Which is the hardest subject in engineering

Which is the most difficult course?

The question of the most difficult subject is often a topic for heated discussions among students in the cafeteria or in the café. Undoubtedly, most of the answers to these questions have a very subjective character and therefore the question arises as to how they can be answered in a halfway comprehensible manner?

Dropout rates in studies as a parameter?

For example, one could do the Dropout rates which are published by the German Center for University and Science Research. There is even talk of a mass phenomenon of dropping out of university. However, the corresponding figures per se do not say anything about the most difficult subject.

Because here the drop-out rates fluctuate greatly, depending on the course and university. In mathematical and natural science courses, dropout rates of 39% at universities and 42% at universities of applied sciences are recorded (according to a current study by the DZHW). Almost half of all dropouts leave the university in the first two semesters, another 29 percent in the third or fourth semester.

The drop-out rates also fluctuate strongly across the courses, between approx. 10% (medicine) and up to 40% (mechanical engineering), although this range can hardly be explained by an objectively different degree of difficulty of a course.

In addition, the majority of lecturers in the faculties tend to take the view that a certain number of dropouts should be regarded as normal and cannot be completely avoided or that this is not at all desirable. In this regard, dropping out of studies is to be seen as an expression of the student's search for orientation in making technical and professional decisions.

Since the drop-out rates only provide limited information about the difficulty of a degree program, you will quickly end up with the personal requirements for a successful degree. It undoubtedly depends very much on personal inclinations, abilities and talents to what extent a course is perceived as difficult.

Particularly difficult subjects

However, these subjects, which are presented here in an overview, are generally considered to be particularly difficult:

  1. law
    Practically unchallenged, law is at the top of the unofficial charts of the most difficult courses. In particular, the consistent application of the expert opinion style and the high level of learning to internalize (dry memorization) of different legal conceptions and subject-specific terminology pose great challenges for many students. These usually grow when reports have to be written in the exam and the internalized terms and theories have to be applied to the respective case. A similar argument should be made for term papers and, of course, for theses as well. The failure rates in the exams are accordingly high to very high. In addition to the difficult content and the associated legal “way of thinking”, the examination conditions are also remarkable: for the two state exams alone, a total of 19 five-hour exams have to be mastered.
  2. medicine
    Medicine is also right at the forefront of the race. This is not unjustified, as the learning load during medical studies is enormous. Those who do not approach their studies in a disciplined manner from the start will almost inevitably fail because of the abundance of the subject matter. In addition, there is a wide range of learning fields. Examples include anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacy and physics. This wide range in itself represents a major hurdle for many, and time-consuming practical semesters are added as the course progresses. The young doctors spend the last year of their studies exclusively in the hospital and are thus integrated into everyday clinical practice and made familiar with it. At the latest in this phase, a fundamental decision can be made, namely whether or not you have actually found the right profession and calling. In order to pass as a "real" doctor, most graduates write a doctoral thesis after completing their medical degree, which in turn requires a lot of discipline and organizational talent in order to combine studies and medical professional practice, even though the medical dissertation is often less than 100 pages is considered a comparatively "narrow" doctoral thesis.
  3. mechanical engineering
    Another candidate for a title for the most difficult course is the engineering course, especially the study of mechanical engineering. In addition to the unfortunately still true cliché that hardly any women are enthusiastic about this course, the high diarrhea and dropout rates are evident. The difficulty here for many students is that in the first (very theoretical) semesters, sub-areas of mathematics, physics and other natural sciences are dealt with in detail, which regularly causes great difficulties even for good high school graduates in these subjects. Mathematics in particular seems to be the biggest obstacle here, as many students drop out because of the math courses. Although many universities are now relying on preparatory or intensive courses to reduce deficits, this has not yet led to resounding success, since fundamental gaps apparently arise during the acquisition of the higher education entrance qualification (grammar school). If you then add the high amount of learning in the context of the mechanical engineering degree, the individual time management and personal motivation can quickly come to their knees.
  4. pharmacy
    Pharmacy is considered to be at least as difficult as studying medicine. Even students of pharmacy who have successfully completed their preliminary training to become pharmaceutical technical assistants may encounter major difficulties in the subsequent course and fail because of them. The workload is considered to be very high, reaching the standard period of study is rather rare, the course has a large practical component and the students spend a lot of time in the laboratories. However, the drop-out rate in pharmacy studies, similar to medical studies, is rather on a low level.
  5. psychology
    Psychology also claims to be one of the most difficult courses. However, this could also be due to the fact that some psychology students approach the subject with wrong ideas. Psychology is not a humanities science, but an empirical science, so the statistical component is very high. Many students are therefore surprised when they have to grapple with basic mathematics in the first theoretical semesters, paired with very abstract theories, the acquisition of which requires an intensive study of literature. Many of these theories or their contributions to the specialist literature are written in English, which can add to the difficulty.

As mentioned at the beginning, with this (incomplete) list, the question of the most difficult course can hardly be answered, since it depends on the individual prerequisites to what extent these difficulties are actually perceived as serious. It can make sense to seek advice before choosing a degree, e.g. from the employment agency or the advice centers of the universities, in order to make a decision on an individually suitable degree. Conversations with friends who are already studying and can report on their experiences are also recommended.

In any case, good time management, well-thought-out work organization, a high level of self-motivation and a healthy dose of ambition are essential success factors for this, but also for all other courses. These factors should be all the more present if a degree is completed part-time (which is of course not possible in all subjects).

The thesis as a hurdle - how do I write a good scientific text?

If, during or at the end of your studies, you have to write a scientific paper (such as a Seminar paperBachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation) in the above-mentioned difficult subjects, experience has shown that the best time management and the highest level of self-motivation can reach their limits. Because then the existing specialist knowledge has to flow into a coherent text based on a convincing question, compared with existing theories, of course with relevant literature and usually also empirically proven. What can, in the worst case, endanger the entire course of study, does not always succeed.

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Author Norbert HertrichPosted on Categories GeneralTags Master thesis