Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the purpose of the Core Sequence?

The Sixth College Core Sequence in Culture, Art, and Technology allows students to accomplish two essential goals:

  • fulfill the writing requirement for graduation from UCSD, and
  • gain more understanding of society in an integrated, interdisciplinary way

In many other universities within the UC system and elsewhere, students work on their writing as part of a “Freshman English” class, and they take a range of general education classes about various aspects of society and the disciplines which are more or less integrated depending on the school. At Sixth College, we combine these in a single Core Sequence.

Does the Core Sequence provide English classes?

A CAT class is not an “English” class in the sense that we read, for example, The Tempest or The Scarlet Letter*. But it is a writing class where we study how ideas are put together by other writers and how you as students can put ideas together yourself. Writing ability and writing experience are essential to success in every field of knowledge, whether humanities, science, engineering, or the arts. To illustrate this, our readings come from a variety of subjects.

*It’s possible that a CAT instructor might assign The Scarlet Letter, but less for the purpose of looking at the novel’s characterization of Arthur Dimmesdale and more for discussing cultural questions about, for instance, American history, semiotics, or material culture. The same goes for The Tempest and any other literary work.

So if this isn’t English, is this basically a class on Philosophy, History, Art, Science and Technology, Sociology, or Anthropology?

Yes; all of the above (and more).

Is CAT 1 a different kind of class from CAT 2 and CAT 3?

CAT 1 is worth four units, whereas CAT 2 and 3 are Writing-Intensive courses worth six units. In CAT 1 you should budget eight hours weekly for reading and writing outside of class (that is, not counting lecture and discussion section); in CAT 2 and 3 you should budget twelve hours weekly for work outside of class. Together with the other classes you are taking, this makes up a full schedule.

What’s the difference between “lecture” and “discussion section”?

Lecture and section work together as components of the same course. 

  • The lecture format, with a hundred or more students present, is a good place for the lecturer to present and explain ideas and examples in the course.
  • The discussion section, with a maximum of seventeen students taught by a teaching assistant, is an opportunity for students to articulate their ideas and listen to those of others in a real discussion. Furthermore, since writing is learned mostly by doing rather than by being told what to do, we design our courses so that most of the focused writing instruction happens in section. Students are challenged in section to do exercises which involve thinking and writing about course material.

I got good grades in high school English. Why do I have to take writing classes in college?

Coach, last year my performance was good and my high school had a winning season. Why do I need to come to practice as a college player?

What do I need to do to succeed in the Core Sequence?

Make sure you are taking care of four main areas:

  • Lecture. Come on time, pay attention, take notes, and when the opportunity presents itself, ask meaningful questions that will help you understand the material.
  • Readings. Complete all assigned readings before the deadline (which is usually either the next lecture or the next discussion section) . Take notes and prepare questions to ask (we’ll show you more about how to do this). You will often need to read the assigned material more than once in order to fully understand it.
  • Assignments. Complete all assignments for written work (or other kinds of work) on time, and submit your work correctly (via when required) or you will not receive credit.
  • Discussion section. Come to class ready to get into a conversation. Bring questions about specific passages in the readings or statements made in lecture. 

Beyond those things, you should be thinking about ways to connect what you are learning in your CAT course with ideas from other courses – or other sources of knowledge. Even more importantly, take advantage of one of the most valuable and underused resources on campus: office hours. Find out when your TA and your professor are scheduled to be in their offices, and go have face-to-fave conversations with them. If you are shy or not sure what to talk about, think of a question you could bring, and go and ask it. They want you to come, and you need to be there. Students in the past, when asked for their number one recommendation for success in college, have said “go to office hours”.

What is the process for grading student work?

The Core Sequence has written grading standards and maintains consistency of grading through ongoing training and supervision of teaching assistants. For more details, see Policies and Requirements.

If I am transferring to UCSD-Sixth College from another institution, am I required to take the CAT Core Sequence?

As a transfer student you will have to take Sixth College’s upper-division writing course (CAT 125), and complete a Practicum, but you may already have satisfied the requirements for all or some of the Core Sequence courses (CAT 1-2-3), depending on what courses you have completed elsewhere. To find out details, please contact the Sixth College Advising Office.

Did the invention of the printing press make people more sociable? Less sociable? Both?

Now there’s the kind of question we’d really like to discuss. Please come to office hours so we can talk about the cool stuff!

Academic Programs

Pepper Canyon Hall
2nd Floor

Office Hours
8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
1:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Or ask your question in the
Virtual Advising Center
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