Credit for Prior Learning

University of Wisconsin System institutions offer many opportunities for students to receive credit for college-level learning obtained outside the university classroom. Examples include industry based training, professional development courses, private study, and work or volunteer experiences. Credit is not granted for experience, but the learning a student obtained from the learning experience.

To receive credit for prior learning, the institution evaluates the learning and determines whether it is equivalent to what the student would have gained through course work at a UW System institution. In general, credit is awarded to degree seeking undergraduate students.

Curious about how credit for your prior learning may be evaluated at a particular UW institution?

Click here to find out more.

Common formats of prior learning fall into four categories: standardized exams, credit recommendations, department exams, and portfolios.

Standardized Exam

Credit Recommendations

Departmental Exams

At many UW institutions, academic departments will allow students to take a course specific comprehensive exam. Student who pass such an exam may be awarded course credit.


Several UW institutions provide opportunities to students to demonstrate and document college level learning the student attained by creating a portfolio. A portfolio is an organized collection of materials developed by the learner that describes, records, and verifies learning achievements and knowledge competencies. The portfolio also includes a narrative and reflective essay that demonstrates the student's mastery of course content.

UW Flexible Option

The new degree option that offers degree and certificate programs in self-paced, competency-based delivery format that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge through robust, reliable assessment.

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