Prior Learning Assessment

You may earn college credit for your non-college or experience-based learning attained outside of accredited postsecondary education institutions.
Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is not awarded for experience but for college-level learning, which entails knowledge, skills and competencies. PLA includes learning acquired from work and life experiences such as:

  • Correspondence and extension courses
  • Individual study and reading
  • Civic, community and volunteer work
  • Participation in formal courses and in-service training sponsored by associations, business, government and industry.

You may use Prior Learning Assessment to fulfill all degree / certificate graduation requirements except for the mandatory residency requirements* (15 credit hours must be completed at the college for Degrees, 25% of the credits must be completed at the college for Certificates).

Standards for awarding PLA credit:

  • PLA credit may be awarded if the following standards have been met:
    • You have been admitted to ACC
    • You have declared a degree or certificate (changing your declared degree or certificate will result in the reassessment of the applicability of PLA credit)
    • Your prior learning is equivalent to college level
  • PLA credit may only be awarded for courses and credits required in your declared degree or certificate.
  • PLA credit may satisfy course prerequisite requirements
  • *PLA credit cannot be used to satisfy the ACC or degree / certificate residency requirements (see note above)
  • All work evaluated for PLA credit must meet or exceed ‘C’ level work
  • PLA credit cannot duplicate any previously-awarded credit
  • PLA credit is specifically noted on the transcript as such and is considered Transfer coursework (and not Institutional coursework):
    • PLA credit is not calculated into your grade point average (GPA)
    • PLA credit noted on your transcript will have a grade of ‘PLA’
    • If the PLA assessment determines that the prior learning does not warrant the awarding of credit, or if the standardized / institutional exam is not passed, the PLA credit does not appear on your transcript
  • PLA credit are not included as part of you semester enrollment for the purposes of financial aid, veteran benefits or any other purpose predicated on total hours of enrollment for a given semester

PLA credit may be earned through a combination of the following:

1. National standardized placement tests

You may earn college credit through certain standardized testing. Upon receiving a satisfactory score, you may earn college credit. Detailed list of tests and acceptable scores. For more assistance on what types of exams Arapahoe Community College accepts, please contact the ACC Graduation and Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator at 303.797.5630.

To schedule a CLEP, DSST, UExcel exam and/or for fee information, please contact the ACC Testing Center at 303.797.5993.

If you have taken one of the standardized exams listed below at another location, order an official transcript/score report and have it sent to ACC for evaluation: Arapahoe Community College, Attention Admissions and Records, Campus Box 14, 5900 S. Santa Fe Drive, P.O. Box 9002, Littleton, CO 80160.

  • CLEP Exams:
    CLEP (The College-Level Examination Program) gives students of any age the chance to demonstrate college-level achievement through a program of exams in undergraduate college courses. 2,900 colleges grant credit and/or advanced standing for CLEP exams.
  • DSST Exams:
    DSST exams are available in a variety of subjects.  Previously just available to those in the military, since 2006 DSST exams are available to adult learners, homeschooled students and military veterans as a way to earn college credits.
  • UExcel Excelsior College Exams:
    Uexcel exams are offered in a variety of subjects and provide students the opportunity to earn college credit by exam.
  • AP (Advanced Placement) Exams:
    AP exams are generally taken as a final part of the AP course the student is completing while in high school.
  • IB (International Baccalaureate) Exams:
    IB exams are taken at the end of a student’s participation an IB program at their high school.

2. Institutional Challenge Examinations:

Institutional Challenge Exams are faculty-develop tests.  They assess your mastery of the competencies for the ACC course being taught. For more information about Institutional Challenge Exams, please contact the ACC Graduation and Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator at 303.797.5630.

Institutional Challenge Exams are the way ACC abides by Colorado Revised Statutes 23-1-125 , which requires public institutions of higher education to offer students an option for testing out of core courses.

3. Published Guides:

Published guides contain credit recommendations made by reputable third party organizations for certain trainings and / or credentials.  Approved published guides include the American Council on Education (ACE), National Guide to College Credit for Workplace Training, the ACE Military Guide, and the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS).
Additionally, credit for learning gained in the U.S. military (if applicable to a student’s declared degree or certificate at ACC) is generally transferred based upon ACE credit recommendations found on a Joint Service Transcript (JST) for current or former Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy personnel.  Air Force personnel will have their credit documented on a Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcript.

To be evaluated for possible credit, you should order your official transcript from the provider (JST, CCAF) or third party organization (ACE, NCCRS, etc.) and have it sent directly from the issuing organization to ACC for evaluation: Arapahoe Community College, Attention Admissions and Records, Campus Box 14, 5900 S. Santa Fe Drive, P.O. Box 9002, Littleton, CO 80160.

4. Portfolio Assessment:

Knowledge and skills acquired through work and lifelong learning may be evaluated and validated through a formal portfolio assessment process.

For more information about portfolio assessment please contact the ACC Graduation and Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator at 303.797.5630.

5. Faculty Evaluated Industry and Workplace Credit:  

ACC may evaluate non-collegiate instructional programs that result in industry certification, professional licensure, apprenticeship completion, and other workplace skills development.  Faculty subject-matter experts will evaluate the prior learning and identify if the learning warrants the awarding of credit.

For more information about the evaluation of this type of non-collegiate instruction please contact the ACC Graduation and Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator at 303.797.5630.