Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What exactly is the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication?
The Graduate Centre for Academic Communication (GCAC) was formerly known as the Office of English Language and Writing Support (ELWS). GCAC is a program within the School of Graduate Studies that assists graduate students at U of T in improving their academic writing and speaking skills. This program offers free non-credit courses, workshops, and individual writing consultations to both native and non-native speakers of English.
Q. Who is eligible to register for GCAC courses?
A. You must be a currently registered graduate student at the University of Toronto (Master’s or PhD) in order to register for GCAC courses. While our courses are free, the program itself is funded through the fees paid by graduate students.
This funding structure means that the following groups are ineligible to take GCAC courses:
- Non-U of T Students
- Undergraduate Students
- Postdoctoral Fellows
- International Visiting Graduate Students
(see IVGS Study Abroad Agreement, Terms of the Study Abroad Agreement, Section D)
Please note: GCAC does not make any exceptions regarding course eligibility. We also do not allow auditors in our courses as space is limited and the courses are designed for dynamic interaction between students and instructors.
Those who are ineligible to take GCAC courses should consider attending our single-session workshops. GCAC workshops are open to the U of T community; anyone is welcome to attend and registration is not required.
Postdoctoral fellows wishing to take English language courses should contact the Postdoctoral Office (firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-946-5254) or the School of Continuing Studies (email@example.com or 416-978-2400).
Q. Who can I contact if I need help choosing courses?
A. If you need any help in choosing the course that is best suited to your needs, contact Dr. Peter Grav either by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 416-946-7558. Dr. Grav is also available for in-person consultations; please call to make an appointment.
Q. Will there be a lot of homework assignments for the courses I take?
A. We understand that you are busy with assignments and deadlines in your regular graduate program, and thus we keep homework to a minimum. That said, we cannot help you improve your writing/speaking unless we see your work. Wherever possible, we base “homework” assignments on the writing/speaking that you are currently completing in your department.
For example, in the Oral Presentation Skills course, you are invited to give a shortened version of a presentation that you will actually be giving in a course or at a conference. In the writing courses, instructors provide you with valuable individualized feedback based on the writing errors they see in the writing samples you submit: samples that may consist of sections of proposals, course papers, or thesis chapters that you are working on as part of your graduate study.
Q. Are the different sections of a course different?
A. The different sections of the same course cover the same curriculum at the same level. The only significant difference will be the time at which the course is offered. While different instructors will naturally emphasize slightly different elements of the course, we strive to keep each course consistent across sections.
Q. Will the courses I take at GCAC be included in my transcript?
A. No, the non-credit courses you take at GCAC will not be included on your transcript; however, if you would like your supervisor to know that you are taking our courses, we would be happy to contact him or her.
Q, Will I receive a grade for the courses I take?
A. No, you will not receive a grade for any of our courses, but you will receive detailed, constructive feedback on written and oral work.
Q. What should I do if I have to miss a class?
A. Please contact your instructor by email and inform him or her of the reason for your absence before class. Please note that GCAC has a strict attendance policy. Students who accept a space in a course and miss more than one class will be blocked from registering in the following course session.
Q. What should I do if I have to drop a course?
A. If you wish to drop a course or remove yourself from a waiting list, please log in to the registration system. On your dashboard, view “Event Registration”. View the course(s) you wish to drop and select “Cancel Registration”. The registration system will not list your course or allow you to drop a course after the start of the course.
If you wish to drop a course after it has started, please contact our office at
email@example.com. Please be aware that unless you inform your instructor about your reason, students who miss a class without a legitimate reason will be blocked from registering in the first session of the next term.
Q. Where is the location of the course I am taking?
A. Your course location will appear in your registration confirmation email. That email is sent to the address that is listed in your official U of T profile.
Please visit the campus map to find out exactly how to get to your course.
Q. Some of the courses are offered to students in Divisions 1, 2, 3, or 4. How do I find out which Division I’m in?
A. The School of Graduate Studies has four Divisions. Division 1 is the Humanities. Division 2 is the Social Sciences. Division 3 is the Physical Sciences. Division 4 is the Life Sciences.
Q. What do you mean by ‘native speakers of English’ (NS) and ‘non-native speakers of English’ (NNS)?
A. We use these two terms to help students find courses with the appropriate emphasis for them. We recognize that these terms are not perfect and that some students will be unclear about how to identify themselves. Our NNS courses tackle the needs of graduate students who face challenges that are specifically related to working in English. The NS courses tackle the needs of native speakers and thus do not address any of the particular issues associated with working in English as a subsequent language. Given the diversity of our multilingual university, some students may be non-native speakers of English who have nonetheless been working comfortably in English for years; such students may find one of our NS courses more suitable. We do not screen students before registration; students are welcome to register for the course that they believe best suits their needs. We are, of course, more than happy to provide guidance on course selection.
Q. Why do some courses not indicate whether they are for native or non-native speakers of English?
A. Many of our courses are not divided according to English proficiency. If a course doesn’t specify that it is for native or non-native speakers of English, it is open to everyone. In some cases, such courses will be divided by discipline. For instance, our Thesis Writing courses are open to all thesis writers, but they are divided into a course for students in the humanities and social sciences and one for those in the physical and life sciences.
Q. Is there a Becoming a Better Editor of Your Own Work course for non-native speakers of English?
A. The material covered in the Becoming a Better Editor course is covered in our Academic Writing courses, particularly AW3: Focus on Style. Becoming a Better Editor is shorter than the AW courses and does not deal with any writing challenges that arise as a result of working in English as a subsequent language.
Q. What are the main differences between the workshops and the courses?
A. Courses require more commitment and they provide more help than single-session workshops. You must register for the courses before they start, but you can show up at any workshop without registering in advance. During a three to six week course, your teacher will provide you with feedback on your written or oral assignments in order to help you to identify and address specific problems in your oral/written communication. All of our writing courses include opportunities for students to meet with the instructors one-on-one to discuss their writing samples.
The workshops, on the other hand, provide only limited opportunity for individual feedback. Each workshop focuses on a particular writing challenge, and the teacher provides examples, guidelines, and exercises designed to help students meet that particular challenge. (If the workshop is on the use of articles, for example, then the teacher will examine the sorts of problems graduate students might encounter with articles and provide exercises to enable students to apply what they are learning.) Many students who register for courses also choose to attend specific workshops relevant to their needs.
One-on-One Writing Appointments
Q. What kinds of help can I get at a one-on-one writing appointment?
A. Students are invited to bring pieces of academic writing at any stage. Instructors can help you to get your ideas into the form of an outline, to assess the effectiveness of your paper’s structure, to evaluate the clarity of your writing, or to identify and avoid stylistic and grammatical errors. The writing appointments are not a proofreading service. They are designed to help you to learn how to evaluate and improve your own writing.
Q. Does GCAC provide proofreading services?
A. GCAC is not a proofreading service. Our mandate is to teach students to improve their own writing and speaking. In our courses, workshops, and consulting appointments, students are taught to identify and address the problems in their writing. While we recognize that this process takes much longer than a quick copy edit, we also know that students are not well served by becoming dependent on our writing skills instead of developing their own.
Q. Are there other resources available to help me improve my writing?
A. Numerous online resources are available to assist you as you continue to improve your writing/speaking. Check the Additional Resources page on the GCAC website for lists of both off- and on-campus resources.