Academic Standing

Course Placement

Placement refers to using assessments to determine the starting point in the sequence of classes that students will be taking. Placement can be determined by ACT subscores, high school performance, placement exams, or transfer courses. Placement in Chemistry and Math classes is based on ACT, SAT, and / or ALEKS scores. Placement information can be found at the respective department websites.

ACT / SAT / GED Score

A students ACT / SAT / GED score gives a general indication of a students academic ability.  It is used to judge how heavy an academic load the student should carry in their initial semesters. Later the students performance at ISU will replace the ACT for that purpose. The average ACT for incoming CALS student is usually around 23. 

The English Department uses ACT cutoff scores to recommend placement in either English 150 or 250.  Advisors should check the placement recommendations on the English Departments website.

Students who score below 16 on the ACT English part score should complete the First-Year Composition Placement Examination.

ALEKS Scores

ALEKS is the Math Placement Exam. The ALEKS placement test is an 20-30 minute, online exam taken through AccessPlus before the student attends new student orientation. Detailed information on the exam, including cutoff scores, is found at the ALEKS link under the Undergrad drop down on the Math Department’s website.

Credit by Examination (CBE)

Advanced Placement (AP) Credits

  • Offered by the college board
  • To receive AP credit high school students must complete national examinations each May that may or may not qualify them for academic credit at many colleges and universities.
  • The scores must be sent to ISU by the College Board
  • The ISU departments most closely associated with the specific AP exams determine the scores that are needed to receive ISU credits and what course in their respective department is most closely related to the exam content.
  • Advisors are referred to the ISU CBE webpage to view the courses and required AP exam scores to receive AP credit.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP Credits)

  • National tests recognized by the University for credit in specific classes and in general areas of study
  • Exams are offered during summer orientation and at the beginning of each semester
  • Advisors need to check with their colleges to see how CLEP credits are applied towards graduation
  • A “T” shows up on a students transcript meaning a student successfully passed a CLEP exam with a C or higher
  • Advisors are referred to the ISU CBE webpage to view the courses and required CLEP exam scores to receive CLEP credit.
  • If the CLEP credit is earned at any Iowa public college or university and it is accompanied by at least 12 semester credits earned in residence at the sending institution, it may be transferred directly to Iowa State
  • If CLEP credit is from any other college or university, the scores should be sent to the Office of Admissions

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Program

  • Offers college preparatory courses at high schools and colleges in the United States and abroad
  • Examinations are given in the high school at the conclusion of the courses
  • Original examination report needs to be sent from the International Baccalaureate North America office sent to Iowa State (the CEEB code is 6306)
  • Advisors are referred to the ISU CBE webpage to view the courses and required exam scores to receive IB credit.

Departmental Exams 

  • Departmental examinations are offered by many of Iowa State University's academic departments to allow students to earn credit in specific courses
  • Exams are offered at the beginning of each semester, and are administered by the department on campus for a departmental exam fee
  • To learn more about the departmental exams offered at Iowa State University, contact the specific departmental office

Non-credit remedial courses

CHEM 50 / MATH 10 courses

  • These are remedial or developmental classes that do not carry college credit and charge additional fees in addition to tuition. 
  • Chem 50 is for students who have not taken a high school chemistry course or who believe their previous chemistry preparation is deficient.
  • Students are placed in Math 10 by the ALEKS placement exam.
  • The Student Financial Aid Office and the Registrar’s Office consider Math 10 contributes four credits towards full-time status while Chem 50 contributes five credits towards full-time status

Community College / 100Z courses

  • Math 100Z is the community college equivalent to Math 10 at ISU. However, the community colleges give 3 credits for Math 100Z.  Three credits will accompany the course to ISU but those 3 credits cannot be used toward the total credits required for graduation from ISU.

Academic Standards

Academic Warning

A student who earns between a 1.0 and 2.0 grade point average in any single term is placed on academic warning. 

A registration hold is placed on students on academic warning.  The academic advisor arranges to have the hold removed only after the student has completed the online academic assessment and discussed that assessment with their academic advisor. Advisors are referred to their departmental advising coordinator to determine how to remove the warning hold for a student.

Students are removed from academic warning if they earn > 2.0 in the semester they are on Warning.

Dtudents who earn between a 1.0 and 2.0 GPA for two consecutive semesters are placed on academic probation.

Academic Probation

Students are placed on Academic Probation for the following reasons:

  • They earn a term GPA between 1.0 and 2.0 for two consecutive semesters
  • They earn < 1.0 in any full semester
  • They have attempted or earned 75 credits and their cumulative GPA is below 2.0.

Students on Academic Probation also have registration holds placed on them and must complete the same procedures as students on Academic Warning to have the hold removed.

Students who earn a term average below 2.0 in any semester they are on Academic Probation are subject to Academic Dismissal.

Academic Probation can also affect eligibility for financial aid.

Probation – Summer term 

Please refer to the ISU catalog for special rules regarding academic standing that apply to summer enrollment.


All students on academic warning or probation are required to complete an academic intervention self-assessment and discuss it with their academic advisor within the first 10 days of the semester. Advisors will be notified via e-mail that a student has completed the form. The advisor will then be able to view the form in AccessPlus and make comments.

Reentry / Reinstatement

Applies to students who were dismissed from Iowa State for academic reasons

  • Reinstatement is not automatic.  Students who have been dismissed for academic reasons should contact the CALS Student Services Office
  • A subset of the CALS Academic Affairs Committee reviews each petition and other relevant information. In CALS, students submit a letter petitioning reinstatement.  That letter should include an analysis of their previous poor performance, an explanation as to why those issues will not persist if reinstated and an improvement plan. Information about reinstatement can be found at
  • The student’s advisor provides the Academic Affairs Committee with input about whether or not a student should be reinstated.
  • Students dropped for the first time are expected to remain out of the University for one semester.  Students dismissed more than once are expected to stay out of the University for at least a year. The summer session is not a semester for the purpose of being out of school one semester.

Academic Renewal

Students who are returning to Iowa State University to pursue an undergraduate degree after being absent from ISU for a minimum of 5 years may request permission to remove one or more of their complete academic terms from future degree and GPA considerations.

In order to be eligible for academic renewal, (a) students must not have enrolled at Iowa State University for five or more consecutive years, (b) students must not have graduated from Iowa State University, and (c) students must currently be in good academic standing -- if the student was previously dismissed, he or she must be reinstated.

All courses and credits that were taken during the chosen terms will be removed from consideration for GPA and degree requirements. Students may not combine courses from multiple terms to comprise the semester(s) or quarter(s) dropped. Degree requirements met during the dropped terms will ordinarily have to be repeated.

Renewal may be applied only to academic terms completed prior to the students' extended absence. All courses and grades for the chosen terms will remain on the students' academic record. Designated repeats, drops and P/NP options will be reinstated for the terms dropped. Students who have used all of their drop options will be given one extra drop.

Students may be granted only one academic renewal.  To be eligible for a degree after academic renewal is granted, students must complete a minimum of 24 credit hours at Iowa State University.

Students should discuss their desire to pursue academic renewal with an advisor in the college they wish to enter. 

The student must complete the Academic Renewal Petition form available at After the form is signed by the student and academic advisor, it is submitted to the CALS Student Services Office in 20 Curtiss.

Academic Grievances

Students may appeal a decision regarding their academic status if they believe that new information can be provided or extenuating circumstances exist that would alter the application of any rule in this section. Appeal should be made in writing to the Academic Standards Committee of the college in which the student is enrolled. The student should initiate the appeal process by contacting the secretary of the college Academic Standards Committee in the administrative office of her or his college immediately upon receipt of notification of the committee's action, and at least ten calendar days before the beginning of the semester. If the student is dissatisfied with the committee's action, he or she may submit an appeal in writing to the dean of her or his college within seven calendar days after they are notified of the committee's action. If the issue is not resolved within the college, further appeals may be made in writing to the provost and subsequently to the president of the university. Appeals beyond the college level will, however, be considered only if based on one or both of the following contentions: (a) appropriate procedures were not followed at the college level, and (b) academic rules were not applied correctly at the college level.