Studies in Arts & Science

University study in the Faculty of Arts & Science in the University of Toronto shares many features with other North American universities, and has many that are unique. Usually, no one will explain these larger assumptions or characteristics directly to you, but understanding them will help you begin and complete your studies smoothly.

Course-Based Evaluation
Choosing Courses and Programs of Study
Course Work
Extra-Curricular Activities
Residence Life


Course-Based Evaluation

North American university education tends to be "course-based". The Faculty of Arts & Science is exclusively course-based. Courses are individual, self-contained units of study. They are taken one at a time and often have an exam at the end that tests the material in that course only. Your evaluation in this course is discrete, i.e., your mark is based only on this course and not part of an overall or global assessment. Your year-end results are simply an aggregation of marks in these individual courses.

This is different from education at some European universities, for example, which tend to be degree-based. There, students often study for a number of years and take general exams at the end of each year or at the end of their entire degree, with success depending on the student's performance on that set of exams.

Choosing Courses and Programs of Study

The Faculty of Arts & Science:

  • Provides maximum opportunity for choice of courses and programs for its students
  • Outlines six different admissions options*
  • Indicates which courses have restrictions (meaning that some specified academic background is required)
  • Outlines the requirements for a degree and the various courses that will satisfy the program requirements
  • Outlines the prerequisites for each course
  • Upon student request, the Faculty ensures that Academic Advisors assist students who are unclear about their direction or any of the course requirements
  • Assess the courses students have taken to discover whether the arrangement of successfully completed courses follows the requirements of the programs and degree that the student requested to graduate with ; if they do, the Faculty then grants the degree

* selection of one of the six different areas of study available in the admissions options does not restrict a student's subsequent options entirely as students do not formally choose and enter programs of study until the second academic year

Your responsibilities as a student in the Faculty of Arts & Science:

  • Inform yourself of the variety of course and program options available to you within the Faculty
  • Choose your courses and create a personalized timetable
  • In your first academic year, select courses that will make you eligible for the programs that you might be interested in when you declare your Subject PoSt (Program of Study) prior to entering your second year of study
  • Upon completion of your first academic year, you then assess your interests, abilities and results and then apply for your preferred programs (know as "declaring your Subject PoSt") before entering into your second academic year
  • You must be aware of which courses you are restricted from taking due to the fact that some require specified academic background
  • You must navigate through the program requirements and prerequisites laid out by the Faculty and choose the course that you want, and are eligible for
  • You may take combinations of courses and programs provided that you have the necessary prerequisites
  • Once you are nearing the end of your studies for your degree, you will need to request to graduate with your degree. (NOTE: throughout your academic years, you must monitor your progress. You do not need to seek yearly approvals, however you must take responsibility for informing yourself of the requirements and for following them as you proceed. Degree Explorer is a tool to help you monitor your academic progress towards your degree. You can request academic advising through your College Registrar's Office when you are unclear about your direction or any of the requirements)


Support & Resources for Choosing Courses & Programs of Study

In order to fulfill your responsibilities while choosing courses and programs of study, the Faculty of Arts & Science provides the following student resources:


Course Work

  • Usually consists of a number of assignments, tests and a final examination
  • Students from educational cultures other than North American often find that they are very busy doing small assignments for deadlines through the term or the academic year, rather than being left on their own to prepare for an "all-or-nothing" exam at the end
  • Expect to receive assessments and commentary on how you have demonstrated your understanding of the course material while you proceed through the course
  • Some courses use tests only, but this is the exception which usually happens only in larger introductory courses
  • Expect to be planning your workload and managing your time very carefully in order to ensure you have enough time for the stream of assignments and tests arising in all of your courses, especially once you reach the intermediate and senior level
  • Because each course is a discrete unit and because students take unpredictable patterns of courses, instructors plan their assignments and tests without reference to what might be happening in any other courses.


Extra-Curricular Activities

The University of Toronto is committed to providing its students with a vibrant and cooperative community that is conducive to academic success and personal development. Learning does not stop when students exit a classroom or a library. The University facilitates hundreds of opportunities for students to complement their education and provide themselves with enjoyment and relaxation. University of Toronto students engaged in extra and/or co-curricular activities receive the benefit of learning with other students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Often this opportunity enhances students' understanding and leads to personal growth. Students are encouraged and expected to apply and integrate their individual talents and interests for the benefit of intellectual, personal and community development.

Ways to get involved on campus:


Residence Life

The Residence Life Programs at the University of Toronto provide an excellent opportunity for International Students to immediately be a part of a community. Residence Life Programs enhance the student experience by intentionally providing a space and opportunity for students to meet other like-minded individuals, live and study with great minds from all over the world, and build strong communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills. Residence Life programs strive to create socially responsible community members and provide numerous opportunities for involvement in student government and community outreach initiatives. Students living in residence create long-lasting supportive and meaningful relationships with a diverse population of people from all over the globe.