How to Challenge a College Course

Students sitting at desks in college classroom.
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Sitting through a college course when you already know the information wastes your time and leads to boredom. Challenging a college course allows you to take a test, write a paper or create a project to demonstrate your knowledge and obtain course credit without having to attend classes and complete the daily work. Each school sets its own requirements for challenging a course, but some aspects of this practice are common throughout academia.

1 Check the Requirements

Read the school policy about challenging a course before registration. Some schools, like New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, require students to enroll in the class they want to challenge, while others, such as California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, do not want students to enroll in the course. Most school policies do not allow students to challenge a course they have already taken. This policy includes courses you signed up for but withdrew from.

2 Make Sure Challenging Is Appropriate

Be sure challenging the course fits your needs. Months may pass before you get credit for your challenge. University of Maryland University College suggests students not challenge courses during their last semester because of the potential timing conflicts. Challenging a course also may not improve your grade point average. If a school posts the grade for your challenge and you did not perform particularly well, you have no opportunity to raise the grade. Some institutions, like Minnesota West Community and Technical College, do not include challenge test scores in GPA calculations. Credits earned by challenge tests typically do not count toward residency requirements and may not apply toward financial aid full-time status.

3 Get Permissions

Each school has a specific process students must follow to challenge a course. Get all necessary permissions and forms -- typically from your college's advising office. You will likely need the class instructor to sign your form, along with an administrator, such as the dean of the department. Most schools require a fee for the challenge. Upon approval of your request, you will get the information you need to study for the exam. Make scheduling arrangements to fulfill your challenge.

4 Be Prepared

Challenging a course may limit your future options. For instance, UMUC does not allow students to take a challenge exam more than twice. You might not need to fail to be denied credit; at the University of Utah, for example, challenge students must receive at least a "C" to obtain credit. Challenging courses can be expensive, as each class typically requires a separate petition and fee. You may need to pay for each credit you want to challenge, as well. At Minnesota West, for instance, you pay for each lecture and lab credit, and your money is not refundable even if you fail the exam.

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.