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L&S Retrocredit Requirements and Information

The following section explains the requirements for an L&S undergraduate at UW-Madison to earn retrocredits in a foreign language.

The College of Letters & Science (L&S) will award degree credit for non-English language work if the L&S undergraduate student demonstrates proficiency by completing a UW-Madison language course beyond the first unit, with a grade of B or better, within their first year or first 30 credits.   Please note that the retroactive credit (retrocredit) policy is a UW-Madison policy that applies to all UW-Madison students.   Non-L&S degree-seeking students at UW-Madison need to speak with their academic dean's unit to determine if/how retrocredits will help them satisfy their major/degree requirements.

A student DOES NOT earn retroactive credits (retrocredits) by merely taking a placement test or other exam.  A student must place into the appropriate retrocredit-eligible course AND successfully complete the class with a grade of B or higher prior to earning 30 degree credits at the university level in order to earn retrocredits.

**Please refer to "can I still earn retroactive credits for the foreign language class I am taking with a grade of SD" at  disruption grading option for detailed information on how the SD (Satisfactory-Disruption) and UD (Unsatisfactory-Disruption) grades will impact students in spring 2020 and spring 2021.
Students who qualify for retroactive credits (retrocredits) after completing the appropriate language course on the UW-Madison campus will automatically receive retrocredits approximately two to three months after all grades have been posted for all students. This benefit is available to first-year students, and can be exercised when the following conditions are met:

  • The course must be the first course in that language taken by the student after graduating from high school.
    • The course must be designated with the Foreign Language attribute of 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th semester language course.
  • A student must enroll in the language course prior to earning 30-degree credits.
    • This does not include AP, CLEP, IB, or other college credit earned in high school, nor does it include retroactive credits earned in another language.
    • This does include courses transferred from another institution where a student was working toward a degree after graduating from high school.
    • Please note that a student is not eligible to earn retrocredits by only placing into an approved language course.  Students must also take the class and successfully complete the approved language course with a grade of B or higher.
  •  A student must earn a B or better in the class.
  •  The student is not a native speaker of the language taught in the retrocredit eligible course.  
    • Students may earn retrocredits in more than one language as long as they are earned within the 30-credit time frame.  A maximum 16 retrocredits (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th semesters in a language sequence; e.g., French 101, 102, 203, & 204) may be earned in any single language.  Retrocredits cannot be earned beyond the 4th semester of a language sequence.   Credits will be awarded equivalent to the UW-Madison course credit values in that language.
    • Effective summer 2019, the first four levels/semesters of Chinese (E ASIAN/ASIALANG 101, 102, 201, 202) and Japanese (E ASIAN/ASIALANG 103, 104, 203, 204) language courses will be worth four (4) credits each.   Students taking one of these two languages will be able to earn a maximum of sixteen (16) retrocredits effective summer 2019.


  • Retroactive language credits (retrocredits) will be posted automatically to students' records, except in some rare cases.  Students who think they deserve retrocredits but who did not receive them should inquire with their school/college Academic Affairs office.  (See below)

Please note:

  • The retrocredit policy being used within the College of Letters & Science is a UW-Madison policy that applies to all UW-Madison undergraduate students.   Non L&S undergraduate students should check with their school/college to see if retrocredits earned will apply to their degree requirements.
  • Retrocredits WILL NOT be removed from a student's official records for any reason since these are earned credits.  Only retrocredits incorrectly awarded will be removed from a student's permanent records.
  • Retroactive language credits (retrocredits) will not be posted automatically for students who have already earned retrocredits. If students are still eligible to earn retrocredits and wishes to receive retrocredits for another language(s),  they will need to fill out the Retroactive Language Request Form and deliver it to L&S Undergraduate Academic Deans' Services (ADS) in 101 Ingraham Hall to be reviewed if they are an L&S undergraduate student.  Non-L&S students should take that form to their academic dean's unit in their school/college on the UW-Madison campus for review.  The form can also be send to ADS via email.
  • Because the retrocredit process is automated at the end of each term, some students may not receive retrocredits even though they may qualify (e.g., already have language credit, etc.).  If a student believes this is their situation, they should complete the Retroactive Language Request Form and submit it to for review.  You should answer all the questions on the form or your request will be delayed pending additional information.
  •  UW-Madison will honor retroactive credits earned at another institution provided that these credits were earned according to UW-Madison policy.  Student will need to work with the Office of Admissions and Recruitment at UW-Madison to make sure the retro-credits from the other institution get posted to their official UW-Madison records.

For more information, please refer to the L&S Policies and Regulations tab in the Guide under the Credit section that addresses Credit By Course Examination/Retroactive Credits.   

Contacts for Additional Questions:

L&S Student Academic Affairs:(608) 262-0617,
Office of Admissions and Recruitment: (608) 262-3961,
UW Language Institute (World Language Credits Only): (608) 265-8753,

Keywordsretrocredits, retroactive credits, UW-Madison retrocredit policy, foreign language courses, removing retrocredits, rescinding retrocredits, retrocredit request form, Chinese, Japanese, removing retrocredits   Doc ID23736
OwnerTori R.GroupL&S KB
Created2012-04-11 23:18:03Updated2024-04-26 16:23:42
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