Language Placement and Retroactive Credits

The Spanish placement exam is often the deciding factor when it comes to the level of Spanish at which you will begin your college career. New students to UW-Madison generally take placement exams prior to SOAR. More information on the Spanish placement exam can be found on the Testing & Evaluation Services website.

Earning Retroactive Credits

Retroactive credits are credits granted in recognition of previous language study. Retroactive credits earned at UW-Madison do correspond to particular courses, namely Spanish 101, 102, 203, and 204, but the credits are not graded and do not factor into your GPA. With some exceptions, retroactive credits will generally not fulfill the requirements of any School/College or major, but please check with your academic advisor to determine how your academic program will treat these credits.

You have to take a language class at UW-Madison to earn retroactive credits.

In no case can you earn retroactive credits simply by taking a placement test or other exam. You have to take a class and meet the following requirements to earn credit for the lower-level courses:

  • The course must be your 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 you were working towards a degree.
  • The course must be designated appropriate for earning retroactive credits by the department. In the case of the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, students can earn retroactive credits in:
    • Spanish 102 (4), 203 (8), 204 (12), 223 (16), 224 (16), 225 (16), 226 (16), and 311 (16)
    • Portuguese 102 (4), 302 (4), 201 (8), 202 (12), 221 (16), 225 (16), 226 (16), 311 (16), and 312 (16)
  • You must take the course before you 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 towards a degree.
  • You must earn a B or better in the class.
Retroactive credits may be transferred from other universities.

Students who earned retroactive credits at another institution under the same guidelines listed above may transfer those retroactive credits to UW-Madison with the rest of their transfer credits.

Retroactive credits do not count toward the Spanish major.

Students may earn up to 16 retroactive credits, 4 each for Spanish 101, 102, 203, and 204. The Spanish major begins beyond this level.

Retroactive credits cannot be earned for the same course for which AP credits were earned.

While students are able to earn both retroactive credits and AP credits, they cannot do so for the same course. For example, students with a 3 or a 4 on the AP Spanish Language exam will earn AP credits for Spanish 204. If they then begin the language sequence in Spanish 226 and meet all the eligibility requirements above, they will earn retroactive credits for Spanish 101, 102, and 203, but not for 204 as they already have AP credits for that course.

If you meet the above requirements, retroactive credits will be applied automatically to your record generally early in the semester following completion of the qualifying class (ie: if you take the class in the fall semester, the retroactive credits should appear on your record early in the following spring semester).


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