What Do College Course Numbers Mean?

College course numbers may mean different things depending on the individual institution. There are standard formats that many colleges use to signify dates, levels and titles. Most college courses are identified by three to four numbers. For example, the first digit may indicate the class year, the middle two digits may identify the subject and the last digit may indicate the number of credit hours.

Course Levels 101

Most colleges identify introductory classes at the 100-level. These basic or survey classes will have titles like general biology, world history or writing fundamentals. These 100-level courses are usually taken by freshman, although some will be sophomores meeting general education requirements. 200-level classes will be more strenuous and focused on specific topics like Asian history, Western literature and computer programming. Some of these classes may require students to have taken the prerequisite 100-level class. 300- and 400-level classes involve in-depth coursework and require greater knowledge of a certain field. These classes are usually taken during the final two years of college. Some 400-level classes include first-year graduate students who are preparing to take 500- and 600-level classes offered through graduate schools.

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100- and 200-Level Course Expectations

100-level courses come with no prerequisites regarding knowledge of a disciplines concepts and terminology. Students who enter these classes must be able to compose formal essays and comprehend college-level textbooks. These classes will acquaint students with the basic terms, methods, ideas and language of the subject. 200-level courses are actually 100-level courses that focus on particular areas within a discipline. Students must have finished a 100-level writing or English class, so they can recognize concepts, read detailed texts, use quantitative skills and articulate themselves with peers. These classes will require students to progress through academic explorations towards conclusions and experiments. Students who take 200-level classes must be able to keep up at a reasonable pace without encountering comprehension difficulties.

300- and 400-Level Course Expectations

300-level courses will contain advanced content for upper division students. These classes will most likely be core requirements of the students’ majors. Students should have acquired a sufficient knowledge in the major to pursue independent study and research with methodological tools and models. These students must be able to obtain relevant information the proper use of resources and libraries. They must be able to assimilate valid information, combine findings into cohesive statements and ultimately produce term-papers. 400-level courses will likely include tutorials, seminars, guest lectures and honors courses reserved only for upper-division students finishing their major. These students must have completed enough 300-level classes to work independently under the supervision of faculty. Many of these 400-level classes include capstone projects that require students to synthesize all relative information into a final presentation.

In the end, college course numbers will indicate the level of difficulty and identify the subject. For example, “ENG” is often used for English, “MAT” for mathematics and “BIO” for biology. The U.S. Department of Education offers assistance on how to pay for and complete a post-secondary education here.