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TOEFL Tuesday: Vocabulary Words about College Classes

Since the TOEFL is supposed to measure how well you can function at an English-only college or university, there are a few points in which you will read, hear, and even speak about students’ daily lives. That includes talking about college classes—not just the academic material within the classes, but rather the structure and scheduling of the classes.

For example, you might listen to a student talk with an advisor about which classes to sign up for next semester in the listening section of the TOEFL. Or maybe you’ll hear two students discussing why they like or dislike a specific class in the speaking section.

The words I’ll define this week all relate to those classes.


If you have more than one class in the same general field, they’re probably all part of one curriculum. A curriculum is a set of classes or subjects that are all taken together so that you can learn the big picture. For example, I majored in creative writing when I was in college. So my curriculum included classes on poetry, fiction, American literature, and English literature. All of those classes had the same theme and goal—they were part of the same program of study—so they were within a curriculum.


You can break this word into pieces to see some of the meaning: “Pre-,” meaning before, and “-requi-,” from “require” combine to make a very literal meaning. A prerequisite class is required before another class. If you want to take a class in advanced chemistry, it will probably have some prerequisites in basic chemistry. You need have taken those prerequisite classes before you can sign up for the advanced class.


Not all schools have seminar classes, but you will actually listen to conversations in seminars on the TOEFL. Whereas a lecture is generally just one person talking, a seminar is a more conversational type of class. Seminars are small, because the whole class talks, whereas lectures can be very large at some universities. If you’re looking into U.S. universities, it’s a good idea to think about what size classes you like. If you prefer small classes with conversation, you may want to look for universities with more seminars built into the curriculum.

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