Lectures and Recitations: Subject-Specific Advice
Here is advice from fellow-students on how to optimize your experience in lectures and recitations, plus hints for success in some specific subjects.
- Read the suggested material before each lecture and write down the main points.
- Go to all lectures. If you miss any, get notes from a friend or find the PowerPoints online. (Also see Video Lectures below.)
- Be an active listener: take full and comprehensive notes, but don't rewrite anything that's available on PowerPoints or handouts.
- Write questions in your notes for anything you don't understand, then take those questions to recitation.
- Ask questions before or after class, or during class if the instructor allows.
- Summarize major ideas and concepts the same day to solidify them in your brain.
- Do not allow yourself to miss classes and fall behind or the entire course will become an effort and a struggle for you.
- Find a GOOD TA! Shop, shop, shop for the best one. It can make all the difference.
- You want a TA that explains concepts well, uses the blackboard/educational media well, challenges you with good test-like questions, and makes him/herself available for office hours.
- TAs can be the best help for completing a tricky pset (you'll learn so much more than from copying from a friend), or studying for a test (they often have seen the test already).
- Attend all recitations. These may even be more helpful than lectures as they usually summarize all the week's material and then offer practice problems (similar to the test, which is what the bulk of your grade depends on!). Recitations are no more optional than lectures.
- Attend office hours! You can get personal attention from your instructor or TA, and sometimes even work psets in their presence. If office hours become too crowded, ask for a 1:1 appointment.
5.12 Organic Chemistry
Not actually from students but from the good people who create and grade the exams—your professors. Remember, they were students once upon a time.
You Can't Do It All. Because over 10 million organic compounds exist, memorizing the structure, properties, and reactivity of all of them would be almost impossible. Luckily, a few fundamental ideas underlie all organic reactions. By understanding these themes and trends (not by memorizing them!), you should be able to rationalize unfamiliar reactions and mechanisms through analogy. Make understanding your aim in reading, lecture, and recitation; don't start a pset until you're sure you understand the material.
Some large MIT subjects, especially the General Institute Requirements (GIRs), record each lecture for posting online sooner or later. A few even broadcast lectures live. Video lectures can be a useful tool for review when used carefully. Here are some suggestions on how to do that.
- Don't watch the whole lecture over again, if you were present the first time. Use your notes and the video controls to zoom in on parts you don't understand, and replay until you do.
- Add to your notes as you review the lecture: concepts should become clearer as you watch and listen again.
- If you miss a lecture because of illness or other reason, watch the recorded lecture through in one sitting rather than in chunks between other activities. Watch at a desk where you can comfortably take notes.
- In 3.091, Introduction to Solid-State Chemistry, and possibly other subjects, the lecture is broadcast live on MIT cable. Watching from your dorm room is very attractive, but offers more distractions, too. Going to one of the lecture halls puts you in a more active frame of mind. You can also benefit from conversations before and after class, with classmates or the instructor.
- If you do choose to watch from your room, sit at a desk so you can take notes, rather than lying in bed. You might even want to get dressed, to put yourself in learning mode.
- Recorded lectures are available on OpenCourseWare, Stellar (MIT access only), and MITx.