Comparing the Quarter System and Semester System


Our Guest Blogger is Pak Wai, one of our great tutors!   

Here’s the thing. There are two different types of school system in the Unites States: the quarter and the semester. Quarters usually last for three months per term, so there would be four quarters in a year based on the season. There are only two semesters a year that usually last for four to five months with longer breaks and sometimes a summer term in between.

My colleagues and I are from different schools with different school systems, so we debated, sort of, which system is better.

For most of the American universities, international students are required to be a full-time student, meaning that there are certain amount of credits/units you need to take per term to stay in school, which is usually 12 units for both the quarter and semester system. Usually, each unit represents one hour of class. Quarter classes are 4-5 units while semester classes are 3-4 units. In both systems you can take only 18-20 units per term

I personally prefer the quarter system. Quarters only last for 3 months, meaning that you would be able to complete your classes in a shorter period of time. If you do the math, in one year (excluding any summer classes), the quarter system allows you to take 60 units (3 quarters) while the semester system only allows 40 (two semesters), which seems to me like a waste of time and money.

My co-workers, however, prefer the semester system. You see, if you only have 3 months in a quarter to complete all of the subjects that you are studying, it can get quite hectic. You would have your first exam after about one month and your finals in another two. In the semester system you have 4 months, and usually professors will give 1 to 3 more midterms, meaning that each midterm won’t have as much content as the “one-for-all” situations often found in the quarter system.

So, what do you think? Which of the two systems do you think you would prefer? If you are in school, do you like your school system?

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