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In many academic systems, introductory courses for a field of study are designated "101". That the course is "100-level" indicates that it is intended for beginning or first-year students. That the course is numbered "101" (or occasionally "100") indicates that it is the first such course.

Many subjects actually taught will have at least one 100-level course, especially in fiction. The ones that don't are usually specialized subjects. Occasionally, a fictional 101 course will be way more or less advanced than the course number justifies. Not infrequently 101 will be the only class level ever mentioned. Its ubiquity even allows a character to mark himself as a university student or professor by mentioning (Subject) 101.

The notation of a course as 101 means that it is expected that anyone with normal intelligence and work ethic and minimal talent in the field can successfully complete it, and will thereby acquire the basics of the discipline; also, that anyone with the basics of the discipline will know any fact labeled "subject 101". This connotation leads to the common subtrope "Arcana 101", in which a writer tries to give an accessible flavor to some exotic discipline through introducing it by means of a (usually fictional) 101 course. The sarcastic variant is "Inanity 101", in which the 101 course is in some subject for which it would be unreasonable to expect training to be necessary or useful. The trope title falls more or less under this variant.

Due to Eagleland Osmosis, "(Subject) 101" is often used by non-Americans who have no idea where the phrase comes from - though some British universities have adopted the system, and it is used in Australia.

Compare Class Is in Room X-01.

Not to be confused with Room 101 (no matter how much you might hate the class).

Examples of Subject 101 include:

Card Games


  • At the beginning of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action movie, Casey Jones offers to school Raphael in "Pain, 101" after Raph's interference allowed two purse-snatching lowlives to escape him (though, it should be said, without the purse).

Live Action TV

  • In Heroes, Hiro describes Daphne's attempting to get him and Ando to fight each other as Villainy 101
  • How I Met Your Mother did this in the 5th season opener, having Ted teaching Architecture 101.
  • Community has every episode named after a college course (or something that would sound like a college course). "Spanish 101" and "Debate 109" have both been episode titles.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy, Willow, and Oz all have the same class, where Riley is the TA. Averted in this case as it is actually Psychology 105.
  • On Law and Order once Serena Southerlyn asked Arthur Branch if some maneuvering he had done was part of "Trial Tricks 102." The implication was clearly that, while he may have been slightly clever, she still didn't have a lot of respect for his methods.
  • Criminal Minds has an episode called "Profiling 101", where the BAU speaks in front of a college class.


  • Roy Zimmerman wrote a song called "Creation Science 101". The song describes said course as nothing but indoctrination.
  • Bowling For Soup - "Punk Rock 101"
  • Doctor Who-based band Chameleon Circuit have a song titled "Galifreyan History 101".

Video Games

Western Animation

  • Used a lot in Tiny Toon Adventures.
  • The Simpsons had Nuclear Physics 101. In one episode, Homer reveals that he never passed "Remedial Science 1A".
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic had the reference book "Slumber 101: Everything you wanted to know about slumber parties, but were afraid to ask" in the episode Look Before You Sleep.

Web Original


Real Life

  •  : Nuclear Warfare 101
  • Norwich University, a University in Vermont, has an open house named "NU101."
  • UCSD, and presumably the rest of the University of California system, averts this trope. Lower division classes are all in double digits, and the troper adding this can't think of any classes that are Subject 101.
    • True. At UC Berkeley, Subject 1-99 classes are lower division, Subject 100-199 are upper division, and Subject 200-299 are for graduate students. There are other numbers as well, for various other specialized courses. Sometimes things can get weird: Math 16A covers the same basic material as Math 1A, but is meant for non-math/science majors and is thus easier. Likewise, Psychology 2 is easier than Psychology 1, since 2 is meant for non-psych majors. The real kicker? Statistics has three lower division courses (2 (for non-math/science/business majors), 20 (for math/science majors), and 21 (for business majors)), none of which are actually required for the Statistics major.
      • Interestingly enough, the labeling appears to be semi-random. One major requires people to take Math 1A/1B, then Math 53/54. Other majors require Math 16A/16B (which is easier) instead of 1A/1B. And crosslisted classes often don't share the same number with themselves, leading to courses such as "Chem C 130 A".
    • Similarly, at Penn State, if you want an easy course, Subject 101 is not what you're looking for. A number of departments have Subject 001, which is as introductory as a class will ever get.
    • At Indiana University, 100-level classes in many subjects are intended for non-majors. Majors start their classes in the 200-level.
  • The Mexican version of this trope is simply using one single number, usually Roman in official designation. The first calculus class, for example, would be Calculus I, then Calculus II, then Calculus III and so on.
    • Universities in Brazil do the same.
    • As do Chilean ones. Might be a Latin American thing.
    • In the US, these often combine with 101; hence MATH 101 is Calculus I.
      • To clarify, in these sorts of cases American History I might be HIS 101, followed by American History II aka HIS 102, while World History I might be HIS 106, followed by World History II aka HIS 107. (There may or may not be HIS 103, 104, and/or 105.) They are all introductory classes, thus 100 level, but (in my experience) the 10- numbering really doesn't indicate much else. The main point is arranging things so that when classes are listed by course number, sequential classes are listed together, starting with the first in the sequence.
  • At University of New Hampshire, first year classes are 401 and 402, second year 501 and 502, etc. Nobody seems to know why.
  • In Ireland, basic classes are often numbered 10010.
  • Some schools attempt to subvert this trope and appear more edumacated by adding a '0' to the end of the three digit designation, thus giving the regular course a higher number--and, by supposed extension, make it seem more advanced. English 101 becomes English 1010, for example. This fools no one, though it occasionally confuses the person in charge of transferring credits at a school who numbers things normally.
  • In an attempt to confuse new students familiar with this trope, or possibly to give more room for sub-divisions and differentiate materials done for old courses, some British universities use a four digit code, often with a department tag. Introductory Mathematics might be MT 1001, whilst Organic and Biological Chemistry 1 might be CH 1601.
    • A similar concept is in use at some colleges in America. For example, Texas Woman's University, all classes are assigned a four digit code after the subject clarifier. The first number is the level, the last number is how many credit hours it offers, and the middle two define the class. As such, a lot of classes start at 1013, with labs being marked as 1011.
    • Things were more codified this troper's school, The first digit is the grade level. (1=Freshman, 2=Sophomore, 3=Junior, 4=Senior, 5=Master, 6=Doctoral). The Second digit is the number of credit hours (labs are 3 real hours per credit hour with certain nightmarish exceptions at upper levels), and the final two digits being a meaningless identifier. One common one was that 1331 was the 1st semester freshman course, 1332 was the 2nd semester freshman course, and 1300 was the remedial version. After that, it was a bit of a free for all.
    • Likewise at this troper's alma mater, East Carolina University - all the graduate courses on the transcript were 5000-level or 6000-level, and he grad-taught the introductory composition courses, English 1100 and 1200.