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Santa Clara University

The US Classroom

Most frequently, classes in the US base the final grade for the course on multiple assignments and criteria such as essays, problem sets, mid-term exam, final exam, rewrites, peer reviews, class participation.

You will receive a syllabus on the first day of class outlining what percentage of your grade will be determined by what type of work.   

The atmosphere  in classrooms can vary significantly.  In some classes professors may present lectures with little involvement from students.  However, most professors include discussions and group work.  You are expected to come to class having completed any assigned homework and to fully engage in the class.

Sometimes professors will take a position in a class discussion that intentionally provokes discussion.  It may not represent their personal opinion.  This is to encourage students to consider different aspects of a subject.  There is an emphasis and expectation in the US classroom for independent questioning and thinking, using sources to support your independent ideas.


In most classes, class participation in discussion at each class meeting is tracked and counts towards part of your final grade for the course.  As a result, attendance is expected at class meetings.  

  • Quizzes - Short tests given based on assigned material
  • Pop quizzes - Unannounced quizzes given when the professors want to verify if the students are keeping up with their reading assignments
  • Midterms - Exams based on several chapters of materials lectured in class, usually given approximately half-way through the academic term
  • Final exams - Comprehensive exam given on the last day of the semester which can cover materials from the entirety of the class
  • Homework - Specific reading or writing assignments, papers, problem sets, and research
  • Plagiarism - To steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one's own. In other words, use of another’s work without crediting the source. Plagiarism is severely punished at SCU, as is all cheating.
  • Class -
    1. Individual subject or course of study such as “Introduction to Economics” or “Women Poets”
    2. Dtudents in a particular level of undergraduate study, i.e., first year, second year, third year, fourth year.  May refer to “being in the sophomore class” or the first year class.
  • Second year undergraduates - Sophomores
  • Third year undergraduates - Juniors
  • Fourth year undergraduates - Seniors

US immigration regulations are complex and change frequently.  The University strives to maintain a website that is both current and helpful, however, Santa Clara University is not responsible for students maintaining lawful immigration status; this is the responsibility of the student.  Further, resources and links do not constitute endorsement by Santa Clara University.

Fredrik Blomqvist image

Fredrik Blomqvist

"Don’t compare yourself like I did to the American standards, just do your own thing and see what happens, because as proven, it’s very hard to standardize how well you can perform in school."