Core Competencies

From the NIU Undergraduate Catalog 2012-13

Core Competency Requirements and Course Descriptions


The requirement of 0-12 semester hours of core competencies ensures that students demonstrate or acquire those basic skills which form the foundation for baccalaureate studies. The core competencies cover reading, writing, listening, speaking, and mathematical skills. Because these skills will be applied, reinforced, and evaluated in courses at every level across the undergraduate curriculum, core competency courses should be completed during the first year of a student’s program.

Core Competency Requirements


All students must satisfy core competency requirements in English, oral communication, and mathematics for 0-12 semester hours of general education credit.

The requirements in the core competencies may be met by successfully completing the designated course, by transfer credit, by passing a competency examination, or, for some core competencies, through credit by examination. (See “Credit by Examination.”) Although passing a competency examination fulfills the requirement for the core competency, it does not result in the awarding of NIU course credit (i.e., it reduces the required number of general education hours but does not reduce the number of hours required for a degree.) Students with strong academic credentials are encouraged to attempt the competency examinations. Information on competency examinations is available from the Office of Testing Services.

The specific ways to satisfy the core competency requirements are listed below.

The English core competency requirement can be satisfied by

  • obtaining a grade of C or better in ENGL 103 and ENGL 104, or
  • obtaining a grade of C or better in ENGL 105, or
  • obtaining equivalent transfer credit, or
  • passing the English Core Competency II Examination, or
  • obtaining credit for ENGL 103 and ENGL 104 through credit by examination (Advanced Placement)

NOTE: For students who have earned a D in either ENGL 103 or 104, or both, equivalent courses in which the student earned a grade of C or better at institutions participating in the Illinois Articulation Initiative will be accepted to satisfy the English core competency requirement, but do not earn transfer credit. Equivalent courses in which the student earned a grade of C or better at other institutions may be accepted to satisfy the English core competency requirement, but do not earn transfer credit.

The oral communication core competency requirement can be satisfied by

  • passing COMS 100, or
  • obtaining equivalent transfer credit, or
  • passing the Oral Communication Core Competency Examination

The mathematics core competency requirement can be satisfied by

  • passing MATH 101, or
  • obtaining a grade of C or better in MATH 155, MATH 201, MATH 206, MATH 210, MATH 211, or MATH 229, or
  • obtaining credit for one of the mathematics courses listed above, except MATH 101, through credit by examination (Advanced Placement), or
  • obtaining a grade of C or better in STAT 208, STAT 301, STAT 350, ISYE 335, or UBUS 223; and obtaining
    • a grade of C or better in MATH 110, or
    • an ACT mathematics score of at least 24, or
    • an SAT mathematics score of at least 560, or
    • an A- or B-level placement on the mathematics placement examination
  • (If STAT 208 is used in the manner described above to fulfill the mathematics core competency requirement, then it cannot also be used in the sciences and mathematics area of distributive studies), or
  • obtaining equivalent transfer credit, or
  • passing the Mathematics Core Competency Examination.

Enrollment in courses offered at NIU which fulfill NIU’s core competency requirement in mathematics requires an entry-skill level, determined through placement testing and/or explicit prerequisites, at least equal to that expected from the successful completion of an intermediate algebra course. Such a course is not offered by NIU. However, an intermediate algebra course offered by Kishwaukee College can be taken on the NIU campus.

Core Competency Course Descriptions


  • COMS 100 - Fundamentals of Oral Communication Credits: 3
  • ENGL 103 - Rhetoric and Composition I Credits: 3
  • ENGL 104 - Rhetoric and Composition II Credits: 3
  • ENGL 105 - Rhetoric and Composition Credits: 3
  • MATH 101 - Core Competency in Mathematics Credits: 3
  • MATH 155 - Trigonometry and Elementary Functions Credits: 3
  • MATH 201 - Foundations of Elementary School Mathematics Credits: 3
  • MATH 206 - Introductory Discrete Mathematics Credits: 3
  • MATH 210 - Finite Mathematics Credits: 3
  • MATH 211 - Calculus for Business and Social Science Credits: 3
  • MATH 229 - Calculus I Credits: 4
  • MATH 229 may count toward both the mathematics core competency requirement and the sciences and mathematics area requirement in distributive studies if a grade of C or better is earned. If a grade of D is earned, the course will count only toward the sciences and mathematics area requirement.

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