$pageTitle = "Credit for Life Experience";
$pageHeading = "";
$pageKeywords = "";
Adult students often bring a great deal of knowledge with them when they decide to get a college degree. Through prior learning assessment, some college continuing education offices may award credit to students for their past life experiences as well as past formal education.
Colleges and universities use "prior learning assessments" to evaluate the knowledge a student has gained through life experience. Prior learning assessment enables college instructors to evaluate life experiences as potentially equivalent to courses taught at the college level. There are three common ways in which prior learning can be assessed: prior learning portfolios, standardized tests, and departmental credit. Colleges have high standards for these assessments, so students should check before investing their time to see which of these options, if any, their college or university will consider.
Prior Learning Portfolio
A prior learning portfolio is a written record presented by the student requesting college credit for learning outside the classroom. Credit is given only for college-level learning, and the portfolio must be well documented and organized. Portfolio requirements vary, but most of them include the following elements:
- Identification and definition of specific prior learning for which college credit is being requested.
- An essay or narrative explaining how this prior learning related to the student's desired degree program, from what experiences it was gained, and how it fits into the student's overall education and career plans.
- Documentation that the student has actually acquired the learning he is claiming.
- A credit request listing exactly how much credit the student expects in each subject area. Some colleges offer guidelines or courses to assist students who are preparing a prior learning portfolio. Some classes are required as part of preparing a prior learning portfolio.
Standardized tests are nationally administered exams created to evaluate students and compare knowledge levels. Each college and university has its own standards for accepting tests, defining a passing grade and awarding hours of credit. Some schools may have a limit on the number of credits that can be awarded through exams. Others will not grant credit but will allow the student to bypass an introductory class or classes and begin at a higher level.
- College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
Offered through College Board, CLEP is a series of exams covering general subjects. The five general exams cover mathematics, English composition, humanities, natural science, and social science and history. Another type of CLEP exam is the subject exam. A subject exam covers specific subjects typically taught in undergraduate courses having similar names. Students may be able to obtain 3-12 hours of credit per general exam for a passing score. Books on exam preparation with sample tests can be found in bookstores, libraries, and on the Internet.
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
The GRE is normally required for students entering graduate school. However, it is sometimes used to assess prior learning at the undergraduate level. There are two types of tests available through the GRE. One is a general test that measures skills acquired over a long period of time that are not related to any specific field of study. The other type is a subject test that measures achievement in particular fields of study. The general test is offered through computer-based or paper-based testing. The subject test is only offered through paper-based testing.
- Job Ready Assessments
Job Ready Assessments are often used to obtain credit or advanced standing in vocational and technical fields. They are used to measure knowledge and how that knowledge is applied. Job Ready Assessments are based on national standards and include a written and performance assessment. Approximately 75 Job Ready Assessments are available. Students should call 1.800.334.6283 to find a testing center.
- Defense Activity for Nontraditional Educational Support (DANTES)
Students who have served in the military may obtain college credit through DANTES. DANTES is used by colleges and universities to award credit to students who can demonstrate knowledge of subjects commonly taught in introductory college courses. It provides a testing program, an evaluation system for military technical training and a system for documenting learning experiences gained through military services. DANTES also provides approximately 100 proficiency exams free of charge to military personnel and helps them gain college credit through the use of a prior learning portfolio.
To earn departmental credit, students work with a specific department (rather than the college's admission office) at the college of their choice. Credit obtained through a department is generally for a specific course or field, such as foreign language or math. Each department will create its own exam to test the student, so it is particularly important for the student to talk with the instructor or department chair to find out how long the exam will be, what subjects will be covered, how much credit might be awarded and if there is a specific text or content area the student should study. Two common kinds of departmental credit options are the challenge exam and oral exam.
- Challenge Examinations
If students feel they already have the knowledge taught in a particular course, such as foreign language or advanced mathematics, they can "challenge" the course. Challenge examinations are unique to a college and a department. A faculty member may design the exam around lectures and assigned textbooks. For this reason, it is important to talk to the instructor before taking a challenge exam. The instructor may make the syllabus and reading list available to the student.
- Oral Exams
Oral exams review a student's understanding of a subject. Oral exams consist of an interview with a faculty member or members and may involve either a discussion of the topic or a list of previously prepared questions. Exam material tends to be based on the course the instructor is teaching, and students should discuss this option with an advisor before choosing to take an oral exam.
For more information, contact your ICN Campus Coordinator.