Confused about university preferences and other terms?

CASS students (L-R): Alex, Sarzi, Sarah, Stephen and Louise
08 December 2017

Baffled by the terminology and don’t know where to start? Our explainer will help.


Get fired up 

Choose what interests you. If you’ve been interested in a subject since year seven, pursue that. You’ll be at uni for at least three years, so select something that you can sink your teeth into.

What’s a preference?

UAC says undergraduates must choose up to five courses. In this case, course means a degree, for example a Bachelor of Music.

What’s the difference between a degree and a course?


At ANU, a degree is the qualification that you’ll receive at the end of your studies. Say you study a Bachelor of Music. At the end of that period, you’ll receive a Bachelor of Music qualification. A Bachelor is usually the first degree a person studies at uni, and we call such students undergraduates, or undergrads.

Once you obtain a Bachelor degree, you’re then allowed to do further graduate programs, such as a Master or a Doctoral program (PhD).

When you finish your studies, ANU grants you a testamur, which is a degree certificate.

Degrees are made up of courses. These are the building blocks of your degree, such as an introduction to human rights, or an introduction to commercial law. Undergraduate courses generally go for one semester, or half a year.  They normally include lectures and tutorials every week.

Wait a sec. What’s the difference between a lecture and a tutorial?

A lecture is usually held in a large theatre, where a lecturer gives a talk. A tutorial’s more like a small class, with a few students, where you get more personal interaction and discuss the lecture, or reading material set for that particular course.

What about units? What are they?

A unit is a way for ANU to determine how much each course is worth in your degree.  Usually, one course is worth six units.  Full-time students usually take four courses per semester, or 24 units for the length of their degree.

What are majors and minors?

These are groups of similar courses. A major is a group of eight courses in a particular subject, for example, Spanish or Arabic. A minor is a group of four courses in a single subject. There will be different major and minor requirements, depending on what degree you’re studying. Most degrees require at least one major. There are heaps of majors and minors available. Check out for more details.

What’s an elective course?

Want to try your hand at demography, Ancient Greek, or Ceramics? An elective is your opportunity to explore a different subject from your major and minor. Depending on what degree you’re enrolled in, there are different amounts of electives to choose. Check for more information.

Why Canberra? I’ve heard it’s really cold in winter.

LOL. Our winters aren’t that cold. It’ll get to about -5 at dawn, but our days are gorgeous with tops of around 15 degrees. Plus, we’re about two hours away from snow resorts like Thredbo and Perisher.
Lonely Planet reckons Canberra’s the third best city on the planet to visit in 2018, and some of the best baristas in the world, like Sasa Sestic, are based here, and are within walking distance to the ANU campus.


Okay. Got it. Now where can I live?
The ANU provides on-campus accommodation to all first-year students from outside the ACT who’ve been offered a place. We assess all applications equally, but these must be submitted online.

There are a variety of options available, so compare the costs and facilities of each residence.

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Updated:  21 March 2018/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications