The quarter system and semester system in college are systems used to measure the length of time a student is in class. The quarter system employs the four quarters of the year, using the summer months for an extended break. The semester system divides the year into three sections, using the first and third sections for school and the second section for an extended break.

Time in Class

In the semester system, classes are typically held three hours every week. A student will be in class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for one hour or every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half. The quarter system finds students in class for four to eight hours every week, with classes on two days and class times lasting from two to four hours.

Weeks in Class

The length of a single class in the semester system is generally 15 weeks long. A quarter system class is 10 weeks long. Therefore, the semester system receives more freedom to create shorter classes, while it is imperative to the quarter system to compact class time.


Semester breaks happen throughout the year; however, the largest breaks happen between classes, at the end of the calendar year and again in the summer. A semester will conduct a class from late August to December. Students receive new classes in January and complete those classes in late May. The quarter system breaks happen in March, December and June. Classes begin in September and end in December; new classes begin in January and end in March; new classes begin in March and finish in June.

Class Intensity

The intensity of the quarter system is higher than that of the semester system. A professor is able to cover a full unit in one class of the quarter system; therefore, the student who misses a class misses a unit of learning. The semester system, with its shorter class times, cannot cover a full unit in one sitting. Units are usually covered over the course of a week or more.