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I know, know, we all came to Williams to take four to six challenging and rewarding classes every semester. Then we found how much we liked working for the newspaper or playing a sport or singing a capella or doing plays. Anyway, sometimes you need an easy fourth course. Let's make a list of guts. Please comment only on the size of the workload, and not on the quality of teaching. If there's not universal consensus that a course was easy, it would be relevant to mention whether you've had previous coursework in the subject, or if you're just a genius. If you want opinions about the quality of particular professors, please visit Factrak. Not to be confused with Hard Classes.
- 1 Easy classes (if you can do math)
- 2 Easy classes (even if you can't do math)
Easy classes (if you can do math)
For some sections: there are daily homework assignments, but you can actually complete them during the class that it's due. You'll probably have time to finish the next day's assignment, too. There were no projects or papers; just a mid-term and final exam.
Estimated weekly workload: 0-2 hours Mandatory attendance? No
Not easy with Ralph Bradburd.
Kirby's section: If you are not good at math, this class will be hard. But if you have a sound grasp of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and occasionally division, and if you have a sort of understanding of how math works, this class is easy. You don't need to do any reading to do the course, which is good since the texts and reading assignments are really dense. Classes are small, so the professor will notice if you are not there.
Estimated weekly workload: 0-2 hours Mandatory attendence? yes, since it's a small class Extra credit? No
Not easy with Ari Solomon.
Taught by Garrity, this is an easy and entertaining class if you're already a math whiz who plans to do a PhD in math. Homework is optional, but TAs will grade it if you do it. There are weekly quizzes, but these involve only a couple of moderately difficult problems from the previous week's material. There are three exams, and about 10% of the class received a 100 on each of the first two exams. A significant portion of the class received under 70%, and a handful scored under 50%.
The third and final exam involves long and demanding proofs of complicated theorems, and is notoriously difficult. Beware if you are not confident with doing mathematical proofs. Many students who were good at math in high school found that the quizzes and exams were very difficult to score well on. If you've taken Calc AP BC, which presumably everyone in the class has done, there's very little material that is really new. One person got an A on about half an hour of work per week. Most people needed to put in at least two to three hours of solid work per week, and still found difficulties in the later part of the course, which introduces complicated theorems.
Math 106 requires a lot of hard work and should not really be on this page. If you're really good at calculus than I suppose it would be easy, but many people who considered themselves quite adept at calculus still found the exams very difficult and the homework very time-consuming -- far more than the half hour required for the exceptional student above.
However, even those who had a hard time with the class found Garrity's entertaining lectures to be worthwhile.
Easy (for me, at least, though I've heard that some others have disputed this) if you do the reading and show up for tests and labs. Missing an exam, has, in the past, resulted in almost automatic failure, though, even if you have good excuses and can make the exam up immediately, so be careful about that.
Sporadic problem sets that can be done at the last minute. Attendance is not necessary as the entire lecture (at least in one prof's section) is contained within a powerpoint presentation available through blackboard - print this out, don't take any notes. Readings from the course packet are assigned but not necessary. Exams are easy, especially if you've taken 110 before.
Estimated weekly workload: 0-2 hours Mandatory attendance? No
Note: This is just my personal experience, but econ 120 with Betty Daniel involves weekly problem sets, 2 papers, a presentation and debate on one of the papers, and two really hard tests and a final exam. Just to give you a good idea of how hard the tests are, the first one had a curve of over 20 points.
Math 175: Mathematical Politics: Voting, Power, and Conflict
Very light on actual math.
Easy classes (even if you can't do math)
Not only is Introduction to Linguistics easy, but it's probably one of the most fun and interesting classes you could ever take at Williams. It's taught by a knowledgeable professor who's willing to explain any and all details of a subject, and also willing to get into discussions of related (or even not very related) material. Most of the class is spent learning the International Phonetic Alphabet...go to lecture, sit back, relax, and listen to the funny noises as all the members of the class try to mimic Professor Sanders' pronunciations. This class is also great for picking up fun facts: where else can you learn to properly use phrases like "bilabial fricative," "spread glottis," or "plosive?" Ling 101 is a problem set class and requires a good memory, but if you have basic quantitative reasoning abilities, it's easy to handle.
Note: I never attended this class, but learned I.P.A. elsewhere, and it is not at all difficult to learn within the course of a few classes, tops, if you have a reasonably good ear for sounds. It is, also, a useful class for anyone who plans to go into singing, since terms like "plosive" come up fairly often there too.
Estimated weekly workload: 0-3 hours
It is not really that the material is easy, but this class is the only class I am aware of at Williams that has extra credit, in the form of participating in psych experiments that oftentimes are extremely interesting anyway. I got an A in the class and very rarely went to class on Friday mornings. The only section that you need to pay close attention in the lecture is Neuroscience, which many people have considered to be the most interesting set of lectures, anyway, and thus easy to pay attention to. Even if you don't do well on that test, you will surely ace the Cognitive Psych or Social Psych part and make up for it. This class is light on the reading, and since there so many people in it, you can find a study partner easily.
I would also add that there is very little in the lectures that cannot be found directly from the book. In fact, despite the fact that I attended almost every lecture, the notes I took down were basically just repeating what I'd read the night before.
Whatever you do, do not buy the textbook. It was revised three times while I was a student, and every time Kassin would claim "students must have the recent edition." Bullshit. If you don't believe, grab copies of your favorite two editions and check the text side by side. I'll be damned if I didn't find, my freshman year, that precisely the same text and figures were present in the 3rd and 4th editions, with a two page difference between editions. If you are lucky enough to take the class in a revision year, check out the free book table in the 1914 Library, even if you are not on financial aid. They'll be liquidating their "old" editions.
Estimated weekly workload: 0-3 hours Mandatory attendence? no Extra credit? Yes!
Note: A great number of people have failed this course. Do not be misled by this information. It is necessary either to attend class or to do the readings. You can get away with skipping one or the other, but if you skip both, you will suffer.
Also note: Ok, although I know someone who has failed this course, I feel strongly that this is a result of a complete lack of understanding about what an easy or "low-maintainence" class is and what it isn't. i.e. you still have to study for the exams, and the material is still on par with college-level academics.
(Seconded. This class is easy to fail if you decide not to do the reading or if you regularly skip class, but easy to pass if you simply do the reading and pay a reasonable amount of attention during lectures. Most lectures are also fairly interesting, and most reading material easily comprehensible, so this should not be at all difficult for anyone smart and motivated enough to be at Williams in the first place.)
Estimated weekly workload: 1-3 hours (problem sets)
Geos 104: Oceanography
Well-illustrated powerpoint lectures, an often fun and incredibly easy lab for two hours ever other week, pretty much no homework (though looking at your textbook doesn't actually hurt), and a field trip in the spring! This was one of the easiest and most entertaining classes I've taken here.
Estimated weekly workload: 0-3 hours Mandatory attendance? I don't remember, but it's actually worth going
This is a difficult course if you are not adept at writing coherent and well-organized papers, and if you are not confident with speaking up in class and engaging the reading.
Has, in the past, been fairly easy provided you find philosophical discussion interesting. There are typically two sections, of which I only have experience with Professor White's version. Involves significant and frequent reading, but only page-long response papers twice a week, only one of wich was graded, while the other was reviewed by a TA. Class participation is important; do not take this curse if you are shy about offering opinions. (It should be noted that it has been several years since I took this course, so it may have changed by now.)
Professor Cruz also teaches a section, where the only work is four six-page papers spread evenly throughout the semester, with the last one due during exams. These papers, however, are basically the only basis for your grade, but he doesn't grade so stringently that it's easy to fail. Participation in discussions is also important.
....vastly depends on the prof which you have. Cruz, Gerrard, White, Dudley, Mladenvoic and probably others, have all taught this course. Each prof injects their own special flavor into 102. This class is "easy" in being light on the workload, depending on the professor, but sometimes piecing together a coherent philosophical argument can be quite a bear, if it's not your thing. One might go so far as to say that this is an easy class for philosophy majors, but if you're a Div1 or Div3 major looking for an easy and mindless Div2 to fill your distribution requirement, this is not your best bet.
Taught by Prof. Murphy, the king of witty and dry sarcasm, this class is the simplest writing intensive course ever brought to Williams. "Writing intensive" really means, one page (double spaced!) response to the weekly reading. By "response" I mean, how did you feel? Did you like it? The biggest paper is a 3-5pager. Only thing is you can't miss more than 2 classes. But you can easily get by without reading a thing.
On the other hand, though English 115 isn't a "difficult" class it shouldn't be scoffed at. There's over 20 pages of graded writing (besides the responses) and Murphy isn't such an easy grader.