I'm writing a personal statement in which I describe a course I have learned in my college.

Should I use "the course IS really difficult" or "the course WAS really difficult" ?

Since I still think that course is difficult for me, I don't know which tense to use.

  • 1
    I suggest you should not mention a course you had difficulties with, unless you overcame those difficulties – mplungjan Mar 9 '13 at 17:40

When you write about something that is no longer going on, then you generally write using the past tense and say something like, "In my sophomore year in university, I studied quantum mechanics. The course was very difficult, so I needed a tutor, but I finally understood the basic principles and scored 95% on the final examination".

You cannot say that you learned a course in my college: it's not native-speaker English, not idiomatic, and not semantically accurate. You may learn a language, but you study subjects like math, economics, physics, history.

Be careful about what you say and how you say it. You should probably ask a knowledgeable and commonsensical friend to edit your personal statement.

  • 1
    +1 And in US English, at least, a course is an 'episode', typically a single semester or quarter studying a subject, not a 'course of study' lasting several semesters and comprising several courses. – StoneyB Mar 9 '13 at 17:41
  • Yes, look at the tense of all of the verbs around that one and they, generally speaking, should be in the same tense. – Tear--Here Sep 7 '13 at 6:40

Since you are describing your feelings toward a course which you had taken in the past, I believe you should use the past tense. You opinion carries a context which includes the professor who taught the course, the structure of the course, and your comprehension of the material. All of these variables are dependent on time.

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