How RPL is assessed

Prior learning can be assessed in a number of ways. However, the recognition and process used can vary significantly between educational providers and across countries. One method commonly used is assessment of a portfolio.

Portfolio (this is really a very full CV)

Portfolios allow a learner to document and demonstrate their knowledge of a given subject area. The portfolio will document what has been learned, where and how the student learned it, and how the student's experiences meet the requirements of the course provider. Most schools or colleges will give advice on how to put this together, they may have specific requirements and because of this you should start by contacting them first.  The portfolio is then assessed and the provider informs the candidates if RPL can be applied in their case. If the process of assessment has to be very complex there may be some fee involved, it is wise to enquire at the beginning.


Steps to obtaining Recognition for your Prior Learning if you think RPL could be applied to you to allow you entry to a programme or give you exemption from part of a programme:

1. The first step is to make contact with the programme provider of your choice. There are a number of contacts listed at the end of this document. Click here for list...

2. The provider will put you in touch with someone who deals with this area, or you may be able to find out a lot of what you need from their website.

3. Initially, the applicant generally provides appropriate outline information in support of their application. An RPL Application Form may be used by the applicant to provide this information.

4. Consultation with an RPL advisor will be arranged. Applicants receive advice and support for preparation of evidence and verification of prior learning in the required format. In the VEC adult PLC Courses you start by contacting the school. Enrolling in your chosen course is often the only step you have to take. In some courses you may need previous experience e.g. Advanced Computers.

5. The learning evidence plus the completed RPL Application form will be presented to the College for assessment by the relevant academic unit.

6. The outcome of the assessment process will be transmitted to the applicant within a reasonable period of time.

Presenting your case

Generally returning to learning in later life with work experience and perhaps a variety of learning achieved is not as simple as just filling in a form.   College authorities will need to get documentation on what you have achieved and will probably want to interview you too.
 Once you have chosen your qualification and your College it is now time to start gathering your evidence. Your contact in the College will be able to help you decide on the best evidence, but you need to be proactive in putting it together and bear in mind that this process can take some time.

Types of Evidence can take many forms including

  •  samples, photographs or videos of your work 
  •  a practical 'on the job' assessment by a previous supervisor
  •  answers to questions in an interview  
  •  a simulation of a work activity 
  •  letters from your employers 
  •  performance management reports 
  •  copies of documents you have completed at work 
  •  certificates 
  •  any other evidence that is valid, sufficient, authentic and current

You need to work out which types of evidence best demonstrate your competence.
Here are some tips to help with compiling your recognition application:

Proving your strengths

  • Show reasons why you believe you are competent. E.g. I have been working on the job for two years - indicate some of the responsibilities you had on the job.
  • Use examples to show you are competent. e.g. Before I begin a training session I always make sure computer wires are taped to the floor. then training begins, I let people know where the fire exits are and advise people to drink water during the day.
  • Get external support for your examples. Wherever possible, back up your claims by reports from witnesses or supervisors, or maybe even prizes, awards, qualifications or newspaper items. It is not good to rely on your own word to prove your ability.
  • Explain the results or outcomes of your competent performance. Were there any obvious benefits arising from things you did.

Note: Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a comparatively new concept.  Not all education providers are familiar with or apply RPL extensively.  Therefore, if you are interested in returning to learning and think RPL may be applicable in your case, please contact the provider directly to discuss your particular circumstances. 

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