Studying in the U.S. is Easier…or Maybe Just Different

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Thursday, June 9th, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Screengrab from

Screengrab from

On Tuesday we shared Ebrahim’s story of coming to the U.S. to complete his civil engineering degree.  In the interview, he talked about how he found it easier to complete his degree in America than back home in his native Kuwait.  The comment has sparked a debate over on, an online community for Malaysia.

Commenter Maru&box argued that Ebrahim found his education easier in the U.S. because he chose to go to an easier school.  According to Maru&box, employers back in Kuwait wouldn’t recognize the name of the school, and therefore wouldn’t know whether it came from a prestigious school or not.

(You can make your own decision about the quality of West Virginia University, where Ebrahim said he received his degree.  U.S. News and World Reports ranks WVU #176 on its annual list of best American universities.)

You might remember from our “Don’t Study in the U.S.” series on the pros and cons of studying in the U.S., we discussed the way employers might perceive degrees from American schools compared to local schools.  Korean student Jihye ranked it like this:

Ivy League or other universities that Korean knows really well > Few Korean universities which have good name value > other [foreign] universities (since you can prove that you are fluent in English) > other Korean universities

But other students argued that it is generally easier to get a degree in the U.S. because of the difference in the style of education.  It’s not that American schools provide a worse education, they said, but that they determine who passes and who fails on different criteria.

Commenter Akidos said he studied in Malaysia and the U.S. and found it more difficult to pass classes in Malaysia because of the emphasis placed by lecturers on retention of classroom material.  He said lecturers aim to make sure students are paying attention during class.  By contrast, he said:

Foreign Unis on the other hand, will ensure the teaching is meant for students to understand what they are teaching about.

Commenter Double7 agreed that it is easier to pass a U.S. course because of the difference in how a student’s performance is assessed:

I’ve taken my diploma in Malaysia before continuing with my degree in the US. I would say studying in US is a lot less stressful compared to Malaysia. They emphasize on class participation and projects rather than the finals. You have finals that are only 20% to 30% of your total grade compared to Malaysia which is 60%. Also it wouldn’t hurt either that some courses in my university allows notes or “cheat sheets” for the final exams.

What do you think?  Do you agree with Maru&box or Double7?

5 responses to “Studying in the U.S. is Easier…or Maybe Just Different”

  1. UmerSultan says:

    I wouldn’t say that studying in U.S. is easier but I will say that the education in U.S. and how it tests the abilities of students is at whole another level.

    I studied my High School in Karachi, Pakistan and I have to say I was doing bad in just about all science and math classes. But in U.S. High School I was able to understand Math and I got very good grades in Calculus. That is my litmus test.

    In Pakistan you memorize material in all classes, whether you understand it or not. In examination, the more papers you fill out the better grade you may get.

    In U.S. if you don’t understand, even with open books and Cheat Notes, you will most probably fail the test.

    We can rate the U.S. education this way. Look at the how U.S. education system is producing one of the best minds of the world compared to Kuwait’s or Pakistan’s or other countries. I think it speaks for itself, although many people can’t digest such talk.

    • Jessica Stahl says:

      Thanks. Good food for thought in your comment, and nice to hear from you again!

    • leeagain says:

      I totally agree with you! I am currently taking a US course now and I find it quite challenging. It requires us to understand and not just memorizing the context of the syllabus! It definitely helps us to becoming an outstanding individual in the future!

  2. Vangelis says:

    THANK GOD!!!!!!It is very pleasant to hear that your final grade in the US is only 30% or less determined by how you do your final exams!!!I In Greece where I study civil engineering the final exams play a major role since they account for (in general) a 90% of your grade.The way US universities rate their students is the ideal in my opinion since one who does all their homework,assignments,participates actively in the classroom and generally has a genuine interest for the course will finally be rewarded with a good grade and will participate in the final exams without that much anxiety of doing well,since they will have already earned an excellent grade!!!!I totally agree with Double7.

  3. khalid says:

    Right I exactly agree with your sense of example and that’s what the most of the Asian should have to understand even concluding professors and colleges and most importantly we have to think about how to decrease the pressures from student’s head.

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