Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

Conestoga recognizes prior learning of skills, knowledge or competencies that have been acquired through employment, formal and informal education, non-formal learning or other life experiences. Prior learning must be measureable at the required academic level and meet Conestoga standards of achievement for current courses.

Challenge exam and portfolio development are the primary methods of assessment. Other methods assessment may be available depending upon the nature of the course objectives. Successful completion of the assessment results in a course credit recorded on an official Conestoga transcript.

PLAR cannot be used by registered Conestoga students to clear academic deficiencies or to improve grades or to obtain admission into a program.

The PLAR policy and procedures are available online.

PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition) enables students to concentrate on new learning while maintaining the standards of education and training. Here are some principles to guide our practice:

  • our content specialists determine competency levels and award recognition and credit
  • credit will be awarded in the context of the currency and relevance of the documented learning
  • assessment methods shall be reasonable and fit both the learner and the learning to be measured. The methods used are valid in the context in which they are applied and are implemented in a fair and consistent way
  • evaluation policies should be documented, clearly articulated and available to the public

PLAR looks at learning, not just experience

What's the difference?

Learning takes place through different kinds of experiences such as working, training, reading, traveling, community involvement and family responsibilities, but learning does not come automatically with experience and may differ from person to person.

Learning can involve the acquisition of:

  • skills
  • knowledge
  • attitudes such as self-reliance, collaboration, concern for quality

In PLAR, it's the learning that counts. Not only that, what's important is whether the knowledge or skills people have learned up to the present time are relevant to a particular educational credential, specific workplace training requirements, or a trade or occupational standard.

  1. Learning must be measurable
  2. Learning must have both a theoretical and applied component
  3. Learning must be at college level
  4. Learning must bear significant relationship to the individuals’ educational goals
  5. Learning must satisfy the current course objectives using the primary methods of assessment:
    • challenge exam
    • portfolio development
  6. Credits are granted on a course-by-course basis.
  7. The maximum number of credits allowed through transfer of credits/exemptions and credits obtained through PLAR is 75 per cent of the program credits. Therefore, at least 25 per cent of the program must be taken under the direct supervision of Conestoga faculty.
  8. Only one attempt per course is available through PLAR. A failed attempt would require that the student take the course

*NOTE: An exam is the only method available to receive credit for a computer course. Portfolios are not acceptable.

If a PLAR process is approved, assessment may take the form of a portfolio review or a challenge exam:

PLAR candidates should contact the PLAR office for guidance prior to registering for the PLAR process. The PLAR office assesses each candidate’s needs and provides information relevant to the individual’s goals and circumstances.

*NOTE: An exam is the only method available to receive credit for a computer course. Portfolios are not acceptable.

1. Portfolio development

A Portfolio is an organized collection of materials which records and verifies an adult's learning achievements and relates them to the requirements of an education or training program, a work standard, or a professional qualification.

Portfolio development produces a valuable product, but the process is also important in helping learners analyze, understand and be able to explain to others what they know and can do as well as what they still need to learn. The process of portfolio development proves to be a long process but provides a structured opportunity for learners to review and evaluate their past experiences and the learning which has resulted from them. PLAR candidates must seek their Program Coordinators’ approval and guidance to develop a portfolio.

These are the components usually contained in a portfolio:

  • A paper outlining the learner's education and career goals
  • Learning outcomes and competency statements
  • Documentation verifying the learning claimed
  • Letters of attestation from employers and/or associates that support claim of competency
  • Photos and/or videos that demonstrate skills/competence or products of learning
  • References from relevant professionals who support claims of skill mastery within the appropriate context
  • Annotated summary of group projects with clear delineation of individual skills mastered
  • Performance/assessment reports from past or current employers
  • Review of Employer-Based Training: Review of private or public sector-sponsored training programs
  • A chronological record of significant learning experiences
  • A resume
  • Formal and informal records of past learning achievements

Portfolio assessment is a method of assessment, supervised and guided by the subject-expert faculty, which evaluates the candidate’s collection of documented evidence related to education (formal/informal) and non-formal learning. The portfolio assessment method measures the candidate’s learning against the course outcomes for the purpose of obtaining course credit.

Portfolio assessment at Conestoga may also take the form of evaluation of:

  • essays, research reports, project reports
  • interviews
  • performance testing and demonstrations
  • standardized tests and program reviews of employer-based training
  • product assessment (products made/developed by the applicant)
  • other strategies as determined by Faculty Assessors, that enable a comparison of learning outcomes/competencies and specific course curricula

2. The challenge exam

The challenge exam is a method of assessment, developed and evaluated by subject-expert faculty, which evaluates the candidate’s learning achievement against course outcomes. The challenge exam method measures learning through a written/oral exam and/or demonstration for the purpose of awarding course credit.

Who is eligible for recognition of prior learning?

The candidates for PLAR are mature learners who have significant life and work experience, are 19 years of age or have an Ontario Secondary School diploma, and wish to earn credits towards a credential.

PLAR candidates should answer yes to these questions before they decide to pursue PLAR:

  • I am self-directed, motivated and able to work independently.
  • I have at least one year of extensive experience in one field (gained through work, volunteer, and/or leisure activities).
  • I have a broad range of experiences related to the field in which I am considering applying for PLAR.
  • I am able to complete work independently within specific time frames.
  • I am constantly improving myself by taking workshops and reading information related to my profession and interests.
  • I have colleagues and supervisors who can attest to my learning if necessary.
  • I have college-level learning that can be measured.

PLAR availability

  • PLAR is not available for registered Conestoga student looking to obtain credits for Conestoga courses that they have failed.
  • PLAR is not available for current students looking to upgrade marks for completed Conestoga courses.
  • Only ONE attempt per course is allowed through PLAR. Successful completion of a PLAR assessment results in a credit on a Conestoga transcript. A failed attempt would require the student to take the course.
  • PLAR is not available for Second Career Strategy. PLAR is an assessment of an individual’s learning and is not considered to be upgrading or training as defined by the Second Career Strategy. Obtaining credits through the PLAR could affect client’s eligibility for funding.
  • PLAR is not used for admission into a program. Obtaining credits through the PLAR process does not guarantee the entrance into a program.
  1. Identify the courses you wish to challenge through the Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR) process. Review course descriptions online as well as the PLAR policy and procedure. You must meet the course registration requirements, including having completed any prerequisites.
  2. Contact the Credit Transfer Office by email or by phone at 519-748-5220, ext. 2397 to inquire if you are eligible to challenge the course. Students must contact the Credit Transfer Office before or at the time of PLAR challenge registration to ensure eligibility. Provide your Conestoga student number as well as the course codes(s) and name(s) of the course(s) you wish to challenge.
  3. Once you have been advised of the availability and challenge method, submit the PLAR Registration Form to register.
  4. Review individual course outlines to determine the course learning outcomes. Outlines for courses in your program are available in your Student Portal. Requests for course outlines can also be made to the Credit Transfer Office.

PLAR challenge exam dates

Testing takes place at the Kitchener - Doon campus, Main Building, Lab 2A509. Please bring a piece of photo identification (driver's licence, student card, etc.) to the exam.

Testing dates

Testing dates will vary depending on the nature of the course you are requesting to PLAR. Should it be determined that you will have to write the PLAR on campus, the Conestoga College Testing Centre will be notified and then contact you to arrange a day/time to write the PLAR test. Please ensure you include current contact information in your PLAR Request.