High School Courses and Exams
- What high school classes should I take?
The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Medill School of Journalism, the School of Education and Social Policy, the Bienen School of Music and the School of Communication require that entering students complete a minimum of 16 courses (most applicants present more) in the following academic areas:
- English: 4 full-year courses
- Foreign language: a minimum of 2 full-year courses of one foreign language
- History and social science: a minimum of 2 full-year courses
- Laboratory science: a minimum of 2 full-year courses
- Mathematics: a minimum of 3 full-year courses
- Additional subjects: 1-3 full-year courses in the academic areas listed above
The McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science encourages strong preparation in mathematics and science. Recommended coursework includes:
- English: 4 full-year courses
- Laboratory science: a minimum of 3 full-year courses; chemistry and physics preferred
- Mathematics: 3.5-4 full-year courses; calculus preferred, if available; the minimum requirement includes 2 full-year courses of algebra, 1 full-year course of plane geometry and 1 semester of trigonometry
- Additional subjects: 5-6 full-year courses; these should include courses in foreign language, history and social sciences
- How important is my secondary school transcript?
The evaluation of your secondary school transcript is an important part of the admission process. We are not simply looking for high grades; the strength of your academic program is also considered. In addition, the admission committee makes note of any accelerated, honors or Advanced Placement courses taken.
Every secondary school is different in its level of competitiveness and in the range of courses offered. These factors are also considered when admission decisions are rendered.
- Will I receive credits for AP and/or IB exams?
Northwestern awards credit in nearly all areas for Advanced Placement (AP) examination scores of "5" and for International Baccalaureate (IB) higher-level examination results of "6" or higher. You must arrange to have your test scores sent to Northwestern. Specific details vary by school. Click one of the links below to read more about AP/IB credit for students who enroll in the:
- Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
- McCormick School of Engineering
- School of Communication
- Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications: AP and IB credit is awarded through Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (WCAS). Please refer to WCAS policies here.
- School of Education and Social Policy
- Bienen School of Music
- Will I receive credit for classes taken at other colleges?
In some circumstances, credits taken at other universities can also be applied towards a Northwestern degree. Although official evaluation of your credits will be made by Northwestern's Registrar's Office, it may be helpful to know the following guidelines.
Courses acceptable for credit must be comparable to courses at Northwestern and in comparable University departments (as listed in our course catalog).
The following courses do not transfer:
- Courses completed at an unaccredited college or university.
- Physical education or hygiene courses.
- No more than three applied music courses (except applicants to the Bienen School of Music)
- Courses for which credit was granted by institutional examination rather than course attendance.
- Mathematics courses below the level of calculus (with the exception of a combined course in college algebra and trigonometry or modern mathematics).
- Courses worth less than three quarter hours or two semester hours.
- Credit granted through CLEP examinations.
- Courses that an applicant has audited, repeated or failed.
- English as a Second Language courses.
- Journalism courses (Medill students only)
- I am an Illinois-resident who took the Prairie State Exam that included the ACT with writing. Do I need to take a separate ACT with writing?
The writing section of the Prairie State Exam was dropped in 2012.
We accept the Prairie State Exam for those applicants who took the test prior to 2012. Applicants who have taken the Prairie State Exam since will need to submit either the ACT with writing or SAT exam results to fulfill the standardized test requirement.
- Do I need to take the SAT Reasoning Test and/or ACT with writing?
All first-year applicants will be required to submit results from one of the two tests.
- Does Northwestern prefer results from one test rather than the other?
No. Results from either the SAT Reasoning Test, the ACT with writing or both, can be submitted to Northwestern as part of an applicant's record.
- Will Northwestern receive my test scores automatically?
No. Students must request that scores be sent officially to Northwestern.
- The Northwestern SAT Reasoning Test code 1565.
- The Northwestern ACT code is 1106.
- Does Northwestern require SAT Subject Tests?
Northwestern recommends that all applicants take two SAT Subject Tests. However, it requires scores from SAT Subject Tests only for applicants to the Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME), the Integrated Science Program (ISP) and applicants who have been home-schooled.
Specific exam requirements:
- HPME: Chemistry and Math Level 2
- ISP: Chemistry, Physics and Math Level 2
- Home-schooled: Math Level 1 or 2, plus two other SAT Subject Tests of the applicant's choice from different areas (i.e., not two science or two foreign language or two history, etc.)