Department of Biological Sciences
Frequently Asked Questions About Biology from GS students & Transfer Students Last update 08/24/2021
Q1: What should I take first, biology or chemistry?
Take general chemistry first. See Q3 for the rationale.
Q2: I am premed, and never took college level bio before. What biology class should I take?
If you are a postbaccalaureate student, or a student in SPS, you should take Bio. UN2401-UN2402. If you need to fulfill the lab requirement for medical school, you should take the lab Bio UN2501. You can take the lab either term; we advise taking it after you complete UN2401.
If you are a CC or GS undergraduate, you should take Bio UN2005-2006 instead of UN2401-UN2402. You do NOT have to take UN2501. There are many other ways to fulfill the lab requirement for the major -- see the major requirements page for details.
Note that chemistry is a prerequisite for Bio UN2005 or UN2401, so you should take general chemistry first. (See Q3 for the rationale behind this.)
See Q5 for details of UN2005 vs. UN2401. If you have a problem with the number of points, and need to take the 'other class' for more or less points (4 for UN2005 vs 3 for UN2401) please contact the DUS, Dr. Mowshowitz, dbm2 at columbia.edu.
Q3: Why do I have to take chemistry before biology?
Q4: I took introductory biology somewhere else. Should I start with UN2005/UN2401or should I skip UN2005 and start with a higher level (3000 level) course?
Q5: What is the difference between Bio UN2005 and Bio UN2401?
The lectures in Bio UN2005 and UN2401 are identical and the overall work load in the two courses is the same. However the amount of time a student is required to spend in class (or on Zoom) is different. This is because UN2005 has required recitations (with weekly quizzes) and UN2401 has optional recitations (no quizzes). Because of the required recitation, Bio UN2005 is 4 points while Bio UN2401 is 3 points. The same similarities and differences apply to Bio C2006 vs. UN2402.
UN2401 has optional recitations because it is assumed that many adult students:
(1) have less time available to 'attend' recitations because of jobs and family responsibilities,
(2) do not want to pay for the extra point, and
(3) have had more practice at pacing themselves and are less likely to allow themselves to fall behind.
The exams in the two courses and the grading scales for the exams are the same - the scale is set using the scores of the UN2005 (undergraduate) students. Therefore the exam scores needed to earn an A are exactly the same in each class. However the percentage of A's in each class is often different because the composition of the two classes is not the same.
Undergraduates in GS &CC should take UN2005, and postbacs and special students must register for UN2401.* (Note that all exams in both classes, except the final, will be given in the late afternoon or at night.) Students from either class may attend either set of lectures; students can switch back and forth as their schedules change (or they oversleep) or even go twice a day if they want. However, UN2005 students must attend UN2005 recitations and UN2401 students may attend only UN2401 recitations. The recitation sections for UN2005 are listed separately on the directory of classes -- Students in UN2005 must sign up for a section (called UN2015, no points) with the registrar. UN2401 students do not sign up; times and rooms for the optional UN2401 sections will be posted after school starts. All recitations start the second week of classes.
If you need additional information, contact the instructors and/or see the UN2005/UN2401 CW web site which includes notes from last year's lectures, a sample exam, contact info for the instructors, etc.
*If you have a problem with the number of points, and need to take the 'other class' for more or less points (4 for UN2005 or UN2006 vs 3 for UN2401 or UN2402) please contact the DUS, Dr. Mowshowitz, dbm2 at columbia.edu.
For additional information for undergraduates, go to the Biology Department Undergraduate Page.
For FAQs for First Year Students and Prospective Students, go to http://www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/ug/advice/faqs/firstyr.html