Prior Learning Assessment, CLEP and DSST Exams

Earn credit for life experiences with Prior Learning Assessment.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) allows certain students to receive academic credit for learning acquired through qualifying life experiences when they meet the goals of a particular PennWest California course. Qualifying experiences may include:

  • Work or military training.
  • Personal educational growth.
  • Volunteer work.
  • Independent certifications.

Credit is awarded when a student is able to demonstrate transferable learning, or knowledge that can be applied to a new or different situation.

Note: PLA submissions and evaluations will only be reviewed during the Spring and Fall semesters while faculty is on campus.

Who is eligible for PLA credit?

Currently enrolled PennWest California students are eligible to apply for PLA credits.

Students must demonstrate that they have met the goals of a particular course by developing a portfolio that showcases their experiential learning. Students are responsible for identifying the course equivalency and providing documentation that the course goals have been met.

All PLA portfolios are reviewed by a PennWest California faculty member, and students are charged a fee of $100 per credit. Prior Learning Assessment credits are not eligible for tuition remission and they are not covered by financial aid.

How are PLA credits applied to your transcript?

PLA credits are shown on your transcript as "PLA: Prior Learning Assessment" and are assigned a grade of P (Passing). No quality points are calculated into the student's grade-point average.

Undergraduate students may earn a maximum of 30 credits through Prior Learning Assessment.

Earn credit for what you know with CLEP and DSST exams.

Two exam programs give students the opportunity to demonstrate college-level achievement through examinations in undergraduate college courses.

The College Board's College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows students to demonstrate their mastery of college-level subject matter in business, foreign languages, history and social sciences and science and mathematics and receive credit for PennWest California equivalent courses.

The DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) let students demonstrate their knowledge of certain topics in science, history, criminal justice, art and mathematics and receive credit for PennWest California equivalent courses.

See the PennWest California course equivalents for CLEP exams

See the PennWest California course equivalents for DSST exams.

Note: Scores and course equivalents are subject to change by the University.

How do I earn credits with the CLEP and DSST exams?

PennWest California accepts a maximum of 30 credits earned through the CLEP and/or DSST exams.

The cost for each exam is approximately $80.

  • CLEP exam costs are payable by credit card or electronic check through the CLEP website, where study materials and exam descriptions also are available.
  • DSST exam costs are payable by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express; debit cards are not accepted) through the DSST website where you also can find study materials and exam descriptions.

A separate, one-time fee of $25, payable to "PennWest California of PA" by check or money order, is required to have the credits earned through either exam entered on the student's transcript.

Exam dates and times are by appointment only and may vary depending on Testing Center availability. Testing is available at the main campus Mondays through Fridays. To register for an exam, contact Claire Pizer at 724-938-5779 or

NOTE: No CLEP or DSST credits will be awarded if you have already earned a passing grade in the equivalent course.

Information for students with disabilities

Examinees with disabilities:

  • Reserve the right to decide when to self-identify and when to request accommodations.
  • Must register with the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) to receive accommodations; call 724-938-5781, email or visit the office in Carter Hall, room G-35.
  • Will present the OSD Accommodation Approval Notice to the CLEP/DSST test center administrator when requesting accommodations that involve testing.

Requests for approval for reasonable accommodations should be directed to the Office for Students with Disabilities. Approved accommodations will be recorded on the OSD Accommodation Approval Notice and provided to the examinee. Examinees are expected to adhere to OSD procedures for self-identifying, providing documentation and requesting accommodations in a timely manner.