Curriculum: Frequently Asked Questions

These are questions students frequently ask as they explore the curriculum for a bachelor degree. If you do not see your question answered here, please don't hesitate to contact you academic advisor (you can find their contact information in DukeHub) or the Academic Advising Center.


Is it difficult to complete the general education requirements and those for the major and still graduate in four years?

No, it will not be difficult. The general education and major requirements insure that your program of study will have both breadth and depth of exposure to the Curriculum and help you to develop competencies that will serve you well in the future, both at Duke and beyond. The fact that many courses bear multiple codes means that an individual course can contribute to more than one requirement. There is no need for you to be concerned that you cannot complete all graduation requirements in eight semesters. However, if you really want your course of study to reflect your interests and enable you to play to your strengths, you will need to develop plans that will give shape and direction to your studies. Such plans ought to be flexible and may need to be revised periodically, as you yourself develop and change your perspective. 

[back to top]

Do Advanced Placement credits count as credit toward general education requirements?

Advanced Placement (AP) credits are of limited use to Trinity College students. They count in two ways: first, they can be used for placement purposes to enable you to begin your study of a subject at a higher level. Second, they count as elective credit toward the 34 credits needed to graduate with a Bachelor's Degree as follows:

  • the first two AP credits you have can be counted at matriculation;
  • any AP credits you may have in excess of two are recorded on your transcript but held in reserve as so-called "acceleration credits" that can only be used if you opt to graduate early (i.e., after seven or six consecutive semesters of enrollment). In this case, you can count up to two or six additional credits respectively.

AP credits do not count toward fulfillment of Areas of Knowledge and Modes of Inquiry.

[back to top]

How many courses must I take in each Area of Knowledge?

You are required to successfully complete two courses in each of the Areas of Knowledge. The reference to "courses" here is to courses of 1.0 cc each (or the equivalent).  A half-credit course per se will not satisfy an Area of Knowledge requirement.

[back to top]

If a course carries two Area of Knowledge designations, can I count it in both areas?

No. Courses coded with two Area of Knowledge designations can only be used toward one area. That area is assigned on your Advisement Report according to a "best fit" program.

[back to top]

What types of courses carry the QS (quantitative sciences) designation?

Courses designated QS have as their main purpose instruction in a quantitative skill to achieve proficiency in mathematics, statistics, or computer science or the use of explicitly quantitative methodology. 

Note: Beginning with members of the class of 2016 and subsequent classes, one of the two QS-coded courses must be in mathematics, statistics, or computer science.

[back to top]

How many Modes of Inquiry does the Curriculum recognize and how many courses must I take in each of them? 

The Curriculum requires completion of course work in the following six* Modes of Inquiry areas in the number indicated:

  • Cross-Cultural Inquiry (CCI), 2 courses
  • Ethical Inquiry (EI), 2 courses
  • Science, Technology, and Society (STS), 2 courses
  • Foreign Languages (FL), 1 to 3 courses, depending on proficiency
  • Research (R), 2 courses
  • Writing (W), 3 courses, including Academic Writing 101 and two Writing in the Discipline courses

Note: the reference to "courses" here is to courses of 1.0 cc each (or the equivalent).  A half-credit course per se will not satisfy a course requirement.

[back to top]

Why does Trinity College code courses as Modes of Inquiry?  

The Modes of Inquiry requirements were established to complement the Areas of Knowledge.  The first three modes (CCI, EI, STS) ensure that undergraduates are exposed to important intellectual themes that transcend individual disciplines and that students need to know about if they are to be well prepared for life in the 21st century. These themes represent significan focal points that can be approached from many disciplinary perspectives. The second set of three Modes (FL, R, and W) is intended to help students develop certain critical proficiencies that will serve them well at Duke and in the rapidly changing, complex world they will enter after college.

[back to top]

If a course carries three Modes of Inquiry codes, can all three fulfill Modes of Inquiry requirements?

Yes. You can apply a maximum of three codes carried by a course toward the Modes requirements.

[back to top]

Why am I expected to fulfill a foreign language requirement? 

The study of a foreign language is the study of another culture, literally a new way of thinking. By developing proficiency in a foreign language, you enhance your ability to negotiate successfully and be enriched by the increasingly complex local, national, and international communities that share your world. Foreign language study also substantially broadens your experience, develops your intellectual perspective, encourages respect for others, and heightens awareness of how language frames and structures understanding and effective communication. By studying a foreign language you may understand and appreciate your own language and culture better.

[back to top]

How may I fulfill the foreign language requirement?  

To fulfill the FL requirement, you must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language at the intermediate or advanced level. Specifically, you must complete one of the following, depending on your level of proficiency in the language you choose to study at Duke:

  • If you enter language study at Duke at the intermediate level or above: 
successful completion of a 300-level course that carries the FL designation. 

Accordingly, if you place into the first semester of the intermediate level, you will need to take at least three full courses in the same language. If you place into the second semester of the intermediate level, you will need to take at least two full courses in the same language. And if you place into the 300-level, you will need to take at least one full course.
  • If you begin language study at Duke in an elementary language course: 
successful completion of three (3) full courses in the same language that carry the FL designation.

[back to top]

If I qualify to begin my study of a foreign language at Duke at the advanced intermediate level (e.g., 204), will I still have to take three courses to fulfill the FL requirement?  

No. Once you have taken a 300-level course or completed three sub-300-level courses (whichever comes first) in the same language, you will have fulfilled the foreign language requirement. Therefore, if you complete an advanced intermediate course and then take a 300-level course, you are not required to take a third FL course.

[back to top]

What if I take courses in a study abroad program? 

If you participate in a program of study abroad sponsored by Duke, your courses, because they are Duke courses, are coded with respect to Areas of Knowledge and to Modes of Inquiry, including FL if appropriate.  

If you attend a Duke-approved study abroad program through another institution, the transfer courses you take will generally bear Areas of Knowledge.  You can receive FL credit for a course taken on a non-Duke study abroad program only if the course is taught in an immersion setting, i.e., in a country or region where that language is a main language of communicaton. To receive FL credit for such work abroad, you must apply for the FL code immediately after taking the course.  (Approval is based on the extent to which the course exhibits objectives, content, and standards equivalent to Duke FL courses.)

[back to top]

Can foreign language courses below the 300-level be used to satisfy other curricular requirements?

Intermediate-level foreign language courses (e.g., 203, 204) may be used to satisfy other curricular requirements if they have been approved to carry the appropriate curriculum code.

[back to top]

Can I fulfill the foreign language requirement by taking courses at another American university?  

No.  The only exception permitted is that students who enroll through the interinstitutional agreement at in one of the partner universities (UNC, NCCU, NC State among others) may be eligible for FL credit but only if the course is not offered at Duke in the same semester or summer term.  Moreover you must apply for such FL credit immediately after completing the course.  (Approval is based on the extent to which the course exhibits objectives, content, and standards equivalent to Duke FL courses.)  Consult your academic dean for details.

[back to top]

I am an international student, can I waive my foreign language requirement?

No. Duke will not waive the FL requirement for international students or students who are already fluent in a language other than English. The goals of the FL requirement go beyond mere fluency or ability to communicate in another language. They include cultural literacy and intercultural understanding, something that not all native speakers necessarily possess. Foreign language study at Duke includes an intellectual engagement with issues of culturally and linguistically determined difference; the foreign language classroom is a space in which students from different cultures can interact and reflect on these differences. If you are a native speaker of, or fluent in, a language other than English, you may either begin an additional language, or take an advanced level class in your native language. Whatever you decide to do, your study will deepen and expand your own knowledge and understanding, and your presence and perspective will enrich the class to the benefit of all.

[back to top]