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Research-Oriented and Discipline-Based Programs

What is a Master of Arts or Master of Science?

A Master of Arts or Science in a discipline is typically a research-oriented program or a course-based program that permits you to take a “deep dive” into your field of study.

What are the common academic requirements?

Every university will have slightly different general expectations. For applicants to U of T, the minimum requirements are “For master’s programs… an appropriate bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, with a final-year average of at least mid-B from a recognized university.”

Note that these are minimum requirements, and some programs at U of T require higher academic expectations for a realistic chance at gaining admission due to how competitive those programs are at U of T.

Let’s analyze that. What is an appropriate bachelor’s degree?

  • Typically a 4-year / Honours degree (ie, a degree with 19 or 20 credits in it). If you started your degree at the University of Toronto Scarborough in recent years, this is what you were working toward anyway!
  • A program or programs of study in the same or a very similar discipline. You might call a discipline a field of study, like Anthropology or Zoology.

What is a final-year average of at least a mid-B?

  • At the University of Toronto, that is a 3.0 (73-86%). See the Calendar.
  • “Final year” often means “the last 5 credits” because there is an assumption that you would complete 5 credits per year over 4 years to complete your degree. Some programs are interested in the “last 2 years”, which would be the last 10 credits.
  • Usually this will be assessed based on the grades on your transcript at the time you apply. If your degree is not yet complete, you might get a Conditional Offer of Admission, which means they expect that your final set of grades will be similar to your previous grades.

What is a recognized university?

  • This is primarily of interest to people who completed their Bachelor degree equivalent outside of Canada. There are some technical terms to describe a recognized university. See the School of Graduate Studies FAQ.

What are the non-academic admission requirements?

Research Experience and/or Writing Sample

  • A research-oriented program will typically expect to see evidence of research experience on your CV. Those experiences may include course-based experiences (eg, a UTSC D98 or D99 kind of course, or CTLB03 Service Learning). They may also be paid or volunteer work that you engaged in.
  • A course-based program will typically request a sample of written work for assessing your ability to do will in a writing-intensive master’s program. It is in your best interest to use work that has had instructor feedback on it (eg essay or lab report), so you can improve it before you submit it.

Interview / Match with Supervisor

  • Especially in a research-oriented program, a match between your research interests and the research of the faculty members in the department is very important. In fact, a key part of your Personal Statement writing process is to read the biographies of professors in the program you are applying to, so you can ensure your proposed research is a good fit.
  • If you do not know the professors you have proposed a match with, you may be invited to a semi-formal interview with them to discuss your research interests. This is a good thing!
  • English Facility Requirements
  • All applicants must be proficient in both written and spoken English. Please refer to the English Facility Requirements
  • All applicants must be proficient in both written and spoken English. Please refer to the admission guidelines at each school for details on what evidence they need.
  • Typically if you have completed your Bachelor degree at an English-language university like the University of Toronto, you do not need to take a test.

Start Early!

Graduate programs are highly competitive and require a minimum mid-B average. Improve your study skills and learning strategies from First Year! The AA&CC can help!

Improve your GPA:

Visit the AA&CC and the Centre for Teaching & Learning to improve your academic skills. AA&CC Events & Workshops are available via

Cultivate References:

Get to know your professors. Their research is interesting! Professors who know you fairly well are able to write strong reference letters for you.

Get Involved:

Join volunteer and co-curricular activities that develop your skills and demonstrate an ongoing interest in your discipline (field of study).

Looking for Related Experience?

You can find volunteer and paid opportunities in Also watch your email for messages from your department about opportunities to get involved.

Paying for Graduate School

One of the perks of a research-oriented graduate program is that there is often a financial stipend given to you! Sometimes you have to work for it; for example, you might be guaranteed a minimum of $5000, but you have to work as a Research Assistant or Teaching Assistant to get it. In other words, it’s a guaranteed job.

Course-based programs typically do not earn a financial stipend.

The AA&CC can help!

Attend the Graduate & Professional Schools Fair, go to a Preparing for Professional & Graduate School workshop, or speak with a Career team member to learn how to get relevant experience!

Please Note: While this page aims to ensure accuracy, requirements do change. Consider it a starting point for your further research. Visit individual program websites for detailed, up-to-date information about admission requirements and application procedures.