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Undergraduate Transfer Credit and Credit by Exam

Type: Definitions
Effective Date: 6/4/2024

Undergraduate Transfer Credit

Credit By Exam

  • Advanced Placement (AP)
  • Cambridge International Exam (CIE)
  • Challenge Exams
  • College Level Exam Program (CLEP)
  • DSST (formerly DANTES Subject Standardized Tests)
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma & Certificate Credit (IB)

Undergraduate Transfer Credit 

To meet the requirements of a particular degree plan, students may use transfer credit from other institutions. Transcripts are required in the transfer credit review process to determine the number of units to be accepted and in what manner they will apply toward satisfying NAU liberal studies, diversity, major, minor, and/or certificate requirements. Course equivalencies are established based on the alignment of the most recent review of the course's learning outcomes. While NAU accepts transfer credit units, course grades are not accepted or calculated into the GPA from these courses i.e., GPA does not transfer. Students may request the review of transfer credit in the event the course changed equivalency between the time the student originally took the course and the time they requested transfer credit from NAU.

Credits submitted by students may be considered for acceptance if the institution was accredited and the accrediting body was recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) at the time of the student’s enrollment (See CHEA’s Directory of Recognized Organizations). Undergraduate credit, from accredited four-year institutions, will be accepted on a credit-unit-for-credit-unit basis (adjusted for semester/quarter terms, if applicable) for college-level courses with grades of "P" (credit awarded), "C," 2.0, or better. The credit accepted for transfer cannot duplicate any previously awarded credit.

Additionally, Northern Arizona University will accept up to 64 transfer credit units from a combination of accredited two-year institutions, prior learning assessment credit, and the American Council on Education (ACE) Alternative Credit Project™. These credits must be college-level with grades of "P" (credit awarded), "C," 2.0, or better. NAU has ABOR approval to accept up to 90 transfer credit hours from a combination of accredited two-year institutions, prior learning assessment credit, and the American Council on Education (ACE) Alternative Credit Project™ for specific degree programs. Program requirements and transfer policies, noted in the academic catalog, for these specific degree programs, should be reviewed carefully.

Students who transfer from Arizona higher education public institutions will follow the degree requirements in effect at the time the coursework began provided that attendance was continuous (as explained under Catalog to Use for Degree Requirements, Policy #100304).

The Arizona Course Equivalency Guide (CEG), which is part of the System, indicates how the universities accept transfer coursework (numbered 100 or above) from Arizona higher education public institutions.

Students pursuing a baccalaureate degree at Northern Arizona University who have completed the Arizona General Education Curriculum (AGEC) from an Arizona public or tribal community college, the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC), or California State University General Education (CSUGE) from a California public community college are considered to have satisfied NAU’s Liberal Studies Distribution Blocks and Foundation requirements as well as the US Ethnic and Global Diversity requirements. However, completion of the AGEC, IGETC, or the CSUGE does not satisfy the Junior Writing and Senior Capstone requirements. Students will still need to complete these requirements as part of their undergraduate degree.

Prior Learning Assessment

Prior Learning is a term that refers to learning and experiences an individual acquires outside of the traditional academic environment. This learning is typically not indicated on a college or university transcript and can be acquired through work experience, workshop participation, in-service training, or involvement in professional organizations.

Credit may be awarded for verifiable college-level learning gained through workforce or other training experience when credit-by-exam or challenge exam options are not available or applicable. Departments will determine the application of prior learning toward major requirements.

Additionally, Northern Arizona University also evaluates and may accept transfer credit for Prior Learning that has previously been evaluated and accepted by a CHEA recognized institution using one of the following methods: workforce training documentation, portfolio of relevant professional work, or official certification. Departments will determine the application of these credits toward major requirements.

Furthermore, Northern Arizona University also utilizes the credit recommendations from the American Council on Education (ACE). An ACE credit recommendation represents college-level equivalencies based on a review of workforce training, military training or occupations, and other sources of learning outside the college classroom, such as national exams and certifications. Departments will determine the application of the ACE credit toward major requirements.

Credit For U.S. Military Service 

A student can be awarded an additional 4 units of credit for 18 consecutive months of active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces if terminated under honorable conditions, as documented on the DD214.

Furthermore, a student who has earned a commission in the U.S. Armed Forces may petition the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation for another additional 12 general elective units.

Please see Military and Veteran Admission for more information. 

Credit By Exam 

Students can use the credit-by-exam option to demonstrate discipline-specific proficiency and gain credit for college courses. Students can only use credit-by-exam for courses that the college or department has approved for this option. Some colleges and departments do not permit credit-by-exam, and those that do may limit the availability of course(s) to be challenged by exam.

Where exams for credit are allowed, they are governed by the general requirements that follow and by the policies of the college or department.

The following requirements apply to all exams for credit.

  • Students may earn up to 60 units by exam either at NAU or transferred to NAU from another accredited institution. Credit-by-exam earned at another institution may be re-evaluated using NAU standards.
  • Credit-by-exam equivalencies are based on the most recent iteration of the exam.
  • The same exam may not be repeated within a year of the first attempt.
  • Under no circumstances will students be permitted to take an exam for the same course more than twice.
  • Credit earned by an exam must not duplicate credit already earned for the same course.
  • Credit will not be given for a course that is equivalent to, more elementary than, or substantially overlaps with another course where credit has already been received.
    • Courses in Progress: Students who are currently enrolled in a language course, other than English, and want credit for a more introductory course(s), must take the exam for that course before the midterm of the course currently enrolled.
    • Credit earned by exam becomes part of a student’s academic record.

NAU will not accept Retrocredit, Challenge, or CLEP exam credit within the 100-200 levels in the primary language of instruction of the student’s secondary school [high school] where they graduated.


Credit By Exam 

Related policies:

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