One of the things that you hear often from students studying in US schools when the talk about their courses is mention a number about their class level. For instance, they would say statements like : “I had to take that stupid 101 class in Music”, “It is a 4000 level class and I think it will be hard”, “Oh gosh, I have taken this 800 level class and it is killing me…” . For someone who have not studied in US or not familiar with the concept of a level of class, it may be hard to understand. Let me share few thoughts on this.
What is the concept behind Course Numbers in USA ? Do they signify anything ?
In most of the US schools, every course number starts with a digit ranging from 1 to 9. The first number in the entire course number has significance and it tells the complexity or the level of the course. It can also tell that if it is an Undergrad level class or Graduate level class. As the numbers say, the lower the number the basic the course it is. For instance, if it like 102 Mathematics, then it will be very basic Math and does not require any complex skills. On the other hand, if it is like 302 Mathematics, then it is assumed that you have the expertise of 102 Mathematics and even may be 202 Mathematics or similar. They would mention in advanced course, the pre-requisites for taking a class. Also, the course numbers may have a 3 or more prefix Alphabets like BUS ( Business), PSY (Psychology), MATH ( Mathematics) , BUS MGMT (Business Management), etc. This prefix signifies the major(specialization) classification of the course . Few examples of course numbers : BUS 640 Accounting, BUS ADM 710 Finance , MATH 234 Algebra, CSC 678 Computer Networks, etc.
What are the 100—600 or 1000—6000 level classes? 700 – 900 level classes?
There is no universal rule here that every school should adopt this pattern, for most part most of the schools adopt this format (all the four US schools I studied had this pattern). They may have either three digits or four digit classification like 100 or 1000 depending on the school.
- 100- 600 or 1000 -6000 level : Typically, this slab of 100 to 600 corresponds to Undergrad level classes. Typically, all the courses that are on the 100 and 200 level are very basic, they are either freshman(first year) or Sophomore(second year) level classes. Most of these classes are foundations for bachelors and everyone would have to take these. All the classes from 300 to 4000 are advanced level classes and are taken by Juniors (3rd year) or Seniors(fourth year) students. They are more focused. Some schools have more advanced classes that are around 500 and 600 level, they are also Undergrad level classes but more advanced.
- 700—900 or 7000—9000 level : This classes with this numbering correspond to Graduate level classes for MS, MBA or PhD. Masters classes are ideally in the range of 700 to 800. 900 level classes correspond to PhD and Thesis or research level classes and much advanced.
Does the US school you study have different numbering system ? What has been your experience taking those classes ?