This policy supports students in their timely progress to degree completion. By awarding appropriate credit for prior learning experiences, the university helps students potentially decrease the cost of their education and frees up space in high-demand courses. This policy ensures consistency and transparency as it provides the requirements by which the course equivalency for third-party exams is established or changed in alignment with processes for approval of for-credit courses.
Academic units and degree-seeking undergraduates
The Board of Regents and the University of Wisconsin System set standards for awarding credit based on third-party exams, and place responsibility for determining specific course and credit equivalencies at the institution level. At UW-Madison, the University Curriculum Committee (UCC) is responsible for overseeing institutional policy and course equivalencies related to third-party credit by exam.
Appropriate course credit equivalency for third-party exams is recommended by the faculty of the relevant academic unit as they are best positioned to evaluate and assign course credit equivalencies in their disciplinary areas.
The recommendation of the department faculty is communicated to and considered for approval by the UCC. In its review, the UCC considers if the course-credit equivalency is consistent with relevant existing policy (e.g., the Board of Regent policy on the assignment of credit equivalency for AP courses) and if the course-credit equivalency meets institutional goals for recognizing prior learning of students through appropriate assignment of credit.
Once the determination of course-credit equivalency is approved, it will apply to all students who submit scores and meet the approved criteria for the third-party exam regardless of program or other circumstances.
UW–Madison-approved exam-to-course credit equivalencies are posted online so that prospective students can use the information in planning their progress to degree completion. Such equivalencies are recorded in the Student Information System (SIS) and are integrated with degree audit (i.e., DARS) and other digital systems.
Establishing a Course Credit Equivalency for a New Exam or Making Changes to Existing Third-Party Exam Equivalencies
When a school/college, academic unit, or other academic or student services unit becomes aware of a new third-party exam or a change to a third-party exam, they may determine that a change in the course-credit equivalency is warranted. This information must be communicated to the academic unit that serves as the home of the relevant subject and to Data, Academic Planning and Institutional Research (DAPIR) which will assist in the change process. If the UW–Madison course used as an equivalency is no longer offered, the faculty of the relevant department will re-evaluate the third-party exam and recommend a new course-credit equivalency. The chair of the department or their designee must submit a written request to DAPIR for UCC consideration. The request must specify the third-party exam or exam component, the current course-credit equivalency if relevant, the proposed course-credit equivalency and rationale, and a proposed implementation date.
At a minimum, third-party credit by exam equivalencies will be reviewed every seven years.
The Initial Establishment of Acceptance for Third-Party Credit by Exam by a New Exam Provider
If a new third-party exam provider is identified as offering credit by exam that is aligned with UW–Madison’s standards and course offerings, the UCC must approve the exam provider before course-credit equivalency is approved. In consultation with DAPIR, the UCC will determine whether there is alignment with UW System policy and higher education standards and will decide whether to approve the use of exams offered by the provider. Once the exam provider is approved the individual exams can be reviewed and course equivalencies established. The department or departments with subject listings in the discipline covered by the exam will review the exam content and make a recommendation using the process described above.
Changes to Policies Related to the Acceptance of Third-Party Credit by Exam
Changes to policies related to credit for a third-party exam may be requested via a proposal to the UCC, e.g., classifications of students eligible to receive credit, limitations on the number of credits, or limitations on when students are eligible to receive credits. Such a proposal must specify the change to be made including the specific exam providers and exams, the rationale for the change, the anticipated impact, and a timeline for implementation of the change. All policy changes must apply to all UW–Madison students within a career.
Approval and Communication
Decisions made by the UCC related to third-party credit by exam will be communicated to UW System, and the relevant UW-Madison departments including the Office of Admissions and Recruitment, Credit Evaluation Services (Office of the Registrar), and the advising community (via advisor-link).
American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, American Council on Education, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation Joint Statement on the Transfer and Award of Credit