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Advanced Standing and Advanced Substitutes

Western Seminary is designed to train students who have never had any previous theological education. However, we realize that a portion of our incoming students are Bible college graduates. If that’s true of you, please read carefully the information below.

Students must request advanced substitutes or advanced standing prior to or concurrent with their first semester of enrollment.

What are "Advanced Standing" and "Advanced Substitutes"?

Students who enter seminary with knowledge of content for any class required for their degree program, may be eligible for advanced standing and/or advanced substitutes. Students will be tested on their current knowledge of the course content, usually in an informal interview. If the evaluator determines that the student has a competent, current understanding of approximately 80% of the course content, the student is eligible for advanced standing and/or advanced substitutes.

  • Advanced standing: Credits are waived from the degree program, reducing the number of credits required for degree completion. This option is available before or during the student's first term of classes.
  • Advanced substitutes: Advanced elective courses are substituted for required courses (no actual reduction in credits). This option is available anytime before a class is taken.

How do I request Advanced Standing or Advanced Substitutes?

  1. Applicants or admitted students who believe they may be qualified for advanced standing or advanced substitutes (through undergraduate studies or personal study) should submit an Advanced Standing/Advanced Substitutes Request form via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please fill out one form per course for which you would like to be examined.
  2. Students pay a one-time, $60 examination sitting fee, plus $25 for each credit waived.
  3. Once a student has submitted the forms, the one-time, $60 sitting fee with be applied to the student's ledger in S.I.S.. Then an assessment appointment will be scheduled with the student and Dr. Josh Mathews, who will either administer the examination or refer the student to the appropriate examining instructor.
  4. The assessment will be conducted by an interview, either via phone or in person, with a member of the faculty. Students are encouraged to review material related to the course prior to testing. It may prove helpful to use the course syllabus posted online as a study guide.

How does the examination process work?

The assessment is usually conducted orally, interactively and without notes or Bible, though it could be done in writing if the student prefers. Usually, the examining instructor conducts an informal interview by telephone or in person during which the student is asked open-ended questions to determine if he or she can demonstrate competent, current understanding of course content.

  • Biblical literature sample questions: Can you discuss the development of “covenant” through the canon? What is the big idea and major contribution to the book of Exodus? Please share your favorite minor prophet and discuss it with the examining instructor.
  • Hermeneutics sample questions: How would you conduct a word study? What are the various pitfalls in word studies?
  • Theology sample questions: What are the varying understandings of sin in Arminian, Wesleyan, Calvinist, Catholic, etc. understandings and which of these do you tend to agree with? Can you support your position with key Scripture passages?

Since there are numerous Bible, theology, spiritual formation, etc., courses required in each degree program, students will only be examined in the area(s) that they request.

How are students evaluated for competency?

The following are the relevant competencies for the Bible and theology courses. They are exemplary of the type of current competency required in order to receive advanced standing/advanced substitutes.

Hermeneutical competencies:

The student ...

  • is able to interpret and apply biblical texts using sound hermeneutical principles and biblical languages.
  • is competent in the essential skills of the grammatical-historical approach to interpretation
  • knows the basic vocabulary and structure (grammar and syntax) of Greek and Hebrew
  • is able to translate and to interact theologically with the original text
  • is able to use a wide range of available tools (including electronic tools)
  • is committed to using (and enhancing) language skills in the context of personal growth and future ministry

Biblical literature competencies:

The student ...

  • knows the major themes and developments of God’s redemptive activity revealed in Scripture
  • understands the basic framework of biblical history
  • understands the major contribution of each book to the canon
  • understands the basic argument of each book and its relevance for contemporary ministry

Theological competencies:

The student ...

  • knows the historical tenets and contemporary significance of evangelical theology and practice
  • is able to articulate and defend biblically a personal understanding of key doctrines
  • understands the primary implications of these doctrines for life and ministry
  • understands how to theologically analyze contemporary issues confronting the church and society, and how to communicate meaningfully the fruit of that analysis