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Bachelors and Masters ( MS / MBA) Education System in USA vs India

Moving to a new country and experiencing the new education system can be tricky at times. It was kind of  an eye opener for me when I moved to US and started to study. In general, Education system of Bachelors and Masters in most of the Indian engineering colleges, degree colleges (private & govt.), and universities (with few exceptions like IITs and other premier institutes) is drastically different from education system in USA. Lets look at each of them.

Tests :
In India, we have one final which varies from 80 – 100% of the total marks or grade. There are internals in engineering with 20% of the total grade. We are typically tested on the whole text book at the end of the semester or year. Unlike, in USA there are anywhere from two to four tests. The tests called midterms and each range from anywhere from 25 to 40 % each. The weightage for exams are anywhere from 50 – 80% depending on the professor.  The key point is  you do not lose all your points if you miss your final. So, if you get sick or have issues with some chapters, you are not penalized for that.  The risk is evenly distributed.  The catch is, you are forced to study all the semester because you have tests every 4 to 6 weeks depending on number of tests. Also the each test is on 1/3rd of the material to half of the total material.  Some tests are comprehensive, but most are only part of the text. It all depends on the professor. The key thing is, Professor who teaches the class dictates the rules of tests. But, in India we have big system that regulates it due to the size unless you are in a premier or autonomous university.

Assignments :
Assignments are a big part of the US education. They typically consist of 15- 20 % of the total grade. Unlike in India, where you can get away by copying assignment from friends, here it is pretty strict and plagiarism is very serious. You cannot copy, it should be your own work. You will get an F or failing grade.  There will be assignments every week or at least once every 15 days. In Graduate level classes the assignment is not mandatory, but professor do give it and they say it is needed for your success in class. So, everyone does it and it helps for the exam.

In US, quizzes are quite important. Sometimes they are online as a part of class and sometime they are pop-quizzes or surprise quizzes in class. Depending on the professor there will be Quizzes and it can be anywhere from 5 – 20 %.  So, you have to be prepared with previous class material. For us back in India, very less quizzes.

Group Projects and Individual projects :
We do not see many projects back in India. But, in US projects are weighted pretty heavily. They can be from 20 – 40% of the grade. The goal is the professor want you to apply the material you have learnt in the class. So, they give you a big problem and you will have to apply the material you learned in the class.  There are two types of projects. Group projects as name says, will be between 2 – 5 people depending on professor. It is hard to work with different people at times with schedules. If you get a bad team, you are screwed. So, pick proper team when you form a group for projects. As per individual projects, you only work on it. In either cases, you end up giving final presentation in the class.

Term papers :
In US, Some classes do not have anything other than writing Papers. You will have to do research on topics and then write a paper. As said, it has to be your research and you have to have full citations. You will be asked to write in style like APA or Chicago. For literature kind of classes, there will not be any exams like mid terms and they usually have two or three papers they write during semester. As said, it is big and important based on type of class and professor. Mostly  Arts and literature classes are paper based. I am not an arts major, but I highly doubt this kind of thing exists for us in India for general degree colleges with few exceptions.

Class participation :
In US,   Some professor give 5 – 15 % for class participation. It all depends on professor as said before. You will asked to actively participate in discussion . You will have to be prepared by doing homework. They take notes and give credit based on your participation. In India, we do not get anything other than impression and may be some internal marks.

Grading or Percentage:
Grading is very different in US from India.  In India  we have marks out of 100 and our percentage is quoted on the mark sheet.  We are given First class, Distinction based on percentage. But, here the grade is typically converted to GPA.  Here is a sample split. It depends on the professor too. But most universities follow this process. Some do not have MINUS and PLUS like A- or B+. They will be just A, B, C, D and F. Grade point will be same though. The professors typically conduct the test for some points and convert them to a scale of 100. Let’s say the test is for 50 and you get 45. It will be (45/50) * 100 = 90% and then your grade is awarded. The grade can include Tests, Assignments, Projects, Quizzes, group projects, Class participation and if any other special things as Professor designs the course.  A sample course design with weightage. At the end of the day you have a letter grade for a class as listed below.

Test 130 %
Test 230%
Group Project20 %
Class participation5 %
Quizzes5 %
Total100 %
GradesGrade PointsPercentage of Marks
A4.000Greater than 93%
A-3.67087 -89.9%
B+3.33084-86.9 %
B3.00080 – 83.9%
B-2.67077 – 79.9%
C+2.33074 – 76.9%
C2.00070 – 73.9%
C-1.67067- 69.9%
F0.000<59 % ( Fail )

What has been your experience in both countries ? Share your thoughts.


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  1. Hi Kumar,
    I am pursuing my bachelor’s in computer and I am planning for abroad studies for MBA, is it advisable to do part time job with studies..?.

  2. Hi.I am in 12 std & study computer science. Can I apply for the next education in USA through the scholarship?

  3. I am in 12th and plan to move to USA for bachelors .
    Is it a correct or not or I should go after graduation .

    • Deshna Jain,
      It depends on what you want to do and if you can afford. There are many students who study Bachelors in America, the key thing to note is, it can be very expensive to study 4 years in US. You need to evaluate what is best for you..

      • Do you have list of undergraduate college for business administration. It will be very helpful Kumar. I need to apply this year.

    • Do you have list of undergraduate college for business administration. It will be very helpful Kumar. I need to apply this year.

  4. Hey i’m in high school i am in 10th grade and i’m planning to come back to India for my degree and i’m really interested in fashion field and web master so how could I get into degree collage with my these interests after my high school in US

  5. Is the grading/percentage system same for canada?do they also have weightage distributed across projects,assignments,tests?

  6. Im in 4th year btech of electronic and communication,,can i change my major in aerospace? Can i easily change my major? How are chances of accepting ece student into aerospace stream? Please help..!!!
    Thank you in advance

  7. Hi… I read the post. It somewhat helpd me. But I am still in 11th with pcb group science. I want to complete my 12th and move in america for further education and job. Can u please suggest me what are the oppurtunities for me.? Or what demands are there for jobs so i can choose according to that after 12th.!

  8. Hey,
    Right now I am really confused .I am in 8th semester electrical engineering student and don’t know what to do now .My interest is gone in this field so should I pursue MBA ? also I would like to study in US so what will I need to do?

  9. hi. im doing BE in EXTC from Mumbai university. right now im in 3rd year. i do not want to do masters in this field but want to study numbers and statistics and logistics. can you suggest options for post graduate programs in USA which could work for me. Moreover, will anyone accept me on my engineering degree for this course? any help will be greatly appreciated….
    thank you

  10. Hi Kumar,

    I am interested in getting into Management….i have done my engineering and have 6 years of experience in an IT field in India…..However i am on H4 right now and intend to get into Management ?
    Would you suggest Ms in management course or an MBA degree ? I am particularly intersted in project management/managing team and not technical stuff….How is NJIT institute for MS in management ? or can you please suggest affordable colleges for either MS in management or MBA please?
    Can you please provide our Email Id please ,i am finding the credit hours and concept quite confusing here 🙁 …My email id (email spam )

  11. I am in b.tech electrical and 4 backlogs are pending and I am interested in usa college and university for further study so transfer this all credit and addmission in mba and b.tech last sem ..

  12. i am have completed my 12th from state board in india i am a droper now and coaching for iit jeep exam .i wanna study in us next year so what do i have to do this year ..tell me imidiatly ..its urgent

  13. Hi,this is ameya.. I completed my bacherlor’s degree in Chemical Engg (Polymers)
    from Pune Univ. but am working in the software industry for almost 2.5 years now.
    I wish to pursue masters in Information Systems but being from non computing background will I get any admits and if I do will there be any issues at the time of getting job.

  14. i want use some part of you’r article in my research
    and have to represent at national conference
    can we talk on Skype please .

    nice article

  15. Sir,
    I have a little doubt about the GPA mentioned in your post.
    I have done my BE (Mechanical) with 71% but my CGPI (cumulative Grade Performance Index) is 8.10 out of 10.
    So kindly tell me what would be it in scale of 4 and if I stand any chance of getting admission into US grad school for MS.
    Thank you in Advance.

  16. Hi,

    I did my Btech in Electrical Engg with 8.8 CGPA.. I had been the 3rd topper of my batch.. graduated in 2010, I have been working with L&T as sr engineer (Elec). I have written GRE (303) toefl (88) in oct nov 2011. I have 2 internship projects and 3 vocational trainings as well alongwith my extensive works in intercollege robotics competitions..
    How much do i stand a chance to get good unv in US for MS ????????

  17. Hi,
    I have been working in an IT company for 2.5 years. I am thinking of taking GRE this May for Spring 2013 intake. Is it wise to go for MS program after this much experience? Will it help me in getting good job after completing MS?

    Waiting for the reply.

  18. hi ! I have done my bachelors in business management from India and now i would like to do my Masters in Finance in USA..could you pls guide me with regard to the whole admission process in top universities

  19. The system that you have described above is actually exactly the same as in IIT’s(i know it because i am also studying in IIT).But yes other colleges rather have a poor system of education,mostly rote based.

  20. hi, kumar i m student of 11th commerce in india!i want to do bcom with ms or mba in usa!my financial background is not so good!so can i manage to earn as well as study in usa.what will be the fee structure for bcom.

  21. I am gonna to join in a corporate Sector after my Engg graduation.i have planned to do MS after two years of corporate experience,wil it help me to pursue my MS @US…?

    im quite afraid of us education can an avg student succeed in us
    can we manage our study and assignments,part time jobs etc in that strict rules..
    i hav seen many ordinary ppl over here gng to ms..how they can succeed…

  23. I am in software industry. working on SAP ABAP Technical ,
    i am planning to go USA after gaining some work experience say almost 2 years.
    i want to know about, will this work exp help me getting scholarship or any kind of help in USA.

    • Faraz,
      I am not sure if work experience will essentially help in getting scholarship…it may help you when applying for TA or other on campus jobs…

  24. Hi,

    i am looking for bachelor of engineering studies in US maybe in environmental sc or electronics and comp. How do i go about it.?
    Also, how affordable is it for a middle class person with good academics ?

    • Kirti,
      Bachelors can be very expensive in US unless you get funding. I believe you need to take SAT and TOEFL. If you get good scores, you should be able get scholarship. Check couple of US Universities websites, they would have all the info listed about admission, etc.

  25. hello, i have just completed my degree in the year 2010 from becom stream and i have taken english test in ielts and achieved good band in that and wanted to apply for usa in north alabama university. can u please advice me how should i approach usa consulate ? will u please give any tips how to face usa consulate to get f1 visa…?

    • Shaik, I am not sure what you mean by approach consulate. First focus on getting admission, then you can prepare for visa interview.

  26. Hi,

    I am from pune university,India. I am looking for admission in Ohio university,USA. I don’t know how to calculate gpa. my final year percentage is 60. so please tell what will be my gpa? or do u need more information to calculate gpa?

  27. hi, myself raghu.. how is usa for ms in embedded systems(electronics).. what is the scope over there..i wanted to go us for this fall but b'coz of recession i am not able to go.when do u expect the market to rise.
    how is germany and australia compared to usa for ms.. plz do reply me on my mail id raghu3230@gmail.com


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