Glossaries

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There can be a lot of jargon and terminology to keep up with at McGill. These glossaries will help you make sense of it all and have you speaking like a McGillian in no time!

Technical Glossary

McGill offers tons of free tools and resources for students! Below are some of the basic terms and tools you’ll need as you start your university journey. More detailed information is available through the IT Services website.

  • Minerva is McGill’s administrative system. Through Minerva, you can register for classes, check your schedule, view e-bills for your tuition payments, see your transcript, enter personal data and contact information, apply and view your financial aid awards and so much more! To log in for the first time, use your assigned McGill ID and Minerva PIN (your birthday in the format yymmdd).
  • myCourses—McGill’s learning management system—is where you can access course materials, view grades, submit assignments and anything else course-related. You can keep up to date by setting up notifications or exporting your assignment due dates to your Google or Apple calendar!
  • myMcGill is the University's portal to all your McGill resources, including personal records, student records, myFuture, account information, financial aid details, and more. 
  • The entire Microsoft Office suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, Publisher, Outlook, OneNote, Skype for Business, Teams) is free for all McGill students! They can be accessed on the web through the Office 365 website or downloaded onto your phone or computer.
  • OneDrive is where McGill students get free cloud-based storage. You can easily share, sync, store, and access files through this service!
  • Microsoft Outlook is provided free as part of the Office 365 package. This is the application that hosts your McGill email inbox, and you can log in with your McGill username and password.
  • uPrint is McGill’s campus-wide copying and printing service! From your computer, you can send a print job to the central print queue, and pick it up from any uPrint device on campus.
  • Visual Schedule Builder (VSB) allows you to visualize multiple versions of your weekly course schedule by mixing and matching various sections of each class. View your class details in one place, see all sections of the class in calendar view, and register faster on Minerva using your class CRNs (Course Reference Numbers)!
  • The McGill VPN (virtual private network) mimics being on the McGill network when you're working from another location, which allows access to certain restricted resources and websites. For more information on how and when to log into the VPN, visit the IT Services Knowledgebase. 

Academic Terms Glossary

To make sure your transition into McGill is as smooth as possible, we have collected and explained key topics and frequently used university terminology.

Academic standing is based primarily on your Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA). Your academic standing is assessed after the end of term and may determine if you’ll be able to continue your studies in the next term and if any conditions will be attached to their registration. Satisfactory standing usually requires having a CGPA of 2.00 (C letter grade) or greater.

The term Advanced standing applies if you’ve completed university-level examinations prior to your enrollment at McGill, such as CEGEP, French Baccalaureate, International Baccalaureate, or Advanced Level or Advanced Placement examinations.

An Academic advisor (specifically for undergraduate students) can help guide you through your degree and program requirements, course selection and approvals, and can offer support and referrals in cases of academic or personal difficulty.

Course load for a full-time student is generally 4-5 courses (12-15 credits) per term. You need 12 credits minimum per term to maintain full-time status otherwise your funding (scholarships, government grants/loans, McGill aid, etc...) and immigration status (for international students) could be impacted.

Course withdrawals can take place during a set time period during the semester. After the Add/Drop (Course Change) deadline in the Fall and Winter terms, there is a period of a few days during which you may withdraw from a course with a grade of “W” and a full refund of course fees. After the Withdrawal (with refund) deadline, there is a period during which withdrawal from a course will also result in a grade of “W,” but no course fees will be refunded.

The Add/Drop (course registration) period is a two-week period at the beginning of the Fall and Winter terms that allows you to add and drop courses without having to pay for the changes. It is a great way to see if a class is for you or not, or to register for a class that was previously full.

Credits: Each course taken is assessed on the basis of a certain number of credits. Most half-year courses are worth 3 credits and full-year courses are worth 6 credits. You must successfully complete a minimum number of credits to obtain your degree.

The eCalendar lists programs and courses available in each academic year, allowing you to browse and search through classes.

McGill's First-Year Seminars (FYS) cover a wide range of topics and are much smaller than your typical first-year class, allowing you to get to know your peers and professor well. You can take only one FYS in your first year of undergrad, but they’re offered in both the Fall and Winter terms.

Your U0 Freshman Requirements (sometimes referred to as The Freshman Program) are required for some U0 students (who have 23 or fewer credits of advanced standing) in some faculties. These requirements include mandatory foundational courses in several categories, and usually consists of 24-30 credits. The I've Been Accepted site includes more details on this. 

McGill's grading system allows courses to be graded either by letter grades or in percentages, but the official grade in each course is the letter grade. Grades A through C represent satisfactory passes, D a conditional (non-continuation) pass, and F a failure.

GPA/TGPA/CGPA: McGill assigns grade points to letter grades, creating your grade point average (GPA).

  • Your term grade point average (TGPA) is your GPA for each specific term.
  • Your cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is your GPA calculated from all the courses you’ve taken at McGill up until that point.

Midterms and Exams: During the term, class tests/midterms in any course must be held during the time your course is scheduled as listed in your syllabus. All final exams take place during the final exam period, which begins immediately after the last day of the semester. McGill first releases a tentative exam schedule, and then a final exam schedule with room numbers.

Preferred Name: The university recognizes that as a community many of its members use first names other than their legal first names to identify themselves. Students can add a preferred name to their record using Minerva, and this name will appear on your Student ID card and other university documentation.

Prerequisite vs Corequisite courses: Prerequisite courses must be completed prior to course registration. Corequisite courses must be completed concurrently (at the same time) with another course.

Required vs Complementary vs Elective courses: Required courses are mandatory courses that must be completed to fulfil the requirements of a program, unless you receive exemptions. Complementary courses can be chosen from a restricted list, a particular subject area, or a discipline to count towards a departmental program. Depending on your program, these may be required. Elective courses are, in some cases, taken outside of a student’s program of study and don’t count towards your program requirements.

Study Break/Reading Week: There are two Study Breaks/Reading Weeks, one in the Fall term and one in the Winter term. Classes are cancelled for the week to allow students to rest and/or catch up on work.

The Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) option is an alternative grading scheme that lets undergraduate students take elective courses without worrying about how it might affect their GPAs. Courses with final grades of “S” or “U” are not included in GPA calculations and cannot count towards your major or minor requirements.

Your syllabus is the written course outline you get from your professor during the first week of lectures that includes the means of evaluation, office hours, class location, required readings and materials and a description of the course. Syllabi cannot be changed following the first day of class without unanimous approval from the entire class, unless reasonable accommodations are made to those students who disagree with the changes.

A "term" at McGill is equivalent to a “semester”, where we have Fall (September-December) and Winter (January-April) “terms,” which are four months long, and three Summer terms (May, June, July), which are each one month long.

Your transcript lists all your classes and final grades. You can request an official transcript through Minerva or Service Point or view your unofficial one through Minerva.

Tutorials and conferences are smaller break-out sessions from your regular course, where students will typically discuss required readings. Registration for tutorials and conferences usually open after the Add/Drop deadline.

U0, U1, U2, U3 or U4 (also referred to as Year 1, Year 2, etc.): This letter and number system speaks to your academic standing at McGill. It’s based on the number of credits you’ve completed and denotes how many years you’ve completed/have remaining. If you're not sure which year you're in, visit this page on the I've Been Accepted site for more information. 

Waitlist: Some courses allow you to join the waitlist if the course becomes full. If a spot becomes available, you’ll receive an email and will have a limited time to register before the spot is offered to the next student on the list.

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