Distribution Requirements Before 2003


The following distribution requirements apply to students who matriculated to the School of General Studies before Fall 2003. New students matriculating after Fall 2003 should consult either the Pre-Summer 2012 Core Requirements page or the Core Requirements page.

Bachelor’s degree candidates must satisfy the distribution requirements outlined in this section. Only courses of three or more points taken for a letter grade can fulfill core requirements.

Courses counted toward distribution requirements do not count toward the major and must be outside the major department, except for the cultural diversity requirement and the science requirement. Students can count two appropriate science courses in the major toward the science requirement.

Courses may not be repeated for points, nor may course points be earned in subjects for which Advanced Placement credit has been granted. Advanced Placement credit may not be used to fulfill distribution requirements. Students cannot receive points for previous courses in which the content has been substantially duplicated, at Columbia or elsewhere.

Within the first term of study, a student must satisfy preliminary requirements in English composition and mathematics either by passing placement tests or by completing designated courses. Students must take all placement tests during the first term of study, and the writing requirement must be begun upon matriculation. In consultation with an advisor, a student may postpone satisfying the math requirement by one additional semester.

Some of the distribution requirements can be met with the appropriate Advanced Placement (AP) scores. For specifics, students should consult the AP Credit page for specific details about subject test areas, scores, advanced credit, and placement status.


For further information or clarification about advanced placement and credit, students should consult with their assigned academic advisor.

Composition: Logic and Rhetoric

The Undergraduate Writing Program evaluates placement essays and composition transfer credit for all new students and determines English composition (Logic and Rhetoric) courses to be taken. Students whose first language is not English must obtain a Level 10 in ALP’s Level 10 Qualifying Exam before they will be allowed to take the Composition Placement Test offered by the Undergraduate Writing Program. If placed into English GS1004 — Introduction to Logic and Rhetoric or English GS1007 — Logic and Rhetoric, a student must take that course during the first term. English GS1007 is a prerequisite for all literature courses.


Before attending Columbia, the mathematics requirement can be satisfied two ways: with transfer credit for a college level course in pre-calculus or above, or with minimum test scores of 560 on the SAT or 23 on the ACT.

If a student does not fit into these categories, the General Studies Math Placement Test must be taken within the first semester at Columbia. This test is administered by the Academic Resource Center, and may be taken only once.

A passing score satisfies the requirement. An intermediate score places students into a 2-point intermediate algebra course (Math GS1001). Students who receive a low score or do not pass the Math Placement Test must consult their GS academic advisor to determine appropriate coursework. A student is not permitted to enroll in science courses until the requirement has been fulfilled in one of the above-mentioned ways.


For information about specific test dates and times, call the Academic Resource Center at (212) 854-4097.

Foreign Language

The foreign language requirement can be satisfied by any one of the following methods:

  1. Demonstrating competence through the appropriate score on either the SAT II Subject test (consult relevant department) or the Advanced Placement test.
  2. Completing the fourth term of a language sequence. (Greek and Latin are exceptions.)
  3. Taking a departmental placement test within the first year or before the completion of 64 credits, whichever comes first.
  4. Completing secondary school in another country in a language other than English.


Students are required to take two literature courses to fulfill their distribution requirements. At least one of these two courses must be taken at Columbia. In addition to the rich variety of courses in the English department, students may choose from among many literature courses offered through different departments or a designated GS Colloquium. Literature courses in languages other than English may also count toward this requirement.

Music and Art

To satisfy the music and art requirement, a student must successfully complete the following courses:

Select one of the following:
HUMA UN1123Masterpieces of Western Music
AHMM UN3320Introduction To the Musics of East Asia and Southeast Asia
AHMM UN3321Introduction To the Musics of India and West Asia
Select one of the following:
HUMA UN1121Masterpieces of Western Art
AHUM UN3340Art In China, Japan, and Korea (formerly AHUM V3340)
AHUM UN3342Masterpieces of Indian Art and Architecture (formerly AHUM V3342)
Masterpieces of Islamic Art and Architecture


Students must fulfill a humanities requirement by successfully completing two courses outside the major department, chosen from the following departments:

  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Art History and Archaeology
  • Classics
  • Comparative Literature and Society
  • English and Comparative Literature
  • French and Romance Philology (3000 level and above)
  • Film Studies
  • Germanic Languages and Literatures (3000 level and above)
  • History
  • Italian (3000 level and above)
  • Music
  • Philosophy (except GS1401, UN3411)
  • Religion
  • Slavic Languages (3000 level and above)
  • Spanish and Portuguese (3000 level and above)

Social Science*

To satisfy the social science requirement, a student must successfully complete two courses outside the major department, chosen from the following departments:

  • Anthropology (except UN1010, UN1011, UN3940, UN3970, GU4147–GU4148)
  • Economics (except UN3412, UN4414, UN4415)
  • Political Science
  • Psychology (at the 2600 level)
  • Sociology (except UN1205, UN3211, UN3212)


To fulfill the science requirement, a student must successfully complete three courses at the 1000 level or above from the list of following departments, two of which must be chosen from the same department. (Students in certain majors can count two science courses in the major towards the science requirement.)

  • Anthropology (UN1010, UN1011, UN3940, UN3970, GU4147–GU4148)
  • Astronomy
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
  • Economics (UN3412, GU4414, GU4415)
  • History and Philosophy of Science (UN3201)
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy (GS1401, UN3411)
  • Physics
  • Psychology (UN1001, UN1010; all courses at the 1400, 2200, or 2400 level; all courses at the 3200, 3400, 4200, and 4400 level with the approval of the departmental representative; Biology–Psychology UN3450)
  • Sociology (UN1205, UN3211, UN3212)
  • Statistics


Fulfilling the math requirement is a prerequisite for all sciences. No Barnard Psychology or Earth and Environmental Science courses can count towards the science requirement.

Cultural Diversity

The distribution requirement to fulfill the cultural diversity category includes at least one term of study of a culture, society, literature, or language of a nation or region that, as a general principle, is located outside the United States, Canada, or Europe. The course must focus primarily on Asia, Africa, or Latin America. A course meeting a major requirement or another distribution requirement may simultaneously meet the cultural diversity requirement.