Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the Gen Ed requirements?
Why are only certain courses designated as General Education courses?
What are diversity courses and how do students find them?
Can courses from other schools transfer to UMass as Gen Ed courses?
What is the General Education Variance Committee?
What are “I” courses?
Can students take Gen Ed courses in their major?
How do placement exams affect Gen Ed courses?
Can AP courses count as Gen Ed courses?
Can Gen Ed courses be waived?
Can courses taken through the Five-College exchange count as Gen Ed courses?
What is R1/R2 Joint Satisfaction?

What are the Gen Ed requirements?
Please visit Fulfilling the Requirements for an outline of the requirements and to obtain Gen Ed Course Planning Guides.

Why are only certain courses designated as General Education courses?
In response to the challenges we know students will face both academically at UMass and professionally when they enter the workforce, a special set of criteria have been set forth to guide the development of courses to be designated as General Education courses. Before any course can be included in the Gen Ed curriculum, it has to go through a thorough review and approval by a faculty committee (Gen Ed Council) in order to ensure that it will provide students with the skills necessary to easily integrate into the working world where employers repeatedly report that what they value most highly in new employees are: a) excellent communications skills, b) exceptional analytic skills, and c) the ability to understand and think critically about complex issues. Therefore, only the courses specifically designed to provide experiences and activities that allow students to meet specific learning objectives in an organized and individualized fashion are designated Gen Ed.

What are diversity courses and how do students find them?
Students are required to take two Social and Cultural Diversity courses, one focused on United States Diversity and one focused on Global Diversity. Prior to Fall 2018, the US Diversity courses were identified as U and the Global Diversity courses were identified as G. These designations were replaced by DU (US Diversity) and DG (Global Diversity). Students who enrolled prior to Fall 2018 may satisfy their diversity requirements with any course designated as U, G, DU, or DG. Students entering Fall 2018 and later will satisfy their diversity requirements only with courses designated as DU or DG, and are expected to take one of these courses in their first year. These courses are listed on SPIRE.


Can courses from other schools transfer to UMass as Gen Ed courses?
Yes, courses from other schools can transfer to UMass as Gen Ed courses as long as the courses are approved by the Office of Transfer Affairs (part of Admissions). For new incoming students, transfer credit is generally awarded if the coursework is comparable in content and scope to courses offered by the University, and a grade of C- (1.7) or higher is earned in the course. Specific letter grades earned outside the University do not transfer. After acceptance to UMass Amherst, students receive a preliminary transfer credit evaluation, and if courses satisfy a Gen Ed requirement they will be so indicated. A more detailed course evaluation will take place during orientation.
Current UMass students who plan on taking a Gen Ed course at another school must complete a “Prior Approval Form” and have the course approved by Transfer Affairs.

What is the General Education Variance Committee?
The General Education Variance Committee reviews student petitions for variances from the General Education Requirements. The following conditions and procedures apply:

  • Petitions will be processed through the student's undergraduate Dean, with accompanying comment/recommendation by the Dean, and forwarded to the Registrar's Office for consideration by the committee
  • All requests for variance from the General Education requirements based on an allegation of misadvising shall include a statement verifying such mis-advice by the academic advisor or dean involved
  • No requests will be granted for the use of University of Massachusetts Amherst non-General Education courses to fulfill General Education requirements
  • No requests will be granted for a variance from the requirements based on a student's completion of a course because of legitimate but mistaken belief that the course filled a General Education requirement, if the student may use the course to complete a General Education, University, or major requirement not yet filled
  • A student may register an appeal to the committee's decision only with approval of his/her initiating Dean

What are “I” courses?
Students are not required to take courses with an interdisciplinary designation, but may substitute them for other requirements, as listed in the curriculum areas. Interdisciplinary courses are often experimental, issue-focused, and speak to the basic integrations of (many) fields of human study. Courses of this sort, which focus on topics and which often involve teams of interested faculty, may well be highpoints in the undergraduate experience.

There are two course designations in this option: I (Interdisciplinary) and SI (Science Interdisciplinary); they are often combined with the Social and Cultural Diversity component. Students may only take up to three courses of their Gen Ed requirements through an interdisciplinary option.

Can students take Gen Ed courses in their major?
Up to three courses can count for JYW, IE, and one additional GenEd requirement. One course from the major department can also count toward Diversity. There is no limit on GenEd or Diversity courses that can be counted toward major requirements.

How do placement exams affect Gen Ed courses?
The Math Placement Test that is taken online by all freshmen prior to orientation and is used to determine placement in Math courses. It does not grant exemption from the R1 requirement; for information on exemption, refer to the Mathematics website.

All students must satisfy College Writing (CW) as part of their Gen Ed requirements. Students may register for College Writing (ENGLWRIT 112 or ENGLWRIT 113) as long as they have fulfilled either one of two prerequisites: satisfactory performance on the Placement Test or satisfactory completion of ENGLWRIT 111, Basic Writing. While some students elect to take ENGLWRIT 111 before entering ENGLWRIT 112, most fulfill the prerequisite by taking the Writing Program Placement Test, which is taken online prior to New Students' Orientation. 

The Writing Program Placement Test takes one hour. Students are asked to compose an essay on a reading passage and topic of general interest. Two topics are usually offered; students choose one on which to write. A team of eight Writing Program teachers according to these criteria evaluates tests:

  • The essay is organized and focused on a specific point or thesis in response to the given topic
  • A thesis is developed with supporting ideas and specific examples
  • The writer demonstrates an understanding of the reading passage and is able to use the passage effectively
  • Wording, grammar, and sentence structure are clear and coherent

Three results are possible. Students whose writing shows a need for additional instruction are placed into ENGLWRIT 111, Basic Writing. Students whose writing meets the University's expectations for entering students are placed into ENGLWRIT 112, College Writing. And students whose writing exceeds normal expectations receive a waiver of their College Writing Requirement. Unlike exemptions given on the basis of SAT and AP test scores (as described below), waivers carry no credit. Those receiving waivers are not required to take College Writing but may choose to elect the course.

Students must also take a Junior Year Writing course. There are no exceptions to this.

Can AP courses count as Gen Ed courses?
Yes! A student must submit AP test scores to the University to be evaluated. Depending upon the AP score, students can earn credits, equivalent courses and Gen Ed designations. For instance, a student earning a 4 or 5 in AP Govern & Politics (U.S.) earns 3 credits, an ‘SB’ Gen Ed designation, and the equivalent course of PolSci 101.

Can Gen Ed courses be waived?
No.

Can courses taken through the Five-College exchange count as Gen Ed courses?
The Five College Exchange Office is in 614 Goodell. There is a list of courses that have already been approved as Gen Eds. It's not huge but it does have a good number of courses on it. If a course is not on the list then a student needs to bring to the office a syllabus, and if it is an obvious Gen Ed it can be approved (just like courses are approved as Gen Eds for domestic exchange).

What is R1/R2 Joint Satisfaction?
Any advanced course taken within the Department of Mathematics and Statistics that satisfies the R2 (Analytic Reasoning) requirement for graduation also satisfies the R1 requirement. The list of courses that satisfy both R1 and R2 can be found on the Registrar's website.

In addition, there are some courses that do not currently carry R2 satisfaction but do satisfy the R1 requirement. The list of these courses can also be found on the Registrar's website.