Student Guide to PLA


Some of your past experiences may have involved college-level learning. The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program provides the pathways for you to challenge courses in your Bucks Program of Study and earn credit for material you’ve already learned. Note that credit is only granted for learning, not for experience.

Benefits of PLA

  • Attain your associate degree or certificate sooner.
  • Satisfy pre-requisite requirements.
  • Save time and money by not having to take courses for material you’ve already mastered.

PLA Pathways

Challenge by Exam (CBE) provides high-yield, low-risk options; the Portfolio process may involve significant time and effort. The fee for most assessment methods is generally around $100, except for the NYU SPCPS exams which cost $340+.

Challenge By Exam (CBE)

  • Detailed information is on the Bucks PLA, Testing Center, and College catalog web pages.
  • CLEP or DSST – register with and submit payment to the Testing Center.
  • CREX – contact the Academic Department in which the course is taught.
  • NYU SCPS Language Proficiency Exams – register with and submit payment ($340+) to the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies. CLEP has exams for French, German, and Spanish; this service has proficiency exams for over 50 languages and arrangements can be made to take your exam in the Bucks Testing Center.
  • Remember to submit your PLA Application and review the material! Resources, textbooks and Study Guides are online (with links from the PLA CBE pages) and in the Bucks Library and Bookstore.

Evaluation of Non-Collegiate Instruction

  • Successfully completed non-college instruction may be eligible for the equivalent credit.
  • Some non-collegiate instruction and training programs have been evaluated; the Articulation Agreements and Credit Recommendations are on these PLA web pages. Examples include high school Tech-Prep programs; Bucks noncredit Continuing Education programs; and professional credential training programs (ACT120, CDA, EMT, others).
  • Some non-collegiate instruction and training programs, including those taught by the Military, are evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE) and National College Credit Recommendation Service (National CCRS), whose course and credit recommendations are taken into consideration. Contact your non-college training provider to see if their training has been evaluated.
  • Original documentation must be provided and authenticity verified.

Individual Assessment via Portfolio

  • You must receive authorization from the PLA Office and Academic Department in which the course is taught, the PLA Office will facilitate this.
  • Developing a portfolio may involve significant effort and can be a lengthy process.
  • A portfolio is used to challenge a particular course in your Bucks Program of Study.
  • The portfolio will be evaluated by a faculty assessor who is an expert in the field.
  • You will need to explain and document how you have mastered the course objectives from the syllabus, as though you had successfully completed the course.

Course Equivalence Credit Model

  • Your prior learning must match a particular course in your Bucks Program of Study and document learning equivalent to successful completion of that course.
  • This approach taken at Bucks helps to support the academic integrity of PLA and the College.

Important Considerations

  • No letter grade is awarded.
  • Equivalent credit is indicated as CL, CX or LE on your Bucks transcript.
  • PLA credit may not be transferable – work directly with the school you wish to transfer to.
  • The Bucks Graduation Residency Policy requires that a minimum of 30 credits toward the associate degree or 50% of the credits for a certificate must be earned in graded courses at Bucks.
  • Make sure that your PLA Plan will fit within your Program of Study and course registration plans - Obtain academic advising from the Academic Department of your Major/Program of Study before dropping or adding classes based upon your PLA Plan.

Application Process

  1. Use your Program Evaluation from Web Advisor to review your required courses and identify courses in your Program of Study that contains material you may have already mastered.
  2. Research the Pathway for the assessment method to document your learning.
  3. Decide if you are going to take an exam, provide paper credentials, or create a portfolio.
  4. Complete and submit the PLA Application and required documentation. Indicate each course you propose to challenge along with the Pathway(s) you propose for assessment. Note that you must use the PLA Application to request consideration for equivalent credit; competency reports, exam results, transcripts, and/or the Bucks Admissions application are not enough.
  5. Schedule an advising appointment with the PLA Coordinator to discuss your PLA plan, if desired. This step must be completed if you propose to obtain authorization for creating a portfolio.

PLA Coordinator Role

  • Serves as student advocate and advisor to facilitate the process – does not award credit.
  • Provides advising to support students with developing their PLA Plans.
  • Develops, submits and processes Credit Award Proposals on behalf of students.
  • Works with the Academic Departments to coordinate and facilitate the PLA Program.
  • Works with Records to ensure that equivalent Credit Awards are applied to student transcripts.
  • Coordinates the Evaluation of Non-Collegiate Instruction for Credit Recommendations and Articulation Agreements.

Ready to Begin?

  • Have you reviewed the Guidelines and information on the Bucks PLA web pages?
  • Is your learning college-level?
  • What Bucks course does your college-level learning match?
  • Is the course in your Program of Study?
  • What Pathway do you propose to assess your college-level learning?
  • Submit your PLA Application.
  • Not quite ready? Schedule an appointment with the PLA Coordinator for help with your PLA Plan.