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Choosing Courses

In some subject areas, selection of appropriate courses will depend on the extent of a student's preparation. Undergraduate students wishing to take graduate courses must have the approval of the instructor. Particular attention should be paid to the guidelines below for selecting initial foreign language, writing, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and biology courses. Students pursuing a premedical education should also attend to the section below directed at them.

Foreign Language

Notices for foreign language placements are mailed to entering students for whom scores on a College Board Achievement Test in a foreign language are recorded. Students who intend to continue the study of a language should select an appropriate course based on their notice. Those who are not sent a foreign language placement notification should pay particular attention to the section on foreign language tests in the orientation program booklet.

Continuing sophomores, juniors, and seniors who intend to resume study of a foreign language which they have not studied for some time (a semester or more) should take a language placement exam. Such students should register for the exam, even if, when they first came to the University, they already took a placement exam or submitted an AP or SAT score in lieu of a placement exam. Language placement exams are administered during orientation week, prior to the first week of classes in the fall, and during the first week of classes in the spring semester. All those needing to take an exam should register with the Center for Language Studies. Call 863-3043, or stop by 195 Angell Street.

Writing Courses

The University's Expository Writing Program offers a range of courses to help students develop their writing abilities. ENGL 0110, 0130, and 1140 are designed to familiarize students with academic writing for university-level discourse and instruct them in composing and revising critical essays; ENGL 0160 and 1160 are journalism courses; ENGL 0180 and 1180 are creative nonfiction courses; and ENGL 1190 courses are special topics offerings in expository writing.

The English Department also offers ENGL 0200's, writing seminars that present topical approaches to close reading and writing on literary or cultural topics. For more information on selecting English Department courses best suited to your needs, please consult the Guide to Liberal Learning and visit the Department's website.

The Literary Arts Department offers LITR 0110 Workshops in Creative Writing, designed for students who have little or no previous experience writing literary texts in a particular genre or in interdisciplinary matters.

Students may also be interested in courses that participate in the Writing Fellows Program. A list of these courses is published each semester and is available in the Office of the Dean of the College. The dean's office also offers co-curricular support for writing at the Writing Center.

Visual Art Courses

Students are welcome to pre-register for most visual art courses as part of the early registration process.  Pre-registration for VISA 0100, however, requires students to enter an online lottery through the link embedded in the Banner VISA 0100 online course description.  Once the lottery has been completed students may still register for VISA 0100 during the add/drop period with the instructor’s permission


Students who have not taken AP Chemistry (or scored below a 4 on the AP Chemistry exam), IB, or A-level exams in Chemistry should take the chemistry placement exam. Students who took Advanced Placement chemistry in high school and scored a 4 or 5 should enroll in CHEM 0330.

Computer Science

The Computer Science department offers four introductory courses.

  1. CSCI 0020 is for students in the humanities who want an introduction to the use of computers that does not involve much programming,
  2. CSCI 0040 is intended for students in engineering and the sciences who want to learn how to program (in C), but who do not necessarily want to be Computer Science concentrators.
  3. CSCI 0150 is for students who plan to concentrate in Computer Science as well as for those who want a strong background in programming.
  4. CSCI 0170 is for students who plan to concentrate in Computer Science as well as for those who want an introduction to programming and computer science.

All introductory courses are designed for students with no programming experience. Students with some experience are encouraged to start with either CSCI 0150 or CSCI 0170.


Students who plan to take a mathematics course must complete the mathematics placement card sent to them in the mid-July packet. Based on the guidelines provided on the card, they should indicate the appropriate course on both the placement card and the registration card, making certain the same course is written on both cards (see registration instructions below). The information provided on the placement card enables the mathematics department to place the student in the appropriate course. For a more detailed description of these courses, see

Beginning in Biology

Students with a High School Biology Course Only: For the first semester, such students are encouraged to choose from courses in the BIOL 0190 series. These are designed especially to introduce the life sciences within the framework of a focused topic. All BIOL 0190 courses are limited in class size, and all carry concentration credit for biology programs as well as pre-professional school requirements. Students may consider taking a BIOL 0190 course alongside introductory chemistry and/or math. For the second semester they should take BIOL 0200, which is a prerequisite for many other biology courses and for biology concentration programs.

Students with Advanced Placement in Biology or IB credit, or who pass the Brown placement test: Such students are exempt from taking BIOL 0200, and have credit as such toward concentration programs. It is recommended that they begin their college biology course work with a BIOL 0190 course or with a biology course at the intermediate level (beyond BIOL 0200 but below 1000). Access to many courses in the latter group, however, may be restricted because (1) they require prerequisites in chemistry, (2) they are full due to prior semester pre-registration, or (3) due to level of difficulty, it would be inadvisable for first-year students to enter them unless unusual experience or preparedness is demonstrated.
Advice on the options will be provided to students upon their arrival on campus. For individualized counseling, please see Dean Thompson at the Biology Undergraduate Affairs office (Rm. 122, Arnold Lab).

Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) students

Students who have been admitted to the PLME program should receive from the deans administering the program information that will assist them in making appropriate course choices. They should refer to that information before completing their course registration. Each such student will be assigned an advisor from the program and will meet individually with his or her PLME advisor during orientation to review course selections and academic plans.

Visitors to Brown Classes

Attending classes is generally restricted to Brown students or officially enrolled non-degree students who are registered participants. A student who has requested and been granted the instructor's permission for "vagabond" status in a course is an exception. With permission/invitation from the instructor, a visitor can attend class with a Brown affiliate, a current student or faculty member. Any other visitors to the campus who would like to sit in on a class must register with the Office of Admissions in advance and seek permission from the individual instructor. This permission is granted at the discretion of the instructor.

Premedical Education

During the orientation program, a Dean will conduct an informational meeting with students who are interested in medicine as a possible career. Specific details concerning course selections for the fall semester will be discussed at that meeting. For the purpose of completing course registration, it should be noted that more than two science courses in the first semester has proven to be a heavy course load for many students. To determine the appropriate science courses to take in the fall semester, each student should carefully read the information provided in the Guide to Liberal Learning, and the health careers office handout (available at the Dean’s orientation meeting).