What's it like to study at a university in Sweden?

As a student at KI you will have freedom in planning how you will use your time, but you are also expected to be independent and take an active part in your learning. On this page you can find the basics of how university studies work and learn about methods of teaching, examination and the grading system.

Freedom with responsibility

Studying at a university can be compared to having a job. Full-time studies take about 40 hours per week. All of these hours are not included in your course schedule. Some of your time will be spent reading your course literature and completing assignments. Depending on your programme you will have more or less lecture time, seminars and other forms of scheduled teaching. No matter what programme you choose to study, you will have freedom in planning how you will use your time.

Critical thinking

The teaching at KI, and many other Swedish universities, promotes critical thinking. Students are expected to question what they learn, or to question beliefs that are often taken for granted. Debating with peers and lecturers is accepted and welcomed.

60 credits per year

KI uses the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). One ECTS credit equals one Higher Education Credit (hp). An academic year is 40 weeks long and divided into two semesters - autumn and spring. If you study at a full-time pace, you'll be taking 60 credits worth of classes per year. The number of credits for each course vary from 2 to 30 credits, and is determined based on the amount of work normally required to reach the course objectives.

All programmes are made up of courses

All higher education study programmes are comprised of a number of different courses. Some courses are only a few weeks long, while others can cover an entire academic year. Most of the time courses are taken one at a time throughout the semester.

Different types of teaching

How a course is taught and what components are a part of the syllabus can vary. Here are some of the ways classes are taught. Group work is common at KI. It encourages students to learn from others and solve complex issues as a team.

For more information on types of teaching check your Programme website.

During a lesson a teacher can present a topic, but students are also expected to be active. For example, you may be asked to answer questions or take part in a discussion.

In a lecture, a teacher talks about the subject in front of a group of students. You can ask questions, but the most important part of a lecture is listening and taking notes. Teachers often discuss important parts of the course that can't be found in the textbooks.

In a seminar, a teacher and a smaller group of students gather to discuss a specific subject. In seminars, students are more active than in lessons or lectures. It's important to prepare for the seminar in advance by reading course material and studying your notes. 

Self-studies are those times and weekdays when you have no scheduled classes at the University and the expectation is that you will study on your own or together with you classmates.

In group work you do an assignment with other classmates in a smaller group and present your results as a group. This presentation can either be given orally or in writing. Group work is a common type of study form at KI.

An assignment where one or more students are to conduct an experiment. Once the assignment is completed, the students present orally or in writing.

Examination and grading

Examinations are typically held directly after the completion of a course and before the next course begins. An exam can be retaken up to a maximum of six times, if needed.

Examination forms

An examination can take many different forms. The following is a list of some of the more common ones.

For more information on types of examination and grading check your Programme website.

A written exam with a time limit. The type of questions vary depending on the subject. They can be questions about pure facts, investigative tasks where you must reason through a question, or a problem that must be solved. 

A written test that is completed at home. The questions in a take-home exam often require you to reflect on a specific question. You can use other resources in support of your answer.

You meet with a teacher and discuss the subject being examined. The discussion usually lasts a few hours. The teacher asks questions that require facts as the answer, or asks that you reflect on a topic. An oral examination can be one-on-one or in a group.

A task that is to be completed individually or in a group.

You can be asked to write a PM (memorandum) about a topic where you discuss it at length. This type of assignment is also called an essay or paper.

You must have successfully completed one or more assignments in a laboratory. Laboratories almost always require the student to describe their work and results in a report. Laboratories can be completed in a group.

Students are divided into groups where each is required to complete an assignment together. Grades, however, are given individually. 

An academic paper can be required for an examination, but at a certain level it can also be required in order to complete a specific degree. Academic papers are generally rather large assignments that can take up to an entire semester to complete.

You are always assigned a supervisor (a teacher) to support you in your work on the academic paper. The supervisor helps with advice and feedback on your arguments and research methods. When an academic paper is completed, it must be defended. This is called public discussion or ventilering (in Swedish) of your academic paper. What this means is that, at a seminar, you answer questions about your paper and listen to feedback. Questions are asked by one or more fellow students (opponenter) that have been assigned to review your paper.

Grading system

Karolinska Institutet uses the following grading system:

  • Fail
  • Pass
  • Pass with Distinction

A selected number of programmes and courses, however, use the seven-point scale: A, B, C, D, E, Fx and F (where Fx and F are failing grades).

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