Introduction to UBC classes

Course formats

Most UBC undergraduate courses continue to amount to three hours of class time per week. Courses are offered in various formats.


Most courses are offered as lectures. Lectures are 50 – 80 minutes each and may consist of 30 to 200 students. When you are unsure of classroom etiquette, you can always ask your instructor through email or during office hours.


Typically held weekly, tutorials are common for lecture courses, providing an opportunity for smaller group discussions or learning. All students are expected to participate in tutorials. In some cases, grades are given for attendance and active participation.


Many science, math, and engineering courses have laboratory (lab) work, which involves practical projects done in small groups under the direction of a Teaching Assistant (TA). You must pass the lab in order to pass the course.


Seminar courses offer smaller classes that are less formal than lectures. They encourage discussions and sometimes involve presentation work. Students are graded on presentations and participation.

Student evaluation

On the first day of class, your instructor will present a course outline or syllabus that you will follow throughout the term. It will provide important details on class readings, exams, assignments, and their due dates.

At university, you are expected to take charge of your own learning and success, so be sure to contact your professor for the syllabus if you missed the first lecture. You will also be responsible for any course material you may miss during the term.

There are three main methods of student evaluation at UBC.

Class participation

In many courses, you will be expected to discuss your opinions, ideas, and perspectives related to the coursework, readings, and assignments. You may even be graded on your participation.

The goal of class participation aligns with the broad academic skills of critical thinking, connecting and creating ideas, and defending perspectives or arguments. Memorizing lecture notes and course materials is important but often not sufficient for the best results.


Instructors may assign term papers, essays, problem sets, or other assignments like group projects, oral presentations, or lab projects.


Most courses have two major exams: midterms and final exams. Your courses may have one midterm halfway through the term or several midterms throughout one term. Final exams occur at the end of each term during exam periods in December and April.

Exams will test your knowledge using varying formats, such as short/long answers, essay questions, true or false, and multiple choice.

Final exams

You need to be available for exams during the entire exam period. Exam schedules are posted to Workday or the Exam Schedule in mid-October (Term 1) and mid-February (Term 2). Do not make arrangements for end-of-term travel until you see your exam schedule.