Topics Map > Policies
Topics Map > Courses: Policies and Procedures

Policy on Credit by Departmental Exam

A. Overview and Context 
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. Credit by department examination is one opportunity for undergraduate students to demonstrate mastery of material that is equivalent to what would be learned in a specific UW-Madison course. The course credits granted through department examination are based on a student’s demonstration that they have mastered the learning outcomes equivalent to those for the specified course. Examples of circumstances that will lead students to seek credit by examination may be: they completed preparation for advanced placement exams in high school but were unable to take the AP test; they have a placement test scores that place them in a course lower than what they think they are prepared for; they didn’t get transfer equivalency for a course or courses from another institution(s) where they judge that they have completed the material in a course.

Offering students the opportunity to earn credit by examination has several benefits for both students and the University. Students will have a low-cost option for earning credit for skills and knowledge they already possess. They will have the opportunity to quickly move on to more challenging and enriching courses. The University will benefit by freeing up seats in courses that are in demand and by supporting timely progress to degree.
This policy does not cover transfer credit, UW System placement exams, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), College Level Examination Program (CLEP), retroactive credits or departmental placement examinations. These mechanisms for awarding credit are covered in well established, existing policy. 
Students who wish to earn credit by examination should contact the relevant department. A list of courses that offer credit by exam is available online.
For the purposes of this policy the word “exam” or “examination” will be cover all potential methods of evaluation of student learning. 
Consistent with University of Wisconsin policy and federal and state law, students with disabilities who are eligible for test accommodations on standard class exams are also eligible for test accommodations on credit by departmental exams unless doing so fundamentally alters the nature of the exam or lowers a program standard. Students or departments can contact the UW McBurney Disability Resource Center ( for more information about test accommodations.
B. Eligibility and Limitations 
A student must be classified as a degree-seeking undergraduate (i.e. career = UGRD). They must be in good academic standing with no holds on their record.
Credits earned by department examination do not count toward the credit residency requirements for a bachelor’s degree.
Students may not attempt a department examination for credit for any course they are enrolled in or were previously enrolled in at UW-Madison beyond the add deadline.
Students may not take a credit by examination for a specific course more than once.
Students may not earn credit by examination for a course or course equivalent for which they have previously been awarded credit.
Students must satisfy all requisites prior to attempting credit by examination for that course.
No student may attempt credit by examination in a course which is a prerequisite, stated or implied, for an advanced course in the same subject for which credit has already been earned, without approval from the department offering the course.
Native speakers of a language cannot earn credit by exam in that language. For UW-Madison, native language is defined as the language of instruction at the student's secondary school.
Students must take a separate exam (or set of assessments) for each course they are seeking credit for.
The department offering the exam is responsible for determining a student’s eligibility for taking the exam. In general, once the student has been given permission to take the exam they will be considered eligible to receive credit regardless of circumstances that may indicate otherwise.

Students are strongly encouraged to take departmental examinations for credit prior to earning 90 degree credits (including the semester in which the 90th credit is earned) in order to avoid complications with the residence requirement.
The College of Engineering limits the use of credit by exam to a total of six (6) credits or two (2) courses during an engineering undergraduate student’s career.
C. Posting Credits 
The Office of the Registrar will post credits to the student record. It will be posted in a way that is easily distinguishable from other types of credit.
The credits will be posted for specific regularly taught UW-Madison courses. (Credit by exam will not be provided for independent study, topics courses, general or departmental credit.)
Course credit earned via examination does not carry grade points and does not factor in to the grade point average.
Course credit earned via examination does not factor in to a semester course load.
The Office of the Registrar will post credits earned through credit by exam within 10 days of receiving a completed credit by exam form from a department.
No entry will be made on a student's transcript if the attempt for credit by exam is unsuccessful; an entry will be made when he or she successfully completes the requirements for departmental examinations.
The course credits will be posted to the term that corresponds with the date the examination was completed.
D. Department Requirements 
It is up to each department to determine which courses they offer that they want to make eligible for credit by examination. There is no requirement or expectation for credit by examination, but if a credit by examination will be offered for a course, it must follow these policy guidelines. Generally, courses that provide credit by examination will be large enrollment and will be offered as lower- or mid-level courses.

Department faculty will determine the standards, methods, and procedures for evaluation. Departments may use any evaluation method or combination of methods including:
  • Written examination
  • Oral examination
  • Performance evaluation (practical exam)
  • Examination of completed work and/or records presented and defended by the student (portfolio).
  • Other methods consistent with evaluation of student learning in the corresponding regular course.
The content, quality and quantity of material covered in the examination for credit must be consistent with what is covered in the specified UW-Madison course for which the exam is intended to provide credit. The method of evaluation must be similar to the standard method used in the equivalent course. (Ex. a dance course that had a performance as the final exam should include some type of performance evaluation, a writing intensive course would not use a multiple choice exam format etc.) Because some course attributes, like Comm B or Service Learning, are assigned to courses that use particular pedagogies, it would be difficult for a department to measure mastery of course content and evaluate students’ learning gains with respect to those pedagogies. As a result, Comm B, Service Learning, and other courses may not be appropriate courses for awarding credit by examination.
In order to pass the examination, the student must demonstrate a clear mastery of the course material and student performance must be at a sufficient level that they are well prepared for higher level work in that field of study.
If a course is cross-listed, all cross-listed units will agree on an examination and select one department to administer all examinations for the course. 
If the department also offers placement exams, the department must clearly state whether the examination results in credit or course placement. Such information must be clearly communicated to students.
E. Approval to Offer Credit by Examination for a Course 
Before offering credit by examination for a specific course, a department must get approval to do so. The approval process will be handled through the existing course approval governance process. Credit by exam for a course will be proposed and approved by the subject owner (department) of the course and by any cross-listed subjects. The proposal would then be reviewed by the school or college followed by the University Curriculum Committee.

Once a course has been approved it will be listed on a master list of all courses available for credit by exam. This process will serve as the only avenue for awarding departmental credit other than by offering for-credit courses. Departments will be required to review and assess all credit by exam opportunities at least once every 3 years to determine whether the exam continues to match the content of the course. For courses that are not reviewed, approval will expire and they will be removed from the list of course available for credit by exam. Anytime the equivalent course is changed through the course change proposal process the examination must be evaluated to make sure it is still aligned with the learning outcomes of the course.
F. Administration of Exam 
Department examinations must be administered and/or supervised by a member of the faculty or academic staff.
The department is responsible for validating the identity of the student prior to administering the exam, by checking the student ID.
The department is responsible for determining whether the student is eligible to take the exam. If the department administers an exam to a student it is assumed that they have verified their eligibility. Training and tools will be available to assist department faculty and staff in validating eligibility. 
Departments must submit a Credit by Examination Form to the Office of the Registrar within 7 business days of scoring the exam/evaluation for all students who attempted credit by examination, even if the attempt is not successful. The Office of the Registrar will process the form and archive it with the student’s record in ImageNow. The ImageNow student record will serve as a record of all credit by exam attempts and will allow for the enforcement of the single attempt rule.

G. Fees 
The fee for each exam is $135.
The fee must be paid prior to attempting an examination. The fee is not refundable. The department offering the exam is responsible for verifying that the fee has been paid.
The fee is waived for Banner, FASTrack and Pell students.
The fee will be paid using the CASHNet sytem. The Bursar’s Office will provide support with set up and reconciliation.
The fee will be divided among the department offering the exam (75% of the fee), the Office of the Registrar (12.5%) and Bursar’s Office (12.5%).
The fee will be reviewed annually by the Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research.


See Also:

Keywords:credit, exam   Doc ID:49600
Owner:Melissa S.Group:Courses and Academic Programs
Created:2015-03-26 08:31 CSTUpdated:2020-09-02 08:24 CST
Sites:Courses and Academic Programs
Feedback:  3   1