challenge exams - $100 per exam
  • Portfolio Assessment - $50 per credit hour upon successful completion

Can I use financial aid to pay for PLA services?

No. Federal financial aid cannot be used to pay for PLA services. Students interested in using military benefit or vocational rehabilitation funding to pay for PLA services should contact Lorrie Spaulding, our Veterans Services Coordinator at for more information.

Will PLA credits count toward my GPA?

No. PLA credits are posted as pass/fail and do not have an impact on a student’s GPA.

Can I transfer my PLA credits to another college?

PLA credits posted on a USM transcript can be successfully transferred to any University of Maine System school (though the credit equivalents might vary depending on the institution). The transfer of PLA credits to other colleges is at the discretion of the institution.

Do you review Military Transcripts? 

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

You may also consult: at the Veterans Services website.


Language Exams
External Training/Credential Review
Challenge Exams
Portfolio Assessment
Portfolio Development Course Registration Form