Is this a normal quantity of work for a class?

For every class I have, be it calculus, history, language, we go at a steady, predictable rate of 1 chapter or unit a week.

For my biology course, we are covering, on average, 3 chapters a week. This material, I might add, is dense. The chapters are 20+ pages and filled with complex cellular processes (as you would expect). It is far more difficult to retain, absorb, and understand than any of the above.

I will add, in order to make my motivations clear, that I’m in my final quarter of my freshman year, and I have a 4.0, so no, this is not the complaining of a disgruntled failing student. I am worried, however, that I am actually learning less in this class relative to my other classes due to the breadth of material.

What I am wondering is: is this normal? From my own experience with other classes, it is not. Perhaps those classes are the anomalies. I am asking for your experience so that I can measure it with my own. I asked my dad, who has a degree in business, and he said it was absolutely not normal.

There is a core curriculum that is agreed across colleges and the grad schools (not just med schools) to ensure that every 1st year Med / physics PhD / chemistry Masters / etc. student who has taken the relevant classes has covered a specific range of topics to a given level.

So, while there are a lot of variables at play here, the simplest answer could just be that this is a ‘weed out’ class (there is often one in Bio, Chem and Physics). These classes start with the level of work that will be necessary to succeed on the pre-med (and other STEM grad programs) track. The result is that those who probably won’t go the distance work that out early in their college career, while there is still time to make other choices, and the department can focus on the ones who are determined to see it through (compare the number of students in Bio 101 and Bio 201).

Also, first year classes often have more variability in them, esp those designed to help students navigate the transition to college and to get students from a range of backgrounds up to a similar standard before getting stuck into the more demanding work. So, it’s also possible that your other classes are just comparatively easy.

And of course, it is also possible that you have an outlier prof - easiest way to check that is to ask a 2nd or 3rd year student.

And then fwiw, it’s also possible that your Dad’s business major was (like many back in the day and some would say even now) was not the most, um, demanding course.


Nominal workload is 3 hours per week per credit hour, including in-class and out-of-class time.

So a 15-16 credit course load (that will result in enough credits in 8 semesters to meet the graduation number of credits) will nominally take 45-48 hours of school work per week.

You should have received a syllabus for the class during the first week. Look at the syllabus and see what topics are covered and how much time is devoted to them. Biology has great deal of dense subject matter and typically a intro level class for majors is expected to cover a large number of topics in a semester.

IIRC, younger D said her intro bio class for majors required tons of reading and typically covered more than one chapter/week either in whole or in part. She also said her second semester intro bio teacher incorporated a significant amount of biochemistry in the class.

If you want to get some idea of what topics that are typically covered in an intro level bio class for majors, you can look at the topics tested in the biology section of the MCAT.

Be sure to click through all 3 of the foundational concepts for the section.

Each topic is marked as BIO (intro biology) BC (biochemistry) or OC (organic chemistry)