Piedmont Home Educators Association

Determining Course Level

Determining Course Level


The South Carolina Uniform Grading Policy provides for different course levels depending on the difficulty of the work done. Courses with more difficult work may be given honors level status and will receive a higher score when converted to the uniform grading scale. If any class is an honors level course, we request that you send in documentation showing how the class is more rigorous than the college prep level and include a copy of the syllabus. If the class is an AP or dual enrollment class, we request a copy of the transcript or grade report.

Course Level Definitions

College Prep

College Prep courses use a standard high school text book. The student is expected to complete the majority of the text. Home schoolers may use a combination of curriculum or unit studied but they should be very careful to research what the public school work for the class involves and meet or exceed that level. (See the SC State Standards for high school college prep courses. This level is the standard high school level course.)

Advanced Placement (AP)

Advanced Placement courses are taught at college level using a college level textbook. AP courses have pre-requisites at the high school level. (For instance, to take AP Biology, a student would need to have completed high school biology and chemistry.) Homeschoolers may only call a course AP if they take the class with an AP certified teacher and meet the requirements for that course set out on the AP website. Homeschoolers may take any AP exam—even if they have not taken an AP level course. Successful completion of an AP exam does not allow you to call the course AP—it must meet the AP requirements.

Dual Credit (DC)

These are classes taken at a local college or university. A number of colleges in our area allow homeschoolers to take classes with them. Taking a dual credit class during junior or senior year, allows your student a chance to see what the college work level is like and to help you evaluate their readiness for college.


Honors courses are advanced courses offered in the core subject areas (science, math, history, English.). They are also offered in the third level of any other course except for Physical Education (eg. Spanish 3 could be designated as honors). The requirements for honors courses are greater than for college prep courses. Textbooks and/or other course materials must be differentiated and more rigorous than those used in college prep courses. An honors course must have a published syllabus that verifies rigor that is sufficiently beyond the college prep or tech prep requirements.



A GPA is the student's grade point average for all the high school level courses he has completed. In order to produce a transcript for college applications and in order to do a class ranking, students' grades should be given in numerical form—not as letter grades. The SC legislature approved a Uniform Grading Scale that is used to determine the GPA. Calculating the GPA is fairly complex. PHEA will do this for you when we make your transcript. We also calculate all seniors' GPAs for the class ranking.


There has been much debate in the homeschool community over the last few years as to which courses are high school level, and what counts as an honors level course. For a broader discussion on standards, please read our additional article.

PHEA's rules on standards are as follows:

1. The law requires parents to teach English, Math, History and Science every year.

2. Parents have the freedom to pick what meets these broad categories (e.g. consumer math). It is wise to have a good grasp of the general expectations in order to provide the basics to your student.

3. Only classes considered as high school level classes will be included in the calculation of the GPA for the class ranking. (E.g. Pre-Algebra is not considered a high school level course. If a student is in 9th grade and is taking Pre-Algebra then the parents are fulfilling the law for third option groups by teaching math. However that math would not be counted toward graduation credits or the student's GPA. In other words, the student is where he is—that is the freedom of home schooling. However when completing the class ranking for the scholarship money, the Commission on Higher Education rules are the ones we follow.

4. If parents want to count a class as honors, they must check the South Carolina standard for that class and send in documentation showing how their class was substantially more difficult than the college prep class. This documentation should include the name of the text book(s) used, a copy of the table of contents and information on what you did to make this class on honors level class. See the SC State Standards. Please note that these are standards developed and stipulated by the state for public school students in college prep classes. PHEA has no input or influence in determining these standards. Third option groups are not required to meet these standards. PHEA members are not required to meet these standards. They are to be used as the baseline from which to build and to document honors level courses.

5. AP and Dual credit classes need to have the accompanying transcripts from the place where they were taken. Dual credit classes are taken at a local college. The grades assigned are given as a letter grade (A, B, C, etc.) The Commission on Higher Education requires that letter grades be converted to a specific numerical grade. (A = 95, B = 85, C = 75, D = 65). There are times when it is an advantage to use the numerical grade issues by the college and times when it is advantageous to use the letter conversion. The only grades for which it would be advantageous to use the actual numerical grades are 96–100 or 86–89 or 76–79. If your student receives one of these grades you will need to present documentation to show this. Ideally this would be in the form of an email from the professor stating the numerical grade. Alternately, provide a screenshot of the class grades right after the final grade is posted. The screenshot should be taken right away, as the schools clear those screens shortly after the semester ends.

(AP is a registered trade mark of the College Board and only College Board approved curricula taught by College Board approved teachers may be designated as 'AP'. This information is located on the AP section of the College Board site.)

6. These rules (other than what is required by law) are not retroactive. They have applied to all honors, AP and dual credit courses since the fall of 2011.