High School Courses & Standardized Tests
- 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)
- Do I need to take the SAT and/or ACT?
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 or the ACT, or both, can be submitted to Northwestern as part of an applicant's record.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Will Northwestern accept both the current and redesigned versions of the SAT?
For applicants seeking to enroll in fall 2017, we will accept either version of the test. However, beginning with those seeking to enroll as first-year students in fall 2018, we will only accept the new SAT.
- If I took the old SAT prior to spring 2016 and will also take the redesigned SAT, which scores should I send to Northwestern? Will Northwestern “superscore” my results?
Some students will take the current SAT before spring 2016 and then take the redesigned SAT later. In those cases, students can choose to send one or both scores to Northwestern. Because the redesigned SAT is a different test than the current SAT, a numerical score on one test will not be equivalent to the same numerical score on the other. And, for this reason, if a student sends scores for the current and new SAT, Northwestern will not “superscore” area scores across both tests.
- For students who choose to fulfill the standardized test requirement with the SAT, will Northwestern require the Optional Essay section on the new SAT?
No, Northwestern will not require the Optional Essay as part of the new SAT.
- For students who choose to fulfill the standardized test requirement with the ACT , will Northwestern continue to require the Writing section of the ACT?
Beginning in spring 2016 (when the new SAT is first administered), Northwestern will no longer require the Writing section of the ACT.
- Does Northwestern "superscore" the SAT and/or ACT?
For students taking the ACT, we use the highest official composite score that you choose to report. For students taking the SAT, we will simply add together your highest scores in the Critical Reading and Math categories to make a higher total score. This is the only area in which we create a “superscore” for applicants. You may use Score Choice to select which official SAT scores we receive.