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Credit for Prior Learning

What is Prior Learning?

Prior Learning is a non-college/university experience that is based upon learning attained outside the sponsorship of an accredited postsecondary institution. Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) includes credit that may be granted for successful scores on select CLEP and/or A.P. subject exams and/or educational experiences in business, industry and/or the armed services.  CPL is not awarded for experience but for university level learning which entails knowledge, skills and competencies that students have obtained as a result of their prior learning experience. 

The purpose of this handbook is to inform students admitted to Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) of the many methods used to obtain Credit for Prior Learning. CPL may apply toward an academic degree or certificate.  

Because other educational institutions may have different polices for awarding or accepting CPL, SMSU cannot guarantee that any credit awarded for prior learning will transfer to other colleges or universities. 

Policy and Procedures

Policies and Procedures regarding CPL can be found here.

Methods for Awarding CPL

Advanced Placement (AP)

Advanced placement exams allow high school students the opportunity to earn college credit. Please contact your high school guidance counselor in regards to AP. If your school does not offer AP you can visit the College Board website for further details. The College Board website offers more information on the exams, how to register, and how to obtain your scores.

SMSU will only accept AP scores from the official AP transcript. This can be sent to SMSU at the time of your exam or you can request a copy from College Board.

College – Level Examination Program (CLEP)

CLEP exams offer students of any age the opportunity to earn college credit without taking the course. The College Board CLEP website offers additional information on the CLEP exams along with how to request your official score. SMSU will only accept CLEP scores from the official CLEP transcript which can be sent to SMSU at the time of your exam or by requesting a copy from College Board.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Students who are enrolled with International Baccalaureate programs will be given credit for higher level examinations. A student will receive 3 or more course credits for scores of 4 or higher on individual Higher Level IB exams.

For more transfer information on the IB program please contact the Registration Office at or 507-537-6217


The DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) program is a series of examinations in college subjects that are comparable to the final or end-of-course examinations in undergraduate courses. DANTES funds DSST testing for eligible Service members and personnel at DANTES military Test Centers. The DSSTs are now also available for use by civilians at universities and colleges throughout the country.

For more transfer information on the DANTES exams please contact the Registration Office at or 507-537-6217

To find out what scores from any of the above examinations qualify for college credit check out Transferology.

Credit by Exam

SMSU offers credit by examination in many academic disciplines. Academic units have the responsibility for establishing credit by examination procedures in their respective areas and for establishing the credits acceptable in the evaluation of the examination. Any undergraduate student, currently enrolled at SMSU, who has gained knowledge in certain fields through post high school training or experience and who believes has sufficient knowledge/background information normally gained through a regular course offered by SMSU, may apply to take a comprehensive examination for credit in that course by following these steps: 

  1. The student will contact the instructor in the area/discipline where he/she wish to take the exam to learn if that particular course can be offered by examination. 
  2. The student will complete the Credit by Exam form located on the Registration and Records webpage under Special Registration Forms. The form will route from the Registration Office to the instructor for review. The instructor is required to inform the student of the time and place of the exam. 
  3. The student will be notified for payment by Business Services. The cost of Credit by Examination is $25.00 per credit and is non-refundable. The number of credits for the exam will be the same as those offered in the regular course. Students WILL NOT BE ALLOWED to take the exam until the form has been stamped “PAID” by Business Services. 
  4. The student will report to the faculty instructor providing the test at the scheduled time. The instructor will keep the email with the link to the form, and after the exam is completed and graded, the Instructor will sign the form and enter a “Credit” or “No Credit” grade on the form. The Instructor will route the form to the Registration Office to be entered on the student transcript. If a grade of “No Credit” is given, no entry will be made and the student must enroll in the course in order to receive credit. 

Portfolio Evaluation

Student may request credit for prior learning in which academic programs will assessed through a portfolio evaluation.  

Notation of Credit for Prior Learning

In accordance with Minnesota State Policy 3.29.1, CPL will be noted accordingly: 

Colleges and universities award credit for prior learning earned through practices that may include transfer of credit from external assessments (e.g. military, ACE, IB exams, or other standardized testing such as CLEP), an articulation agreement with a high school, or credit awarded through internal assessments designed and conducted by faculty within Minnesota State colleges and universities. 

  • Credit awarded for prior learning through external assessments must be designated as a transfer credit on the official student transcript. The source of the credit award must be designated and the course equivalency, when applicable, must be designated on the student degree audit. 
  • Credit awarded for military courses and military occupations must be designated as transfer credit on the official student transcript. The source of the credit award must be designated and the course equivalency, when applicable, must be designated on the student degree audit. 
  • Credit awarded for prior learning through internal college/university assessments must be designated as a course within the term awarded on the official student transcript. The source of the credit award must be designated as Credit for Prior Learning in the student information system but must not be displayed on the official student transcript. 
  • Credit awarded for prior learning through an articulation agreement may be noted either in the term when it was earned or in the transfer section. If placed in the term section, the type of special credit must be noted in parentheses ( ) immediately below the course. 
  • Career Technical Education (CTE) credit earned through an articulation agreement will be placed on an enrolled student’s transcript after the course drop date for the semester in which enrollment occurs. 

Methods Accepted by Academic Program

Each department reserves the right to accept CPL in any format they deem appropriate.  A full list of departments and their CPL options can be obtained through the Office of Online Learning and Transfer Partnerships or with the Transfer Specialist.

Last Modified: 11/20/23 9:37 AM | Website Feedback