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Study in USA - Introduction | USA-Overview | Educational System
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Study in USA : Education System

System of education in USA is different from that of India. In America,  higher education starts at the age of 18 after the completion of twelve years of primary and secondary schooling.  

Under Graduate Study or Bachelors:

A candidate who has successfully completed class XII is eligible for the Bachelors Programme or Under Graduate Study in USA.

The bachelors degree or under graduate study usually lasts for 4 years. In some cases an accelerated Programme can be completed in three years, while some professional fields require five years.

The 4 year's undergraduate study is considered as 120 credit hours. One course averages 3 credits. Subjects involving lab facilities will get  4 credits. You receive a Bachelor's degree or undergraduate degree when you finish around 40 courses in different subjects within the span of four years. 

1st year students are called Freshmen, 2nd years Sophomores, third years Juniors and the 4th or last year students are referred to as Seniors. The decision of the major's to be taken is necessary only after the 2nd or Sophomore year. Deciding the majors is termed 'Declaring a Major' in US.

Many colleges give an Associate degree after the sophomore year or second year of a Bachelor's degree. It is the degree awarded after either a college transfer or a 'terminal', One to three year programme providing training for a specific occupation. 

Graduate Study:

In USA, higher studies after taking a degree or Bachelor's is termed Graduate study. 

A candidate who has successfully completed four years of Bachelors Programme or Under Graduate Study is eligible to apply for the Master's Degree in USA. The traditional three year degree (BA, B.Sc, holders from India must complete an additional year of degree programme for eligibility. Additional courses which should be taken by them is decided by the student advisors appointed for them. There are even registered agencies who will evaluate the subjects studied in India with the courses equivalent in America and issue a certificate. 

Masters degree is the first Graduate degree in the liberal arts and Sciences and certain professional fields requiring 30 credit hours of full-time study within a year or 2 years. You can  get your Master's degree by taking 8 courses of subjects with 3 credits each plus a thesis of 6 hours credit or 10 courses of subjects with 3 credits each without the thesis. Some Universities have a final exam. Usually masters degree include M.S and M.A degrees.

It is not particular that you continue with the same majors that you chose for undergraduate study-in graduate study. But if you change the majors, you will have to take additional basic courses for the new subjects. These courses are called Pre-requisite courses. You have to get a pass in these course but you may not get credits for the same. 

Research (Doctoral Degree) - The highest degree awarded in research-oriented academic disciplines, usually requiring 3 to 6 years of full time study besides the Bachelor's degree as preparation for University level teaching and research. Indian students with a Master Degree can apply for P.H.D. 

The main criteria for admission is the applicants interest in the particular subject of research. 

First Professional Degree - The degree required to be academically qualified to practice in certain professions, such as law, medicine etc usually requires a total of at least six years of study including prior college level work. It must have as a prerequisite at least two years of college credit.

Different Educational Institutions


It is an independent institution that offers a four-year programme of undergraduate study in the liberal arts (BA, BFA) and sciences (B.S). Bachelors degree is the basic requirement for graduate work.


Universities are larger institutions that include several undergraduate colleges, graduate schools, and professional schools. 

Graduate school involves 1 or 2 years of study and offers advanced programs in arts and sciences which gives master's degrees like M.A or M.S, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) etc.

Professional schools are institutions which specialize in a single field of study such as medicine, pharmacy, business administration , law etc.

Junior College or Community Colleges:

These colleges award only Associate Degree of Arts (A.A)  and Sciences (A.S) which involves 2 year of study. After receiving Associate Degree, students must join a 4 years college or University to complete the Bachelor's Degree.

Vocational and Technical Institution:

These institutes specialize in training for the skilled trades and technical fields of employment. Duration of the courses depends on the particular subject. After completion, they will be awarded a certificate of completion and they can straight away join for a job.

Classes in USA

Usually, for most Universities and colleges the year begins in late August or early September and ends in May or June. The academic year is divided into semesters, trimesters or quarter depending on the institution. The semester system divides the year into 2 equal terms of 16 weeks. Each semester is 4 months. Trimester system has three equal terms of 16 weeks each, including a summer term. Quarter system divides the year into 3 equal terms of 11 weeks each. 

Classes are lecture-based with practical (lab or practicum in U.S). Overhead projector, computer projections, multimedia are used along with the lectures. Printed notes and additional information on topics (Handouts in U.S) are given. Professors or advisors are always available to clear doubts. Interaction in class in encouraged.

Each student will be assigned an 'advisor' who is a member of the faculty. This advisor will help the students to select the courses to be taken in each semester, plan the whole program and monitor the students progress. The students register for the particular courses with the permission of the advisors. 

Class Size

The average class size at the undergraduate level, in most universities is 100-150 for introductory courses. Advanced level classes will be smaller in size. Master's degree classes have an average of 20 students and Doctoral classes have an average of only 10 students.


Each semester has an average of 4 tests. Test range in style from multiple choice (objective type) format designed to gauge your knowledge of the subject and reasoning ability to essay or problem-solving type tests. There are 3 kinds of tests - open book tests, closed books tests and take home tests. In the 1st type, you can refer notes, text book, reference material etc during the test.  2nd one is usual tests that we have in India.  In the 3rd one you take the question paper home and answer at your convenience before the dead line set by the professor. Take home tests often have essay-based questions.


In American Universities, they give grades instead of ranks or classes for courses. The grades are A, B, C, D, E, F, I.  A is the highest grade. Grades from A to D is considered as pass. Grade I-incomplete. Grade I is granted when students stop the course in between with the teachers permission.  If it is without permission this can become F grade. 

Marks between 100-90- A Grade (Excellent)

Marks between  89-79- B Grade (good)

Marks between  78-68-  C Grade (Average)

Marks between 67-57- D Grade (Below)

Below 57- F or fail. 

Each grade has points. 4 points for A grade, 3 for B and 2 for C. The average points taken for all the courses taken together is the GPA (Grade Point Average). It is the general score on a scale of 1.0(lowest) to 4.0 (highest). It is difficult to get admission for graduate study if you don't have at least a G.P.A of 3.0. G.P.A is  computed using a unique formula by the university's administration. The grades are fixed by the professor's who teach the subjects based on the performance of the students. The success rate is high.

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