FAQ for people thinking about taking 6.033

Q. Prerequisites. I want to take 6.033 this term, but I haven't taken 6.004 yet, and the catalog says that is a prerequisite. Is the prerequisite really needed? I might be able to take 6.004 at the same time. Will that work? My friend started 6.004 but dropped it after the second quiz. Can she take 6.033?

A. No; you need 6.004 PRIOR to 6.033. 6.004 really is a pre-requisite, not a co-requisite for 6.033. 6.033 builds on material from the last half of 6.004, and it takes off with no review and at a substantially faster pace. If you haven't completed 6.004 in a previous term 6.033 will be sheer torture.

Q. Sophomores. I'm a sophomore. I got an A in 6.004, I've been hacking systems for four summers at Microsoft and Google, and I want to take 6.033 now. But I have been warned that sophomores have a lot of trouble with 6.033. What's the story?

A. We strongly discourage sophomores from taking 6.033 even if they have already accumulated the nominal prerequisites. Since this is a class where we study real systems, students get more out of 6.033 the more experience they have in computer science. You can accumulate that experience in various ways: UROP assignments, other courses, summer jobs, more interaction with the Athena clusters, etc. Juniors have an additional year of such experience.

The success rate of sophomores is typically lower than for juniors and seniors, and the sophomores that stick with the class tend to spend much more time on 6.033 than they would like.

Q. Late start. It is now {choose one: 1, 2, 3, 4} weeks into the term and I want to add 6.033. I haven't been participating up till now, but I'm willing to work hard to catch up. What are my prospects?

A. much of the learning experience in 6.033 comes from participating in recitation discussions of assigned papers. A large part of your grade depends on that participation, which you cannot make up. For N > 2 it is probably hopeless.

Q. Listeners. 6.033 isn't in my list of requirements, and I don't need a grade. But the material looks interesting. Can I have permission to register for it as a listener?

A. Yes and No. In 6.033, we regularly have a much larger enrollment than the department has teaching resources. At the same time, we would like to cater to students who want just to listen. So we offer a compromise: we have no objection to listeners attending the lectures, but we don't permit listeners to join recitations. The reason is that 6.033 recitations are intended for discussion. Active listeners usurp opportunities that registered class members should have to participate. And passive listeners act as negative role models for those registered students who are hesitant to participate. Either way, it doesn't work very well.