Suppose someone goes to a class without registering. Then what word should I use to describe this person or this kind of behavior?
Quick key terms: audit, auditing, auditor, sitting in, unregistered student, crashing a class, attendee.
Suppose someone go to a class without registering. Then what word should I use to describe this person or this kind of behavior?
I would agree with Maulik V, this person (call him John) can simply be referred to as an unregistered student.
I can think of two different scenarios when it comes to your question.
First, John might be attending the class with the intention of pursuing the course. It is totally possible that the class is full and there is a wait list. John is therefore in the wait list, officially unregistered for the course. When registered students drop the course, John is then moved up into the list of the registered students. While John is in the wait list, like all other students in the class, he must commit to completing assignments, quizzes, etc. In this case, John wants to register for the course, but he can't until someone drops the course and there is an open spot.
This scenario, as wonderfully pointed out by costrom in the comments, is informally referred to as "crashing [a class]". I couldn't find any dictionary entries for this, but here is a source: LocalWiki.
In the second scenario, John does not have any intention to commit to assignments/exams. John may be interested in a particular part of the course, a particular chapter, or generally, just interested to learn about the course material. In this case, he does not want to or need to register for the course. He simply sits in while the class is going on. We say "John is just auditing the course/class - lucky guy, he doesn't need to sit for the midterm tomorrow".In this case, we can call John, an auditor.
Cambridge dictionary defines "audit" as "to go to a class or educational course for pleasure or interest, without being tested or receiving a grade at the end".
Collins says to audit is to "attend (a college course) simply to hear the lectures without receiving credit".
In Wikipedia, the term Academic Audit is described as the following:
In academia, an audit is an educational term for the completion of a course of study for which no assessment of the performance of the student is made nor grade awarded. Some institutions may record a grade of "audit" ...
In this case, [the grade] 'audit' indicates that the individual merely has received teaching, rather than being evaluated as having achieved a given standard of knowledge of the subject. The term 'audit' is Latin, translating as, 'he/she hears'. In other words, the student has experienced the course, but has not been assessed.
But different universities have slightly different rules with regards to auditing. Some universities (or even different departments/faculty within an institution) may require students to officially register as an auditor. There are a few reasons for that (e.g., number of seats, fire safety code, and confidentiality of exam materials). Someone pointed this out here.
Here is what University of British Columbia says for its students:
- An auditor is a student who is taking a course without seeking a grade or credit for the course.
- Students usually audit courses for self-interest and academic exploration.
- Auditors' participation in courses will be set by the course instructor.
- In general, if you're auditing a course you'll be expected to complete all course requirements except the final exam, and your transcript will show a statement of audit for the course.
What I understand here is the context in which you run some class (of some subjects), and you have students. Some are registered and others are not but still, the latter come to the class.
If that is the case...
The safest word to use is unregistered. I teach IELTS, PTE, and CELPIP. I often encounter such students and inform the management that I have 3 unregistered students. They then take care of the case.
Combining points from the other answers and comments, I would refer to and expect this student to be "crashing the course" (negative/unwelcome/possibly disruptive), "sitting-in" (positive/welcomed), or "an unregistered attendee" (neutral).
All of the terms imply the student
- is attending the course or part of it (welcome or unwelcome/unobserved)
- is not registered for the course (though they may intend to)
- does not intend to attend the entire event or series of events
- is using some resource they have not necessarily been given formal approval for (even if of negligible marginal cost such as one seat in a big lecture hall)
- is likely not attending any lab portions of the course (lab portions of classes frequently have a financial cost and more limited seating)
A common example (showing the term's negativity) would be "crashing a wedding", where uninvited people attend a small portion of or just the party of a wedding, with the intention of acquiring free drinks, food, or other benefits.
An unregistered student isn't necessarily implied to be attending the class (while an unregistered attendee clearly attends and the implication is that they are a student).
Finally, an auditing student is a special case where they are registered for the course (even if this is informal/simply departmental approval), but do not receive a grade for the course (often the student will receive a line on their transcript noting the audit, but it can/will not affect their GPA). Normally auditing implies both registering and the intention to attend the entire course.
Native speaker, no additional references.
In the US we call this person an auditor of the class; they are auditing the class. Even our UK friends at Oxford acknowledge this meaning:
attend (a class) informally, not for academic credit.
The other answers here are legitimate terms as well, and I think the appropriate term depends on what the student is trying to accomplish by attending the class.
Usually we use the word "audit" to refer to someone that is not a student but still wants to learn the information. This is considered a legitimate reason to attend the class. However if you are registered at the school and there just aren't seats available in the class and you still want to follow along with the class, this can still be considered an 'audit' of the class.
The instructor may or may not provide class materials to auditors. If there is only one auditor, or only a few, the instructor may allow them full participation, except that they cannot receive a grade or credit. However if there are a bunch of people that are just waiting for seats to open up, likely the instructor will not provide materials for them. In this case, maybe "crashing" is the better term, but "auditor" is still legitimately used to describe them.
In Australian English, you could call this person a ring-in, although the term works outside of student/class contexts .
ring-in — A person or thing that is not a genuine member of a group or set.
I've heard the term "drop-in" used. Plays on the term "drop-out" and also simply says that they've "dropped in" to the class.