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Everything You Wanted to Know About the Academic Credit Systems in the U.S.

If you’re planning to study in the U.S., it is going to help you to learn about the academic credit systems in American colleges and universities. The foremost thing to know is that the U.S. credits system is different from credit system used elsewhere in the world. Besides influencing your GPA, your credits also determine if you would be required to take any sorts of preparation program to fulfil the requirements of your degree program. Even more, the tuition fees may also be determined by the number of academic credits a programme offers.

There is more you might want to know about the academic credits in the U.S. system of education:

Contact Hour

It refers to the time during the lecture or in a lab when the student is taught by the professor. Its duration generally equals to 50 minutes in real time.

Credit Hour

A semester credit hour (SCH) refers to the amount of credit earned by a student when he/ she successfully completes one contact hour and two preparation hours every week for a given semester.

You are ideally expected to invest one contact hour with your professor in lab or lecture and two additional hours of preparation each week. The preparation hours may represent homework, practical work or even field work.

Difference between Contact hours and Credit hours

The students are generally given credit hours on the basis of contact hours spent by them studying per week in class.

Number of Credits Given for a Course

The number of credits given to students for a specific course varies depending on the requirements of a college/ university. The majority of institutions award 3 Semester Credit Hours (SCH) in the range of 45 to 48 for successfully completing a course.

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The relationship between degree courses and credit hours

A degree course is measured in terms of the number of credit hours that are required for the completion of course.

For a Master’s degree, the majority of courses either have 3 or 4 credits. However, in an undergraduate degree, there are generally 1 or 2 credits for basic courses.

The generalisation is that a standard full-time study load accounts to 30 credit hours per year. It is expected from students that they complete 120-130 credit hours for a Bachelor’s degree and 30-64 credit hours for a Master’s degree in order to successfully earn a degree.

Quarter Credits

When the academic year is divided into three terms, the institutions are said to use Quarter Credit Hours. If Quarter Credit Hours are being used by a college/ university, the student is required to complete a minimum of 180 quarter hours instead of 120.

Semester credit hours and GPA

In the U.S. system of education, credits determine Grade Point Average (GPA) awarded to the student for a semester or academic year. Some advanced programs require GPA scores for granting admissions to applicants. The final marks of a student along with the credit hours are used to calculate the semester GPA of a student. The final GPA for a degree is the average of all courses completed during the years of a program.

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