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Elective courses are such courses that are chosen by the students from a number of optimal subjects or courses in a curriculum, as opposed to a required course which the student must take. Elective courses tend to be more specialized while required courses are deemed essential for an academic degree. This type of courses is sometimes called core courses or general education courses. The term elective is used also for a period of medical study conducted away from the home of the student medical school, often abroad. Some of the motivations that make the people choose such courses include a wish to experience other cultures or to learn how to work in clinical situations in other countries. North American universities typically require students to achieve both breadth of knowledge across the disciplines and depth of knowledge in a particular chosen subject area, simply known as a major.

   Students are normally free to choose their particular electives from among a wide range of courses offered by their university, as long as the students possess the prerequisite knowledge to understand the subject matter being taught. For example, English major may also study 1 or 2 years of biology, chemistry or physics as well as mathematics and a foreign language. These courses are also offered in the third and fourth years of universities though the choice is more restrictive and will depend upon the particular major the student has chosen. At the University of British Columbia, for example, all the students that are intending to specialize in Sanskrit as part of a major in Asian language and culture will usually have to complete several Panjabi or Sanskrit courses during the first 2 years of the university, as well as additional courses in Indic languages in the third and fourth year of study. However, students would choose among several 3rd – and 4th –year elective courses on topics not directly related to India in addition to these courses, such as the culture and history of Japan, China or Indonesia.

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