The academic system at KTH… A beginners guide!

Most of the international students coming to KTH come from an educational system different from that of Sweden. So when they look at the programme details, courses, electives, schedules etc, it gets quite confusing. This is a short introduction to the Swedish education system focusing on KTH, I hope this makes understanding this easier for everyone who is curious.

Study Periods

This is probably the most unique and in my opinion very efficient thing I’ve observed here. Instead of the mainstream way of dividing the academic year into two halves, the semesters. The academic year at KTH and other universities in Sweden are divided into 4 quarters, i.e.  The Study Periods. Generally, a study period is 9 weeks long, with the first 7 weeks consisting of classes, a week of break when most of the re-exams happen. This followed by the exam week (tentaweek in Swedish). Though it can be more than 9 weeks when the study period consists of holidays. P1 and P2 are the part of the autumn term/semester while P3 and P4 are the part of spring term/semester.
For the 2017 – 2018 session, this is going to be the academic year:

Classes / Labs Own Work Exam Period Reexams
Study Period 1 (P1) 2017-08-28 to
2017-10-16 to
2017-10-20 to
Study Period 2 (P2) 2017-10-30 to
2017-12-22 to
2018-01-08 to
2017-12-18 to
Study Period 3 (P3) 2018-01-16 to
2018-03-06 to
2018-03-10 to
Study Period 4 (P4) 2018-03-19 to
2018-05-22 to
2018-05-28 to
2018-06-05 to

Source: KTH | Academic year

There’s a 10-15 day break during Christmas and from the third week of June to the third week of August is the summer vacation. So, there’s a plenty of time to travel and relax, or perhaps to do summer jobs or internships.

How much do you have to study in every study period!

One year of full-time studies is 60 ECTS credits, which translates to 15 credits per study period. A majority of courses at KTH are worth 7.5 credits, hence most of the students are studying 2 courses in every study period. However, it’s not fixed; some courses might be spanning across two study periods, while some might be worth fewer credits. It’s always good to check the course web page. I’ve seen some people studying up to 3 or four courses in one study period because the courses they want to study is offered in that study period, it gets very hectic though and a lot of classes clash with each other.

Some terminology: Programme, track, course

I get a lot of questions and it’s quite evident that a lot of people are confused with the word course. So I’ll try to make it clear.

  • Your programme is the Master’s programme you’re enrolled to, a “major” in some terminologies. For example, I’m enrolled in Master’s programme in Embedded Systems.
  • Your track is the specialization in the master’s programme. Not all the Master’s programmes are divided into tracks, but the only thing different amongst the tracks are the mandatory courses you study. For example, my track is Embedded Electronics.
  • The courses are the individual subjects you study throughout the year, there can be project based courses too. Courses are the way to earn credits for your degree.
  • Schools and departments: There are 10 different schools at KTH which collectively offer around 60 master’s programmes. Your programme might be falling under multiple schools if the mandatory or recommended courses are from two different schools. Departments and research groups are more concerned with Ph.D. candidates, Master’s students need not worry about them.

Teaching, classes, courses, and exams.

I did my bachelor’s from a place where you needed to attend 75%+ classes to be able to appear in the exams. There is no such thing here unless mentioned otherwise (some courses have credits allotted to attendance). However, it’s not a good thing to miss the classes. Most of the courses are divided into three parts: Lectures (Föreläsning), Lab Sessions (Laboration), and exercises (Övning). All the lectures are uploaded to the course web page. In some cases, professors send the lectures on your emails in advance. It’s always good to go through the lecture slides before attending the lecture to make most out of it, especially before the exercises, else you’d be sitting there. Don’t expect to be taught like school kids, in the end, it’s self-studying that will make you learn, everything else is just learning enablers.

Courses can be of various types, mostly it’s either coursework-lab-exercise-exam based course or coursework-assignment-project based courses. Also, here the professors have freedom of choosing how to evaluate you, so don’t expect the same exam in every course you take, some might be project based, some might be giving you the final grade based on both assignment and exams, while some chose to grade you based on exams and projects. Then exams are also not all same, there can be open book exams, home exams, or regular exams. Usually, exams are 4 hours long.


More things about studying at KTH

  • You can take the exam of any course as many times as you want, provided the professor agrees. If you don’t get a better grade in the re-exam, you can keep the previous grade.
  • Academic Quarter: This is an interesting thing, all the lectures start 15 minutes after their scheduled time.
  • You can take courses offered by other schools as well.

Registrations, registrations, and registrations

You might need to keep an eye on registrations to avoid catastrophes. Every semester, you choose the courses you are planning to study during the next two study periods, this is not done on KTH web page, rather it’s done on the universityadmissions portal, the same portal that you used for applying for you Master’s programme, this is so because students from other universities are also free to apply for any of the courses (this is not applicable for fee-paying students).

Other registrations to be done on KTH website:

  • You need to register twice a year for semesters on KTH webpage.
  • You need to register individually for the courses you want to study, you can also deregister from a course within 3 weeks of the start if you don’t like it. Yes, you have the freedom to try a course and drop it within three weeks if you feel it was a wrong choice, you can also register to another course within 3 weeks of its start, provided that the professor agrees to let you in.
  • And the most important thing, you need to register yourself for exams and re-exams, if you don’t do that, it’s all in vain.

Typically your study councilors, professors, and even the notifications on KTH webpage will remind you of the registrations, but it is good to be aware of the deadlines.

Understanding a course page

I’ve gotten a lot of questions like “I’ve been accepted to a particular program, can you tell me where my lectures would be so that I can decide where to get an apartment?”. Different courses are given by different schools, so you need to check it on the course webpage.

The course web page answers a lot of common questions and also raises many doubts, so I’ve explained some basic things below with an example:

One last thing about the schedule, you can subscribe to different courses and then there is an iCal link to your schedule which you can link to your phone calendar or laptop calendar and then all the classes and labs schedules are super easy to access.

Still got questions? Send me an email or drop a comment.