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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 foreign language work if the L&S undergraduate student demonstrates proficiency by completing a UW-Madison foreign 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 a student's first course at the college level in the language. This does not include college-level coursework taken during high school, but does include courses transferred from another institution where a student was working towards an undergraduate degree or courses taken after graduating from high school but before a student started their formal undergraduate students at UW-Madison.
    • The course must be designated as retrocredit eligible.  These courses are designated with the course designation "Frgn Lang" of 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th semester language course.
    • A student must take the course before they have earned 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. It does include courses transferred from another institution where you were working toward a degree. (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 within the 30-credit/first year timeframe.  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.  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 RETROACTIVELANGUAGECREDITREQUESTFORM-1.pdf 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 you believe this is your situation, please complete the retroactive language credit 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 (Foreign Language Credits Only): (608) 265-8753,

In some cases, students are advised to take an approved course at a more appropriate level (higher or lower level) in order to earn retrocredits.  In these instances, a student is still eligible to earn retrocredits as long as:

1. The language course is the student's first college course in the language post high school graduation, and

2. The course is taken before a student has earned 30 post high school graduation degree credits, and

3. The course is designated as appropriate for earning retroactive credits (not all language courses are eligible for earning retrocredits), and

4. The student earns a grade of B or higher

Students who have AP credit or college-level credit for a foreign language from high school who take a lower level course at UW-Madison should be aware that they will earn fewer retrocredits and will not be able to earn credit for a course they have already received credit for on their transcript.  For example, a student who has earned college-level credit for 4th semester Spanish (Spanish 204) in high school and decides to retake Spanish 204 at UW-Madison for the purpose of earning retrocredits will not earn degree credit again for the repeated course.

UW System retroactive credit for high school foreign language study information can be found at UWSystemRetroactiveCreditPolicy.pdf.

Keywords:retrocredits, retroactive credits, UW-Madison retrocredit policy, foreign language courses, removing retrocredits, rescinding retrocredits, retrocredit request form, Chinese, Japanese, removing retrocredits   Doc ID:23736
Owner:Tori R.Group:L&S KB
Created:2012-04-11 23:18 CDTUpdated:2023-02-03 14:05 CDT
Sites:L&S KB
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