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Frequently Asked Questions

Plan requirements

Which courses do I need to take for my English Major, Medial, or Minor?

Please see the page on this site that explains your Plan:

What if I switch to an English Plan after second year—will I need extra time to finish my degree?

Not necessarily: it depends on when you switch to the English Plan, and on how many ENGL courses you’ve taken. In cases like this it’s vital for you to get in touch with the Undergraduate Chair. Our goal is to help you make speedy progress toward your degree: in some cases, we can allow you to take concurrently courses that you’d normally have to take in different years.

What is the Academic Advisement Report (AAR)?

The Academic Advisement Report is the tool that administrators use to assess your progress toward your degree. You can use it too, and should: it provides a lot of useful information, such as the number of courses you’ve taken toward your Program and Plan(s), your GPAs, and the requirements you still need to meet. It’s particularly useful in the summer, when you’re choosing your courses: it can help you to make sure that you’re taking what you need to graduate on time.

The Faculty of Arts and Science provides detailed instructions on how to run an AAR, and how to interpret the information it gives you.

Useful as the AAR is, it’s not perfect, and mistakes are sometimes made. If when you check your AAR you notice anything that appears to be amiss, or missing, or just not what you expect, get in touch with the Undergraduate Chair. If there’s a problem, we can get it fixed, so that you won’t have any unwelcome surprises when you apply to graduate.


What are the prerequisites for English courses?

200 level: Most 200-level ENGL courses are open to all students in second year and above, regardless of whether they’ve taken any other ENGL courses. The only exception is the core course ENGL 290, for which the prerequisite is registration in an English Major or Joint Honours Plan.

300 and 400 levels: For most courses at this level the prerequisite is ENGL 200 and 290. There are a small number of exceptions (for instance, courses focusing on Indigenous literature are open to students in Indigenous Studies Plans), but for the most part you have to be a third- or fourth-year English Major or Medial to take these courses. Note that the prerequisite for 300- and 400-level ENGL courses is the same: while we recommend that students take 300-level courses in third year and 400-level courses in fourth year, there is nothing to stop you from reversing this order, or from taking them at the same time. Indeed, there are some circumstances (e.g., exchanges—see below) in which students must take 400-level courses in their third year. This is perfectly acceptable, and does not require special permission.

Can English Minors take upper-year ENGL courses?

Very occasionally an English Minor may be allowed to take a maximum of one 300-level course (i.e., 6 units). For this to happen, there must be space available in the course (obviously!), and the student must meet a strict GPA requirement, namely a minimum grade of B+ on at least 18 ENGL units. If you are an English Minor who would like to take a 300-level ENGL course, contact the Undergraduate Chair or the Undergraduate Assistant to see if it’s possible.

What if I don’t meet the prerequisite for the course I want to take?

In almost all cases, if you don’t have the prerequisite, you can’t take the course. Very occasionally we overlook the prerequisite, but only in special circumstances (e.g., transfer students, or students with specific needs) and even then there is no guarantee. If you think that your circumstances warrant waiving a prerequisite, contact the Undergraduate Chair or the Undergraduate Assistant. However, you must not assume that your request will be granted; there are many reasons (e.g., course capacities, the needs of students closer to graduation) why we must observe prerequisites strictly.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

Do I need a certain GPA to graduate?

There are two GPAs that you must keep track of: your Cumulative GPA (or cGPA), which is your GPA on all graded courses that you have taken in any subject, and your Plan GPA, which is the GPA on all courses that count toward your English Plan. You must keep track of both.

In order to graduate, you need:

  • cGPA: at least 1.9 for a four-year Honours degree (e.g., BAH), or at least 1.6 for a three-year General degree (e.g., BA)
  • Plan GPA: at least 1.9 for Majors and Medials, or at least 1.6 for Minors

You must meet both GPA thresholds: for example, if your Plan GPA is over 1.9 but your cGPA isn’t, you are not eligible to graduate. For more information, consult Academic Regulation 16 in the Faculty of Arts and Science Calendar.

How do I know if I’m meeting the GPA requirement?

The easiest way is to run an AAR: it provides both your cGPA and Plan GPA(s). You can also find your cGPA in SOLUS by going to Other Academic > Grades, but only the AAR provides your Plan GPA.

What can I do if my GPA is too low?

There are two things you can do. The most obvious is to take more courses, and try to earn higher grades. Be aware, though, that the more courses you have taken, the less impact any individual course will have on your GPA: that’s how averages work.

The second thing you can do is to retake one or more courses in which you underperformed. If you retake a course, you only get credit for taking it once, and only the higher of the two grades counts toward your GPA; the lower grade is ignored. If you got a very low grade on a course, this can be a good way to eliminate its effect on your GPA. It’s only advisable, though, if you’re confident you can do significantly better the second time; otherwise, you may be better off taking a different course in which you might earn a higher grade.

Normally students are limited to a maximum of three attempts at a course: see Academic Regulation 10.5.6.

If I want to raise my GPA to a certain level, what grades do I have to get?

The Faculty of Arts and Science has two GPA calculators that can help you:

Creative Writing (CWRI) courses

Do they count toward ENGL Plans?

Yes. All Creative Writing courses are English Substitutions, which means that Majors may count a maximum of 12 units, and Medials and Minors a maximum of 6 units, of them toward their plans. You are welcome to take more, but any courses above the maximum permitted units will count as electives.

Do you have to be in an ENGL Plan to take Creative Writing?

No. Creative Writing courses are open to students in any Plan.

How do I enrol in CWRI courses?

That depends on the course: some are open to all students in second year and above, while others require the Department’s permission. To obtain permission, students must submit a sample of their creative work to the course’s instructor. For full instructions, see our Creative Writing pages.

ENGL 590 Senior Essay Option

What is it, and who is it for?

The Senior Essay Option is a one-term course in which students work individually with a supervisor on a topic of their choice. The course culminates in a substantial research essay, which is assessed by the supervisor and a second reader. The course is officially offered in the Winter Term, but much of the work occurs during the Fall Term, when students meet with their supervisor, refine their topic, and begin their research.

The Senior Essay Option is intended for students who enjoy research, who are able to work independently, and who have a keen interest in a specific topic that they cannot pursue in any of our courses on offer in a given year. It is best suited to students who have a very specific topic in mind: those with only a general idea or area of interest should not consider ENGL 590, because it’s possible to waste a great deal of time in trying to come up with a viable topic. ENGL 590 is suitable only for students with a very clear idea of what they want to do, and who are confident that they can work independently toward that goal.

ENGL 590 is open to English Majors and Medials entering their fourth year, and who have a GPA of at least 3.5 on 24 ENGL units. They must also secure the permission of the Undergraduate Chair.

Complete information on ENGL 590 is available on our site.

Is ENGL 590 an Honours Thesis?

No. The English Department does not offer an Honours Thesis. Students graduate with Honours by completing a four-year BA comprising 120 units, and including a Major, a Major-Minor, a Medial, or a Specialization. Queen’s students are not required to complete a thesis to graduate with an Honours degree.

Do I have to take ENGL 590?

No. As the course’s name states, it is an option, not a requirement for any English Plan. In any given year, only one or two students take this option, so the vast majority English Majors and Medials do not take ENGL 590.

Does taking ENGL 590 help with grad/professional school applications?

We have no evidence that it does. Insofar as it provides evidence your ability to do research, it may be useful; however, graduate programs are looking for applicants with a broad foundation in literary study, and most students acquire that foundation by taking ordinary courses. Indeed, it may be preferable to take named courses: the topic of your Senior Essay does not appear on your transcript, so nobody will be able to tell what your essay focuses on. Most graduates who proceed to graduate programs, law school, or other professional programs do not take ENGL 590. If you choose to pursue the Senior Essay Option, you should do it purely because you have a strong interest in a specific topic, not because you think it might confer some advantage: it probably won’t.

How do I enrol in ENGL 590?

As soon as you think you may be interested in ENGL 590, and preferably before the end of your third year, you should discuss the possibility with the Undergraduate Chair. We have to check your eligibility, and find a supervisor for you. If we can’t find a supervisor who is both available and appropriate for your topic, you will not be permitted to take ENGL 590. Finding a supervisor can take time, which is why it’s important to start early.

For more information, consult our ENGL 590 course page.


Can I go on an international exchange? What about my third-year courses?

Definitely! Queen’s students have the opportunity to study at one of a wide array of partner institutions around the world. The International Programs Office will help you to choose an institution, enrol in courses, arrange accommodations, and make the experience as enriching as possible.

Students normally go on exchange for one or two terms in their third year. On-campus English Majors and Medials typically take 300-level ENGL courses, all of which are full-year. This is no obstacle to studying abroad: all it takes is planning. The key thing to remember is that the prerequisites for 300- and 400-level ENGL courses are the same; therefore, there is nothing to stop you from taking 400-level ENGL courses during your third year, before you have taken any 300-level courses. This important fact allows you go on a one-term exchange in your third year, and still make progress toward your degree.

This is the advice we offer to all students going on an exchange:

Full-year exchanges: Select courses at your host institution that will allow you to satisfy as many of your Queen’s requirements as possible.

One-term exchanges: During your at-Queen’s term, take 2–3 400-level ENGL courses if you’re a Major, or 1–2 400-level ENGL courses if you’re a Medial. While you’re on exchange, select courses at your host institution that will satisfy as many of your Queen’s requirements as possible.

In both cases, the advice of the Undergraduate Chair will be crucial in helping you to choose courses at your host institution that will help you to make progress toward your degree. The UG Chair will work with you individually to make sure that you get what you want out of your exchange, and still satisfy your Plan requirements.

Exchanges can be life-changing experiences: if this in an opportunity you want to pursue, then you should do it without fear that your Plan requirements will hold you back, or that an exchange will delay your graduation. Unless you choose a host institution that offers no courses in English literature (and there are sometimes good reasons why you might), there is no need to worry that an exchange will prevent you from graduating on time.

You are encouraged to seek advice about international exchanges from the Undergraduate Chair early in planning process.

Transfer credit

Can I get credit for postsecondary courses taken elsewhere?

Yes. If you are an upper-year transfer student to Queen’s, you can get transfer credit for most if not all of the courses you took at another institution: see the Faculty of Arts and Science web site for more information.

I am a Queen’s student: can I take one or more courses at another institution?

In most cases, yes: students can take a maximum of 6.0 units at another institution. To do this, you must apply for a Letter of Permission by using the form on the Faculty of Arts and Science web site. You will have to submit a course outline, including a breakdown of the grading scheme, for the course or courses you hope to take. You must pay a fee each time you apply for a Letter of Permission.

Note: you must apply for a Letter of Permission before you enrol in any courses outside of Queen’s.

Can I complete my Queen’s degree with courses taken at other institutions?

According to Academic Regulation 14.4, students are expected to spend the last two years of an Honours degree at Queen’s. If you wish to spend all or part of your third or fourth year at another post-secondary institution, you must appeal to the Associate Dean (Academic). To make this appeal, you must be in good academic standing, have a cumulative GPA of at least 1.6, and have the written approval of the English Department. If your appeal is granted, you must then apply for a Letter of Permission (see above). You must do this before applying to the host institution as a visiting student.

For more information on making an appeal to the Associate Dean (Academic), see the Arts and Science web site.

Advice and Support

Where can I get academic advice?

For advice about English Plans (Major, Medial, Minor), English courses, or Creative Writing courses, contact the English Department’s Undergraduate Chair.

For more general academic advice, consult the Faculty of Arts and Science’s Student Services web page. In particular, the Peer Academic Support Service (PASS) offers many ways for you get advice.

Where can I get other types of help and support?

  • Student Wellness Services offers counselling and mental health support. It also offers Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), an interactive, self-directed tool that aims to help students cope with stress and strengthen their mental health.
  • Student Wellness Services also offers medical appointments, a same-day clinic, and healthy lifestyle appointments.
  • Empower Me offers Queen’s students 24/7 access to counsellors, consultants, and life coaches.
  • Good2Talk connects postsecondary students anywhere in Ontario with counsellors, 24/7.
  • Yellow House provides community and support for racialized, LGBTQ+, and marginalized students at Queen’s.
  • The Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre provides academic advising, cultural counselling, and support for Indigenous students at Queen’s.
  • Visit our resources page for a longer list of the academic, personal and professional supports available for students at Queen’s.

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74446 extension 74446


Telephone (613) 533-6000 ext. 74447 extension 74447

Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.