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What Level of Math & English Do You Need for an Associate's Degree?

by Melissa Harr

Although schools that offer associate degrees have different requirements, you’ll probably need to pass at least one or two math and English courses to earn your degree. The level and degree of difficulty will vary depending on your school’s general education requirements. Additionally, if you wish to earn a degree in a math- or English-heavy field, such as business or social sciences, you may be required to take extra courses in these areas.

Core Subjects

To obtain an associate degree, students must earn around 60 credit hours. Anywhere from 20 to 30 of these are earned to satisfy general education requirements, the core subjects, which ensure that students have an academic foundation on which to specialize. Because math and English are foundational skills, most general education requirements state that you must complete at least three to six credits in each. The names given to these requirements vary by school; often, they are referred to as humanities, written communication, quantification or mathematics competency.

Math Requirements

Because all students have different degrees of mathematical abilities, most general education requirements for math allow for a range of math courses to satisfy them. If you find math easy, you might take a more advanced course, but if math is a struggle, you may only need to pass basic college algebra. If you’re unsure which level would be best for you, you might contact your school’s placement office. These departments offer placement tests to help students find the courses that are appropriate for their levels of ability.

English Requirements

English requirements often span a few general education categories. For example, many colleges require you to satisfy both written and oral communication requirements. This usually means passing English or academic composition and a speech or public speaking class. Colleges may also have general humanities requirements, although you may not have to take an English course to satisfy these. In many cases, art, history, philosophy, foreign languages, and more can be substituted for an English course.

Earning Credit Through Testing

If you feel you already know the subject matter you’ll learn in an English or math course, you can take a College-Level Examination Program test and receive credit hours upon passing. These tests are offered in five subject areas and credit for passing is accepted at 2,900 U.S. colleges. CLEP tests are not free, but they are less expensive than college credit, thereby saving you money and the time necessary to complete a course. Many community colleges also offer their own proficiency through testing programs, which will grant you credit for less money. The amount of credit you can receive through testing varies from school to school.

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