Hard classes

Revision as of 06:43, April 18, 2008 by 10amt (talk | contribs)

Because some people just like a challenge.

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Arth 101-102

Unless you really like memorization, this class is quite hellish. The lectures are great, but the memorization -- five facts for each slide -- is a lot of work. Also, since virtually no one has written an art history paper before (at least no one who is taking 101-102) you just write the papers like regular papers, and it turns out that art history papers are supposed to be totally different, and since there are only two papers in the semester, it's hard to improve much.

In contrast, for me the class is one of the most interesting at Williams (102 lecture was the highlight of my day, every day) and the quizzes really are not that hard. It only took me a couple hours of studying the images for the quizzes a night or two before the quiz, and I didn't miss any points on any of the quizzes. Also, I am not one of those people who can get A's in classes without studying, so don't think that. The exams do require a lot of preparation, though.

I disagree with the other posts. I would say this is one of the easiest classes that I've taken at Williams, and one of the most interesting. Good bang for your buck--is a pretty awsome class and doesn't require that much work.

I agree with the poster directly above me. The reading isn't that long and is much more interesting than your typical textbook chunks. The quizzes are a pain, but manageable--maybe 1 hr of studying per quiz. The papers aren't that bad either--sure, no one's ever written one before, but the conference profs realize that and it's fairly easy to get at least a B+. The final and midterm are brutal, though.

Estimated weekly workload: 5-10 hours

Biology 202: Genetics

If you're not a biology major, DO NOT TAKE THIS COURSE. More or less equivalent to 3 courses in one. This class combines a great deal of reading (about 2 hours worth per class) with two midterms and a final. Each only tests the material from the end of the previous midterm, however, although it would be humanly impossible to have them as cumulative anyway. There are also weekly labs with FULL WRITTEN LAB REPORTS FOR EACH and perhaps the strangest phenomenon for a biology lab course: PROBLEM SETS!

Estimated workload: Lab: 3.5 hours (plus some night and weekend time); Problem Set: 4 hours approx every other week; Lab Reports: 3 hours weekly not counting the 50+ page fly lab report which averages at least 20 hours of work. Estimated weekly workload would be about 8 hours at a conservative level.

I am a biology major, but I've talked to plenty of people who aren't and this class isn't as horrible as the above description makes it sound. The reading is mostly skimmable. The material, while voluminous and challenging, IS manageable if you take good lecture notes, use office hours, and study with some friends. The problem sets never struck me as strange--a lot of classical genetics is based on problems, so learning how to solve them makes sense. Plus, you get Quantitative credit for them, so maybe it's worth it. Finally, the fly lab doesn't have to be 50+ pages. Mine came in at just under 26 and no one I've talked to had above 30 pages. Really, the class isn't devilish or out to get you. It's challenging, but it was definitely one of my favorite classes here and I think the work is worth it.

I'd also heard from a Bio major that Genetics, when he took it, was the hardest Bio sequence class in the major. From what I heard compared to the class I took, Genetics has changed quite a bit. I found it a wildly interesting class, with problem sets that were far more reasonable than those in any I've taken. Work was generally given only when necesary, as opposed to those classes whose profs think its their god-given right to take up your free time. Both the problem sets and tests were moderately challenging, but also fulfilling and downright original. The Fly lab, whether 25 or 50 pages, will suck. Going to the help session before it was due, everybody, including Dr. D, looked like death. Overall, besides that needlessly painful lab assignment, this class explains an incredible amount about biology and the world we see around us. It was my favorite class this semester and perhaps of my time at Williams. As far as work load--I spent a couple of hours on each problem set and spent the night studying before each test. Readings are fully optional, and I did not use them. Lecture attendence is necesary, but classes fly by to an extent I've never yet seen at Williams. On M/W/F this was the one class I always went to.

Chem 155: Concepts of Modern Chemistry

At one point, I talked to Bingemann in office hours. Direct quote: "I would say organic chemistry is easier than 155." Nuff said.

This class is not hard at all if you take good notes. No where orgo's level!

Organic Chemistry

It seems hard for me to imagine this page to be complete without listing one of William's most painful classes. Organic Chemistry takes two semesters to complete, and is taken the spring of one year, followed by the fall of the next. So, even stucturally the class is difficult, but I'll get to that in a bit.

The first semester of Organic (Shortend to orgo here, and o-chem at most other schools) is basically learning the bare-bones basics of organic chemistry, analogous to learning the alphabet of a new language, and logically the second semester builds on the knowledge creating paragraphs and papers of this alphabet (to continue the analogy). Now notice how I made the jump from alphabet to papers over a summer; this is basically how it feels. And, of course, this is not to say at all that learning the basics of organic chemistry is easy. Quite the contrary, the basics are very memorization based, there is no way around it. This memorization becomes even more of a hinderance when you arive the fall of the next semester and realize that you have forgotten everything. Of course, there is hardly a day of review, it would be impossible though to review more, there is far too much material to get into the semester. Thus the first month of that second semester of orgo is really a blind, frantic scramble to remember what the previous semester entailed, while trying to to understand complex reaction mechanisms which apear to happen almost by magic.

However, if you can get though that, the rest of the semester should be only regular hard. Of course, this is all in addition to the lab section in which you are given three unknown samples (two of which are mixed together) which you are supposed to purify, analyze, and identify using the methods learned the semester before, and some new techniques as well.

Workload: Bi-monthly problem sets: three hours (usually done over two-four days)
Tests (four over the course of the semester): usually between 10-24 hours of studying
Regular reading: 1-2 hours (usually two-three reading assignments during the week)
Lab prep: 1 hour
Melt-temp: 30-90 minutes
Lab: 4 hours
Lab report*: 8 hours or so per report except the third, which is a short work sheet.
  • Or for the chem masochist, there is the extra lab-hard lab section (255). Be prepared for about two hellish consecutive all-nighters for both the (ungraded) rough draft and final 60+ page book that is your lab report. It will be the largest academic endeavor you have undertaken since learning to read. But not having to do pre and post labs is so deliciously tempting...

Chem 342: Synthetic Organic Chemistry

For those with enough testicular fortitude, this class is interesting but the workload is constant and makes intro orgo look rather pale by comparison. Getting through this class with a decent grade is a blessing bestowed upon few. With Smith its a whole new world of pain, he's a great prof and helps out a lot but with:

Weekly Problems sets averaging 6-8 hours as a minimum (more like 12-14);
Two "6 hour" take-home midterms that would frighten the bravest chemist;
Weekly labs that range from 4 to 8 hours of actual in lab time;
Running Spectral Instruments (outside of lab) 1 hour;
Spectral Analysis and lab prep that take about an hour;
Lab Reports that take approx 40-50 hours to write up;
Final Project on a complete synthesis of an extremely complex molecule, including:
  1. Oral Presentation: 30 hours of prep, power point and chem draw.
  2. Final Paper a 25-30 page beast of chem jibberish that will take weeks to research, days of prep (more chem draw and figures) and approx 40-50 hours of just straight writing....
NMRoD - A presentation you must give at the beginning of the lecture about a named reaction. You must do two during the semester. This is not applicable to all those who take the class with David P. Richardson

This class is no joke. But if you're willing to get your ass kicked for a semester the knowledge imparted upon you is vast and powerful...for you shall become an Organic Chem Lord...

The class is MUCH more difficult and MUCH more time consuming when taken with Professor Thomas E. Smith (who incidentally has the initials TES...which would mean something to you if you took this course).

History 135T

This class is possibly one of the hardest tutorials to get into. Why would so many people want to subject themselves to the insane workload it entails? Because Prof. Wood is the coolest person in the world. Thats why.

Approximately 200-300 pages of reading each week, and a 7 page paper every fortnight. Worst is the fear imparted in your brain when Prof. Wood gives you NO INDICATION OR GRADE whatsoever of your performance, leading you to expect anything from a C+ to an A- in your final grade. If you're cool with that, you will learn to argue very well. You have to be self motivated though, as if your analysis in tutorial is crappy, he won't be too upset. But even if you think you have the most amazing idea, or essay, or critique in the world, he will throw a metaphorical bucket of cold water on your face with a well-aimed question.

Loads of fun.

Greek 101-102

It's not the work itself that's hard, it's the sheer amount of it for a 101 language course. You have to learn enough grammar to read Xenophon and Euripides by spring (which is, by the way, totally worth it).

101 is kind of a nightmare, but it pretty much settles down for 102.

Math 324

Topology (with Professor Morgan) is hard. And the final exam is really hard, definitely nothing like what is in class. Since the textbook (Munkres -- pretty much the only topology textbook in existence) is created for a two-semester course, and this class covers it in one semester as a 300-level course, you have to skip a lot, so it's hard to know what to review in the textbook. Also, there are very few examples, and a lot of long proofs, and almost no illustrations. There are also no solutions for any of the problems in the book.

Estimated weekly workload: 10-20 hours (if you need less then 10 hours, you should go see a doctor. If it takes you more than 20 hours for three weeks in a row, consider dropping it.)

Math 401

a.k.a Functional Analysis With Applications to Mathematical Physics

Functional Analysis (FUN henceforth) is like Topology (MATH 324 –see above for description) on steroids. This is to say that if you have taken Topology, FUN is relatively manageable, since you build on the knowledge obtained. If you have not taken Topology before taking FUN, let’s just say that you are in for an interesting experience.

Of course, a question emerges: if Topology and FUN are so hard, why bother taking them? Well, I guess that one needs to have a certain masochistic streak in himself/herself to take these classes; that, and it really counts a lot for Math/Econ/Physics grad schools.

On the plus side, Functional Analysis has been known, in the Budapest math program, to be called Fun Anal. It is rumored that this abbreviation alone is reason enough to take the course.

Estimated weekly workload: 12+ hours

Any Physics Tutorial (402T, 405T, 411T)

Goodbye weekend, hello problem set. For the masochistic physics major in all of us. Other highlights include getting to make a fool of yourself in front of one of your favorite physics profs once a week!

Estimated weekly workload: 12-15 hours

Japanese 101-102

Many will enter, few will get through 102. Japanese 101-102 would easily be the biggest weeder on campus, except that the upper-level classes don't exactly get easier. For the first two years, the class is two classes' worth of scheduled meetings, and even thereafter it holds two classes' worth of homework time. Skills required include rote memorization, ability to quickly adapt to deeply bizarre material, the ability to not snicker at conversation videos, and the ability to assimilate grammar without ever having it explained. (Part of this class is called the "lecture" section. Despite this, there will never be a lecture.) On the plus side, if you can survive it, the Japanese language courses will teach you a lot, and every other department will seem easy in comparison.

Estimated weekly workload: 10-15 hours

Computer Networks 336T

Few will enter, fewer will survive. This course makes the microcoded CS237 look simple in comparison. The homeworks are okay--or at least you feel--until you get your marks back with circles and crosses on everything, and you will wonder "why was this, why was that wrong?" Of course, Professor Tom Murtagh always explains stuff when you go to him, but you won't get a clear explanation until you are marked wrong. Exams are hard. On a scale from 1-10, the midterm is 7, and the final is 10. There are things not ever discussed before, or those that hide in obscure places of the textbook. In short, exams are like 24-hour take-homes squeezed into 2 and a half hours. On the positive side, you get to learn a lot about Tom's methodology not only as a computer scientist, but as a scholar. He penetrates into the impenetrable depth of every reading he assigns and, being a skeptic himself, finds fault in there, just as he finds faults on your homeworks and exams. In other words, he treats you like a mature scientist, giving you the same weight as he will give to professionals. If you are confident with your physics and computer science, take it.

Estimated weekly workload: The author spends at least 12 hours each week, but he has seen someone spent less time and done better.

PS: Tom can shoot a fly with a rubber band.

Computer Science 237

Did I mention Microcode? If you haven't heard that dreaded word, be aware of this class. People who sign up for this class should know fully well what they are getting into. You might end up with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and wake up late at night, sweating, and yelling out in assembly code. It really is the testing ground of the major. Defines the sophomore computer science experience. (If you want to prove your prowess, take it freshman fall.)

Microcode really isn't that bad, as long as you work within the schedule Duane gives you and don't try to cram it all into the last few days.

Computer Science 337T

Thought microcode was easy? Got through it freshman fall? Then 337 is for you! The '37' ending indicates that it is the same "type" of work as found in 237. Not a joke of a class. Possibly one of the hardest electives in the CS major. Still, in what other class do you get to design a complete RISC processor schematic, ready to be painted in silicon, as your final project ?

Russian, in general

Savyelyev and Katya are the going of their first of dates. How must they be act? What they say? You must write the essay with the three hundred words, or else you be of the expelled. It must very hard class. How you think?

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