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Distributives (and commonly asked questions about them)

Distributive Course Requirements

Each student must take one (or two if so indicated) course(s) in each of the following areas by graduation:

    1. Art: creation, performance, history or criticism; (ART)
    2. Literature: the history, criticism or theory of texts; (LIT)
    3. Systems and Traditions of Thought, Meaning and Value; (TMV)
    4. International or comparative study; (INT)
    5. Social analysis (two courses); (SOC)
    6. Quantitative or deductive science; (QDS)
    7. Natural and physical science (two courses); without/with lab (SCI/SLA)
    8. Technology or applied science; without/with lab (TAS/TLA)

At least one of the science courses in categories 7 or 8 must have a laboratory, experimental or field component, (LAB).

World Culture Requirement

Each student must take at least one course in each of the following cultural areas before graduation:

    1. Western Cultures (W)
    2. Non-Western Cultures (NW)
    3. Culture and Identity (CI)

By careful selection of courses and student can satisfy all requirements with ten courses.

Advising Tips

First-year students should not be overly focused on distributives in their first few terms, as any course they elect will count towards some requirement or other.  By the end of the first year, though, a student should give some thought to distributives, as some students will find themselves concentrating in one area.

Encourage students to use distributives to explore subject they did not study in high school instead of merely continuing in disciplines with which they are already familiar.

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

No pre-matriculation credits (advanced placement, IB, etc.) or pre-matriculation transfer credit from another institution can be used to fulfill a Distributive or World Culture Requirement.  All College Distributive Requirements must be met by Dartmouth classes, with the following two caveats:

    1. Courses taken as part of the 12-College Exchange in a student’s second, third, or fourth year can be applied to the Distributive Requirements.
    2. Courses from other institutions taken after matriculation at Dartmouth must be pre-approved by the Committee on Instruction. A student must submit an application to the Registrar's office by the published application deadlines.

The Registrar’s office determines the applicability of transfer credits.  A student can transfer up to four credits towards their Dartmouth degree.

Although some courses may be listed in two Distributive areas (ie. SOC/INT), each Distributive area must be filled by a unique course.  Thus, a student will have to take ten separate courses that fulfill the eight Distributive Requirements.

However, a single course can be used to fulfill both a Distributive Requirements and a World Culture Requirement.

Departmental requirements for individual majors are separate from College requirements and courses that count towards a major can be used to fulfill either Distributive Requirements and/or the World Culture Requirement.

A student must take at least one “lab” course, though this can be fulfilled through either an SLA or a TLA.

A student must earn a D or better in a course for it to go towards fulfilling a Distributive or World Culture Requirement.

If a student elects to “NRO” a course, the student can not get Distributive or World Culture credit if s/he earns an NR (=pass). If the student receives a grade in the course (i.e., earns the grade or above of their selected “cut off”) the course can be applied to distribution requirements.  (More information about the NRO)

The elective circular is the best and easiest place to scan for distributives.  The information is also available through the “Timetable” on the Registrar’s Web site.  The Timetable also allows one to view all courses offered in a give term that would fulfill a certain distributive requirement, by checking the “General Education Requirement” tab on the Timetable.  This is at:

A number of departments offer courses that are primarily designed for non-majors to fulfill certain requirements (see Science Courses for the Non-Major).

Last Updated: 9/4/13