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How could one characterize the typical academic calendar in the USA? I never managed to understand how it works (from Wikipedia, etc.)! It is so confusing.

In Belgium, you basically have this:

  • September-December: class + Winter recess (2 weeks in December)
  • January: Exams
  • February-May: class + Spring break (2 weeks in April)
  • June: Exams
  • July-early August: Summer break (1 month and a half)
  • Late August: Exams

1 Answer 1

Most universities in the US (90% according to this website according to), are on the semester system in which there are two academic terms, fall semester (sept-dec) and spring semester (jan-may). In this semester system, exams happen at the end of each semester, not in a separate time period.

Some universities have a quarter system, where each quarter is identified with a season and students typically have the summer quarter off. Still other universities have a trimester system which "divides the academic year into three terms of 14 to 16 weeks each, with attendance required in two trimesters per year, to total 28 to 32 weeks of instruction" (wikipedia).