GE Template and Requirements (prior to summer 2020)


The information on this page refers to the requirements prior to the AY 2020-21 catalog. For current information related to GE 2020, please use the navigation buttons to find the appropriate updates.


Sections on this page:


General Education Template

The following template applies to students on the 2019-20 catalog.  Please review the Cal Poly Catalog archives for previous GE templates.

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



  • CAED = College of Architecture & Environmental Design (except Architectural Engineering majors)
  • CAFES = College of Agriculture, Food, & Environmental Sciences (except BioResource & Agricultural Engineering majors)
  • CLA = College of Liberal Arts
  • CSM = College of Science & Mathematics (except LS majors)
  • ENGR = Majors in: College of Engineering (CENG), BioResource & Agricultural Engineering (BRAE), or Architectural Engineering (ARCE)
  • LS = Liberal Studies Majors
  • LAES = Liberal Arts & Engineering Studies Majors
  • OCOB = Orfalea College of Business
  • X = Non-Unit Requirement

Students are encouraged to complete GE Communication (Area A) classes during their freshman year. The three-course Communication 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 classes.


Area A: Communication 

curriculum guidelines for area a can be found here.

A1: Expository Writing (Writing Intensive)1 4 4 4
A2: Oral Communication1 4 4 4
A3: Reasoning, Argumentation, Writing (Writing Intensive)1 4 4 4
Area A Unit Sub-total 12 12 12

1 For students admitted in Fall 2016 or later, a grade of C- or better is required in one course in this GE Area.

Area B: Math, Science, and Quantitative Reasoning

curriculum guidelines for area b can be found here.

B1: Mathematics/Statistics1 8 8 8
B2: Life Science 4 4 4
B3: Physical Science 4 4 4
B4: Lab taken with either Life Science or Physical Science X X X
B1-B5: Science and Mathematics Elective 4    
B6: Upper-Division Math, Science, and Quantitative Reasoning (B6)     4
B7: Upper-Division Math, Science, and Quantitative Reasoning (formerly Area F) 4 4  
Designated Science and Mathematics Courses     8
Area B Unit Sub-total 24 20 28

1 For students admitted in Fall 2016 or later, a grade of C- or better is required in one course in this GE Area.

Area C: Arts and Humanities

curriculum guidelines for area c can be found here.


- Language acquisition courses can be counted for C1, C2, and/or the C elective at Cal Poly, up to a maximum total of 8 quarter units in GE Area C.

- The maximum of 8 quarter units in language acquisition holds for any combination of domestic and study-abroad courses.

C1: Literature (Writing Intensive) 4 4 4
C2: Philosophy (Writing Intensive) 4 4 4
C3: Fine and Performing Arts 4 4 4
C4: Upper-Division Elective (Writing Intensive) 4 4 4
Arts and Humanities Elective (C1-C5)   4  
Area C Unit Sub-total 16 20 16

Area D: Society and the Individual

curriculum guidelines for area d can be found here.

D1: The American Experience (40404 Requirement) 4 4 4
D2: Political Economy 4 4 4
D3: Comparative Social Institutions 4 4 4
D5: Upper-Division Elective (Writing Intensive) 4 4  
Area D Unit Sub-total 16 16 12

Area E: Lifelong Learning and Self-Development

Curriculum guidelines for Area E (formerly Area D4) can be found here.

E: Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (formerly Area D4) 4 4 4


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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., Cal Poly enrollment).

  • 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 (Expository Writing), A2 (Oral Communication), A3 (Reasoning, Argumentation, Writing), and B1 (Mathematics/Statistics).

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Golden Four and Upper-Division Courses (Area B, Area C, and Area D)


Per CSU Executive Order 1100 (EO 1100), students should attain junior-standing, or 90-credit units, before enrolling in upper-division (300-level) GE classes. Because the EO 1100 FAQ offers some flexibility, departments offering a GE course may be granted an exception by the GEGB to the junior standing prerequisite for majors in their department.

In addition, EO 1100 requires students to fulfill the “Golden Four” courses: “At a minimum, students shall be required to have satisfactorily completed the Golden Four courses (written communication, oral communication, critical thinking and mathematics/quantitative reasoning) before enrolling in upper-division GE courses.”

On Cal Poly’s campus, the Golden Four courses are designated as follows:

GE Area A1: Expository Writing (4 units)

GE Area A2: Oral Communication (4 units)

GE Area A3: Reasoning, Argumentation, and Writing (4 units)

GE Area B1: Mathematics/Statistics (4 units)

Students admitted fall 2016 or later must complete courses across the above areas with a C- or better before enrolling in upper-division (300-level) GE courses.  Junior transfer students have already completed these courses and will not be affected by this change.

Upper-Division Content:

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.

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Writing Intensive Requirements

All General Education courses must have a 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. While the writing component may take different forms according to the subject matter and the purpose of a course, at least 10% of the grade in all GE courses must be based on appropriate written work.

These courses include a minimum of 3,000 words of writing and base 50% or more of a student's grade on written work. Faculty teaching Writing Intensive courses will provide feedback to students about their writing to help them grasp the effectiveness of their writing in various disciplinary contexts. A significant selection of writing-intensive upper-division courses will be made available. The GE Program is committed to providing the resources to support both the required writing component and Writing Intensive coursework. The kind and amount of writing will be a factor in determining class sizes, and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT) will provide support and training for faculty.

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