The Question: Is There Homework in College?

Frustrated_Child_Homework_HAre you curious about Brown and what it will be like when you get there? Do you want to know more about what the Brown experience is all about? The Question has the answer to all of your inquisitions and uncertainties. Brought to you by first year student, Snap Chat enthusiast, and Long Island native Sam Savello, this blog section will fill you in on everything you should expect when coming to Brown. 

What are college classes like?

Everyone wonders about what things will be like in college. What will the students be like? Will I like my professors? How are the parties? What is there to do on the weekends? The list of questions that pop up in your head before heading off to Brown is endless. However, some of the most pressing questions that new students seem to have are about the classes…. What are Brown’s classes like?! What is the class structure? Do you get homework? How many students are in a class?

It’s impossible to give a general answer to all those questions. Obviously, it varies depending on the class. There are classes that are super hard and there are classes that are super easy. There are classes that meet once a week and there are classes that meet four times a week. There are classes with tons of homework and there are classes with no homework. There are classes with five students and there are classes with 500 students. The possibilities are endless.

So that didn’t answer your question did it? Of course not. It probably made you even more confused. So let’s break it down into different categories in order to get a feel for what some of your classes might be like.Difficulty:

In terms of difficulty, it’s kind of impossible tell how hard a class is just by looking at the title. Even after going to a few classes and reading the syllabus, it’s not always easy to figure out how hard it is. That’s where Critical Review comes into play. With everything from difficulty ratings, professor reviews, and estimated workloads, the Brown Critical Review site uses surveys from students in previous years to provide you with an accurate idea of what the class will be like. Critical Review will quickly become your best friend in terms of determining the difficulty levels of your potential classes.

Class structure:

It’s pretty hard to tell you what the class structure of every single class will be like, but I can give you a quick overview. Most classes meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 50 minutes each or on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 80 minutes each. Some classes meet once a week for 2 or 3 hours and for intensive language classes, you might meet everyday for 50 minutes each. Some classes require additional 50 minute sections, where you work on problems or review material with TAs. These are sometimes (but not always) optional. Many science classes also require a lab in addition to lecture. Labs often require that you attend a 50 minute “prelab” before each lab. The lab itself can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the TA, class, and type of assignment.

In terms of structure, lecture classes and introductory classes often involve taking notes from the board or a PowerPoint, and smaller, more specific classes may be more hands on in terms of the teaching style. Math and science classes tend to be heavilly lecture based, whereas humanities classes, especially English and foreign language classes, tend to have more discussion and student involvement.


While I can’t predict what you will have to do for each class, I can give you some insight as to what some typical assignments are. As a science person, I can tell you first hand problem sets are a very prevalent type of coursework. Most math and science classes require problem sets, which are a set of questions that you complete and hand in for a grade. They can be long and tedious or short and simple, depending on the class. Other assignments include readings, especially for humanities classes, as well as worksheets and research assignments.

A lot of classes also require essays, presentations and projects. A lot of engineering and foreign language classes require group projects and presentations, which can be fun because you get to work with your friends. Essays, depending on the class, can be anywhere from two to twenty pages long–give or take. So before you sign up for something, check out the syllabus to see if you’re comfortable with the required essay lengths. For classes with labs, there is often a heavy workload. In addition to the readings and problem sets you are assigned during the lecture, you are also responsible for lab reports, pre-laboratory assignments, and in class quizzes for your lab.


If you’re taking a class for a grade, you’re going to get an A, B, C, or no credit. If you’re taking it pass/fail, you’re either going to get an S for Satisfactory or NC for no credit. You can often check out the syllabus to see the grade breakdown before taking the class. Most classes require two to three midterms or unit tests, which account for a certain percentage of your grade. Sometimes the professors are nice and drop the lowest score, but not always. Other components of your grade can include papers, projects, and problem sets. Your lab section counts as part of your grade for science classes. Finals usually account for 20-40% of your grade.

Grading is hard to predict and depends heavily upon your specific professor. Some professors have pre-determined cut offs for each letter grade, whereas others vow to curve the grades at the end of the course or after each test. Some will drop certain grades and others will use your final grade as your grade in the class. If it’s unclear, speak to the professor beforehand to determine how they will be grading the course.

As I said, it’s not possible to predict the specific format of each class at Brown, but this was a quick overview that hopefully helped prepare you for what to expect. This may have seemed like a lot of information thrown at you at once, but don’t worry. You’ll be fine! And you have plenty of time to figure things out.

Do you have any other questions about what to expect at Brown? Email me at for more information and answer to your question.


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