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Prior Learning Assessment

Students enrolled in Biola’s online bachelors degree programs may be eligible to earn credit through prior learning assessment (PLA) portfolios or challenge exams. Prior learning assessment portfolios consist of a resume, an essay describing how you have met the course learning outcomes through your experience, and supporting documentation. Challenge exams are a multiple choice exam and oral exam administered by the Biblical and Theological Studies department. 

Biola University follows the guidelines developed by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) to award credit for documented and experiential learning. PLA is designed to assist adult learners in attaining academic and career goals by validating college-level experiential learning through demonstration of mastery of course level learning outcomes.

  • PLA methods at Biola consist of challenge exams and portfolio.
  • PLA credit may only be earned for approved courses in Biola’s catalog (see PLA Guides below).
  • Up to 25% of the degree may be fulfilled through Biola’s PLA (excludes external standardized examinations such as ACE, AP, CLEP, IB, etc.).
  • The process for PLA credit must be completed prior to the beginning of the student’s last semester required for degree completion.

In order to be eligible for credit through PLA, students must:

  1. Be fully admitted into a Biola degree program.
  2. Have discussed PLA options with an academic advisor, success coach, and/or department chair.
  3. Apply and be approved for PLA portfolio(s) prior to enrolling in GNST 106 (challenge exams do not require enrollment in GNST 106).
  4. Enroll in the appropriate challenge exam or portfolio course and pay the assessment fee.

1 GNST 106 is a one-credit course offered online each semester which guides the student through completion of the PLA portfolio process. GNST 106 may be waived by the appropriate department chair.

Steps For Earning Credit Through PLA Portfolio

  1. Meet with an advisor
    1. First discuss the potential to fulfill academic credit through PLA with an advisor at Biola (e.g. admissions counselor, success coach, academic advisor).
    2. Submit the PLA Portfolio Application Form.
    3. Application approval from the PLA coordinator and program director.
  2. Create a portfolio
    1. Enroll in the one-credit course GNST 106 - Portfolio Development for Prior Learning Assessment.
    2. Submit the Official PLA Portfolio Submission Form to the Office of Educational Effectiveness, including the PLA Portfolio fee of $150. 
    3. After taking the Portfolio Development for PLA course one time, students may submit subsequent portfolios for additional credit to fulfill other course requirements.
      1. The PLA Portfolio Application is required for subsequent portfolios, but the GNST 106 course is only required to be taken one time.
  3. Assessment of the portfolio
    1. A qualified faculty assessor will evaluate the PLA portfolio and determine if the portfolio presents sufficient evidence that a student has fulfilled the relevant course learning outcomes.
    2. Faculty assessors hold the authority to determine any of the following outcomes:
      1. Approval – Student fulfills a course requirement and earns credit associated with that course (typically, 3-units per course/portfolio).
      2. Approval – Student has a course requirement waived from requirements, but a student is still required to fulfill necessary units to graduate.
      3. Needs clarification – Students will be provided comments and questions regarding the portfolio and are given 2 weeks to provide sufficient clarification to the faculty for reevaluation.
      4. Denied – Student has not provided sufficient evidence of fulfilling course learning outcomes.
    3. Approval will be displayed on the student transcript as course requirement fulfilled with credits earned or course requirement waived.

PLA Guides

Check out the downloadable PLA Guides to see which courses you may earn credit through PLA. You may earn credit for courses outside of your major if you need general elective credit.

AP, IB, and CLEP Examinations

Biola also offers credit through AP, IB and CLEP examinations. Please see the University Catalog and Transfer Credit Policy for more information.


For resources, visit the Templates and Forms page.