Do I Have to Take College Entrance Exams to Earn Transfer Credit?


College entrance exams seem to be a thing of the past, as most institutions are looking at students' overall performance, from academics to extracurricular activities. In most cases, no college entrance exam is required to transfer schools and retain any credits you have earned, but SAT/ACT scores may be required.

Credit Considerations

No. In fact, there's no 'national university entrance exam', however, many colleges and universities will require SAT or ACT scores. Each college and university has their own evaluation process on transfer credits and admission standards, so be sure to check with each university before moving forward.

Depending on whether you're an international or a United States (US) transfer student, different things may be required to earn transfer credit. For those who have completed post-secondary education somewhere, from another institution to online courses, it's important to receive credit for all of your hard work. It all depends on whether your courses are transferable, how many courses you have taken and their respective grades, and if the courses fit the degree you wish to receive.

Differences Between International and US Transfer Students

Learn the difference between international and US transfer student policy.

It's easier to transfer credits if you have studied in the US education system. While it's still not easy to figure out which credits will transfer, it is easier to match up courses you have taken with the degree you wish to take. For those who studied outside of the US, more information is required about the courses you have taken. When submitting information about courses, the syllabi or outlines must include:

  1. Number of Lectures
  2. Number of Weeks in Attendance
  3. Tutorial and Laboratory Hours
  4. Grading Practices
  5. List of Textbooks Used
  6. Detailed List of Topics Covered

In general, you need to follow the university or college guidelines to transfer credits. For more information about the transfer process, whether you acquired credits domestically or internationally, visit

When are College Entrance Exams Needed?

Learn when you may need to take another entrance exam to transfer.

College or university entrance exams are only needed if the institute specifically states that they're necessary when registering. In recent years, many schools have de-emphasized, or even completely gotten rid of the need for standardized test scores in admission decisions. That's why it's important to check out the university or college website or reach out to the admission office to determine if they require entrance exams scores, SAT/ACT, or another type of test scores for admissions when transferring schools. Unless the institution stresses that the scores are optional or not needed, it's probably in your best interest to take the test and send the results in.

When do SAT/ACT Scores Matter?

In general, most four-year universities and colleges put a ton of importance on your SAT and ACT scores. This is because it's hard to compare candidates' academic performance using only high school transcripts. In fact, selective schools use these test scores to determine candidates' mastery of certain subject areas. However, there are some exceptions, from test-flexible policies at some institutions to test-optional schools. Sometimes, there are other test options available, like submitting three Advanced Placement (AP) exams or three SAT/ACT subject tests, rather than the entire SAT/ACT exam scores.

For more information on placement and exemption exams, visit the College Board.

There are other cases when scores on the SAT/ACT don't matter as much, including:

  1. Athletes applying don't have to score as high on tests as non-recruitment students
  2. Students with a special talent in areas such as academic competition, chess, and other also may not have to score as high on entrance exams.

For more information about colleges and universities that don't require the SAT or ACT scores, check out the College Entrance Examination Board SAT/ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips.

What's Needed to Earn Transfer Credit?

Earning transfer credit is easier than you think.

Earning transfer credit depends on your status as a student and where you earned your credits from. Students who are currently studying at a college or university must get permission from their current school if they wish to transfer credits from a course at another institution. International students must apply for and be admitted into the new school before any of their credits will be considered for transfer. Students that have studied either online or at a traditional US institution have the easiest time transferring credits, as long as the courses match the program they are transferring into.

There are a few restrictions that most institutions have in place, as transfer credit isn't granted in certain cases, including:

  1. Students that have a grade point average or GPA that is less than 2.0
  2. Students who are under suspension
  3. Students that have quit college
  4. Students on a leave of absence

In general, most college and universities will grant credit for transfer courses based on a few things, including:

  1. Applicability of the course toward the degree and intended major
  2. Comparability of the content and level of the courses taken
  3. Accreditation of the college or university where the courses were taken
  4. Performance of the student in the course

In closing, if you have to take a college entrance exam to gain admission, make sure you give it your best effort. If you do poorly though, don't stress it too much. These exams can be taken again, and it's even encouraged by many universities to do so. However, you shouldn't have to take an entrance exam in order to transfer your credits to every school — they're only needed in some circumstances to gain entry to certain schools. So be sure to see what each university policy is before starting your transfer journey.

By Kyle Aken
November 2016
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