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BE Advised

The place to go for undergraduate advising in biological engineering

AP and Transfer Credit Basics

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You can request that completed AP or transfer credit be applied toward your degree. The AP credit table for the College of Engineering is here.

Transfer Credit

All transfer credit for the BE and EnvE majors must be approved before it will be posted on the Cornell transcript by using this form. Courses completed prior to matriculation will be evaluated when the student matriculates at Cornell. Courses taken outside of Cornell after matriculation must be approved before the student enrolls in them to ensure credit will count toward the engineering degree. If a transfer course meets the subject matter content, but lacks full credit content, the student must fulfill the credit requirement by making up the correct amount of credits in that category on the Program Progress Form (PPF).  You need to fill out this form to obtain approval for math courses.  If math approves your course, you still need to fill out the engineering transfer credit form and attach their approval email to the form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is it recommended to take all the AP credits I could? Or is it better to re-take courses at the college level? 

A1: Math. The only general advising rule here is to be VERY wary of using Calculus AP credit to completely replace Math 1910. The Engineering College’s formal requirement is a 5 on the AP BC Calculus exam to place into Math 1920. (Until fall 2018, they required a 4 or a 5, until a multi-year analysis of student grade data showed far too many students with a 4 on the BC AP failing Math 1920.) Math 1920 is a very tough course, which requires a better understanding of calculus than is supplied by most high school AP calculus courses.  And Math 1910 goes beyond the content of most high school calculus courses, placing greater emphasis on applying calculus to real world situations, and acquiring problem solving skills that will serve you all your life.

The College of Engineering requires one of these three credentials to place into Math 1920:

  • a score of 5 on the AP BC calculus exam
  • an A, B, or C on the GCE A-levels exam in either Math or Pure Math (no IB credit qualifies)
  • a passing grade on the Math Department placement exam “CASE exam” for engineering math (keep reading).

The BEE department most strongly recommends that students with a score of 5 on the AP BC calculus exam ALSO:

  • achieve a score above 133 on the summer online math diagnostic exam (usually sent to incoming first year students in early June)
  • attempt the Math Department placement exam “CASE exam” for engineering math during orientation, and achieve a pass or a near miss.

We strongly recommend these extra demonstrations of your current math competency because your math may be rusty after a summer away from it, or because your calculus course may have taught only what was on the BC exam. If either of these are true you probably won’t realize it until you start classes.

The Math Department Placement Exam is offered every semester, usually on the Saturday or Sunday morning preceding the start of classes.  Look in the Orientation Handbook and/or check with the Math Department well in advance to verify the time and place of the exam. At the exam you may be told you don’t need to take it because you already have a 5 on the AP Calc BC exam. Take it anyway; the exam proctors are aware of the College of Engineering policies but not necessarily aware of BEE’s additional recommendations.

Why do we impose these extra requirements?  Because Math 1920 is a really tough course, so better safe than sorry.

What’s the worst that can happen to a student under-prepared for Math 1920 ? 

  • you might realize that you need to drop back to Math 1910 at the end of add/drop period, which would mean some intense catching up with Math 1910 homework
  • you might have to drop Math 1920 later in the term because of disappointing grades on the prelims, which is only possible if you have ≥12 academic credits on your schedule after the drop
  • you might fail Math 1920 by earning a grade below C-, in which case you’d have to repeat it for a better grade before going on to Math 2930
  • Math 1920 homeworks and exam prep might eat up to 60% of your total study time for the semester, leaving you exhausted, disappointed, and holding a 2.3 first semester GPA because your other courses didn’t get enough attention

Before you scoff that none of those setbacks could possibly happen to you, ask yourself how many other bright, confident Cornell students must have experienced them for us to be able to present you with that list right here in the FAQs.

If you are serious about placing into Math 1920 you will care enough to make a serious effort on the summer math diagnostic, you will go to the trouble of reviewing your calculus and limit theory before the Math department CASE exam, and you will get up early on the weekend to attend the exam… the whole exam.

Can my BEE advisor actually stop me from enrolling in Math 1920 if I have a 5 on the AP BC exam? I want to move ahead in math, I’m confident I will succeed because I’m great at math, and I failed to meet BEE’s standard only because…

  • I was too busy this summer to pay attention to the online math diagnostic exam.
  • I walked out early from the math CASE exam because the first problems were easy and I wanted to attend a different orientation event.
  • Your materials said I didn’t have to actually pass the math CASE exam, so I didn’t spend time to prepare; that’s why I scored a 5 out of 70. All the material looked familiar though. Had I prepared, I would definitely have passed.

Those responses came from conversations with actual BEE first year students. Are you rolling your eyes too? Actually, we can’t stop you enrolling in Math 1920 even if we think it’s a terrible idea, but we can point out that short-cutting our policy borders on behavior not appropriate for an engineer because

  • it shows an attitude of “my mind’s made up, don’t bother me with facts”
  • it shows a preference for expediency (doing something with the least amount of bother) over rigor (doing something correctly after adequate preparation and being able to demonstrate that it’s correct)
  • it is illogical to privilege your personal feelings of confidence over the Math department’s comprehensive expertise on mathematics preparation and the BEE faculty’s aggregate hundreds of years of experience advising Cornell students like you.

Now that you have the full information on AP math, discuss it with parents/math teacher/advisor and plan your course of action.

Moving on…


AP Biology is accepted by BEE in lieu of freshman biology, but some other entities do not accept it, for instance Cornell’s Biology program, the Cornell BME program, and some medical schools.  If you are pre-med or plan to double major in a department that does not accept AP Bio, talk to an advisor at the Health Careers Advising Center or the advising staff of the other department as soon as possible, so that you can begin to negotiate the requirements.


AP chemistry gives you credit for CHEM 2070 or 2090, even though the subject matter is more like CHEM 2080.  This has not been a problem though. If you have AP chemistry credit but still want to take a general chem course, choose CHEM 2150.

Q2: I am an enrolled Cornell student, but I want to take a course at a different institution and transfer it back to Cornell to satisfy one of my requirements. Can I do this? How?

A2: You’ll need to get the course pre-approved to be sure it will transfer in properly by using this form.  For that you will need the course description and ideally, the course syllabus with a schedule of topics, since course descriptions typically err on the side of brevity.  The toughest courses to get pre-approved are: CHEM 2070/2080/2090, MAE 2020, MATH 2930, BEE 2600/2510, BEE 3310, 3500, 3600. If you want to transfer in a math course, you need to use this form. If the math department approves your course, you still need to fill out the engineering transfer credit form and attach their approval email to the form.  You cannot transfer in capstone design: that is non-negotiable. The easiest courses to get pre-approved are liberal studies courses, but if you want to get transfer credit for a freshman writing seminar, the Knight Institute has to approve it (after you take the course, so you take it at your own risk) and they will ask you to prove that you did enough writing and enough revising of that writing to meet their standards.

Courses for a study-abroad semester are pre-approved using a different form specifically for study-abroad courses.

Research credits are particularly difficult to transfer because Cornell undergraduate research credit requires supervision or co-supervision by a Cornell professor.

Online courses can be approved, providing (a) that the same university offers the same course in a face-to-face format during the same academic year and (b) that your final exam is taken in a proctored setting either here at BEE or at the other campus. Ask Brenda about having the exam proctored here.  Online courses in Math are a special case; their final exam must be proctored by, and at, the Math department of the offering university.

Finally, note that you may not transfer in credit for an external course during a semester in which you are taking Cornell courses.

Q3:  Details on transfer credit please?

A3: This lengthy document covers it all:  Detailed Transfer Credit Process

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