Term vs. Semester: Know the Difference
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on November 10, 2023
Term is a general period for any division of the academic year, while Semester specifically refers to half of an academic year.
Different academic institutions may also vary in the way they schedule breaks and holidays within terms or semesters. For example, a semester system might include a mid-semester break, while a term system might have shorter breaks between consecutive terms.
The usage of term and semester can depend on regional preferences and the specific educational system in place. In some regions, the word term is used more commonly, regardless of the duration. Conversely, semester has a more specific connotation, often indicating a longer period of study.
A term is a period of the academic calendar that encompasses a portion of the school year, varying in length depending on the institution. It may be a quarter, trimester, or semester. A semester, however, is more specific; it typically divides the academic year into two equal halves, each usually lasting around 15 to 18 weeks.
While both term and semester are used to describe intervals in an academic schedule, their structures are distinct. A term may refer to any academic session, which could be one of several within a year. A semester, in contrast, is a fixed system, splitting the year into two main sessions.
Institutions may divide their academic years differently; some use three or four terms in a year, while others operate on a two-semester system. Semesters, with their longer span, can influence the pacing of courses and curriculum planning.
Varies (could be a few weeks to several months)
Usually 15-18 weeks long
Academic Year Division
Can be one of several in a year (e.g., quarter, trimester)
Divides the year into two halves
May allow for more frequent course changes
Supports extended courses and content
Breaks and Holidays
Breaks depend on the institution’s calendar
Typically includes a mid-semester break
Usage varies by country and institution
Commonly used in the United States
Term and Semester Definitions
A fixed or limited period for which something lasts.
Her term as president will end this year.
A term in college or university.
Graduation requirements must be completed by the final semester.
A period during the school year where classes are held.
The fall term starts in September and ends in December.
A division of the academic year during which classes are held.
She studied abroad during her last semester.
A provision stipulating a requirement in an agreement.
The contract’s terms require confidentiality.
Time during which students receive grades for their work.
Grades are due at the end of each semester.
A limited or established period of time that something is supposed to last, as a school or court session, tenure in public office, or a prison sentence.
The period between two academic breaks.
The semester break is a time for students to relax.
A point in time at which something ends; termination
An apprenticeship nearing its term.
One of the two usually 15 to 18-week sessions in a school year.
I’m taking biology in the spring semester.
The end of a normal gestation period
Carried the fetus to term.
One of two divisions of 15 to 18 weeks each of an academic year.
A deadline, as for making a payment.
Half of a school year (US) or academic year such as autumn or spring semester.
I will graduate at the end of the spring semester.
A fixed period of time for which an estate is granted.
A period or term of six months.
An estate granted for a fixed period.
A period of six months; especially, a term in a college or university which divides the year into two terms.
A word or group of words having a particular meaning, especially in a specific field
I was baffled by the technical terms that the programmers were using.
One of two divisions of an academic year
Terms Language of a certain kind; chosen words
Spoke in rather vague terms.
Praised him in glowing terms.
Half a year; a period of 6 months
Often terms One of the elements of a proposed or concluded agreement; a condition
Offered favorable peace terms.
One of the terms of the lease.
The terms of a divorce settlement.
Terms The relationship between two people or groups; personal footing
On good terms with her in-laws.
One of the quantities composing a ratio or fraction or forming a series.
One of the quantities connected by addition or subtraction signs in an equation; a member.
(Logic) Each of the two concepts being compared or related in a proposition.
A stone or post marking a boundary, especially a squared and downward-tapering pillar adorned with a head and upper torso.
An architectural or decorative motif resembling such a marker.
To designate; call.
That which limits the extent of anything; limit, extremity, bound, boundary, terminus#Noun.
"Alright, look...we can spend the holidays with your parents, but this time it will be on my terms."
A chronological limitation or restriction, a limited timespan.
The term of a lease agreement is the period of time during which the lease is effective, and may be fixed, periodic, or of indefinite duration.
Any of the binding conditions or promises in a legal contract.
Be sure to read the terms and conditions before signing.
Specifically, the conditions in a legal contract that specify the price#Noun and also how and when payment#Noun must be made.
The latest models are available now, on the lowest terms you'll find anywhere, guaranteed.
A point, line, or superficies that limits.
A line is the term of a superficies, and a superficies is the term of a solid.
A word or phrase (e.g., noun phrase, verb phrase, open compound), especially one from a specialised area of knowledge; a name for a concept.
"Algorithm" is a term used in computer science.
The noun phrase "red blood cell", the acronym "RBC", and the word "erythrocyte" are synonymous terms.
Relations among people.
We are on friendly terms with each other.
Part of a year, especially one of the divisions of an academic year.
Duration of officeholding, or its limit; period in office of fixed length.
He was sentenced to a term of six years in prison.
Near-term, mid-term and long-term goals
The term allowed to a debtor to discharge his debt
The time during which legal courts are open.
Certain days on which rent is paid.
With respect to a pregnancy, the period during which birth usually happens (approximately 40 weeks from conception).
At term, preterm, postterm
(of a patent) The maximum period during which the patent can be maintained into force.
(archaic) A menstrual period.
(mathematics) Any value (variable or constant) or expression separated from another term by a space or an appropriate character, in an overall expression or table.
All the terms of this sum cancel out.
(logic) The subject or the predicate of a proposition; one of the three component parts of a syllogism, each one of which is used twice.
(astrology) An essential dignity in which unequal segments of every astrological sign have internal rulerships which affect the power and integrity of each planet in a natal chart.
(arts) A statue of the upper body, sometimes without the arms, ending in a pillar or pedestal.
(nautical) A piece of carved work placed under each end of the taffrail.
A computer program that emulates a physical terminal.
One whose employment has been terminated
To phrase a certain way; to name or call.
(ambitransitive) To terminate one's employment
Born or delivered at term.
That which limits the extent of anything; limit; extremity; bound; boundary.
Corruption is a reciprocal to generation, and they two are as nature's two terms, or boundaries.
The time for which anything lasts; any limited time; as, a term of five years; the term of life.
In universities, schools, etc., a definite continuous period during which instruction is regularly given to students; as, the school year is divided into three terms.
A point, line, or superficies, that limits; as, a line is the term of a superficies, and a superficies is the term of a solid.
A fixed period of time; a prescribed duration
The subject or the predicate of a proposition; one of the three component parts of a syllogism, each one of which is used twice.
The subject and predicate of a proposition are, after Aristotle, together called its terms or extremes.
A word or expression; specifically, one that has a precisely limited meaning in certain relations and uses, or is peculiar to a science, art, profession, or the like; as, a technical term.
In painting, the greatest beauties can not always be expressed for want of terms.
A member of a compound quantity; as, a or b in a + b; ab or cd in ab - cd.
Propositions or promises, as in contracts, which, when assented to or accepted by another, settle the contract and bind the parties; conditions.
In Scotland, the time fixed for the payment of rents.
A piece of carved work placed under each end of the taffrail.
I can not speak in term.
To apply a term to; to name; to call; to denominate.
Men term what is beyond the limits of the universe "imaginary space."
A word or expression used for some particular thing;
He learned many medical terms
A limited period of time;
A prison term
He left school before the end of term
(usually plural) a statement of what is required as part of an agreement;
The contract set out the conditions of the lease
The terms of the treaty were generous
Any distinct quantity contained in a polynomial;
The general term of an algebraic equation of the n-th degree
One of the substantive phrases in a logical proposition;
The major term of a syllogism must occur twice
The end of gestation or point at which birth is imminent;
A healthy baby born at full term
(architecture) a statue or a human bust or an animal carved out of the top of a square pillar; originally used as a boundary marker in ancient Rome
Name formally or designate with a term
A word or phrase used in a specific context.
“Quantum entanglement” is a term used in physics.
The limit or extremity of a period.
The term of the lease is nearly up.
Repeatedly Asked Queries
What is an academic term?
An academic term is a portion of the school year, like a quarter or trimester.
How long is a semester?
A semester typically lasts around 15 to 18 weeks.
How many semesters are in a year?
Usually two, called the fall and spring semesters.
Do terms have different names?
Yes, such as quarter, trimester, or semester.
Are semesters used worldwide?
Semesters are common, but not all countries use them.
Is the workload different in a term vs. a semester?
It can be, as semesters usually cover more material.
Does a semester system mean fewer transitions?
Yes, with longer periods, there are fewer starts and ends.
Are exams more frequent in terms?
They can be, due to shorter academic periods.
Can a term be a semester?
Yes, a semester is a specific type of term.
Are holidays the same for terms and semesters?
No, holidays and breaks are scheduled differently.
Do international students prefer terms or semesters?
It varies based on their home country’s system and adaptability.
Is summer a semester or a term?
It can be either, depending on the school's system.
Is financial aid affected by term vs. semester?
It can be, depending on the length and structure of the academic year.
Do all schools use the term system?
Not all; some may use semesters or other academic calendars.
Can terms vary in length?
Yes, terms can vary while semesters are more fixed in duration.
Can I transfer credits between terms and semesters?
Yes, but it depends on the institutions' policies.
Can a school switch from terms to semesters?
Yes, but it requires significant calendar restructuring.
Do terms provide more course variety?
They can, as they may allow for more frequent course rotation.
Are semester schedules more rigid?
Yes, they tend to be less flexible due to their length.
Is a semester always half a year?
Typically, yes, but it may slightly vary by institution.
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Written byShumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.