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Frequently Asked Questions

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 “first-year 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 of reading 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.
  • Section: Come to class ready to get into a conversation. Bring questions about specific passages in the readings or statements made in lecture.
  • 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 when required) or you will not receive credit.

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.”

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 section, with a maximum of seventeen students taught by a TA, 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.

Which CAT courses am I required to take after transferring 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 prior coursework to CAT 2 or CAT 3, you can submit a petition to Sixth College Academic Advising. All transfer students must take CAT 125 or CAT 125R, the upper-division components of the writing sequence.

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 section), while in CAT 2 and CAT 3 you should allow twelve hours weekly for work outside of class.

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

CAT 125 and CAT 125R are upper-division courses that are only open to students who have completed at least ninety units. You will need to wait until you have reached upper-division standing to take one of these classes.

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 indicated 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 do not have the power to move you into a different section of a CAT course if it is already full, we can facilitate a trade if you find someone in another section who is willing to switch with you. You can use the section swap discussion thread posted to your class Canvas site to arrange a trade with another student.

Can I take my CAT course as pass/no pass?

CAT 1 and CAT 2 can only be taken for a letter grade, but you are able to take CAT 3 and CAT 125 or CAT 125R as pass/no pass. However, we recommend that you take CAT 2, CAT 3, and CAT 125/CAT 125R for a letter grade, especially if you are planning to pursue a graduate degree. Many graduate programs and professional schools require one year of undergraduate writing to be taken for a letter grade. Since CAT 1 is not considered a composition course, one year of university writing would be comprised of CAT 2, CAT 3, and CAT 125/CAT 125R. If you do choose to take any of these CAT courses as pass/no pass, you must make sure that doing so will not cause you to exceed the 25% pass/no pass unit maximum, since no more than a quarter of your total units can be taken as pass/no pass.

What is a passing grade in a CAT course?

If you are taking your CAT course for a letter grade, a grade of D or above is considered passing. If you have selected the pass/no pass grading option, you must earn a C- or above to be awarded a pass.

What should I do if I have questions about my grade?

If you would like to contest your final grade after the end of the quarter, you should first contact your professor after waiting forty-eight hours from when grades are posted. If you do not hear back from your professor after another week, you can contact Liz Popko, the Associate Director for Writing of the CAT program, to discuss your situation. Please note that all grade contestations for individual assignments should be submitted to your TA and professor by the end of Week 10 of the quarter. Lastly, it is important to understand that asking for a re-grade might mean that your grade goes down.