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Semester vs. Quarter System – Which Is The Best?

  • Author: Veronica
  • October 01, 2016
Semester vs. Quarter System – Which Is The Best?

I’m pretty sure that in your college hunt, you came across terms such as the college quarter system and the semester system. Now, you are probably already familiar with the semester system – but what’s the deal with the quarter one? If the debate is so ongoing, what makes one option better than the other?

The semester system is the one that has been gaining speed in front of the quarter system, and that is because colleges claim “it influences the capabilities of the student.” Many colleges believe that the semester system is more efficient, and they seem to go to grave lengths to prove their point. Top Writing Reviews made a comparison.

Between the Two Systems

At this point, about 71.2% of the colleges make use of the semester calendar, but only 14.7% use the quarter system – or so the National Association of College Stores claims. Plus, from 1990 to 2001, the percentage of colleges using the semester system has gone up from 62% to 70%, according to writing services reviews. Who’s winning? Make your guess.

If you are switching from a semester to quarter system, here’s what you should expect your year to look like. The main differences would include the following:

  • Class term length: A quarter system will be using 10-week periods while semesters will use 15-week periods. This will let you take three different sessions for your class as opposed to the two sessions of a semester.
  • Breaks and Vacations: This affects mostly the winter break, which will last up to 4 weeks with a semester system. In the case of the quarter system, this vacation will only last two weeks.
  • Start to Finish: The quarter system usually starts and ends the academic year generally a month later than the semester system. This will end up making that winter break just perfect!

Despite being named a “quarter system,” the year is divided into trimesters – which are three 10-week class periods. The school will start somewhere in the middle or late September, will end in the middle of June, and will be broken down this way: September through December, January through March and April through June.

When it comes to schedule, the quarter system will have breaks throughout the entire year. These breaks will be around the major holidays, and obviously, spring break. This is how the breaks will look like:

  • A two or sometimes three-day break around Thanksgiving.
  • A winter break which can last up to two weeks long, with the second quarter starting right after New Years has passed.
  • A one-week break separating the second and third quarter – because every student needs a spring break, right?

This is what the quarter system looks like. On the outside, it looks pretty cool. But how does it look when compared with the semester quarter? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Well, here’s a summary.

Pros and Cons to the Quarter System

Before settling on a college system for yourself or your kid, there are a few things you may want to consider first. Here are some pros and cons to getting you started in the semester vs. quarter systems:


  1. You will have more chances to modify your GPA (regardless if it’s for better or for worse). Since you will be taking 10-week quarters as opposed to 15-week semesters, you will have more opportunities to make your GPA reflect your work.
  2. You’ll have more chances to take a greater variety of classes.
  3. If you’re not particularly interested in a class, you’ll probably only realize in week 4 or 5. By that time, half of the semester will probably already be over.


  1. It will be very difficult to change quarter credits to semester credits if you decide to change schools, simply because the classes won’t match.
  2. If you have friends at semester schools, it will be difficult to plan get-togethers on holidays (simply because the breaks won’t match).
  3. You can have midterms as early as 3 weeks in or just before the exam.
  4. The pace is very fast.
  5. Quarter systems end later than semester ones, in June. Generally, students have difficulties in focusing on tasks starting May, since the other schools already wrapped everything up.

So in the quarter vs. semester fight, it is clear which one has most advantages. However, depending on the regions that students are in, they should be able to adapt no matter the case.