Term vs Semester: What’s the Difference?

Term and semester are both words that are often used in educational institutions to describe the length or time period for which a session lasts or has been scheduled. Term is a more generic word that applies to the duration of the academic session, while colleges may use more specific words like semester and trimester, depending on the case. The two words can sometimes be confusing for new students when they are used to describe the same duration of the academic schedule. This article aims to clarify the differences between the terms term and semester.

Term is a general word in the English language that means duration or the length of time. In academic circles, term refers to the academic term or the schedule of an educational institution for the year. Different schedules are followed by different schools and colleges around the world due to differences in weather and climate. In the Southern Hemisphere, the term usually starts from February and continues until December, while in the Northern Hemisphere, hot summers do not allow the session to extend into May and June, which are considered too hot for studies. It should be noted that terms can vary in duration at different educational institutions, and there could be two or even four terms in a college in a single year.

Semester is an English word that means a half-year or a time period of six months. The academic term of a college may be a semester, which means there are two terms in a single year, and the academic session is divided into two equal semesters. In some colleges, a trimester pattern is followed, which divides a year into three parts, each being four months in duration. There are even quarters as terms in a college, dividing a session into four equal parts. If a college follows a semester pattern, the term may be divided into Fall and Spring semesters. There are only two semesters in an academic session, both being of roughly equal durations.

Key Takeaways

  • Term is a generic word used in educational institutions to describe the duration of an academic calendar, while semester is more specific.
  • Term is more commonly used in Britain, while semester is more common in US educational institutions.
  • The duration of a semester is six months, and there are two semesters in a year, while some schools may have trimesters or quarters, resulting in three or four terms per year.
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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