University terms

University terms

What does it all mean?

Navigating university language can be tricky. Use our handy guide below to help understand common university terms.

  • Adjustment factors

    Some 100-level units, while not having prerequisites, assume that you have certain knowledge and skills from previous study, such as the HSC. This information is listed in the UAC Guide as well as in Macquarie’s Handbook of Undergraduate Studies.

  • ATAR

    The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) is a number between 30.00 and 99.95 that indicates your rank relative to all students you started high school with.

  • Bachelor degree

    The term commonly used to describe an undergraduate degree, which is the first degree you obtain at university. You’re awarded your bachelor degree once you successfully complete a set program of undergraduate units.

  • Capstone unit

    An essential unit that integrates all the material presented across your degree, which is generally undertaken in your final year. This unit may be combined with a PACE unit and will reside in the core zone of your degree.

  • Core zone

    Your degree’s core zone provides the focus of your preferred area of study and consists of all the units you’ll need to complete to meet your bachelor degree’s requirements.

  • Combined degree

    These degrees combine an undergraduate degree with a postgraduate degree and can be completed in as little as four years. You may undertake a bachelor degree and a master degree, or a bachelor honours degree and a master degree.

  • Course

    A course is a program of study that you’re enrolled in. When you’ve successfully completed a specified number of credit points in your course, you’ll be awarded your degree.

  • Credit point

    To graduate, you need to have completed the specified number of credit points for your degree. Each credit point equals about three hours of work per week, including class.


    The Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) is an Australian Government register that lists all Australian education providers offering courses to people studying in Australia on student visas and the courses offered.

  • Double degree

    Double degrees involve studying two complementary or completely different degrees. You may undertake twobachelor degrees or two master degrees, completing the core zone of both degrees.

  • Elective unit

    A unit that enables you to customise your degree in a flexible way. An elective may exist within or outside your area of study.

  • Essential unit

    A unit that you must complete to qualify for your degree.

  • Foundation zone

    If you’re a postgraduate student undertaking a degree from a different disciplinary background to your undergraduate degree, you need to complete a foundation zone to acquire the necessary foundational knowledge of the subjects you’re studying.

  • Flexible zone

    Your degree’s flexible zone allows you to either gain more depth in your chosen area of study by undertaking units complimentary to this area or develop your breadth of knowledge by undertaking units outside this core area.

  • GPA

    A grade point average (GPA) is a calculation of your overall grades based on units you’ve completed at uni. Your GPA is a calculation out of 7 and will be included on your academic record.

  • Honours

    An honours year is usually completed at the conclusion of a bachelor degree. In general, you’re required to complete your degree with a high level of achievement before you’re invited to complete an honours year.


    The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English language test. IELTS test scores are one form of evidence of English language proficiency accepted by Macquarie.

  • Lecture

    Lectures are where you’ll learn most of your course content. Their length varies from unit to unit, but most run for one or two hours. Some take place in large theatres while others are in smaller rooms.

  • Level

    The level at which a unit is taught indicates the amount of prior knowledge required to study it successfully. For example, 100-level units are generally undertaken in your first year and often don’t have prerequisites, while 200-level units generally have 100-level prerequisites.

  • Major

    An area of study that you focus on within generalist degrees such as the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Commerce. A major consists of specified undergraduate units and totals 80 credit points. It’s recorded on your testamur and academic transcript.

  • Minor

    Allows you to study a second discipline outside your main area of focus – your major or specialisation. A minor must total 40 credit points (half that of a major or specialisation). It’s recorded on your testamur and academic transcript.

  • PACE

    PACE (Professional and Community Engagement) units include internships, special projects and domestic or overseas travel experiences

  • Postgraduate degree

    An advanced degree that builds on undergraduate knowledge or professional experience. Postgraduate degrees are commonly called master degrees.

  • Prerequisite

    A prerequisite is a school subject such as HSC Mathematics, or a university subject such as ARTS1000, that must be completed before you can enrol in a particular unit.

  • Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

    Your prior learning – including formal, informal and non-formal – can be assessed for admission and credit towards your Macquarie University degree. Remember to ask for RPL when you apply.

  • Recommended knowledge

    Some units assume that you have certain knowledge and skills from previous study, such as the HSC. Introductory units and bridging courses are available if you don’t have the recommended knowledge.

  • Selection rank

    The selection rank considers your ATAR or equivalent rank plus any adjustment factors you’re eligible for. You can combine our seven adjustment factor schemes to receive up to 10 additional points for most of our degrees.

  • Session

    A session is just like a school term. Some universities call them semesters. At Macquarie, we have three sessions: Session 1 (February – June), Session 2 (August – November) and the optional intensive Session 3 (December – February).

  • Specialisation

    An area of study that you focus on within specialist degrees such as the Bachelor of Archaeology or Bachelor of Science. A specialisation is similar to a major, but it offers an even greater focus of study. It consists of specified undergraduate units and totals 80 credit points. It’s recorded on your testamur and academic transcript.

  • Student visa

    An authorisation permitting people to come to Australia for the primary purpose of studying, as defined by Migration Act 1958.

  • Tutorial

    Tutorials, or ‘tutes’, generally include 20 or 30 students and are an opportunity to ask your tutor questions and talk about the course material with fellow students.

  • UAC

    The Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) receives and processes most applications for admission into university in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

  • Undergraduate degree

    The term used to describe the first degree undertaken at university. Undergraduate degrees are commonly called bachelor degrees.

  • Unit

    Units are what we call subjects. Most full-time students take four units – each worth a fixed number of credit points – each session. Each unit usually requires about nine hours of study each week.

Full glossary of terms

The glossary lists key acronyms, abbreviations, terminology and definitions in use at the University.

For more information, visit our Full Glossary

Back to the top of this page