Glossary of terms used at the University of Ottawa

Consult our helpful glossary of terms to understand important definitions.

Admission vs. registration

Understanding the difference between these two terms will be very useful for you. “Admission” is the formal process through which you apply to the University of Ottawa to accept you in a program of study so that you can receive a degree. “Registration” refers to registering for a course, that is, reserving your place in the course.  You can only register once you’ve received and accepted an offer of admission. The University determines the date your registration period begins.

Undergraduate and graduate studies (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorates, etc.)

These terms refer to levels of study at the University of Ottawa. Undergraduate studies include bachelor’s degrees and some certificates. Graduate studies include master’s degrees and graduate diplomas, as well as doctorates.

Transfer credits

Courses you don’t have to take as part of your University of Ottawa program because you have already completed courses in your country of origin that are considered equivalent.


Units measuring your progress in your program of study. At the University of Ottawa, most courses are worth three credits and an honours bachelor’s program is worth 120 credits, usually spread out over four years.


Normally the academic year is divided into two terms, the Fall term (September to December) and the Winter term (January to April). You can also take courses during the Spring-Summer term (May to August), but most undergraduate students take a break from their studies during this time. 

Full time

Most full-time undergraduate students take five courses per term during the fall and winter and take a break during the Spring-Summer term.

Maximum course load

Most courses require three hours’ class time per week. If you’re registered full time (in other words, for five courses), you spend 15 hours a week in class. However, you have to add in at least two hours of independent or team work for each hour in class. Discussion groups and laboratories also add to course hours.

Grades and exams

Most courses include research papers or lab reports and exams. Other assignments depend on the nature of the course. Grades are awarded as percentages and converted into letter grades at the end of the term. For example a grade of 90% or higher is equivalent to an A+.