What are prior-learning assessments? Prior-learning assessments (PLAs) are methods that colleges, universities and other education and training providers use to evaluate a student's non-academic experiences and training. PLAs award college credit, certification or advanced standing for learning that has occurred outside of the more traditional learning environment. Students that participate in PLA testing can use these credits as a shortcut to graduation. Other common terms for these types of assessments include Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) and Recognition of Learning.