The question of the most difficult field of study among students is sometimes a topic for a heated discussion in the refectory or in the café. Undoubtedly, most of the answers have a very subjective character and therefore the question arises, how it can be answered reasonably comprehensible?
Dropout rates in the study as a parameter?
For example, one could use the drop-out rates published by the German Center for Higher Education and Science Research. There is even talk of a mass phenomenon abort. However, corresponding figures per se do not say anything about the most difficult field of study.
Because here the dropout rates vary greatly, depending on the degree program and university. In mathematics and natural science study courses are dropout rates of 39% at universities and 42% at universities of applied sciences recorded (according to current study of the DZHW). Nearly half of all dropouts leave the university in the first two semesters, another 29 percent in the third or fourth semester.
Across the study programs, the dropout rates also fluctuate sharply, between about 10% (medicine) and up to 40% (mechanical engineering), although this range can hardly be explained with an objectively different degree of difficulty of a study program.
In addition, the majority of faculty teachers tend to argue that a certain amount of dropouts is normal and can not be completely avoided or even desirable. In this regard, dropping out is seen as an expression of students’ orientation towards professional and professional decision-making.
Since the drop-out rates give only limited information about the difficulty of a study program, you will quickly end up with the personal requirements for a successful study. Undoubtedly, it depends very much on the personal inclinations, abilities and talents, to what extent a program is perceived as difficult.
Particularly difficult subjects
However, these subjects, which are presented here in an overview, are considered to be particularly difficult.
Practically undisputed are the jurisprudence (law) at the top of the unofficial charts of the most difficult courses. In particular, the consistent application of the expertise style and the high learning effort to internalize (dry memorization) of different legal concepts and subject-specific terminology present many students with major challenges. These usually grow when expert opinions have to be written in the exam and the internalized concepts and theories have to be applied to the particular case. In a similar way is to be argued in the chores and of course in the final theses. The failure rates in the exams are correspondingly high to very high. In addition to the difficult content and the associated legal “way of thinking” but also the exam conditions are remarkable: Alone for the two state exams are a total of 19 five-hour exams to cope.
Right at the front of the race is the medical degree program. This is not illegal, as the learning time during medical studies is enormous. If you do not start your studies disciplined from the beginning, you will almost inevitably fail because of the wealth of subject matter. In addition, the learning fields have a high span. Examples include anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacy or physics. For many, this wide range already represents a major hurdle, and as the study progresses, time-intensive practical semesters are added. Thus, the young physicians spend the last academic year exclusively in the hospital and are thus integrated into the clinical routine and familiarized with them. At this stage at the latest, a fundamental decision can be made, namely whether or not the right profession and vocation have actually been found. To pass through as a “true” physician or doctor, most graduates write a doctoral thesis after their medical degree, which in turn requires a lot of discipline and organizational skills to combine study and medical practice, although the medical dissertation often with less than 100 pages is considered a comparatively “narrow” doctoral thesis.
Another title aspirant for the most difficult degree program are the engineering courses, especially the study of mechanical engineering. In addition to the unfortunately still true stereotype that hardly any women are enthusiastic about this course, the high diarrhea and dropout rates are obvious. The difficulty for many students lies in the fact that in the first (very theoretical) semesters subdivisions of mathematics, physics and other natural sciences are treated in detail, which often causes great difficulties for good graduates in these subjects. Especially mathematics seems to be the biggest obstacle here, because many students drop out of studies because of the mathematics courses. Although many universities now rely on preparatory or intensive courses to reduce deficits, but this has not yet led to resounding success, since apparently already during the acquisition of the university entrance qualification (Gymnasium) create fundamental gaps. Add to that the high learning load within the scope of the mechanical engineering studies, the individual time management and the personal motivation can quickly come to its knees.
At least as difficult as studying medicine is studying pharmacy. Even students of pharmacy, who have successfully completed the advanced training as a pharmaceutical-technical assistant, encounter some difficulties in the subsequent studies and fail them. The workload is considered very high, the attainment of the standard period of study is rather rare, the course has a large practical part and the students spend a lot of time in the laboratories. However, the drop-out rate in pharmacy studies is similar to that in medical studies rather low.
Psychology also claims to be one of the most difficult courses of study. However, this could also be because some psychology students approach the subject with misconceptions. Psychology is not a spiritual science, but an empirical science, accordingly, the statistical subject share is very high. Many students are surprised when they have to deal with basic mathematics in the first theoretical semesters, coupled with very abstract theories, the acquisition of which requires an intensive study of literature. Many of these theories or their contributions in the literature are written in English, which can contribute to the aggravation.
As mentioned in the beginning, this (incomplete) list makes it difficult to answer the question of the most difficult course, since it depends on the individual requirements to what extent these difficulties are actually perceived as serious. It may be useful to seek advice before choosing to study, e.g. from the Employment Agency or the counseling centers of the universities to make a decision for an individually suitable study. Also, discussions with friends who are already studying and can report on their experiences, are recommended.
In any case, good time management, a well thought-out work organization, a high self-motivation as well as a healthy dose of ambition are a key success factor for these as well as for all other degree programs. These factors should be all the more present when a study is completed extra-occupational (which of course is not possible in all subjects).
The final thesis as a hurdle – how do I write a good scientific text?
If it is during or even at the end of the study to the writing of a scientific work (such as a seminar paper, bachelor thesis, master’s thesis or dissertation) in the aforementioned major subjects, experience shows that the best time management and the highest self-motivation reach their limits. Because then the existing expertise must be incorporated into a coherent text based on a convincing question, compared with existing theories, of course with relevant literature and usually also empirically proven. It is not always possible to do something that can endanger the entire course of studies at worst.
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