Hardest Class at U-M?

Submitted by gomaize11 on February 8th, 2010 at 5:14 PM

As I sit at my desk cramming and dreading the hours to my quantum mechanics mid-term, this question crossed my mind. Obviously this class is small potatoes compared to others at the university, so to make me feel better what are some hard courses you've survived at the U (or other colleges)?



February 8th, 2010 at 5:54 PM ^

You've got to be freaking kidding, or you're out of touch with the rest of the world. I would have no more considered taking a quantum mechanics class than advanced techniques in brain surgery. I took first semester calculus at UM, got a solid D on the first exam, and bailed out before it was too late. The TA sucked, but that wasn't the ultimate reason—I had no goddamn clue what the hell was going on. I was only marginally more successful at first semester inorganic Chemistry and first semester Physics, scoring a skin-of-my-ass C in both classes. Structures and Environmental Technology in Architecture School were similarly tough on me. Thank god all the history, english, art, poli sci, econ, language, and art/design classes were a piece of cake, otherwise I'm not sure I would have made it all the way through. I might be stacking cheese at Krogers instead.


February 8th, 2010 at 5:59 PM ^

Diff EQ (Calc4, or Math 216) was a horrible experience for me. We had a "guest" lecturer from Greece or some shit and was horrible. My breakout TA teacher was brand new from China and could hardly speak english. I spent many many hours in help sessions at that building near Blimpy Burger, about a two day walk from MoJo. I managed to steal a B-.

I crushed Calc 1, 2, 3 and GOT crushed in 216. Horrible experience.....

steve sharik

February 8th, 2010 at 6:16 PM ^

...that really make me believe that UM should offer a refund on tuition in some cases.

I once had a class on "Persuasive Communication" taught by a Korean who had been in the states for two weeks and knew little English. Um...how exactly was she going to persuade us on how to communicate persuasively?

I Bleed Maize N Blue

February 8th, 2010 at 6:34 PM ^

Related calc story, but inverted: I think it was 215, I walked in to see a Chinese TA and anticipated poor English with dread. But he spoke PERFECT English and answered questions really well.

Then a week or so into the term, he says the head of the dept had told him he was going to teach another class that was at the same time. And we got some visiting Finnish prof instead.

I didn't have too much trouble understanding his accemt, but some people did. And his tests were hard: there were a lot of questions, and you could only get through them all if you knew the proper way to answer right away - if you had to think about it, you couldn't get to them all.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:44 PM ^

except my prof was from Russia. Just awful. I stopped going to lecture after the first few weeks and taught myself from the book.

I think the math department must put all the profs who can't speak english in 216 sections. By then all the engineers just can't wait to be done with the math requirement and just suck it up enough to be done.


February 8th, 2010 at 5:58 PM ^

Took Chinese for three years...did quite well, for someone with absolutely no experience in the language..started 4th year...could not understand anyone, lasted 3 days before I had to bail


February 8th, 2010 at 5:59 PM ^

After reading these I'm glad I did b-school. Nothing was particularly pound-you-in-the-ass hard, but there was definitely a shit ton of work. A pretty favorable curve, though.

J. Lichty

February 8th, 2010 at 6:04 PM ^

I had the hardest time with Calc (not even calc 2 - Calc 115) - but that was probably easy for many.

I can say the hardest non-calc test I ever took was Bio Antro 565 with Wolpoff. He gave us something like 100 quotes from the course pack (which I had not read) and we had to identify the author.

For everyone that seemed like it agreed with Wolpoff I listed the one scientist I could recall who agreed with him, and for everyone that did not agree with him, I put down Stephen J. Gould. Everyone in the class (tehre were grad students and undergrads) did horribly. I think I got like 16 of them correct.

Still ended up with an A in the course, but that test was ridiculous.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:10 PM ^

ChemE 344/528 (Reactor Design and Kinetics). 344 is the undergrad, 528 is the grad course. Both taught by Fogler, whose book is used by ~90% of U.S. chemical engineering departments. The subject is pretty tough, but the workload is really pretty insane and each weekly homework is like a group project that you spend a minimum of 2-3 days on.

ChemE 360 (ChemE Lab I). Used is be a total bitch of a course, and has been wussified since I took it. Basically, we had to write a 20ish-page report each month on something we'd only had 12 hours of lab experience with, and then give a presentation on it. Ridiculous amounts of work, terrible lab partners that bail on you, etc. Everything you hate about group work.

Basically every ChemE grad course I took.

Calc 3 was rather tricky, definitely trickiest of the math courses I took. You could study all the time for that course and the spacial concepts would still kick your ass for the exam. Glad to get out of there with a B+. Differential equations was much easier.

None of the chemistry classes were too tough, but I never got too deep into quantum mechanics and never took p-chem.

The only thing about Econ 401 that I hated was when they screwed the key up and everybody that had form 4 for one of the exams got like 25%. That completely freaked me out until they fixed it. I still contend that if you know the key is fucked up, don't post the scores for that form. Otherwise, not a hard course if you know the calculus well enough.

A funny course for me was the first accounting course. I took this as a senior because a friend of mine was, and I needed an elective, so I figured what the hell. Not a hard couse, but it's funny to see a million soph B-school applicants sweating bullets over it.

And lastly, it was really funny taking astronomy 101 as a senior. Easiest A+ you can get as an engineer because it's full of freshman non-science LSAs trying to get their quantitative reasoning credit or whatever they need. The curves were ridiculously low for a course that's basically straight from the book and has questions on the midterm that are copy/paste from previous quizzes.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:20 PM ^

Scott Fogler is a great teacher, but he sure doesn't let any grass grow. I once got him laughing when I told him the reason we were struggling to keep up was that we weren't the ones who wrote the damn book.

We got to be pretty good friends, and he was kind enough to take me on in his labs.

Scott's a great guy and a great Michigan Man -- for an Illini.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:30 PM ^

He's a big basketball fan and when I was there he had season tickets. One time I was walking to a hockey game and the bball game had just finished. I'm walking down S. Forest and I walk across Hill and this guy at the stop sign is honking his horn like crazy. I figured it was some guy that was pissed and wanted me out of the way, so I hustled across Hill and kept going, thinking to myself what an asshole this guy was honking at me like that when I had the right of way. For one fleeting moment, I thought about flipping him off, but thought better of it.

Sure enough, next day I'm in the lounge in Dow and Fogler comes up to me and tells me he was honking at me like crazy but I just ignored him. It was good for a laugh.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:39 PM ^

Wish there had been more when I was there.
JJ Martin (a nice gentleman).
I forget the guy who taught design of materials -- could have done without both.
Brymer Williams was a nice guy, I just don't remember him teaching much.
Henry Wang had just started -- couldn't understand him.
Gulari - didn't have him for any classes.
Some decent grad students, but the TA for Curl's Thermo class wasn't much.
Met Don Katz with Fogler one time -- another nice gentleman.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:49 PM ^

Couldn't agree more on Ziff. Fogler is still there, but he hasn't been teaching much since he just launched a new version of his reactions book.

Still can't understand Wang, but he is a pretty good guy. Funny story, someone was sizing a podbielniak extractor in 460 and they were using way too much wash water. His comment was, "Why don't you just throw the damn stuff in the Mississippi river? It'd be more efficient."


February 8th, 2010 at 6:53 PM ^

Couldn't remember the number either. I had Gulari as well. Exams didn't match up very well with the homework. I still remember him distinctly saying that there wouldn't be a spherical finite Fourier transform problem on the exam, and then boom, there it was. The wording on the problem said "write an equation to describe this system," so I basically wrote down the differential equation and left it unsolved (I didn't FFT it). It was an equation, you didn't say solve it! Escaped that course with a B+.

Ziff is a character. I had him for Thermo II in undergrad, but I never took Stat Thermo in grad (they didn't offer it that semester). He just seemed kinda spaced out all the time.


February 10th, 2010 at 4:29 PM ^

I agree about Fogler. Most of the people that I know didn't like him at all, but I think that he's probably the best teacher in the department and his book is probably the best out of any of the ChemE books. The red books that we used for the thermo classes were useless by comparison. When I was at Michigan ('91 through '95) he seemed to be the only guy who understood that intuitive understanding of concepts is just as important as being able to solve a bunch of differential equtions.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:07 PM ^

Not sure if it counts since I'm a Dearborn-grad, but Peace and War with Wayman was hard...he's one of the most published authors on the subject and the class was chock full of really, really smart kids (duh?) so the curve was virtually non-existent. I hacked a B+ but it was rough.

steve sharik

February 8th, 2010 at 6:08 PM ^

...and the alphabet is pronounced completely different. We were to memorize the entirety of it by the 2nd day. To CRISP I went (you young-uns don't know what that is) to drop. I'm not saying that was the hardest class, but it was the language requirement...I wasn't about to make something I was trying to get out of the way harder than it had to be. (I was talked into taking Russian instead of Spanish by my academic "advisor.")

Side note: CRISP (forgot the acronym already) was where one would go to register for classes. Back then, there wasn't even phone registration, even in the late '80s and early '90s, putting UM in the stone ages when it came to registration technology. I mean, you're getting millions of dollars in tuition and fees from the students and yet you're making them walk over to Angell Hall and stand in line for a long time to register in person? Really?


February 8th, 2010 at 10:29 PM ^

I was the inaugural wolverineaccess class--we got to enroll online instead of using CRISP (which was over the phone by that time so at least somewhat less painful I'm sure).

I probably would have hated it if I had to use it, but I love CRISP for the fact that I there supposedly was a "James Earl Jones for CRISP-Lady" society whose sole purpose was to try to get James Earl Jones to record the prompts for the system.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:49 PM ^

I'll cosign that CRISP'ing was a pile. Dreaded it.

In terms of toughest classes I was an LSA student and thought I had some work but my roommate for 3 years was an EECS student. From what I could tell the workloads are not comparable: EECS courses treat their students like they're free labor at a coal mine. My experience was that a tough class was largely related to your prof/ta combo. I was rarely intimidated by the subject but if the prof/ta thought to spite the class or individual, they could make life hell.


February 8th, 2010 at 10:10 PM ^

It could be worse. It's only for registering for this semester (winter 2010) that I didn't have to manually register, with a person, at Pitt (and that's for 2 different grad programs, one from 2002-2004, and the other from 2008-now). And I thought UM was behind the times when we switched from CRISP to the telephone with number commands in 1994.

Feat of Clay

February 10th, 2010 at 4:00 PM ^

I came in '92 so I did the in-person registration for a term or two before they had the phone system. And yeah, it was bogus to wait in line, but at least at the end of it you had a fairly nice person helping you get your classes. Or at least, I generally did. Sometimes there was a real surfeit of smiling faces in offices around campus, so that stood out for me.

I remember the enthusiasm for getting James Early Jones to be the CRISP voice.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:08 PM ^

Not at Michigan, but Signal Processing would have killed me if our professor had actually required us to learn the material for a decent grade.

Also, Abstract Algebra mind-raped me. I didn't know which way was up.

Yinka Double Dare

February 8th, 2010 at 6:09 PM ^

I wasn't an undergrad at Michigan so I can't offer much. The 8-hour take home final with a word limit for Con Law was pretty awful but then it was over and everyone went out and got drunk.

But the two-semester class MFAN 666, "Advanced Acceptance of Dong Punch" (hopefully offered only this school year) is probably the least fun Michigan class ever. The amazing part is that you don't even have to be enrolled in the University to be in that class. I'm taking it distance-learning from Chicago, for example. And it sucks.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:11 PM ^

is Econ 398: Game Theory. Worst class ever and the professor is terrible. The professor is unwilling to help you out and the exams does not relate to the lectures nor the book. I surprisingly got a B+ despite all of it but I never want to experience this class ever in my life.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:16 PM ^

Quantum mechanics was the toughest class I took. Felt like taking fastball after fastball right down the middle and not being able to even move the bat.

The worst class was Quantitative Analysis back in the days of wet chemistry. Felt like the greatest skill needed was the ability to wash glassware. Ugggh. Stop me before I measure again!