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CPT vs OPT in America as Student

Posted on Sep, 06 2013 | Study-in-USA

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.

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 1     30 %
Test 2     30%
Group Project     20 %
Class participation     5 %
Assignments     10%
Quizzes     5 %
Total     100 %

Grades     Grade Points     Percentage of Marks
            A         4.000               Greater than 93%
            A-        3.670               87 -89.9%
            B+       3.330               84-86.9 %
            B         3.000               80 – 83.9%
            B-     2.670     77 – 79.9%
            C+     2.330     74 – 76.9%
            C     2.000     70 – 73.9%
            C-     1.670     67- 69.9%
            D+     1.330     65-66.9%
            D     1.000     62-64.9%
            D-     0.670     59-61.9%
            F     0.000     <59 % ( Fail )


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