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Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to questions frequently asked below.

What’s the purpose of the CAT program?

The CAT program allows students to fulfill the writing requirement necessary for graduation from UCSD and to 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 other disciplines which are more or less integrated depending on the school. At Sixth College, we combine these in a single sequence of writing-intensive courses.

Are CAT courses the same thing as English classes?

A CAT course is not an English class in the sense that we read classic works from the literary canon. It is, however, 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 experience are essential to success in every field of knowledge, whether it's the arts, humanities, science, or engineering. To illustrate this, our readings come from a variety of subjects.

What do I need to do to succeed in my CAT courses?

Make sure you are taking care of these four main areas:
  • Lecture: Arrive 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 before either the next lecture or 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 or other kinds of work on time, and submit your work correctly (via TurnItIn.com when required) or you will not receive credit.
  • 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 courses with ideas from other classes, or other sources of knowledge. Even more importantly, take advantage of one of the most valuable yet 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-face 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. Past students asked for their number one recommendation for success in college often advise, “Go to office hours.”

Which CAT courses am I required to take after transfering to Sixth College?

As a transfer student, you will not be required to take CAT 1, and you may be exempt from taking CAT 2 and CAT 3 as well if you have already taken writing courses at your previous institution. In order to apply your previous coursework to CAT 2 or CAT 3, you can submit a petition to the Sixth College Academic Advising Office. All transfer students must take CAT 125, the upper-division component of the writing sequence.

What’s the difference between lecture and 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 class. The discussion section, with a maximum of seventeen students taught by a teaching assistant, is an opportunity for students to articulate their thoughts and listen to those of others. 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.

Can I get into a full section of my CAT class?

Unfortunately, we are not able to enroll students into full sections of CAT courses, even if the course instructor or TA has told you that it might be possible for us to do so. The only way to get into a CAT class from the waitlist is if a seat opens up in the section you are currently enrolled in or in another section that fits your course schedule.

Can I move to a different section of my CAT class?

Although we here in the Academic Programs Office do not have the power to move you into a different section of a CAT course if it is already full, we can arrange a section swap if you find someone in another section who is willing to switch with you. There is a trade list on the wall outside of the Sixth College Annex where you can sign up to coordinate a section swap with another student. If you find someone to switch with, you will both need to come into the Academic Programs Office together to switch sections.

How is CAT 1 different from CAT 2 and CAT 3?

CAT 1 is a four-unit course that is focused on analytical reading and critical thinking, whereas CAT 2 and CAT 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), while in CAT 2 and CAT 3 you should allow twelve hours weekly for work outside of class.

Can I take CAT 125 before I reach upper-division standing?

CAT 125 is an upper-division course and can only be taken by students who have completed at least ninety units. We are unfortunately not able to allow students who have not met the unit requirement to take this class unless they have special extenuating circumstances. If you feel that your situation requires you to take CAT 125 before you have reached upper-division standing, you may submit a petition through the Enrollment Authorization System.

Can I take CAT 125 as pass/no pass?

You are able to take CAT 125 as pass/no pass if you like, but we recommend that students take writing classes like this for a letter grade as it is often a prerequisite for graduate schools. You must also make sure that taking the class as pass/no pass will not cause you to exceed the 25% pass/no pass unit maximum, meaning that no more than a quarter of your total units can be taken as pass/no pass and all others must be taken for a letter grade.

What is CAT 125R? How does it work?

CAT 125R is an online version of CAT 125 that covers all of the same material as the traditional, in-person course and fulfills the same requirement. CAT 125R is held entirely online, meaning that both the lectures and the sections are conducted remotely. Lecture material is prerecorded and made available for students to view at their convenience. The course requires two hours of discussion time each week, one hour of which is a video chat held at a specific assigned time so that all students can converse with their instructor simultaneously. The other hour of required discussion is completed through other interactive events.