Awarding Credit Where Credit is Due: Effective Practices for the Implementation of Credit by Exam

Curriculum Committee

Credit by exam is a mechanism employed in the California community colleges as a means of granting credit for student learning outside of the traditional classroom. In some instances, credit by exam is the means used to award college credit for structured learning experiences in a secondary educational setting, while in other instances knowledge is obtained in non-traditional environments or an individual is self-taught. The Academic Senate for California Community College’s position is that colleges should seek to maximize the opportunities available for credit by exam as is appropriate to meet the needs for their student populations, while maintaining academic excellence.

Although the relevant Title 5 Regulation (§55050) states that the credit by examination process must adequately measure the “mastery of the course content as set forth in the outline of record”, the course outline of record delineates not only the course content, but the objectives to be achieved and the rigor of the coursework. Furthermore, student learning outcomes may be an integral component of the course outline and a component of the expected “mastery” that awarding of course credit should affirm.  As such, it is necessary that any end of course assessment that is intended to be the basis for course credit be designed in a manner that ensures it is measuring not only “mastery of the course content,” but achievement of any delineated objectives and outcomes.


  • Local senates, particularly colleges with large population of students with prior learning from non-collegiate experiences such as military service, need to recommend policy regarding the use of credit by exam as a means for students to earn course credit. 
  • Discipline faculty are the experts who need to determine which courses for which credit by exam may be offered and the nature and content of the assessment tools used to determine if students have mastered the course content, objectives, and outcomes.
  • Credit by exam processes must be applied consistently to all students.
  • The college should provide students with a copy of the course outline of record to aid them in making the decision whether or not to attempt taking the credit by exam test.
  • Credit by exam processes must be held to the same high standards of quality as the traditional method of passing a course.