Firstly, not only is attendance to class compulsory (with a certain number of allowed absences) but you are also graded on it, as well as punctuality. I also have a lot more contact hours than my friends taking humanities-based subjects at Lancaster which can make you feel very busy and leaves less time for your independent work. Secondly, I get a lot of homework, sometimes for the following day, such as online work for my German language class or making notes on a reading that the professor will collect in class and mark. Homework contributes to your overall grade too. This makes university in America feel a lot more like school than university in the UK where you have a lot of independence in your learning. I think this can be a blessing or a curse depending on your learning style. There are also frequent smaller assessments rather than just big coursework pieces or heavily weighted exams. Last semester I was graded on quizzes, midterms, finals, papers, performances, oral exams and in-class participation. The positive side of this is that you can always make up for a poor grade on a later assignment because each one is worth a smaller percentage.
Despite the workload, I have personally found it easier to get good grades in America than the UK, least of all because the pass rate in the US is 60% compared to 40%. This means if you get a B in the US you get 80% which actually translates to an A back at home. Finally, by the time we go abroad we already know what our majors and minors are because we applied to uni for a specific course. The American students, however, take a wide assortment of classes and then “declare” their major later on. They also have to take “electives” in order to satisfy different requirements such as physical (e.g. Running) and aesthetic (e.g. African Art). This means there is the opportunity to study something new that interests you for some extra credits which you might not have been able to do at Lancaster.
Funny things American’s say:
Class vs Lecture/Seminar
Study vs Revise
Schedule vs Timetable
(They honestly had no idea what I meant when I used these last two!)