Hüttermann / DAAD
Last update: September 2017
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Studying at a German higher education institution involves a lot of freedom, but also some obligations. How well you get through the semester depends mainly on how well organised you are. Our semester planning tips can help.
If you want to complete your degree within the standard period of study, you have a full-time job. You have to attend courses, prepare for them and revise later on. Students usually allow for several weeks of studying and preparation before seminar papers, term papers and examinations. Each credit point generally requires around 30 hours of work.
The credit point system (ECTS) makes it easier to transfer students’ study credits internationally. If your credit points are not recognised by your home higher education institution, you can have your attendance and your examination grades certified by a lecturer.
When you successfully complete a module, you receive a specified number of credit points for it. Points are typically awarded for seminar papers, term papers or examinations. Credit points do not give a grade, they merely indicate that something has been completed. Over the course of a six-semester Bachelor’s programme a student will gain approximately 180 credit points. You usually need 30 credit points per semester to complete your degree within the standard period of study.
Higher education institutions and departmental student organisations offer a range of events before the start of a semester where new students can find out more about their subjects and how their courses are organised.
Departmental student organisation:
The departmental student organisation is the elected student representation for a particular subject and usually has a permanently allocated room at the higher education institution. Fellow students in the departmental student organisation handle many tasks, helping with issues in day-to-day student life or organising orientation weeks for first-year students. If you have questions about your timetable or certain courses, you can contact the departmental student organisation.
In the course of a seminar or during the recess period students are often required to write an academic paper examining a particular topic. It is normally far shorter than a final paper, but longer than an essay. You should allow for the time it will take you to write these papers.
Of course there are requirements as to which courses you have to attend during a degree programme. But you can often decide for yourself which courses to take in which semester. It’s important to make sure you are fully informed beforehand. Most higher education institutions offer online portals where students can compile their timetables with a few clicks.
The term “course” refers to a teaching unit at a higher education institution. There are different types of courses: some are more theoretical, some more practical.
A degree programme is divided into several modules consisting of coordinated courses that cover a particular topic organisationally and in terms of content. When you have completed a module, you are awarded a specified number of credit points.
Some professors and lecturers make their courses or teaching materials available online. If you have missed something or want to explore a topic in more depth, you will find it in the e-learning section of your higher education institution.
The precise requirements, content and sequence of a degree programme are set out in the examination regulations. They also give students more information about their compulsory courses.
Course in which students discuss academic topics and issues with their lecturer and amongst themselves, often combined with seminar papers and term papers.
Every student has to compile his or her own timetable. The courses you have to attend and pass are listed in the module handbook of every degree programme. Also helpful for compiling your timetable are the annotated course catalogue and the study and examination regulations, which you will find on the website of your institute. The introductory events also discuss timetables.
In a tutorial you discuss your course content with students from higher semesters, known as tutors. They not only answer questions, but also give tips on examination content.
This type of course adds a practical component to lectures and seminars. With expert supervision, students solve exercises or apply the scientific methods they have learnt.
Course held in a lecture hall, where a lecturer gives a one-and-a-half-hour talk on a particular topic. Usually involves many listeners and little discussion.
Optional compulsory course:
Your degree programme includes not only compulsory courses (or compulsory modules) which you must always attend and pass, but also optional modules.
Once you have chosen your seminars and lectures, you have to register for these courses. You can usually do this online. However, some subjects have a very large number of students; if you want to attend a particular seminar, you may have to register quickly.