Advice For Students on Four Common Classes

Written by SID VENKATARAMAN
Classes are still consuming most of our time, but we must start thinking about the ones that will be taking next semester. The goal of this article is to provide information on four specific classes that I've taken at The University of Texas at Austin. I chose these four classes in particular because a majority of Natural Science students will at some point have to take them. I included what my thoughts about the courses, as well as  steps that helped  myself do well. Please note that everyone is different. What may have been helpful for me may or may not work for all students. In addition, it is important to remember that some students may find certain topics inherently more difficult than others.
           
Math 408D
I took Math 408D my freshman year with Dr. David Rusin. Dr. Rusin was an extremely nice and approachable professor. Personally, this is one of the hardest classes I have taken at UT so far, but with some hard work it is definitely possible to do well.

The biggest piece of advice, do lots of practice problems. Many math courses require students to do online homework through Quest. Often, being able to do the Quest problems is indicative of being able to do well on the test, while in other classes being able to work the problems in the chapter of the required text is also good practice. In my experience, a combination of both was necessary for me to do well in Dr. Rusin’s class.

In addition, I would discuss weekly, with both my TA and professor about any questions I wasn't sure about. I think it was this that helped me the most.
Overall, math classes at UT can be tough, and it’s difficult to do well without a thorough understanding of the material. With that being said, I strongly recommend using your professor and TA, as well as the residential study hall tutors at Kinsolving Dining Hall and Jester to fill in any gaps in your understanding of the material.
Genetics 315H and 325H
I took both classes freshman year; Dr. Buskirk and Dr. Payne co-taught both semesters.
Overall, Dr. Buskirk and Dr. Payne were both fantastic professors, and I highly recommend them to all students. In this class, like many classes, paying attention in lecture was critical. By attending lectures and taking good notes, I was able to cut down my study time significantly and do much better on the tests. Although genetic classes ask some memorization questions, they tend to focus on critical thinking question. To answer these types of questions, it is important to have a thorough grasp of the information conceptually since test questions are application based. I would recommend reading the sections in the book over information that you may find confusing, and definitely attend office hours!
Organic Chemistry I
Organic chemistry is unlike any other chemistry class that I’ve taken. However, don’t be alarmed, it is not as difficult as everyone claims, and it is possible to do well.
I had Dr. Colapret for organic chemistry, and felt the book was one of my biggest assets for the class. Further, if time permits, I recommend looking at the practice problems that you may come across as you read the textbook., especially the problems that Dr. Colapret assigns. In addition, Dr. Colapret posts his slides online before lecture, therefore printing the slides in advance and taking notes on them was extremely helpful to keep up with the fast paced class.
After taking OChem, while memorization is a necessary part of the course, truly grasping the topics and being able to apply it to unfamiliar situations is what separates the A’s from the B’s.
Intro to Medical and Scientific Terminology
This course was taught by Dr. Todd Curtis, an awesome professor! His class was very entertaining and I enjoyed attending it, even though it was an early morning class! Intro to Med Terms is more like a language class than anything else. It requires memorizing different medical prefixes and suffixes, and diagnosing terms that initially sound to be made up. The course is taken by my students wanted to freshen up or prepare medical school..
The class, itself, was not difficult. If you spent time memorizing the words and constantly repeating it, the multiple tests should be a piece of cake. I really enjoyed it and I recommend it to any student.

To do well obviously go to lecture and take good notes, since about half of the test comes from the material only discussed in class. Also, start studying the words a few days in advance so that you will have them completely memorized for the tests.
General Guidelines for Doing Well
Above, I talked about four classes and what steps I took to do well. Keep in mind this may not work for everyone. Some people may find that they don’t need to study at all for a particular class, while others may find a certain class more challenging and time consuming. However, whatever you category you may fall into, the following steps can provide a general guide to doing well in any class.
            1) Go to class! There is no better advice!
            2) Take good notes. Print the slides before lecture, if needed, to minimize the amount of writing done during lecture
            3) Study well for every test. Keep in mind that many classes only have a few tests that make up the entire grade, and doing poorly on just one of them could result in an undesirable grade.
            4) Go to Office Hours: If you have a question, go to office hours. Many times the TA and professor will provide invaluable information, and they will almost always have the answer to your question. Also, it is a good chance to get to know a professor.
            5) Start studying early: It is important to start studying for the test early. At minimum, stay on top of the material and understand what is going on day by day.
            6) Work practice problems: The best way to prepare for an exam is to work practice problems. Many teachers will assign practice problems or give you practice problems to do in lecture; take advantage of them!
            7) Manage your time: This is definitely easier said than done. Time management is critical to being able to study thoroughly. In order to do this, it is important to stay on top of the material being discussed in lecture. If this is done, last minute studying will be minimized.
Again, I believe if you follow these steps, you can succeed. More information about professors can be found on myedu.com and ratemyprofessor.com. It's highly useful to read the comments about different professors in order to understand their teaching styles and what to expect in their class.
Hope this article was helpful and best of luck.

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