Parkside recognizes that college-level learning is not confined to the classroom and honors the learning accomplished in the workplace, in the military, through volunteer and service work, by self-directed study, in high school, and elsewhere by providing opportunities for prior learning assessment (PLA).  Credit earned through prior learning assessment can expedite your degree completion.

Prior learning assessment can be developed and administered externally, as is the case for proficiency exams, language testing, and some measures of equivalencies based on military training and service, and some are controlled internally, specifically Challenge Exams and PLA Portfolios. Both Challenge Exams and PLA Portfolios are based on experiential learning and require petitioning for college credit through an established process administered by the Center for Adult and Returning Students.

PLA Quick Facts

  • You must be enrolled as a degree-seeking student at Parkside in order to be awarded PLA credit.
  • PLA credit earned does not affect your GPA, as it is awarded on a credit/no credit basis.
  • Credits earned through PLA do not count toward meeting the 30-hour residency requirement at the University.
  • PLA must be completed before your final semester at Parkside. 

        See UW-Parkside’s complete Credit for Prior Learning Policy

Proficiency Exams

Proficiency Exams are developed and administered by nationally recognized boards, and UW-Parkside reviews and accepts test results with sufficiently high scores for college credit. Because they are external, you will need to make sure your results are sent to Parkside for consideration.

The CLEP is a national standardized testing program that offers exams in subject areas such as history and social sciences, composition and literature, science and mathematics and business. CLEP testing can be particularly valuable for those who are or have been in the military.

Further information about the CLEP test including a complete list of available tests, testing center locations, and costs is available at

Approved courses and required scores

DSST exams are recommended for credit by the American Council on Education (ACE) and are available for 38 different areas. These exams are typically funded for active-duty military and their spouses but can be completed by adult learners, homeschooled students, and military veterans.

Further information about DSST exams

Advanced Placement exams typically are offered in high school, after completing an AP class. The Advancement Placement Program run by the College Board offers exams in 26 different fields. 

Further information about AP testing including a complete list of tests, testing center locations, and costs is available at

If you took an AP class and exam, you may be eligible for college credit. Check the list of approved courses and required minimum scores and send your AP exam scores to the Office of Admissions before the start of your first term. 

Approved courses and required minimum scores

The International Baccalaureate program is a comprehensive high school curriculum allowing its graduates who complete the program to take an International Baccalaureate exam.

Approved courses and required scores

Language Proficiency

Many students come to Parkside with foreign language skills from formal classwork or simple life experience and can receive credit for that knowledge through language testing and retroactive credit.

If you know Spanish, French, or German, either as a heritage or native speaker or based on previous experience learning the language, you can take the University of Wisconsin System language placement test to place into the equivalent of third semester (intermediate level) or higher.

Additional information about Wisconsin Placement Testing 

If you are proficient in a language not taught at Parkside, you can demonstrate your language skill for credit through certification by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), which administers Language Testing International. In order to qualify for credit at Parkside, you must be certified at the intermediate level or higher. Contact us for information about arranging for an exam proctor. 

Additional information about ACTFL Testing  

If you are a degree-seeking student and test into and complete a semester or more of an intermediate level or higher language class, you can apply for retroactive credits for the lower level foreign language classes you tested out of. You may earn up to 16 retroactive credits: four credits for each of the first four semesters of language study.

You are eligible to apply if

  • You have completed the previous language course work in a United States high school.
  • You enroll in the college course into which you place.
  • You complete the course into which you place with a grade of B- or better.

In order to be granted retroactive credit, you must submit an application to the Office of the Registrar at the end of the semester in which you complete the higher-level language course. Find the Application for Retroactive Foreign Language Credits here.

Parkside will accept retroactive credit for foreign language if it was granted by another UW System institution and is documented on your transcript from that institution.

Military Training and Service

UW-Parkside is proud to recognize the learning accomplished during military service and encourages all active duty and Veteran students to submit their Joint Services Transcript (JST) for transfer review.

Parkside is required to take the American Council on Education (ACE) credit recommendations when evaluating your JST. In cases where the ACE recommendation does not align for credit, a Challenge Exam or Prior Learning Assessment Portfolio might allow you to petition for course credits, so review those sections of this page as well and contact us with questions.

Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcripts are accepted as transfer credit from a regionally accredited institution. Please submit your CCAF transcript for transfer review with your application.  Click here for more information about how to order a CCAF transcript.

Challenge Exams

Not all learning is covered by one of the standardized proficiency exams (i.e. CLEP, DSST). If you have knowledge of a subject area not covered by one of the standardized exams, you may be able to receive credit by taking a Challenge Exam, a comprehensive test developed by faculty to evaluate your proficiency in their area of expertise.

A Challenge Exam provides a way for the professor who would teach a course in a traditional classroom setting to determine if your experiential learning has fulfilled the learning outcomes of the class, and, as such, will cover information outlined in the course syllabus and the required textbook(s).

You may only take a Challenge Exam for a course once and cannot take a Challenge Exam for a course that you have already taken. Please note that a fee is assessed for each Challenge Exam. If you receive a passing grade from the faculty member who assesses the exam, you will be awarded the credits.

If you have identified a course or courses that you are interested in challenging, please complete the Challenge Exam Interest Form below or contact the Center for Adult and Returning Students for additional information and support.  


PLA Portfolio

If the experiential learning you possess is not easily tested in a traditional fashion, developing a PLA Portfolio, a research paper that explores your prior learning and how it aligns with the learning outcomes of a course offered at UW-Parkside, might be an option.

A successful PLA Portfolio demonstrates prior learning equivalent to taking the class and offers the professor who would teach the petition course the opportunity to determine whether your experiential learning fulfills the desired learning outcomes. The Center for Adult and Returning Students helps students arrange for PLA Portfolio development and offers an online class that provides support and direction through the writing process.

PLA Portfolio credit is granted on a credit/no credit basis and will not affect your GPA nor count toward fulfilling your residency requirement. Please note that a fee is assessed for each PLA Portfolio submitted for review.

The best candidates for PLA Portfolio Development are those

  • With flexibility in their degree plans
  • Who have at least 4-5 years of professional experience in an area that aligns with a course at Parkside
  • Who have completed or tested out of ENGL 100 Fundamentals of English and feel comfortable writing a 5-10 page paper

If you have identified a course or courses that you are interested in petitioning via PLA Portfolio, please complete the PLA Portfolio Interest Form below or contact the Center for Adult and Returning Students for additional information and support, including exploring whether the PLA Portfolio Development Class (UWP 200) is right for you.


Looking for more?

Dana Roders CARS

Dana Roders

Adult Student Program Manager


UW Extended Campus

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