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Competency Based Education (CBE)

Competency Based Education (CBE) measures your mastery of the subject material (rather than how many hours you spent in class) to determine if you earn credit. Put another way, with CBE, it’s about what you know and can do, not how many hours you spent learning it.

CBE courses contain the same assignments, instruction videos, quizzes, etc., as the regular online version of the class. The main difference is that in a CBE class, most of those lessons and activities are optional (and not graded). You will complete as many (or few) as you need to learn the material. When you feel you’re ready, you can take the assessment. If you pass with an 80% or above, you may move on to the next section. If you score below 80%, you will need to review the material before retaking the assessment.

Demonstrating Competency

In a CBE course, you work at a skill until you can demonstrate that you understand it. This is different from a traditional course where you are given an assignment, you submit it, take whatever grade you are given, and move on with learning the material regardless of the score. Practice and revision are a part of the CBE process of learning. This means that if you do not demonstrate competency initially, you will receive feedback and opportunities to learn more so that you can demonstrate you are competent.

Because you are demonstrating you are competent and understand the concepts and skills, not just getting a grade, you will need to score at least 80% on all required assessments, papers, projects, and demonstrations for the course.

Some students wonder if it is fair to require at least 80% for success in the course? When creating the CBE course, we have developed it with the assumption that every student can score at least 80%. If you don't get 80% on the first attempt on an exam or paper, you will be given feedback and coaching. You will then have the chance to take the assessment again, although the questions will be different.

Feedback and revision are some of the best qualities of a CBE course. Students tend to enjoy being able to fully understand the material before they move on to another topic. Be aware of any policies in your specific course syllabus about revisions and resubmissions.

Assessing Competency

You earn grades by passing Assessments of Competency. Assessment types you might see in your competency-based course are:

  • Exams
  • Projects
  • Signature Assignments
  • Presentations
  • Demonstrations
  • Interviews, etc.

All assessments must be passed to pass the class.

All Snow College CBE courses will have consistent passing standards. To pass a CBE assessment, the following standards are in place:

  • 80% is the minimum passing score for all assessments
  • Two attempts allowed on all assessments
  • If you fail the second attempt of an assessment, you are required to complete additional learning activities in the course and then take an Alternate Assessment.
    • An Alternate Assessment tests the same knowledge and skills but does it through different questions or in a different format.
      • Example: A student fails the second attempt of a multiple-choice exam. The student must complete the additional learning activities in the course that are associated with that assessment. When that learning is complete, the student is given another version of the multiple-choice exam or is given a project to complete.
    • Two attempts are allowed on Alternate Assessments.

Benchmark Tasks

Some courses require you to complete Benchmark Tasks. Benchmark tasks:

  • Help you know when you are prepared to successfully pass an assessment
  • Must be completed prior to attempting an assessment
  • Includes feedback from your instructor
  • Can be revised until the submission meets minimum requirements
  • Must be completed to pass the class but are not included in the grade calculation


When you take a CBE class at Snow College, your education isn’t outsourced to third-party graders. You will be taught and graded by the same great professors that teach on-campus. They will be available by email, phone, videoconference, or in-office help.

CBE students will also have free access to, which is available 24/7.

Absolutely! That’s one of the main things that sets our CBE classes apart. You can fully mix and match which type of class you take, depending on what you think will be the best fit for you. They all count the same toward your degree or certificate.

Yes! We’ve worked hard to offer accredited CBE courses that are fully transferable.

CBE classes are a good fit for a wide variety of students, but adult learners with some work or life experience find CBE classes especially helpful. They can quickly check off the material they already know, giving them more time to spend on what they still need to master.

Traditional students can also benefit from CBE classes. They offer additional flexibility that can be helpful for students as they are trying to balance work and school. Students who are motivated and work best independently will be successful in CBE classes.

To ensure success in your CBE class, it is vital that you have access to the following:

  • Stable Internet Connection (High-speed is best)
  • Computer- Desktop or Laptop
  • Webcam
  • Speakers
  • Microphone

In CBE courses, you will work with your professor to make a plan for completing the course at your own pace as long as you are done before the end of the semester. In a traditional course you are expected to be on the same topic at the same time as your other course mates. In traditional courses, attendance is also a crucial part of the discussion. Attendance is not a requirement for students in CBE courses.