AA06: Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

  • Policy #: AA06
  • Responsible Authority: Dean, Academic Development
  • Approval Authority: President's Executive Committee
  • Executive Sponsor: Vice President, Academic
  • Approval Date: 1998/01/30
  • Last Reviewed: 2011/02/02
  • Mandatory Revision Date: 2016/02/02
  • Downloadable Version: Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)


To establish a process to award college credits earned by students through recognition of work and life experience.


Students who, through work and life experience, have acquired learning that is equivalent to the learning outcomes of one or more College course(s).




Life experience

Such activities as self-directed study, paid employment, voluntary work, travel and other learning experiences


Prior learning assessment and recognition

Experiential learning

Knowledge and/or skills gained through life experience

Capstone course

Course critical to the program and not eligible for PLAR

Academic Administrator

Program Chair, Course Chair or Academic Manager

Block Challenge

Request for credit at a program level


1.  Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) is based on the belief that adults may acquire college level learning through life experience such as self-directed study, paid employment, voluntary work, travel and other learning experiences. In order for this learning to be credited, it must be described or demonstrated; assessed as to its nature, extent, and depth; and deemed equivalent and current when compared to course or program learning outcomes.

2.  PLAR is to be distinguished from the transfer of academic credit process, in that PLAR focuses on the evaluation of experiential learning rather than on the determination of equivalency of formal educational courses and/or programs. In PLAR, a letter grade or credit (CR) is granted; whereas in the transfer of academic credit process an exemption (EX) is granted.

3.  PLAR is available to persons interested in pursuing a College credential, who, through work and life experience, have acquired learning that is equivalent to the course learning outcomes of one or more College course(s).

4.  To be eligible for PLAR, candidates must be 19 years of age or older, or have an Ontario Secondary    School Diploma or equivalent.

5.  Students who have failed a course or been unsuccessful in a challenge within the past year (12 months) will not be permitted a PLAR challenge in the course unless they receive written permission from the Academic Chair.

6.  Following formal acceptance as a PLAR candidate, the candidate’s prior learning is assessed by academic staff that have subject matter expertise in the area.  If the learning is deemed equivalent to College course learning requirements, a letter grade or credit (CR) is  granted.   Unsuccessful PLAR attempts are not recorded on the student’s transcript.

7.  PLAR candidates will be bound by the College’s residency policy which states that, for any credential, a minimum of twenty-five percent (25%) of the hours of the program of study must be taken and successfully completed at the College.  Programs may require a residency immediately prior to graduation.

8.  PLAR candidates in a bachelor’s degree may be awarded no more than fifty percent (50%) of the total number of hours of the program of study based on prior learning assessment and recognition.

9.  Normally, College courses will be available for candidates to earn credit through PLAR. In some cases, such as capstone courses or courses that are subject to external standards, programs may designate a course as one that is not eligible for PLAR.

10.  Students who wish to challenge the General Education electives based on prior learning may challenge the theme areas.   The Prior Learning Assessment Office and subject resource specialist will assess applications for credit and, where credit is recognized, assign it to the appropriate theme outlined below, and enter it on the student’s transcript.  
GED0011  Arts in Society
                GED0012  Civic Life
                GED0013  Social and Cultural Understanding
                GED0014  Personal Understanding
                GED0015  Science and Technology

11.Candidates who receive credit for courses through PLAR must go through the regular admission process, in order to gain entrance into a College program.

12.  PLAR procedures and processes will respect current federal and provincial standards for PLAR.

13.  The general requirements for successfully challenging a course through PLAR are established by each program and published in the course outlines.  Course outlines are available to PLAR candidates for review.

14.  Challenges are prepared by professors with subject matter expertise consistent with course learning requirements. 

15.  Challenge procedures may include written, oral, or performance, assessment; the development of products or combinations of any of these. The type of challenge assessment is determined by the nature of the learning being evaluated.  Normally, challenge assessments are made available within four (4) weeks after receipt of a PLAR application. 

16.  Assessments for block challenge of a program are based on the program  level outcomes.

17.  When candidates with extensive related experience apply for PLAR, efforts will be made to assess their prior learning against program level outcomes as opposed to specific courses learning requirements to enable them to earn credit for multiple courses.

18.  PLAR candidates must fulfill assessment requirements within three (3) months of an application

19.   Candidates have the right to appeal the PLAR assessment.

20.  The fee schedule for PLAR services is established by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and will apply.  It is published on the PLAR website.  The fees cover:

–   delivery of  assessment;

–   evaluation of  assessment(s);

–   evaluation of a portfolio and oral interview, if required;

–   support for an independent learning contract, as required.

21.  PLAR fees are in addition to tuition. PLAR fees are not reimbursed in the event of an unsuccessful PLAR challenge.





Orientation, Advising and Acceptance to PLAR


When seeking prior learning assessment, contact the PLAR Office.



Assess the eligibility of the candidate to challenge a course(s) using PLAR.

PLAR Office


Provide current course outline(s) to PLAR candidates for review.

PLAR Office


If the candidate is eligible to use PLAR to challenge a course(s),

a.  orient the candidate to PLAR policies and procedures;

b.  provide academic advising;

c.  assist with relevant application/registration procedure(s); 

d.  contact the appropriate academic department to arrange specific assessment process.

PLAR Office


Pay fee for a PLAR assessment to the Registrar’s Office so that  assessment can proceed.



 If the candidate is using PLAR to challenge program level outcomes:

a.  meet with candidate to assess life experiences against desired credential;

b.  develop an educational plan and advise candidate regarding PLAR challenge and recommended pathway to achieve credential.

Program Coordinator


PLAR Coordinator


If requesting credits for a program level,  present extensive relevant experience and learning, which normally includes a combination of:

  • a portfolio;
  • an interview with a panel of subject matter experts;
  • performance  assessment(s).



Demonstration and Documentation of Prior Learning


Provide challenge  assessment(s) to the PLAR Office within four (4) weeks after having been notified of a PLAR application.

Program Coordinator


Administer challenge  assessment(s) at the candidate’s convenience, but no later than three (3) months after having received the PLAR application.

PLAR Office


If a portfolio is used for PLAR, address the requirements identified in the Portfolio Guidelines, available from the PLAR Office



Assessment and Evaluation of Prior Learning



Appoint a professor, who is supported by the PLAR Office, as assessor to conduct the PLAR assessment. 


Academic administrator


Complete the initial PLAR assessment within two (2) weeks of receiving the completed test, portfolio or other evidence of learning.




Transcribe the successful PLAR credits with either a letter grade or a “CR” (credit) designation.




Assess PLAR applications for General Education course credit and assign a grade of EX next to the General Education theme number being matched:

GED0011  Arts in Society
GED0012  Civic Life
GED0013  Social and Cultural Understanding
GED0014  Personal Understanding
GED0015  Science and Technology


PLAR Office and subject resource specialist


Notify the applicant and the Registrar’s Office of the PLAR results.


PLAR Office


Keep a formal record of the assessment process and the results for five (5) years. These are made available to the candidate upon request. 


PLAR Office


If a PLAR candidate is not successful, at his/her discretion, ask the candidate to complete additional  assessments to meet the learning requirements.




 Payment for PLAR assessments are reimbursed to the academic department and/or the individual assess


PLAR Office


Appeal Process



Request an appeal of the PLAR assessment results in writing to the PLAR Office within ten (10) working days of the mailing of the assessment results. The candidate will outline the reasons why an appeal is warranted. A fee will be charged, which will be refunded, if the decision is changed in the applicant’s favour.



Upon receiving a written request for an appeal, within five (5) working days, convene an PLAR Appeal Committee, consisting of:

  • an academic administrator;
  • a professor, who has not been the applicant’s advisor or assessor and who is knowledgeable of the relevant program/course;
  • a person with knowledge of PLAR processes.


PLAR Coordinator


Schedule a PLAR Appeal Committee meeting within ten (10) working days of receiving the request of an appeal and notify the applicant and the assessor(s).


PLAR Office


Invite the applicant and the assessor(s) to attend the Appeal Committee meeting and present their views in turn.   The deliberations of the Committee will take place in-camera.


PLAR Appeal Committee


Render its decisions in writing to the applicant within ten (10) working days of the Appeal Committee meeting.   The results of the Appeal are final and binding on all parties and will be noted in the students file. 


PLAR Appeal Committee



AA04     Admissions
AA 05    Advanced Standing
AA 14    Grading System
AA 35    Confidentiality of Student Records
AA 08    Course Load
AA 10    Transfer of Academic Credit (External)
AA 11   Registration
AA 27    General Education Courses


College PLAR website

Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities