Skip to content
MIT Course Catalog 2014-2015

Home > This Is MIT > Undergraduate Education > General Institute Requirements

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

General Institute Requirements

To be recommended for the degree of Bachelor of Science, students must have attended the Institute not less than three regular academic terms, which ordinarily must include the term of graduation. Also, students must have satisfactorily completed programs of study approved in accordance with the faculty regulations, including the General Institute Requirements (GIRs) described on the following pages, and the departmental program of the Course in which the degree is to be awarded. A student must petition the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement (SOCR) for any substitutions in the Communication Requirement; the Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement (SHR) for any substitutions in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Requirement; and the Committee on Curricula (COC) for any substitutions in other GIRs. Departures from the departmental programs are allowed with departmental permission. The departmental programs and degree requirements appear in Part 2.

[see chart of General Institute Requirements]

Science Requirement

MIT expects its graduates to have an understanding and appreciation of the basic concepts and methods of the physical and biological sciences. These concepts and methods are needed in most degree programs at the Institute. More important, they are an essential part of the background that MIT graduates bring to their roles as professionals and as broadly educated citizens in a world strongly influenced by science and technology.

Students begin with six science core subjects in mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry, and then add the Laboratory and Restricted Electives in Science and Technology (REST) Requirements, both described later in this section. These requirements introduce basic elements of the scientific method: experimental foundations and techniques, mathematical analysis, and conceptual models for experimental facts. Important experimental as well as conceptual aspects are introduced by the chemistry and biology requirements and by the Laboratory Requirement. Mathematical methods common to much of science and technology are explored in the mathematics requirement. Basic concepts that underlie many physical phenomena are defined and elucidated in the physics and REST requirements.

In addition to a rigorous introduction to the sciences, these requirements are intended to stimulate and challenge each student to review critically his or her knowledge, and to explore alternative conceptual and mathematical formulations that may provide better explanations of natural phenomena or may lead to better applications of technology. The development of critical and constructive approaches to both theory and practice in science, engineering, and other professions is a central objective of the Institute's educational programs.


The Institute requirement in biology may be satisfied by one of five introductory subjects: 7.012, 7.013, 7.014, 7.015, or 7.016. These five subjects, denoted as Biology (GIR), cover the same core material, which includes the fundamental principles of biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, and cell biology. In addition, each subject has its own distinctive material. Subjects 7.012, 7.015, and 7.016 are offered in the fall term; 7.013 and 7.014 are taught in the spring.


The Institute requirement in chemistry may be satisfied by taking 3.091 Introduction to Solid-State Chemistry, or 5.111 or 5.112 Principles of Chemical Science. These three subjects are denoted as Chemistry (GIR). Subject 3.091 is designed for students who are particularly interested in the chemistry of the solid state. Subjects 5.111 and 5.112 emphasize basic chemical principles and their applications. Subject 5.112 is intended for students with a strong background in high school chemistry. The content of subjects 5.111 and 5.112 is formally coordinated with more advanced subjects taught by the Department of Chemistry (e.g., 5.60 and 5.12), although any one of the three GIR subjects (5.111, 5.112, or 3.091) may be used as the prerequisite for those more advanced subjects.


The Institute requires all students to complete single-variable calculus [18.01 or equivalent, denoted as Calculus I (GIR)] and multivariable calculus [18.02 or equivalent, denoted as Calculus II (GIR)].

Students with advanced-standing, advanced-placement, or transfer credit for 18.01 may go directly into multivariable calculus. Two versions are offered in the fall term: 18.02, the basic version, and 18.022, a more theoretical version. Both 18.02 and 18.022 present calculus as it is used in science and engineering.

The sequence 18.014–18.024 Calculus with Theory assumes a substantial background in calculus and emphasizes proofs.

Students with a year of high school calculus may qualify for 18.01A–18.02A. This sequence covers the material in one and a half terms. (See the online MIT Subject Listing & Schedule,, for more information.)

Students with advanced-placement, advanced-standing, or transfer credit for 18.01 lose it if they take 18.01, receive 3 units of elective credit if they take 18.01A, and receive 9 units of elective credit if they take 18.014.


The Institute requirement in physics may be satisfied through several combinations of introductory physics subjects. Subjects 8.01, 8.01L, 8.011, and 8.012 are denoted as Physics I (GIR); 8.02, 8.021, and 8.022 are denoted as Physics II (GIR). Most students find the 8.01–8.02 sequence suited to their needs. The sequence 8.012–8.022 covers essentially the same subject matter as 8.01–8.02, but is more advanced mathematically; calculus is used freely from the beginning of the term. Subject 8.01L is offered in the fall term for students who have had little exposure to physics with calculus in high school. A student may switch from a Physics I (GIR) subject in one sequence to a Physics II (GIR) subject in another.

Students who score a 5 on Parts I and II of the Physics C Advanced Placement test receive credit for 8.01.

Students with advanced-placement or advanced-standing credit for 8.01 who elect to take 8.012 receive 6 units of elective credit in place of 8.01.

back to top

Communication Requirement

The Communication Requirement makes the development of effective writing and speaking an integral part of undergraduate education at the Institute. The Communication Requirement ensures that all undergraduates receive substantial instruction and practice in general expository writing and speaking and the forms of discourse common to their professional fields.

The Communication Requirement consists of four Communication-Intensive (CI) subjects sequenced throughout a student's undergraduate career. Students take two CI subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences (CI-H) and two CI subjects in their major program (CI-M). Students must maintain a minimum pace in completing their CI subjects in order to remain in good standing with the Communication Requirement. They must complete one of their CI subjects by the end of the first year, two by the end of the second, three by the end of the third year, and four by graduation.

Students must earn a passing grade to receive CI credit. CI subjects must be taken for a letter grade. Students may not use their junior-senior P/D/F option. Only one CI-H subject per term may be counted toward completion of the Communication Requirement. However, students may receive credit for more than one CI-M subject in the same term or a CI-H and a CI-M completed concurrently.

The general structure of the requirement is described below. Additional information can be found at More information on CI-H subjects is included in the section of the Bulletin on the HASS Requirement. Specifics on the CI-M subjects for each major appear in the descriptions of the individual undergraduate degree programs.

First year. Students must pass one CI-H or CI-HW subject by the end of their second term at the Institute. A list of CI-H and CI-HW subjects may be found at

Before entering MIT, all students are asked to take the Freshman Essay Evaluation (FEE). The FEE is a placement tool used to determine the best program for each undergraduate within the Communication Requirement. Students who receive a score of "CI-H/CI-HW Required" on the FEE or receive a score of 5 on either the Advanced Placement Language and Composition Test or the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition Test or receive a score of 7 on the English A or B Higher-Level International Baccalaureate (IB) exam have the option of taking any CI-H subject, including a writing-focused CI-H subject (CI-HW).

All other students must take one of the designated Communication Intensive in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences—Writing Focused (CI-HW) subjects as their first CI subject.

Students who do not complete a CI-H/CI-HW subject in their first term at MIT may not advance to sophomore standing in their second term.

Second year. Students must pass at least two CI subjects by the end of their fourth term at the Institute. In most cases, these first two CI subjects will satisfy the CI-H portion of the requirement, providing a foundation in written and oral exposition.

Third year. Students must pass at least three of the four required CI subjects by the end of their sixth term. Most students will take their first CI-M subject as juniors and begin to develop the communication skills specific to the professional and academic culture of their discipline.

Before receiving an SB degree. Students must complete two CI-H subjects and the two CI-M subjects specified for their SB degree program prior to receiving their degree.

Noncompliance. Students who fall behind the minimum pace of completion for the Communication Requirement are in noncompliance. At the end of each term, the names of noncompliant students are forwarded to the Committee on Academic Performance, which may take further action to bring such students into good academic standing.

Double majors. Students who wish to complete two majors must pass two CI-H subjects and complete the CI-M subjects that fulfill the communication component of each major. Normally, these students will take four CI-M subjects, that is, two in each major program. In certain cases a CI-M subject may be common to both departments and may be used to fulfill the communication component of two majors simultaneously.

Communication Requirement information. For more detailed information about CI subjects or for assistance with any aspect of the Communication Requirement, including petitions, visit the Communication Requirement website at Students may also contact the Office of the Communication Requirement ( to discuss their individual circumstances.

back to top

Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Requirement

MIT provides a substantial and varied program in the humanities, arts, and social sciences that forms an essential part of the education of every undergraduate. This program is intended to ensure that students develop a broad understanding of human society, its traditions, and its institutions. The requirement enables students to deepen their knowledge in a variety of cultural and disciplinary areas and encourages the development of sensibilities and skills vital to an effective and satisfying life as an individual, a professional, and a member of society.

More specifically, the objectives of the program are to develop skills in communication, both oral and written; knowledge of human cultures, past and present, and of the ways in which they have influenced one another; awareness of concepts, ideas, and systems of thought that underlie human activities; understanding of the social, political, and economic framework of different societies; and, finally, sensitivity to modes of communication and self-expression in the arts. Work in these areas will, where appropriate, display a special concern with the relation of science and technology to society.

The student's program in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) is based on the following Institute requirement:

Minimum. Every candidate for a bachelor's degree must have completed a minimum of eight term subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, including distribution and concentration components. Subjects must be taken for a letter grade and students may not use their junior-senior P/D/F option. Two HASS subjects that are designated Communication Intensive may also be used toward the Communication Requirement. See the description of the Communication Requirement earlier in this section.

Distribution. Three of the eight subjects must be selected from designated categories: humanities, arts, and social sciences.

The three subjects may be taken at any stage of the student's undergraduate career, although students are encouraged to complete their distribution by the end of their junior year. Over 600 subjects may be used to fulfill this requirement. For a complete list of the subjects in each category, consult the online subject listing and schedule (

Concentration. Each student should designate a field of concentration, in consultation with a designated advisor in the field, by submitting a Concentration Proposal Form no later than the end of the first week of classes in the second term of junior year. Concentration requirements are set by each field and consist of either three or four subjects. One of the subjects that counts toward the distribution may also be designated as a concentration subject with the permission of the concentration advisor. Upon completion of all of the subjects noted on the Proposal Form, each student should submit a Concentration Completion Form no later than the end of the first week of classes of the final term prior to graduation. For more information, visit the HASS Requirement website at

Currently, the following fields of concentration are offered:

African and African Diaspora Studies
American Studies
Ancient and Medieval Studies
Archaeology and Archaeological Science
Art, Culture and Technology
Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies
Comparative Media Studies
Development Economics
Foreign Languages and Literatures (Chinese, ELS, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Studies in International Literature and Cultures, Theory of Languages)
History of Architecture and Art
Latin American and Latino Studies
Middle Eastern Studies
Political Science
Religious Studies
Russian and Eurasian Studies
Science, Technology, and Society
Theater Arts
Urban Studies
Women's and Gender Studies

In individual cases, a special concentration may be arranged with advance approval. For more information, visit the HASS Requirement website at

Electives. The remainder of the eight-subject requirement, above and beyond the Distribution and Concentration, may be fulfilled by subjects from any distribution category or by subjects that are designated as HASS electives.

HASS Information. For detailed information on distribution subjects and on the concentration requirements in any field, and for assistance with any aspect of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Requirement, including petitioning for a substitution, visit the HASS Requirement website at Students may also contact the Office of the HASS Requirement ( to discuss their individual circumstances.

back to top

Restricted Electives in Science and Technology (REST) Requirement

Through Restricted Electives in Science and Technology (REST) Requirement subjects, students can broaden and deepen the educational foundation in basic science begun in the first-year program and further the understanding of scientific inquiry. These subjects are designed to give students the opportunity to proceed further in areas already studied, or to explore other areas of potential interest.

REST subjects vary in approach and emphasis. Some give a systematic introduction to the fundamental concepts and principles of a field; others illustrate through examples some of the attitudes, concerns, and methods that characterize professional work in the field. In general, REST subjects are not too specialized, too advanced, or devoted chiefly to instruction in a particular skill. Students typically take REST subjects in the second year, although with the proper prerequisites they may begin taking them in the first year.

Students meet the REST Requirement by taking two subjects from the list below. Of the subjects used to fulfill the requirement, the student can take no more than one in his or her department. However, subjects designated with a J that are offered jointly with another department do not fall under the departmental limitation.

In many cases, subjects required by a Departmental Program for the SB degree are also on the lists of REST and Laboratory Requirement subjects. Thus, students who follow a particular Departmental Program may simultaneously satisfy some part of these requirements.

REST Requirement Subjects

1.00 Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving
1.000 Computer Programming for Scientific and Engineering Applications
1.050 Engineering Mechanics I
2.001 Mechanics and Materials I
2.003J Dynamics and Control I [1.053J]
2.086 Numerical Computation for Mechanical Engineers
3.012   Fundamentals of Materials Science and Engineering
3.021   Introduction to Modeling and Simulation [1.021,10.333, 22.00]
3.046 Thermodynamics of Materials
4.42J Fundamentals of Energy in Buildings [1.044J, 2.66J]
4.440J Building Structural Systems I [1.056J]
5.07J Biological Chemistry I [20.507J]
5.12 Organic Chemistry I
5.60 Thermodynamics and Kinetics
5.61 Physical Chemistry
6.002 Circuits and Electronics
6.005 Elements of Software Construction
6.041 Probabilistic Systems Analysis
6.042J Mathematics for Computer Science [18.062J]
6.071J Electronics, Signals, and Measurement [22.071J]
7.03 Genetics
7.05 General Biochemistry
8.03 Physics III
8.033 Relativity
8.04 Quantum Physics I
8.20 Introduction to Special Relativity
8.21 Physics of Energy
8.282J Introduction to Astronomy [12.402J]
8.286 The Early Universe
9.01 Introduction to Neuroscience
10.301 Fluid Mechanics
12.001 Introduction to Geology
12.002 Introduction to Geophysics and Planetary Science
12.003 Introduction to Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics
12.102 Environmental Earth Science
12.400 The Solar System
12.425 Extrasolar Planets: Physics and Detection Techniques
14.30 Introduction to Statistical Methods in Economics
16.001 Unified Engineering I
18.03 Differential Equations
18.034 Differential Equations
18.05 Introduction to Probability and Statistics
18.06 Linear Algebra
18.440 Probability and Random Variables
18.700 Linear Algebra
20.110J Thermodynamics of Biomolecular Systems [2.772J]
22.01 Introduction to Nuclear Engineering and Ionizing Radiation
22.02 Introduction to Applied Nuclear Physics
ESD.03J   System Safety [16.63J]


The following combinations of six-unit subjects also count toward the REST Requirement:

6.0001 Introduction to Computer Science Programming in Python
6.0002 Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science

1.018AJ Fundamentals of Ecology I [7.30AJ, 12.031AJ]
1.018BJ Fundamentals of Ecology II [7.30BJ, 12.031BJ]

back to top

Laboratory Requirement

The Laboratory Requirement (one subject of 12 units or two subjects of 6 units) is met by enrolling in subjects designed for this purpose, and normally is fulfilled in the first two years. The available subjects are listed below.

A typical laboratory subject offers the student an opportunity to set up and carry out experiments dealing with phenomena of the natural world. Under faculty supervision, the student plays a substantial role in planning the design of the experiment, selecting the measurement technique, and determining the procedure to be used for validation of the data.

Hypotheses are formulated and then tested by comparing them with the results of the experiments. The student then compares and discusses the experimental results in terms of the current state of knowledge and prepares progress reports and final reports of the work.

The laboratory subjects call for a major commitment of the student's attention to one or more experimental problems and emphasize as much as possible work of project type rather than routine experimental exercises. The subjects are designed to stimulate the student's resourcefulness and ideas.

The Laboratory Requirement is not intended primarily to teach specific techniques for later experimental work, provide broad coverage of a particular field, or complement a specific subject. The laboratory subjects are planned to give each student, at an early stage of his or her educational experience at MIT, an opportunity to work on one or more experimental problems, exercising the same type of initiative and resourcefulness as a professional would in similar circumstances. If the subject is more than 12 units, 12 units will be used to meet the Laboratory Requirement and the additional units will be counted as elective units.

Laboratory Requirement Subjects

1.101   Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design I (0-3-3)
1.102   Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design II (1-3-2)
1.106 Environmental Fluid Transport Processes and Hydrology Laboratory (0-4-2)
1.107 Environmental Chemistry and Biology Laboratory (0-4-2)
2.008 Design and Manufacturing II (3-3-6) [gives 6 units of laboratory credit]
2.017J   Design of Electromechanical Robotic Systems (3-4-5) [1.015J] [gives 6 units of laboratory credit]
2.671 Measurement and Instrumentation (3-3-6)
2.672 Project Laboratory (0-3-3)
3.014   Materials Laboratory (1-4-7)
4.411J D-Lab Schools: Building Technology Laboratory (2-3-7) [EC.713J]
5.310 Laboratory Chemistry (2-8-2)
5.35 Introduction to Experimental Chemistry (2-8-2)
6.01 Introduction to EECS I (2-4-6) [gives 6 units of laboratory credit]
6.02 Introduction to EECS II (4-4-4) [gives 6 units of laboratory credit]
6.101 Introductory Analog Electronics Laboratory (2-9-1)
6.111 Introductory Digital Systems Laboratory (3-7-2)
6.115 Microcomputer Project Laboratory (3-6-3)
6.129J Biological Circuit Engineering Laboratory (2-8-2) [20.129J]
6.131   Power Electronics Laboratory (3-6-3)
6.141J   Robotics: Science and Systems I (2-6-4) [16.405J]
6.161 Modern Optics Project Laboratory (3-5-4)
6.163 Strobe Project Laboratory (2-8-2)
6.182 Psychoacoustics Project Laboratory (3-6-3)
7.02J Introduction to Experimental Biology and Communication (4-8-6) [10.702J] [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
8.13 Experimental Physics I (0-6-12) [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
9.12   Experimental Molecular Neurobiology (2-4-6)
9.17   Systems Neuroscience Laboratory (2-4-6)
9.59J Laboratory in Psycholinguistics (3-3-6) [24.905J]
9.63 Laboratory in Visual Cognition (2-1-9)
11.188 Urban Planning and Social Science Laboratory (3-3-6)
12.115 Field Geology II (0-12-0)
12.119 Analytical Techniques for Studying Environmental and Geologic Samples (2-6-4)
12.307 Weather and Climate Laboratory (1-4-10) [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
12.335 Experimental Atmospheric Chemistry (2-4-6)
12.410J Observational Techniques of Optical Astronomy (3-4-8) [8.287J] [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
14.33 Research and Communication in Economics: Topics, Methods, and Implementation
15.301 Managerial Psychology Laboratory (3-3-9) [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
16.622 Experimental Projects II (1-7-4)
16.821   Flight Vehicle Development (2-10-6) [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
16.831J   Space Systems Development (2-10-6) [12.431J] [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
17.871 Political Science Laboratory (3-6-6) [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
18.821   Project Laboratory in Mathematics (3-6-3)
20.109   Laboratory Fundamentals in Biological Engineering (2-8-5) [gives 12 units of laboratory credit]
22.09 Principles of Nuclear Radiation Measurement and Protection (2-6-4)
24.909 Field Methods in Linguistics (3-1-8)

back to top

Physical Education Requirement

The mission of the Physical Education Program is to provide learners with the instruction and skills necessary to lead healthy, active lifestyles and to foster both personal growth and a sense of community through physical activity. The program enables students to engage in physical activity while they are involved in rigorous academic study. Major emphasis is placed on the development of skills that can be used for lifetime fitness and wellness. Students receive a strong background in the fundamentals of the activity selected. Instruction is offered in fitness, wellness, individual and team sports, martial arts, dance, aquatics, and outdoor adventure activities. Information on classes, including descriptions of current offerings, is available at

To satisfy the Physical Education Requirement undergraduates entering MIT as freshmen must take four physical education courses (for eight points) and complete the swimming requirement. Transfer students need to complete four points (two courses) as well as the swimming requirement. A student may repeat a course at any level and receive points. The swimming requirement can be satisfied by taking a beginning swim class or students may elect to test out during orientation week in the fall (visit to see a video of the swim test). In addition to taking traditional physical education courses, students may earn physical education points in the following ways:

Students find it best to complete their four courses during their freshman year; however, students are responsible for completing their Physical Education Requirement by their sophomore year. In general, students must attend 11 sessions/classes to receive the two points for a physical education course. Freshmen are expected to complete the swim test on fall registration day or, if they can't swim, register during the swim test for a first-quarter swim course. Students who do not complete the entire Physical Education Requirement by the end of their second year (typically the sophomore year) must submit a plan for a time extension with the Physical Education Office at

Physical education courses are offered in two six-week quarters during the fall term and during the spring term. A fifth "quarter" is offered during the January Independent Activities Period. Two points are awarded for each course per quarter.

Physical education registration is open to undergraduates and graduate students. Registration is conducted online at Information on registration can be obtained through WebSIS at Registration dates are posted in the Academic Calendar as well as at

Physical education courses offered last year included Group Exercise (Kickboxing, Pilates, PiYo, Step, Yoga), Archery, Backpacking/Hiking, Badminton, Basketball, Boot Camp for Athletes, Broomball, Cross-Country Ski, Dance (Tango, Salsa, Square), Fencing, Figure Skating, Flag Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey, Ice Hockey, Kayaking, Pistol, Rifle, Ropes Adventure, Running/Jogging, Sailing, SCUBA, Self Defense, Sport Taekwondo, Skating, Skiing/Snowboarding, Soccer (indoor), Squash, Stand-up Paddleboard, Tennis, Top Rope Climbing, Ultimate Frisbee, Unihoc, Volleyball, and Weight Training.

Students must wear appropriate attire for activity classes. Most classes provide all necessary equipment. Students must supply sticks for ice hockey courses. Non-marking court shoes are required for squash and tennis. Lab fees are required for some courses. Undergraduate and graduate students must activate their ID card annually to gain access to all MIT sport facilities.

For further information contact the Physical Education Office, Room W35-297X, 617-253-4291,, or visit

back to top


need help?  |  change log  |  back to top