What Is The Difference Between A Semester And a TrimesterWhat Is The Difference Between A Semester And a Trimester?

The question “What is a trimester?” is a very common one in the academic world today. While this particular measure of the curricular period has become increasingly common, many still aren’t familiar with its meaning. What is a trimester, and how is a trimester different from a semester? Here’s the rundown on these common academic periods right now.


Semesters are the most-common academic structure as they are used in high schools around the world. The schools that are using semesters are teaching students to take their coursework in 16 or 18 weeks. They have done this for some time, and the students will grow accustomed to the cycle of classes. Students who go to college on the same system will feel a level of comfort they cannot get in other places, but they will take fewer classes over the course of their college career.

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What Exactly Is A Trimester?

The trimester is often known as the quarter, and it is a three-part year that divides classes into a 12-week term, an 8-week term and a 12-week term. Students will take roughly the same number of classes, but they may have more opportunities to fit in hard-to-reach classes in the middle trimester. Schools that use trimesters are working on an old system that breaks up the school year for their benefit. Anyone who is working on a trimester system must be broken of the habit of working on two sets of classes a year, and they may feel much more confident given the amount of time they may devote to each class.

Which Is Best?

The choice of class schedules is up to the student who must choose the schedule they prefer. Their schedule is created using their personal needs, and advisors often take input from their students while creating schedules. The advisors know students will fare better under certain circumstances, and they will have a look at which schedule helps the student succeed. Students may sit at home searching colleges as they determine which schedule style they prefer. There are quite a few people who will use the standard semester format to remain consistent, and others may enjoy going to a school with three shorter periods during the year.

Which Is Simpler?

The simplest choice between semesters and trimesters for students is the one they feel most comfortable with. A student who has been on semesters their whole life will find semesters simple, and they will quite enjoy staying on a plan they understand. They will go through school as if nothing changed, and they will not worry about what is needed as their schedule changes. They simply take their college courses. Changing to trimesters will cause confusion for something, and it may reduce stress in others.

A Look At School Terms Around The Globe

It can be both very interesting and informative to take a look at some of the various school systems around the globe and the ways in which they portion the school year. Does the rest of the world operate mainly on trimesters or semesters? Are there other term types aside from these two that are commonly used elsewhere?

In Canada, there is no united system of term organization throughout the wider school system. Most schools here voluntarily utilize a semester or trimester system, however. In stark contrast, Australia and New Zealand are examples of countries that utilize what is known as a “quarterly” term system. In a system that uses quarters, such as in these countries, the school year is divided into four, equal terms, or quarters.

France is an example of a country that only utilizes trimesters. Here, the school year is divided into three, equal parts, and this has been the case for many years. The term layout in Japan is the same, strictly employing a three-term school year. Some school systems, such as those found in Lithuania, utilize yet one more term type – the whole-year, single-term system. In a system like this, there are no separate terms, and grades are cumulative starting at day one and through to the end of the year.

Additional Resources of Interest

While there are no specific organizations focused solely on term parameters, there are a number of authoritative groups that do stay abreast of this and other components to educational systems. The following represent some of those that can be consulted on matters of academic terms and other matters of education today.

World Education Forum

For a resource that provides a look into educational endeavors all across the globe, the World Education Forum is a top, authoritative option. This organization is comprised of 112 ministries in 107 countries and is the veritable pulse of worldwide academia. It is also supported in part by numerous US government departments.

US Department of Education

The US Department of Education is the US government’s prime authoritative body concerned with all things education. Not only does this federal agency provide a massive array of resources and information on education in the US, but it also helps to institute education law and best practices throughout the country and in individual states. Information on academic term layouts in the US can also be found here.

Association of American Colleges & Universities

The Association of American Colleges & Universities represents yet one more, great resource for all things related to academia. With this organization, anyone can inquire and learn about education law, layouts, learning systems, and plenty more. This organization also produces several publications in which a wide array of up-to-date education news and info is covered.

When it comes to trimesters and semesters, each presents their own potential advantages and disadvantages to the student and teacher alike. Some distinctly prefer one or the other, while some aren’t particularly served better by either system. These are the basic answers to that common question today of what is a trimester and how it may differ from the more traditional semester and other term systems found around the world.

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