Third-Party Test Credits

Information on the policy regarding third-party test credits, which are college credits based on a student’s score on an examination administered by an organization not affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Third-Party Test Credits

Policy Number


Responsible Office

Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research


University Policy


This policy supports students in their timely progress to degree completion. By awarding appropriate credit for prior learning experiences, the university helps students potentially decrease the cost of their education and frees up space in high-demand courses. This policy ensures consistency and transparency as it provides the requirements by which the course equivalency for third-party exams is established or changed in alignment with processes for approval of for-credit courses.


The Board of Regents and the University of Wisconsin System set standards for awarding credit based on third-party exams, and place responsibility for determining specific course and credit equivalencies at the institution level. At UW-Madison, the University Curriculum Committee (UCC) is responsible for overseeing institutional policy and course equivalencies related to third-party credit by exam.

Appropriate course credit equivalency for third-party exams is recommended by the faculty of the relevant academic unit as they are best positioned to evaluate and assign course credit equivalencies in their disciplinary areas.

The recommendation of the department faculty is communicated to and considered for approval by the UCC. In its review, the UCC considers if the course-credit equivalency is consistent with relevant existing policy (e.g., the Board of Regent policy on the assignment of credit equivalency for AP courses) and if the course-credit equivalency meets institutional goals for recognizing prior learning of students through appropriate assignment of credit.

Once the determination of course-credit equivalency is approved, it will apply to all students who submit scores and meet the approved criteria for the third-party exam regardless of program or other circumstances.

UW–Madison-approved exam-to-course credit equivalencies are posted online so that prospective students can use the information in planning their progress to degree completion. Such equivalencies are recorded in the Student Information System (SIS) and are integrated with degree audit (i.e., DARS) and other digital systems.

Adding or Changing Equivalencies

Establishing a Course Credit Equivalency for a New Exam or Making Changes to Existing Third-Party Exam Equivalencies

When a school/college, academic unit, or other academic or student services unit becomes aware of a new third-party exam or a change to a third-party exam, they may determine that a change in the course-credit equivalency is warranted. This information must be communicated to the academic unit that serves as the home of the relevant subject and to Data, Academic Planning and Institutional Research (DAPIR) which will assist in the change process. If the UW–Madison course used as an equivalency is no longer offered, the faculty of the relevant department will re-evaluate the third-party exam and recommend a new course-credit equivalency. The chair of the department or their designee must submit a written request to DAPIR for UCC consideration. The request must specify the third-party exam or exam component, the current course-credit equivalency if relevant, the proposed course-credit equivalency and rationale, and a proposed implementation date.

At a minimum, third-party credit by exam equivalencies will be reviewed every seven years.

The Initial Establishment of Acceptance for Third-Party Credit by Exam by a New Exam Provider

If a new third-party exam provider is identified as offering credit by exam that is aligned with UW–Madison’s standards and course offerings, the UCC must approve the exam provider before course-credit equivalency is approved. In consultation with DAPIR, the UCC will determine whether there is alignment with UW System policy and higher education standards and will decide whether to approve the use of exams offered by the provider. Once the exam provider is approved the individual exams can be reviewed and course equivalencies established. The department or departments with subject listings in the discipline covered by the exam will review the exam content and make a recommendation using the process described above.

Changes to Policies Related to the Acceptance of Third-Party Credit by Exam

Changes to policies related to credit for a third-party exam may be requested via a proposal to the UCC, e.g., classifications of students eligible to receive credit, limitations on the number of credits, or limitations on when students are eligible to receive credits. Such a proposal must specify the change to be made including the specific exam providers and exams, the rationale for the change, the anticipated impact, and a timeline for implementation of the change. All policy changes must apply to all UW–Madison students within a career.

Approval and Communication

Decisions made by the UCC related to third-party credit by exam will be communicated to UW System, and the relevant UW-Madison departments including the Office of Admissions and Recruitment, Credit Evaluation Services (Office of the Registrar), and the advising community (via advisor-link).

Recording Credit

  • Third-party credit by exam will be recorded on the official transcript for matriculated UW–Madison undergraduates only and will only apply to the requirements of a bachelor’s degree program.
  • No grade will be assigned; the equivalency will not carry grade points and will not be used in the grade-point average calculation.
  • Credit earned by third-party examination does not count as credit earned in residence.
  • Credits earned do not count toward the 165 excess credit surcharge.
  • If a student submits scores for more than one examination that leads to the same UW–Madison equivalency, the credit will be awarded only once.
  • Third-party credit may be removed at the request of the student if it was earned during high school.
  • Official test scores must be sent to the university by the last official class day in the semester the student intends to graduate from UW–Madison.
  • There is no limit to the number of credits a student may earn through third-party examinations taken during high school.

Related UW–Madison Documents, Web Pages, or Other Resources

External References

Approval Authority

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Policy Manager

Vice Provost for Data, Academic Planning & Institutional Research


Associate Director -- Michelle Young,, (608) 262-2143

Effective Date

Source: View policy UW-1031 in the UW-Madison Policy Library

Additional Information

The components of this policy are parallel to other processes associated with the awarding of credit for prior learning that have been established as within the purview of the University Curriculum Committee. The policy furthers the goal of UW-Madison supporting timely progress to degree and keeping costs down by ensuring a mechanism for the academic community to assign credit equivalencies for third-party exams and make sure that students have an opportunity to be appropriately awarded credit for prior learning.

Data, Academic Planning and Institutional Research (DAPIR) has done numerous analyses of student progress and success in courses based on preparation in Advanced Placement (AP) and other third-party exams. These analyses consistently and repeatedly show that students who earn credit based on scores on AP exams do as well and often better than their peers in the next sequential course. All existing evidence confirms that the AP test score course equivalencies are helping students advance in their programs and make progress to degree.

Keywordsthird, party, credits, exam, AP, IB, transfer   Doc ID101914
OwnerMelissa S.GroupAcademic Planning
Created2020-05-09 11:08 CSTUpdated2023-07-11 11:02 CST
SitesAcademic Planning
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