What Does it Mean to Audit a Class?

What Does it Mean to Audit a Class?

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If you have followed a college course, you might encounter some people who are ‘auditing a class’. Class auditing is a widespread practice in college, but it is often a misunderstood process.

Auditing a class means that the auditor sits in the lectures, but audited courses will not be graded, and no credit will be awarded at the end of the semester. The main purpose of auditing courses is academic exploration and self-enrichment!

A wide range of people audit classes. Most auditors fall into one of the following categories:

  • Students want to learn without the pressures of class participation, tests, or grades.
  • Seniors or retirees who aspire to learn new things.
  • Professionals and alumni want to re-experience a part of their past.
  • Researchers audit a course for observation or research purposes.

If you want to become an auditor, this article covers everything you need to know about auditing courses.

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Auditing a Course: What to Expect

It may seem like auditors enjoy the same benefits as regular students: they go to classes, get assignments and have access to the course material.

However, there are some academic subtilities:

  • Grades & records: While some schools record your auditing a course with an “AU” instead of a grade, others don’t record it at all.
  • Materials: auditors usually have access to all course materials. Learning materials are usually available online or handed out at the beginning of the class.
  • Permission: In most cases, you only need to ask permission from the professor in charge of the course.
  • Requirements: Most schools require auditors to fill out a form and to follow some rules. Contact the school administration for more information!
  • Fees: Some schools charge a fee, while others allow you to audit for free.
  • Financial aid: Students who audit courses are usually not eligible to receive financial aid to pay for the class.

To sum up, the overall learning experience of auditors is mostly the same as regular students. Except that auditors do not have graded exams and sometimes can’t have their assignments proofread by teaching assistants.

Why Would Anyone Audit a Course?

Some students do not care about academic credit and just want to follow a class without stressing about grades. Others audit classes because they still have not decided which major they wish to take on.

Here are the main benefits of auditing a course instead of following a normal class. Students audit courses to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Familiarization: It’s a great idea to become an auditor if you want to know what happens in a course before enrolling as a regular student.
  • Review: Auditors often want to test their knowledge. This may be to prepare for a test, fill in gaps, or confirm what they know – and what they don’t – about a subject.
  • Immersion: If you want to feel how you would do in a course before you register. You may also learn how students in a particular course prepare for a class, study after class, or respond to learning challenges. Immersion also includes noting how you will need to dress, behave, or schedule your resources for a course.

When I was in college, I used to audit introductory courses. It’s a great way to make sure you enjoy the professor as well as the course material before signing up for the class.

Some students also audit classes because the audited course is not available in their current curriculum. For example, an undergraduate student might want to audit an unavailable graduate class.

Finally, some external auditors such as seniors, alumni, or researchers audit classes for their own personal interests.

The Downsides of Auditing Classes

There are many reasons why students do not audit courses. For instance:

  • No space: Waitlisted courses and courses with limited seating may not allow audit students.
  • No grade or credits: If your purpose is to earn grades or credits for auditing a course, you should enroll and complete the course as usual. However, as an audit student, you are officially signed up for the course and get a transcript marked “AU” for your attendance.
  • Limited support: Auditing college courses means that teaching assistants may not proofread your assignments. The course instructor is also often reluctant to help you.
  • No examination: Exams are tedious, but they are a good way to make sure you master the content of the class. The exams of auditors are left ungraded, meaning that you will never know how well you understand the audited course.
  • Auditing courses can be demanding: While you are not required to participate in a class or submit course requirements, you need to take time out of your schedule to attend the classes. If you have other commitments, this may not be a viable option for you.

The Bottom Line

For the many students who choose to audit courses, here are the key takeaways of this article:

  • When you want to know more about a class, you can sit in with permission, also known as “auditing a course.” 
  • Each school or department – or even professor – has different rules and requirements for auditing a course. 
  • Auditors don’t receive grades or credits, and you’re not expected to participate or complete requirements for the course.
  • For more specific information, contact the school, department head, or professor.

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