GE Requirements and Template



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General Education Requirements

General Education 2020 Template


General Education Requirements

Consistent with the California State University (CSU) Executive Order 1100, Cal Poly's General Education (GE) program has been designed to complement major courses and electives completed by each baccalaureate candidate. The GE program seeks to cultivate well-rounded and informed persons. GE requirements are designed to provide CSU students with the knowledge, skills, experiences, and perspectives that will enable them to expand their capacities to take part in a wide range of human interests and activities; confront personal, cultural, moral, and social problems that are an inevitable part of human life; and develop an enthusiasm for lifelong learning. Faculty are encouraged to assist students in making connections among disciplines to achieve coherence in the undergraduate educational experience.

Students are encouraged to complete GE Communication (Area A) classes during their freshman year. This three-course sequence provides instruction and practice in writing, speaking, and critical thinking — foundational knowledge that students will build upon in upper-division courses. Completion of this sequence is a prerequisite for many other GE classes.

Students are also encouraged to complete their lower-division GE classes in Area B, C, D, and E by the end of their sophomore year to give them the skills and knowledge to succeed in their upper-division courses.

Standard Requirements

  • All Cal Poly students are required to take 72 quarter units of General Education.
  • A minimum of 12 units is required in residence (i.e., while enrolled as a Cal Poly student).
  • A minimum of 12 units is required at the upper-division level (8 units upper-division for ABET-accredited engineering programs)
  • For students admitted in Fall 2016 or later, a grade of C- or better is required in one course in each of the following GE Areas: A1 (Oral Communication), A2 (Written Communication), A3 (Critical Thinking), and B4 (Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning).
  • Double Counting: Some majors indicate specific GE courses to fulfill both GE and major requirements. (These are listed in the major's curriculum display.) Students should consult their academic advisors during freshman year for clarification.
  • All GE courses are 4 units unless otherwise indicated.

Golden Four

The “Golden Four” classes are a set of foundational learning classes that set the stage for future learning within GE and within the major programs. As such, students are encouraged to complete these four courses within the first year. The Golden Four courses are designated as follows:

  • A1: Oral Communication
  • A2: Written Communication
  • A3: Critical Thinking
  • B4: Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning

Completion of one or more courses within this area is often a prerequisite for other GE courses. All Golden Four subareas require students to earn a grade of C- or better. (All other GE courses require a passing grade of D- or better.)

A note on upper-division courses:

Upper-division courses generally prioritize depth over breadth. In other words, students may study a more narrow subject area in upper-division classes by looking at that subject from multiple — and perhaps competing — cultural, historical, and/or disciplinary vantage points. For instance, course may study specific historical periods, authors, film directors, geographical locations, etc. Upper-division courses build on lower-division courses from the same GE Area.

Writing Component

All General Education courses must have an appropriate writing component. In achieving this objective, writing in most courses should be viewed primarily as a tool of learning (rather than a goal in itself, as in a composition course), and faculty should determine the appropriate ways to integrate writing into coursework. The writing component may take different forms according to the subject matter and the purpose of a course. Outside of the GE areas specified below, at least 10% of the grade in all GE courses must be based on appropriate written work (e.g., lab reports, math proofs, essay questions, word problems, exam questions).

Writing Intensive Policy

There are five subareas within the GE program that are designated as Writing Intensive:

  1. A2: Written Communication
  2. A3: Critical Thinking
  3. C2: Humanities — Literature, Philosophy, Languages other than English
  4. Upper-Division C
  5. Upper-Division D

All courses A2, A3, Upper-Division C, and Upper-Division D must include a minimum of 3,000 words of writing and base 50% or more of a student’s grade on written work. Within C2, all courses in this area must include a minimum of 2,000 words of writing and base 50% or more of a student’s grade on written work.

All Writing Intensive courses must include process-oriented writing instruction in which faculty provide ongoing feedback to students to help them grasp the effectiveness of their writing in various disciplinary contexts. The kind and amount of writing must be a factor in determining class sizes.

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General Education 2020 Template


The following template applies to students who are catalogs beginning in AY 2020-21. For details on the prior template, please click here.

For a list of current classes in each area, visit the Cal Poly Catalog. All GE courses are 4 units unless otherwise indicated.

Cal Poly’s GE program includes two templates: the Standard Template and the High-Unit Template. A “high-unit” program, as it relates to the GE template, refers to all programs within the College of Engineering along with the other ABET-accredited programs of ARCE and BRAE. Only these programs are considered high-unit degree programs and, as such, only students within those degrees will follow the High-Unit Template. All other students will follow the Standard Template.



High-Unit: ARCE, BRAE, and College of Engineering majors (ABET-accredited programs)
Standard: All other majors
X = non-unit requirement



A list of current GE courses can be found in the Cal Poly catalog here.



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For students on the AY 2020-2021 catalog —

Source: AS-873-19 "Resolution on Template for General Education 2020" (pdf). 16 April 2019.

For students on AY 2021-2022 and subsequent catalogs —

Source: AS-913-21 "Resolution to Establish Area F in the General Education 2020 Template" (pdf). 2 March 2021.


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