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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|
(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)
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)
- Joint Statement on the Transfer and Award of Credit (from ACE, CHEA, and AACRO)
- UW-Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment Transfer Credit Website
- UW-Madison Transfer Equivalency Database
- UW System Transfer Credit Website
Military CreditSome 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
Retroactive Foreign Language Credit
- Retroactive Credit Policy (scroll down to the Credits section)
- Foreign Language Course Attribute Information (used to determine which courses can be taken to earn retroactive credit)