Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a controlled method of assessment that can lead to the award of credit to a learner without the learner necessarily completing a formal learning programme for one or more units of a qualification. The process considers whether or not a learner possesses (through existing experience and skills) the evidence of knowledge and understanding necessary to achieve stated learning outcomes. This could be a transfer of credit from formal learning programmes (for example, credit transfer using the SCQF or Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) or the recognition of experience gained from employment. In this way, the use of RPL can be acceptable for accrediting any number of unit(s) or - more rarely - an entire qualification. RPL is therefore attractive to learners with prior experience and skills. RPL enables learners to be properly placed on accredited qualifications/units to which they are best suited. RPL also enables recognition of learner achievement from a range of activities that use any appropriate assessment methodology. On the condition that the assessment requirements of a given unit or qualification have been met, the use of RPL is acceptable for accrediting a single unit, multiple units, or an entire qualification.

Prior Experiential learning (PEL)

Prior Experiential Learning denotes learning derived from experience which is uncertificated and not previously assessed. For example, learning from unpaid work or paid work, community activities, leisure pursuits and other informal learning experiences.

Prior Certificated Learning (PCL)

Prior Certificated Learning is learning that has been previously been assessed in a formal learning environment, e.g. learning arising from academic and professional awards for example Higher National Diplomas, Foundation Degrees, Open University Courses, National Vocational Qualifications, and other courses at an appropriate level. Certificated learning does not have to be credit-based, and most colleges and universities have a mechanism for gauging the credit value of certificated learning, from the UK or elsewhere.

Documentation and Evidence
Applicants and students must in all cases present evidence that learning has taken place and that equivalence can be demonstrated. Appropriate evidence may include transcripts, portfolios, essays written for the purpose, module outlines, interviews, work-based projects, vivas or completion of the usual assessment associated with the module(s) for which equivalence is being claimed. Evidence of learning must be:
Athentic - Evidence must prove conclusively that RPL is based upon the learner's own work.
Valid & Current - Evidence must meet the requirements of the current assessment criteria.
Relevent - Evidence must be appropriate to the content of the unit/qualification being considered for RPL.
Sufficient - There must be enough evidence to conclusively prove consistency of learner performance in meeting the assessment criteria.

If the validity of any evidence is held in doubt (for example, it is deemed superficial or irrelevant), the assessor may formulate questions in order to test their reservations and the veracity of a learner's RPL claim.