College Academic Distribution Requirements (CADRs)

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Undergraduate applicants must meet minimum course requirements, called College Academic Distribution Requirements (CADRs), which are set by the Washington Student Achievement Council and the faculty of the University of Washington. Most applicants will have met these requirements through high school course work, which generally is defined as those completed in grades 9 through 12. Typically, students earn one credit by completing one full academic year of coursework.

Note: These requirements are not the same as high school graduation requirements. Students should consult with their local high school to obtain complete information about minimum college admission standards, and to be aware of which courses at their high school meet CADR guidelines, as determined by the local school district.

If the course requirements were not met in high school, there are several ways to satisfy CADRs at the college level. In general, five quarter credits (or three semester credits) at the college level equals one credit of high-school study. If you completed a portion of these requirements in high school, you can pick up in college where you left off in high school. For example, if you completed three credits of English in high school, you can use one college English composition or literature course to bring your total to four credits.

College Academic Distribution Requirements (CADRs)

English -- 4 Credits

If earned in high school If earned through college course work

Four credits of study are required, at least three of which must be in college-preparatory composition or literature.

  • One of the four credits may be satisfied by courses in drama as literature, public speaking, debate, journalistic writing, business English or English as a Second Language (ESL).
  • Courses that are generally not acceptable include those identified as remedial or applied, e.g., acting, basic English skills, developmental reading, library, newspaper staff, remedial English, review English, vocabulary, yearbook/annual.

College course work must be at the 100-level or higher. For the composition/literature component, generally any course with an English or Writing prefix is acceptable.

  • One of the four credits may be satisfied by a college course in speech, drama as literature, journalistic writing, business English, ESL or engineering/technical writing.
  • Courses such as developmental or speed reading, vocabulary or remedial English are not acceptable.

English courses completed outside the U.S. are considered equivalent to ESL unless taken in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the U.S.

Mathematics -- 3 Credits

If earned in high school If earned through college course work

Exception: Completion of higher-level math prior to the senior year exempts students from the senior-year quantitative course requirement (e.g., pre-calculus, math analysis, or calculus.

  • Three credits (years of study) to include Algebra I, geometry and Algebra II or Integrated Math I, II and III.
  • Passing the 10th-grade WASL-Math is equivalent to earning the first two CADR credits of high school math (algebra and geometry or Integrated Math I and II).
  • Senior year requirement: During the senior year of high school, students must earn a credit in a math-based quantitative course, e.g., statistics, applied math or appropriate career and technical courses. An algebra-based science course taken during the senior year also would satisfy this requirement and part of the science requirement as well.
  • Note: The senior-year math requirement does not mean a fourth credit of math is required, nor does it require a higher level of math. The intent of this requirement is for seniors to take meaningful math.

Students without a third high school mathematics credit may earn that credit by completing one of the following:

  • A course in intermediate algebra. The course must be completed with a grade of ‘C’ (2.0) or better. At Washington community colleges, this course is numbered below 100 and is considered the equivalent of the third year of high school math. It does not transfer as college credit nor does it guarantee math placement above intermediate algebra.
  • Mathematics courses with intermediate algebra as a prerequisite. This includes any higher-level mathematics courses such as elementary functions, pre-calculus, calculus, and beyond.
    • NOTE: Courses in philosophy (e.g., logic), statistics or computer science do not satisfy the mathematics requirement.

Science -- 3 Credits

If earned in high school If earned through college course work
  • Three credits of laboratory science are required. At least one of the two credits must be in biology, chemistry, or physics. Additionally, at least one of the two credits of laboratory science must be an algebra-based science course. The second year of science may be completed in any course that satisfies your high school's graduation requirement in science. 

    The principles of technology courses taught in Washington State high schools may apply toward the laboratory science requirement. Additionally, courses identified by the school district as laboratory science courses — astronomy, environmental science, geological science, genetics, marine science — may also apply toward the additional credit of laboratory science requirement.
  • Note: Two credits of agricultural science are equivalent to one credit of science.

College science courses taken with a lab will count toward the laboratory science portion of the requirement. Any course in astronomy, atmospheric science, biological structure, biology, botany, chemistry, environmental science (but not environmental studies), genetics, geology, oceanography, physical anthropology, physical geography, physics or zoology will count toward the second-year requirement, as will introductory courses in biological or physical science.

World Languages -- 2 Credits

If earned in high school If earned through college course work
  • Two years of study in a single language are required. The world language requirement will be considered satisfied if you completed your education through the seventh grade in school(s) where English was not the language of instruction or in countries other than Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. International applicants who entered the U.S. education system prior to the 8th grade must satisfy the world language requirement.
  • Any natural language that has been formally studied may be used to satisfy this requirement, including American Sign Language (AMESLAN), and languages no longer spoken, such as Latin and ancient Greek. However, neither computer 'languages' nor forms of deaf signing aside from AMESLAN are acceptable.
  • A world language course taken in the eighth grade may satisfy one year of the requirement if the second-year course is completed in high school.

Each quarter of language in college is considered equivalent to one year in high school. If you have never studied a world language, you will need to complete 10 quarter credits of a single world language. However, if you studied French for one year in high school, you need to complete only the second quarter (e.g., FRENCH 102) or the second semester of a first-year language sequence. Of course, you may prefer to begin with 101 to refresh your memory.

Social Science -- 3 Credits

These credits must be earned in history or any of the social sciences.

If earned in high school

Three years of study are required in history or any of the social sciences (e.g., anthropology, contemporary world problems, economics, geography, government, political science, psychology, sociology).

  • Credit for religion courses, consumer economics, student government or community service will not count toward this requirement.

If earned through college coursework

Courses in the social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics, ethnic studies, history, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology) will count toward this requirement.

Fine, visual or performing arts -- 0.5 Credits

If earned in high school

One-half year of study is required in the fine, visual or performing arts, to be chosen from art appreciation, band, ceramics, choir, dance, dramatic performance and production, drawing, fiber arts, graphic arts, metal design, music appreciation, music theory, orchestra, painting, photography, print making or sculpture.

Courses generally not acceptable for this requirement include architecture, color guard, creative writing, drafting, drill team, fashion design, foreign languages, interior design, sewing, speech, web design or graphics, woodworking and yearbook.

Academic Electives -- 0.5 Credits

If earned in high school

Academic electives are courses in any of the six subject areas beyond the minimum number of years specified for each subject area. One additional half-credit of study is required.

If earned through college coursework

Three quarter credits (two semester credits) chosen from any of the six subject areas would count toward this requirement.

Grading restrictions

To satisfy these CADR requirements, a passing grade, including a 'D,' is acceptable in high school work. Also acceptable is a grade of 'Pass' in a course taken on a 'Pass/Not Pass' basis. If you complete intermediate algebra at the college level, you must earn a 'C' (2.0) or better.