Most college courses in America have, in addition to a title, a course number, which conveys some information about the course and helps in organizing course catalogs and the like. Most colleges use a similar numbering system, and while not all schools use this system (see MIT's system, for example), it is likely that these basic guidelines will explain the numbering system at any given college.

  1. Course numbers usually have 3 digits.

  2. Introductory courses in any department are likely numbered 101. Courses with less than three significant digits (005, 099, etc.) are likely to be remedial, tutoring, or non-credit classes.

  3. The hundreds digit of a course number is a rough estimate of its relative difficulty. 100-level courses often cover basic material, and are geared towards freshmen. 200-level courses are likely more complex and difficult, 300-level courses more so. Higher level courses often have prerequsite courses from lower levels. The higher levels, such as 700, 800, and 900, are often used to designate graduate-level courses.

  4. Courses representing more advanced treatments of the same topic will often have the same last digits. For example, as m_turner points out, at UW - Madison, CS 364 is Introduction to Databases, while CS 564 is Database Design.

  5. A course which is the second part of a two-course sequence will probably have a number one greater than the first part. For example, Biology 102 is likely intended to be taken the semester after Biology 101.

  6. If there are several "equivalent" classes, covering similar material but using different approaches, or at different difficulty levels, the numbers are likely to be close together. Example: Economics 105, 107, and 109 might be equivalent. It is quite likely that 106 and 108 follow 105 and 107, as per #5.

  7. Within a given level, "core" courses, which cover fundamental concepts and may be obligatory for majors in that department, are likely to have lower numbers. More esoteric or specialized courses often have higher numbers.

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