Guide: College Credit Opportunities
The thirty-one Saylor Academy courses listed below have alternate final exams that have been recommended for credit by at least one of two organizations, ACE® CREDIT® and NCCRS. Briefly, these courses are tuition-free, with low associated fees for exam proctoring and transcripts; fully online; completely self-paced, with exams available 24/7; guaranteed for credit at over a dozen Saylor Academy partner schools, with hundreds more that will consider the courses for credit.
Depending on where you are in your college career, you can save thousands of dollars by earning up to two full years , and in some cases up to three years, of tuition-free credit transferable to great partners, including Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey; University of Maryland, University College, Excelsior College, and many more listed on our college credit transfer partner page.
The basic process is simple and straightforward:
- Take the course
- Pass the credit-recommended exam in proctored conditions
- Have your transcript sent to a school
- Enjoy extremely affordable college credit
Be sure to explore this page for important details and note the address; you will likely need to refer back to this page along the way. Below you will find a list of credit-recommended courses, a complete checklist to be sure you are on the right path, information on proctoring and transcripts, an FAQ section, more information on the organizations that have recommended our materials for credit, and additional resources for affordable college credit.
Checklist: What you will need to do
1. Before you begin
- Find out whether your school(s) will grant credit for courses in the Saylor Direct Credit program
- Review this Guide and the linked resources thoroughly, including the sections on proctoring, transcripts, and frequently asked questions; get in touch with additional questions that you have
- Choose your courses and determine a plan and timeline for completion
2. Prepare for your exam
- Take the course associated with your exam
- Take the regular certificate exam for practice
- Review your exam as well as the learning objectives for the course and units
3. Schedule and take your exam*
- Familiarize yourself with the proctoring process
- Schedule your proctored exam with ProctorU or other proctor
- Take and pass your exam
4. Send your transcript to schools
- Fill out and submit a transcript request form AND/OR
- Request your transcript through ACE
* To earn the recommendation of credit from ACE and/or NCCRS, you must take the password-protected “Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam”.
Documentation of Credit Recommendations
To confirm that the courses listed on this page have indeed been evaluated by NCCRS and ACE and that the recommendations for credit are current, please see the following links.
Saylor Academy’s provider page on the National College Credit Recommendation Service website offers details on our courses that have been recommended for credit by NCCRS, including course length, dates of validity, learning outcomes, area of recommendation, and current contact information.
Saylor Academy courses that have been recommended for college credit by ACE CREDIT are listed in two separate places on the ACE CREDIT website; please refer to both locations for the complete list of our courses.
Saylor Academy’s organization page on the ACE CREDIT website lists sixteen courses that have been recommended for college credit.
As our organization page notes, Saylor Academy courses that have been evaluated and recommended for credit as part of the Alternative Credit Project Ecosystem (ACPE) are listed separately.
To find Saylor Academy courses within ACPE, visit the “find a course or exam” search page on the ACE CREDIT website and enter “saylor” under Course/Exam Title and “alternative credit project ecosystem” under Organization Name, then submit your search.
You can also view all courses associated with ACPE. Use your browser’s “find” tool to search for Saylor Academy courses within this list (press command + f or control + f and type “saylor” to highlight our courses.
More information on organizations are in the About ACE CREDIT and NCCRS section below.
Recognition of Credit
Remember that Saylor Academy does not and cannot “grant credit” – the option to grant credit always belongs to the college or university and will further depend on whether a course fits into your degree program. We work with a number of official partners to guarantee recognition, however, and both NCCRS and ACE have large networks of institutions that typically will give credit for these courses. Specifically:
- Saylor Academy partner schools guarantee credit (assuming a course fits your degree program needs). Visit the Partner Schools page and click on each school to see details and conditions.
- NCCRS maintains a list of Cooperating Colleges and Universities that have agreed to consider NCCRS recommendations for credit. You can refer your school, as necessary, to the information maintained by NCCRS on Saylor Academy courses and recommendations.
- ACE CREDIT maintains a College and University Network of schools that have agreed to consider ACE CREDIT recommendations for credit.
- Saylor Academy is a course provider institution in the Alternative Credit Project™ from the American Council on Education. All fourteen courses recommended by ACE are included in the ACP.
- Note: always verify with your school(s) that you will be able to earn credit based on these recommendations! The Registrar and the Admissions office can offer advice on their transfer and alternative credit policies.
To earn recommendation for college credit, your exam must be proctored (that is, your attempt must be monitored). Our approved proctoring service is a company called ProctorU. You will be able to take the exam in a secure, quiet place with a dependable network connection; people most often take the exam at home. Each attempt will cost $25 USD (this fee is assessed by ProctorU).
Complete steps for scheduling and taking an exam with ProctorU are available in our Help Center. The video Online Proctoring: How it works from ProctorU will also help you better understand how the proctoring process.
Alternative arrangements with an in-person proctor or testing centers are also possible. More details are in our Help Center’s In-person proctor protocols page.
For courses recommended by NCCRS
Saylor Academy fulfills transcript requests for courses recommended for credit by NCCRS. Complete the transcript request form (paying attention to the notes, where applicable), and we will take care of the rest!
For courses recommended by ACE
Transcripts for courses recommended for credit by ACE are fulfilled by ACE CREDIT. Students will need to pay a one-time $20 registration fee to use the ACE CREDIT Transcript Services. That fee includes one transcript, which will be sent to the college of your choice.
Additional transcripts cost $15 each. For more information and to make your transcript request, visit the ACE CREDIT Transcript Service website.
The ACE Transcript Service offers a lifelong record for students who have successfully completed our courses that have been reviewed by ACE CREDIT. Transcripts fulfilled directly by ACE CREDIT have the benefit of being able to combine courses from multiple ACE reviewed providers, including those other providers taking part in the Alternative Credit Project™. This service enables adult learners to present a nationally recognized transcript to the college or university of their choice for the potential award of academic credit.
If you prefer not to use ACE CREDIT Transcript Services, Saylor Academy will honor transcript requests for courses recommended for credit by ACE. Follow the instructions for courses recommended by NCCRS. Please note that transcripts sent to schools directly from Saylor Academy will not include information about the ACE credit recommendation, which may impact your school’s willingness to accept the courses listed for credit transfer.
Proctored exams not recommended by ACE or NCCRS
Some courses that have not been recommended for credit by ACE or by NCCRS also provide the option to take proctored exams. (Typically, these courses are directly recognized for credit as part of a specific partner program). Saylor Academy will issue a paper transcript for these exams; use the same transcript request form as for courses recommended by NCCRS.
College Credit FAQ
We briefly answer a wide variety of college credit questions below; please also visit our Help Center for more details. When in doubt, we always recommend getting in touch with your school (advisor, Admissions, Registrar, etc.).
Do I have to take the entire course? Can I just take the exam?
Taking the course is very much recommended, but not required – your recommendation for college credit is based entirely on passing the proctored exam.
What is a passing score on the exam?
Like our certificate exams, a passing score is 70%. We recommend that you take the certificate exam one or more times as preparation and so that you will better know what to expect from the proctored exam.
How much does everything cost?
- Our courses and certificate exams are completely free of cost – no tuition and no fees for materials
- Each exam attempt with ProctorU costs $25 USD
- Obtaining your transcript from ACE CREDIT carries a one-time fee of $20 USD. Each additional transcript from ACE CREDIT is $15 USD
- There are no fees for obtaining your paper transcript from Saylor Academy
- Although somewhat unusual, individual schools may charge fees to transfer in credit
What are NCCRS and ACE?
These are independent organizations that have evaluated a selection of our courses and exams and then recommended that students completing those exams should receive college credit. Both organizations maintain large networks of colleges and universities, primarily located in the United States, that agree to consider their recommendations.
What schools offer credit for these courses? How do I find out if my school will recognize these courses?
Both NCCRS and ACE have large networks of colleges and universities that have agreed to consider their recommendations in granting credit for students, and Saylor Academy has a number of partner schools that have committed more strongly to recognizing credit. Please see the “Recognition of Credit” section above for links and details.
Do I have to take a proctored exam?
Yes. To sustain the recommendation for credit and to maintain the integrity of our proctored exams, we must hold students to particular testing conditions.
Can I take the exam more than once?
Yes, you can take the exam as many times as you wish. There is a two week waiting period between attempts and each attempt will incur the $25 USD proctoring fee if using ProctorU.
I see more than one exam – which one do I take?
The credit-recommended exams are labeled “Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam” to distinguish them from our regular certificate exams.
Will the proctored exam be the same as the regular certificate exam?
The proctored exam will be similar to, but not identical to, the certificate exam for the same course. Each exam is built to test the same learning outcomes. Each attempt of either exam will be different from other attempts, as the exam you take at any given time will pull semi-randomly from a larger pool of test questions.
Do I need to use ProctorU?
Using ProctorU is a direct and convenient method. You can arrange to test with an in-person proctor or at a testing center, however. See the “Proctoring” section above for details.
What should I expect on “test day”?
When you are ready to start your exam, after connecting with your proctor, you will log into the Saylor Academy site and navigate to the exam. Proctored exams are password protected; when prompted, your proctor will enter the password. Once you have started the exam, you have two hours to complete and submit your answers. You will find out your score immediately.
Will I get a letter grade?
Your exam score, as a percent, is your grade for the course. Saylor Academy does not convert these into letter grades. The recommendation for credit is made on the basis of passing your exam with 70% or higher. The school you transfer credit to may or may not issue you a letter grade, but typically our credit transfer partner schools will grant credit on a pass/fail basis. Check with your school(s) to find out their policies.
What courses will appear on my transcript?
If your transcript is sent by Saylor Academy, you will have the option to include all or only some of the courses for which you have passed proctored exams. That is, if you have passed three proctored exams, you can include just one, two, or all three courses on the transcript.
How long will it take for my school to receive my transcript?
We usually process and mail transcript requests on Tuesday and Fridays. First class mail usually takes 2-3 days to reach a US destination from Washington, DC. Depending on when you submit your request, please plan for up to 7 days for your school to receive your transcript. Note, too, that it may take time for the recipient school to process the transcript as well.
Can I get credit for “X” course?
The only courses that we have widely, explicitly connected to college credit are those listed in this guide. We intend to seek additional recommendations in the future, and there are additional options for college credit you may wish to look into; see the section “Additional College Credit Options” below for details.
About ACE CREDIT & NCCRS
About NCCRS | nationalccrs.org
“Since 1973, NCCRS (National College Credit Recommendation Service, formerly National PONSI) has been evaluating training and education programs offered outside of the traditional college classroom setting and translating them into college credit equivalencies.
“NCCRS coordinates teams of college faculty evaluators and subject matter experts to conduct extensive reviews of education and training programs offered by corporations, unions, religious organizations and proprietary schools.
“NCCRS strives to help working adults and other students earn credit for learning acquired outside of the college classroom. Over 1,500 cooperating colleges and universities will consider granting actual college credit based on our credit recommendations and in accordance with their own transfer policies.”
Saylor Academy’s organizational listing page can be found here.
About ACE CREDIT | acenet.edu/credit
The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for two of Saylor Academy’s Courses. Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents and more than 200 related associations nationwide. It provides leadership on key higher education issues and influences public policy through advocacy.
For more than 30 years, colleges and universities have trusted ACE CREDIT to provide reliable course equivalency information to facilitate their decisions to award academic credit.
Saylor Academy’s organizational listing page can be found here. Note that the courses listed here do not include all of our courses that have been recommended by ACE, because those courses which fall under the Alternative Credit Project are listed separately. The list of courses in this college credit guide is kept complete and up to date.
Additional College Credit Options & Suggestions
Alternative Credit Project™
The Alternative Credit Project™ (ACP) from the American Council on Education brings together 100+ free and low-cost courses, 40+ participating schools, and several course providers including Saylor Academy. See also our ACP page and the full Alternative Credit Project Ecosystem listing.
Third-party exams for credit
A number of widely-known and less well-known credit exams exist, including several proprietary to individual schools. The latter can be a good approach because passing those exams typically earns the student immediate credit at the school that offers the exam; the student can either seek a degree through that school or obtain a transcript to transfer that credit elsewhere.
We have aligned several of our courses to third-party credit exams; learn more here.
Prior Learning Assessment
Also known as “PLA” and often done in the form of assessing a portfolio of learning/work, this is one way that some colleges and universities, including many of our partner schools, will provide credit for what you know. Both creating and assessing a portfolio can be a lot of work, so this process is not necessarily an easy path, but is likely more affordable and flexible than taking a course that simply repeats what you already know.
Free And Affordable Credit Courses
We keep a public spreadsheet of college credit opportunities that are low cost or free. We happily accept suggestions for updates and additions. Browse the list.
Other useful resources
Search the Web for terms like “prior learning assessment”, “credit by exam”, and “alternative credit”. Active and knowledgeable communities exist around affordable credit options, such as DegreeForum and DegreeInfo – browse these forums to find tips and answers from many people who are pursuing low-cost degrees.