Our (fabulous!) quarter system

You might be wondering what all those references to “10th week” were about. UCLA, along with almost all of the other UCs, sports a quarter system. We have four quarters (duh), one of which is summer that students don’t need to attend. All quarters are ten weeks long with a finals week tacked on to the end. Finals week is great because it doesn’t have to last until Friday. When you pick your classes, you can see what time the final is scheduled. Some classes don’t even have finals (they’re called Exam Code 30). This way, students’ last days can be as early as Monday. Fall quarter also has an extra week in the beginning to acclimate all the students. It’s called “Zero Week” for two reasons. One, it is before week 1, and two, you don’t have to do anything. Our student government puts on concerts and presentations, movies and games, and really, Zero Week is just a lot of fun.

Because the quarters are only ten weeks long, life at UCLA moves pretty fast. Midterms arrive almost immediately and skipping a lecture can really put you behind. It isn’t anything to worry about though–you take fewer classes at the same time in the quarter system when compared to a semester system. With semesters, students usually take about five or six classes. That is a lot of information on several different subjects for sudents to keep in their minds and is only possible because of the slower pace of a semester. Because things move more slowly, classes can drag, and if you are unhappy with a class or professor, you have to endure for longer than just ten weeks. The quarter system is great because you only have to take three or four classes a quarter, which is manageable and fun because of the fast pace. And if you don’t like a class, it’s over soon!

UCLA has a unique quarter system in that we label each week. We call the weeks “Week 1, Week 2,” and so on, which is a pretty obvious labeling system, but it is special to UCLA. Students here stop thinking of days and months and instead think, “what will I be doing 7th week?” and “I have a midterm week 4.”

I am very happy with and proud of our quarter system. I encourage you to not be scared or intimidated by its reputation for moving fast; instead, remember how much fun it can be!


  1. Nice blog entry. I do, er, beg to differ about not attending classes during Week 0. It’s a crucial time for shopping classes!

  2. Thank you for commenting! I guess I should have been a little clearer. Zero week is a week filled with lots of things, like shopping for classes, buying books, and even attending lectures (towards the end), so saying you don’t have to do anything is not really correct.I said that mostly because I didn’t have to worry about any homework during zero week last year, and for me, homework is what signifies having to do something.
    Again, thanks for the comment.

  3. alleychan says:

    I just transferred to UCLA from the University of Colorado- Boulder, and I am really looking forward to the new quarter system! CU is on the regular semester system.

  4. Manny says:

    Great article, Charley. We did not have Week Zero during my time at UCLA. I remember some of my friends who were pre-med already studying in the library during the first week because they had a mid-term in two weeks. The only bad thing about the quarter system was that we have to deal with finals three times in a year (excluding summer) rather than two. The plus was that we had only 3 or 4 finals instead of 5. Back then we also had a campus-wide debate about quarter vs. semester system, with the overwhelming majority preferring the quarter system. I understand that the law school and maybe the med school are on the semester calender.

  5. Get ready for a super fun time! I am sure you will enjoy our quicker pace at UCLA (although I am unsure how much quicker).
    Thanks for the comment, Alley!

  6. Wow, I feel really lucky for having Zero Week, even if it is only for Fall. And the same thing is still happening with my pre-med friends. It is crazy; I’m happy to be undeclared and taking classes that wait a while until midterms.
    I agree with you that it is a little annoying to have three rounds of finals but only having to prepare for a few of them does make it a lot better.
    That is so cool that you guys had a debate about the quarter vs. semester system. I would really like to see the UCs debate about more things that vary campus to campus.
    And yes, the law school is on semesters, which means undergrads can’t use the law library during finals for the law students. Luckily, this doesn’t correspond to our own finals. I’m not sure about the med school, though.

    Thanks for your comment, Manny!

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