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Degree Planning

Part 1: Distribution of credits; Program options; Academic vocabulary.

Distribution of credits

All students must complete 120 credits for their undergraduate degree.

  1. U0  – Freshman Year are students who have been admitted:
    1. without advanced standing
    2. with less than 24 credits of advanced standing
  2. U1  – University Year 1 students are those who have been admitted:
    1. with 24 or more credits of advanced standing

Advanced Standing: credits granted from your previous education that will be applied toward your 120 credit Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Examples of ADVANCED STANDING with number of credits granted:

  1. CEGEP (30 credits)
  2. French Baccalaureate (30 credits)
  3. International Baccalaureate (Certificate or Diploma – max. 30 credits)
  4. Advanced Levels (max. 30 credits)
  5. Advanced Placement Exams (max. 30 credits)
  6. University Transfer (max. 60 credits)
  7. Degree completed under the Bologna system (30 credits)

Here is an example of how the credits for your degree are distributed:

  1. A.    Minimum credit requirement = 120
  2. B.    Freshman or Advanced Standing credits
  3. C.    Program credits  (For example, a Major Concentration requires the completion of 36 credits + a Minor Concentration requires the completion of 18 credits = 54 credits will be used to complete your programs of study)
  4. D.   Elective credit = the remaining credits for your degree that are not being used to complete a program of study
Program options

Once you begin your U1 year, students in the Faculty of Arts are required to declare at least two programs of study offered by different teaching units or departments. Students select their programs from the following three options.


MULTI-TRACK PROGRAM: The Faculty of Arts offers a 90-credit multi-track system that offers students a chance to select programs of study that reflect their interests by completing a major concentration complemented by at least a minor concentration.

Major Concentration - is the student's primary area of study requiring the completion of 36 credits

Minor Concentration - as opposed to a major, an area of secondary concentration, which is a called a minor and requires the completion of 18 credits



Major Concentration (36) + Minor Concentration (18) + 36 credits of electives


Major Concentration (36) + Major Concentration (36) + 18 credits of electives


Major Concentration (36) + Minor Concentration (18) + Minor Concentration (18) + 18 credits of electives

Concentrations within option A and B cannot be within the same Subject Code (i.e. PSYC, ENGL)


HONOURS or JOINT HONOURS: These programs demand a high degree of specialization in one or two disciplines and require you to maintain a high academic standing.

Honours Program

  1. Requires the completion of 42-60 credits
  2. You must also complete a Minor Concentration (18 credits) in another program of study from a different teaching unit or department
  3. Electives (12-30 credits)
  4. Admission is normally after the U1 year of study
  5. Minimum CGPA of 3.00 in the previous year; program GPA requirements vary according to department

Joint Honours

  1. Requires two programs of study from different teaching units or departments
  2. 30 to 36 credits in each component
  3. Electives (18 credits)
  4. Admission is normally after the U1 year of study
  5. Minimum CGPA of 3.00 in the previous year; program GPA requirements vary according to department
  6. You are not required to complete a Minor Concentration


Faculty Program: An approved selection of courses drawn from departments in at least two faculties to form an interdisciplinary program of study.

Program options:

  1. Environment
  2. Industrial Relations

Requires the completion of 54 credits

Students do not need to complete a second program of study

Academic vocabulary

Faculty Advisers:

  1. provide information on rules, regulations, requirements and upcoming deadlines
    governing your overall 120 credit degree program
  2. offer guidance on choosing your programs of study, planning your degree, credit load and study away
  3. help you manage your academic situation during periods of personal, financial or medical difficulty and serve as your direct link to other University resources
  4. are located in Arts OASIS on the ground floor of Dawson Hall

Departmental Program Advisers:

  1. guide your course selections to make sure you meet your program requirements
  2. evaluate your requests for course equivalencies, recommending prior approval for university transfer credits or explaining the rationale for the design of academic programs
  3. may be a professor or a member of the administrative staff and their office is located in a department
  4.  are available during specific times of the year — for example, during course registration periods or at specified times during the week/month (often called "office hours")

Departments: (teaching units) are devoted to a particular area of study, such as the Department of Philosophy. They control the size of the classes offered by their department and will raise caps, open other sections or give permits according to the needs of the students. Priority for course registration is always given to those who need the course to meet program requirements.

Course number: each McGill course is assigned a unique seven-character course “number” such as PHIL 200. The first four characters (Subject Code) refer to the unit offering the course. The three numbers following the Subject Code refer to the course itself, with the first of these indicating the level of the course.

Credits: each course has a credit weight that is indicated in parentheses beside the course title. For example, ANTH 203 Human Evolution (3 credits). For D1 and D2 courses, the credit weight is indicated after the course number.

Required Courses:  are mandatory courses that must be completed to fulfill the requirements of a program. These courses must be completed with a grade of C or better.

Complementary Courses:  are selected from a restricted list, a particular subject area, or a discipline. These courses must be completed with a grade of C or better. Complementary courses are not electives.

Elective Courses:  are courses which are chosen freely and are not being used to complete departmental program requirements.

Pre-requisites:  are courses or set of courses which must be completed before students can select a program or take a higher-level course.

Co-requisite:  a course which must be taken concurrently with (or may have been taken prior to) another course.

Degree Residency requirement:  you must complete satisfactorily a minimum of 60 credits at McGill University towards the fulfillment of your degree requirements.

Program Residency requirement:   at least two-thirds of all program requirements (Multi-track, Honours, Faculty) must normally be completed at McGill.  For example, 24 credits of a 36 credit Major Concentration program must be completed at McGill. In addition, some departments may require that you complete specific components of your program at McGill.

Course load:   a normal course load is four or five courses (12-15 credits) per term; a full year is normally 30 credits.

Ecalendar:  is accessible online and is the official listing of requirements for degree programs and courses offered by the University. It also describes the University's academic and administrative regulations, policies and procedures.

Term: an academic year is made up of three terms: Fall (September to December), Winter (January to April) and the Summer term (May to August). The Summer term has a limited number of courses available.

Part 2: Selecting your programs of study

Step 1: Complete a Self Assessment

You will gain valuable insight about yourself by looking for patterns of interest that may exist in your school, work, volunteering and leisure experiences.  Complete the Self Assessment Questionnaire.

A. View the videos “What can I study?” and “What are my interests?”

B. Consult the Faculty of Arts programs website for information on programs.

  1. Make a list of the programs of study that interest you and eliminate those programs that do not
  2. Read about the programs on your list
  3. List the courses in each program that interest you most
  4. Compare your results to help shorten your list

C. Using your short list, visit departmental websites for each program of study to further assess your choices .

D. Read about the professors, their fields of study, research and publications

E. Does the department have any upcoming events you can attend?

F. Does the department have a student association that can provide you with information?  

G. Is it possible to review the course outlines of classes offered in this department?

H. Meet with a departmental program adviser using the following list of sample questions to guide your conversation. See Sample Questions which you can find in the Workshop Resources, Spreadsheets and Timelines section of the OASIS homepage.

I. Visit the Career and Placement Service (CaPS) website for information on employment possibilities associated with each of your preferred programs of study

J. Sign up for the Program for the Advancement of Career Exploration (PACE) to help you make decisions about your field of study and/or career options.

K. Consider enrolling in courses that will help you to explore your choices

L. Experience different programs of study through their student organizations or volunteer activities

Step 3: Evaluate your options

A. Review your completed Self Assessment”.  Have you uncovered any patterns of interest? Do the programs of study on your short list reflect your academic strengths, interests and goals?

B. Weigh the pros and cons of each program of study on your short list.

  1. Will this program fulfill your academic interests or show your creativity?
  2. Does this program have a wide or limited number of courses from which you can select? 
  3. Do you have the background and/or prerequisites for your program and/or course selection?
  4. Does the program have certain course material that will take you longer to understand?
  5. Does your proposed program of study take into account your past learning experiences and learning style?

C.   Need assistance? Visit with a Faculty Adviser from Arts OASIS during their drop-in advising hours to discuss:

  1. the results of your self-assessment
  2. your list of potential programs of study
  3. ways to support your academic strengths and goals

Faculty Advisers can assist you during the degree planning process and help you organize information in a meaningful way. They can also help you interpret complex policies, procedures and requirements that must be considered when planning your degree.

Part 3: Planning your programs

Your bachelor's degree is intended to serve as a general and preliminary step in the pursuit of your career goals. You should choose an area of study that fits your general academic interests and background. Remember to set goals that are measureable, flexible and can be adjusted as your interests evolve.

Step 1: Select your program(s) of study

Students who need 96 or fewer credits to complete their B.A. degree requirements (3-year degree) should select a program at the time of registration on Minerva to facilitate their course registration. Students in the Bachelor of Arts degree follow the Multi-track system, Honours programs, Joint Honours programs or Faculty program option. Consult the ecalendar for further information.

Step 2: Plan your courses for each program of study

A. Review the requirements for your program of study.

B. Follow the instructions provided with the "Arts OASIS Degree Planning Worksheet."

C. Verify that you have completed the correct pre-requisite or placement test for each of the courses you will be taking

Step 3: Consult your Departmental Program Advisers

Consult the the departmental adviser contact list to find out when advisers are available to meet with you to guide your course selection and make sure you are meeting the requirements of your program. Meet with your adviser to confirm:

1.    How many program credits have been completed?

2.    What courses remain to be completed? 

This list of questions may help to guide your conversation with your departmental program adviser.

Keep in mind that if you will be using any courses you completed at another institution towards the completion of program requirements at McGill or as pre-requisites for McGill courses, you must have the courses you have completed assessed to determine if the courses from the other institution are equivalent to McGill courses. Please bring the following pieces of information to your advising appointment:

  1. a copy of your academic record (courses and grades) for course completed at McGill and at the other institution
  2. course descriptions for the courses you have taken

The departmental program adviser will review this information to ensure that it meets the requirements of their program.

If you wish to discuss plans to study away at another university, please note that some departmental program advisers will approve courses for study away only once you have registered at the host university.


A Courses taken to fulfill the core requirements in all program options must be passed at McGill with a grade of “C” or better.

B. You may not register in a course unless you have passed all the prerequisite courses with a grade of C or better, except by written permission of the appropriate department or course instructor as explained in the ecalendar.

C. No course may fulfill the requirements for more than one program of study.

D. Grades of D or F continue to be used in the CGPA calculation even after you repeat the course or if you take a supplemental examination.

E. You will not receive additional credit towards your degree for any course that overlaps in content with a course for which you have already received credit at McGill, CEGEP, at another university, or Advanced Placement exams, Advanced Level results, International Baccalaureate Diploma, or French Baccalaureate. See the "Course Overlap" tab under Course Policies to review the policy.

F. If you decide to complete courses towards a program of study or any elective courses outside of the Faculties of Arts or Science, you must review the policy for taking these courses in the ecalendar.

G. Students may designate elective courses outside their program requirements to be graded under the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory option according to the policy explained here.

  1. Courses with final grades of S or U will not count towards program or freshman requirements.
  2. If students have inadvertently selected a required course for the S/U option, they must complete a substitute course which has been approved by their departmental program adviser to fulfill the program.


Review the Course Load page tab under Course Policies to help you determine your course load.


Students are not permitted to complete more than 120 credits towards their degree unless they have obtained permission from the Associate Dean of Arts, Student Affairs. Review the rules for the time limit to complete a degree.

Need assistance? Visit with a Faculty Adviser from Arts OASIS during their drop-in advising hours to discuss:

  1. Selecting your program(s) of study
  2. Planning your course load
  3. Ways to support your academic abilities and goals

Faculty Advisers can assist you during the degree planning process and help you organize information in a meaningful way. They can also help you interpret complex policies, procedures and requirements that must be considered when planning your degree.