Blog of the Peer Advising Leadership Program, College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

February 19, 2008 9:21 PM

Dealing with Challenging Classes

There are many difficult classes at Berkeley that we all have to struggle through. It is almost a right of passage for the science majors to take Organic Chemistry and Bio 1A, but it wasn't until I took my Environmental Modeling requirement, Energy and Resources 102, that I really met a challenge. Some people went through this class very easily, but I had never taken a subject where I had to draw on all of my knowledge gained from the big Chemistry and Calculus classes. I had to answer questions such as: “What would the pH of rain be in the absence of anthropogenic sources of sulfuric and nitric acids?” and “If the burning of fossil fuels were to cause the CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere to become twice what it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution, how would Earth’s surface temperature be affected?” The problem sets became my third job as I began to spend and average of ten or more hours a week on them. So how did I deal with this difficult material? Here are some tips!

1. Go to lecture. This is very basic, but it insures that you don't miss vital material that may not be present in the textbook. For ER 102, it was essential that I attended every lecture less I be left in the dust on problem sets.

2. Go to section. Section is very useful for going into further detail on interesting material, highlighting essential points from the reading and lecture, and answering any questions you may have. ER 102 GSIs spent a lot of section time going over complicated concepts and helping us with difficult problems in the week’s problem set.

3. Go to office hours. This allows you to answer more specific questions and get some individual help. Going to office hours was a life saver for ER 102 problems, although it was often so full that people were pilled outside the room. Try going earlier in the week to clear up questions so you don’t have to peer over anyone’s shoulders to try to see the board.

4. Do the problem sets. It is easy to give up after a few tries, but really putting an effort into work assigned for class will help you better understand future material and give you needed practice for exam questions. If you simply cannot complete a problem, make sure you understand how to do it correctly before the exam.

5. Do the readings. This is again a very basic step, but all of the material covered in exams or problems sets is not always covered in lecture. Essential material may be in the textbook, and many problems became much easier after doing the assigned reading.

6. Review the material. Make sure to review material covered in lecture and clear up any questions well before your exam. This is often when office hours are the most crowded and you and the professor will have a better understanding of the context of the question if you clear them up sooner rather than later.

I hope these tips help as midterms approach and good luck with all of your exams!!

Liz Dow | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (0)

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