6 Jun 2014

An Idiots Guide To Course Types

Let's get down to business. There are basically four types of courses in Nigerian universities. Understanding the nature and significance of these courses is useful to us undergrads because it helps us to know how important each type of course is to our grades and overall stay in the university.

Compulsory (Core) Courses:
Core courses are as their name implies, the core and foundation of our studies as undergraduates. They are courses that we must pass (40% in most universities) to proceed to the next level of study. Core courses are usually courses from our own department or a department very similar to ours. For instance, as an undergraduate of Physics, your core courses would probably be Physics and Mathematics.
Core courses being the fundamentals of your undergraduate program are very important, and now I will address the elephant in the room (no relation to Fat Joe):
'What happens if I fail a core course?'
It's quite simple, really. Up until your penultimate year (300 Level/Part 3 in most courses), if you fail to meet the 40% mark, you will re-take the course or 'carry it over'. If you are in your final year, it will result in an extra-year for you. But that's not so bad, Edwin will explain better in the next article.

Elective Courses:
Elective courses are courses you can choose whether to take or not. They are courses that may be of interest to students of your department and hence will be in your course list. They may also not be in your course list and you may have to obtain permission to take them. For instance, a Physics undergrad may want to further his knowledge of Philosophy beyond the General Studies courses, and since Philosophy is in an entirely different Faculty from Physics, he will have to obtain special permission from his Head of Department or Dean to take that course.
A lot of times, Electives are used to 'boost' CGPAs or are used to make up the minimum requirement of units to take in a session. If you should fail an Elective, you don't carry it over but it affects your CGPA negatively.

Pre-requisite Courses:
From the name it's pretty easy to guess what pre-requisite courses are. They are courses you have to take before you can take another course, usually in the same series. For instance, before you can take a 200 Level course on say, Probability, you may have to have taken a 100 Level course on the same topic. Usually, you need to get at least 30% to pass a Pre-requisite course.
Now it gets tricky. 30% is technically a Fail so no 'points' or grades will be awarded you. But you will not need to retake the course and you will be allowed to take other courses in the series.

Required Courses:
Think of Required Courses as Core Courses that are not from your department. A required course is a course that you have to take and pass in order to proceed to the next level. The pass mark as usual is 40% and failure may result to carrying over the course. There is a reason is said 'may result' because some Required Courses come in 'sets'. I'll explain using my own required courses last semester.
In Physics, we are required to pass 8 units of Mathematics. We took four Mathematics courses each with a courseload of 4 units. Hence, we had to get above 40% in two out of our four mathematics courses and at least 30% in the other two. Getting below 30% in the other two would result in us carrying over the courses.

General Studies and Special Cases:
In all Nigerian universities that I know of, students take General Studies courses. In the University of Ibadan we call them GES. GES courses are usually compulsory and follow the nature of compulsory courses but in some institutions, they are Required Courses and follow that pattern.
Special Cases come up regularly in the university and I just want to mention one case. It is possible to fail some courses and not carry them over; this can be done by getting a 'waive' from your Head of Department. This is extremly difficult to get and is usually given to only people who were sick and unavailable to take their exams.

Best Practice: Take all your courses seriously and do your best in your examinations. All courses are important and significant to an undergraduate and always remember 'no knowledge is lost'. And that's an idiot's guide to course types. This does not mean you're an idiot, it's just a colloquialism used to generalize 'simple' things (that didn't really make sense to me but *shrugs*).

Until next time,


*Hands baton to Edwin*

Ezim Osai
May 2014