Policy - Earning Credit at UW-Madison

This policy summarizes the various ways that students can earn credit at UW-Madison, including course-based credit at UW-Madison and via transfer, as well as various forms of prior learning assessment credit (e.g., credit by departmental examination, retroactive foreign language credits, third-party credit by examination [e.g., Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, etc.], and portfolio review).

This is a summary of the policy on Ways to Earn Credit at UW-Madison. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library.

There are several ways a student can earn credit toward a UW-Madison degree. There are different policies that guide the determination of course equivalencies for the different types of credit. 

It is very important to note that once an equivalency is established, it holds true for all undergraduate students, regardless of program. 

UW-Madison follows UW System Board of Regent policy in the awarding of test credit and transfer credit. These policies place responsibility for determining course and credit equivalencies at the institutional level. Transfer credit equivalency is set by the faculty in the relevant department in consultation with the Credit Evaluation Service and applies to all students regardless of program of study.

Test credit equivalency is set by the relevant department, approved by the University Curriculum Committee, and the equivalency applies to all students, regardless of program. UW-Madison approved credit equivalencies are posted online so that all prospective and current students have access to the equivalency and can make decisions and plans accordingly.

There are a variety of reasons for requiring consistent application of course credit regardless of source. Students retaking courses for which they already have credit is costly for students, families, and the university. Numerous analyses of student progress and success in courses based on preparation in Advanced Placement (AP) or other similar programs/courses have not provided any evidence that requiring/advising students to retake a course for which they have already demonstrated knowledge is beneficial. 

Following is a summary of the various ways that students earn credit at UW-Madison, complete with links to relevant policies, guidelines, and/or documents:

Course-Based Credit Military Credit Credit for Prior Learning
(at UW-Madison)
(from another institution)
(from the Joint Service Transcript)
Credit by Department Exam Retroactive Foreign Language Credit Third-Party Credit by Exam Portfolio Review
(not currently available at UW-Madison)

Course-Based Credit

In-Residence (at UW-Madison)

Course credit is earned by completing for-credit courses offered by and at UW-Madison. These courses are all approved through the curricular governance process and follow the credit hour policy. Course credit counts across all areas of student and regardless of the format of the offering (e.g., face-to-face, online, summer term, etc.). At least 30 credits must be earned in-residence to earn a UW-Madison degree. 

Transfer (from another institution)

Credit is awarded for college-level coursework completed at institutions accredited by a regional or national accrediting organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Foreign institutions must be recognized by the Ministry of Education in that country. Courses must be similar in nature, level, and content to a course in our undergraduate curriculum and applicable to one of the university's academic programs. Continuing education courses, graduate-level courses, and courses that are remedial, technical, vocational, or doctrinal in nature are not transferable. No more than 72 credits from two-year institutions may be transferred into UW-Madison and applied to degree requirements. 
Relevant Policy
Related Resources

Military Credit

Some credit earned by those serving in the military can be transferred into UW-Madison when the credit is granted by an accredited institution, such as the Community College of the Air Force. In addition, credits transcripted on the Joint Services Transcript is transferable, per Wisconsin statutes, specifically Chapter 36.31(4). This method of earning credit is in very limited use.

Credit for Prior Learning

Credit by Department Exam

Understanding that students may acquire knowledge, skills, and competencies through experiences that are academic in nature but may not necessarily correspond to a setting in which UW-Madison awards traditional credit, departments may choose to offer credit by departmental examination.
Relevant Policy

Retroactive Foreign Language Credit

The university will award degree credit for foreign language work successfully completed in high school under certain circumstances and if an additional foreign language course is taken at UW–Madison. In no case can a student earn retroactive credits simply by taking a placement test or other exam. A student must take the appropriate UW–Madison language class at UW–Madison to earn retroactive credits. Students who qualify for retro-credits after completing the appropriate language course on the UW–Madison campus will automatically receive retro-credits. This benefit is available to freshmen (first-year students).
Relevant Policy
Related Resource

Third-Party Credit by Exam

The university grants advanced credit for the successful completion of college-level course work while in high school and for high achievement on Advanced Placement (AP), GCE Advanced Level (A-Level), Cambridge Pre-U, International Baccalaureate (IB), and College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams. Credits earned may be awarded toward general education requirements, degree requirements, or elective credit. The purpose of awarding advanced credit is to recognize advanced high-quality work, to preclude the duplication of courses, and to provide increased flexibility for students who wish to complete two majors, earn a certificate, or graduate early.
Relevant Policy
Related Resource

Portfolio Review

UW-Madison currently does not award credit for portfolio review.

Keywordscredit, credit by exam, retro, transfer, AP, IB, CLEP   Doc ID116444
OwnerKaren M.GroupAcademic Planning
Created2022-02-02 11:01 CSTUpdated2022-02-03 15:24 CST
SitesAcademic Planning
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