Credit by Examination
Impact and Planning
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Credit by Examination

Recognizing Learning and Supporting Adult Learners

Posted: Nov. 10, 2020
Author(s): Colleen Falkenstern
Organization(s): WICHE

Credit by examination is a foundational practice of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) that serves as a widely used and accessible form of awarding postsecondary credits for prior learning acquired both in and out of the classroom setting. These assessments have historically assessed students’ knowledge of college-level subjects obtained prior to entering or re-entering postsecondary education. New research from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) found that more than 20 percent of students age 25 and older who received credit for prior learning did so through credit by examination.  This study also looked at the PLA usage and completion rates by individual PLA method. Students earned on average 16 credits from credit by examination. These students also graduated at higher rates than peers who did not earn PLA credits (71 percent vs. 18 percent completed at two-year public institutions and 55 percent vs. 31 percent completed at four-year public institutions).