I’m writing this in the midst of finals week, which means that every time I log on to facebook, I’m inundated with finals themed gifs, images, questions about finals (will they count ABC for partial credit? Is the PS12 exam open-homework?)and most importantly, unit countdowns. Everyone likes to watch the ticker move towards full on their unit count for the term. Now, finally, after taking 5 finals in 4 days and studying my brains out, I’m able to say that I’ve reached the 100% completion plateau for the term.
This is what a schedule on REGIS (our online course-management system) looks like - specifically, this is my schedule. Ch10A is a chemistry seminar course, Ch41 is organic chemistry, Law33 is a basic intro law course (focusing on the philosophy of private law), Ma2A is differential equations, PE27 is ultimate frisbee (best class at Caltech!), PS12 is introductory game theory, and Ph2A is waves, oscillations, and quantum mechanics (all stuffed into one term…) This is a basic sophomore chem major schedule - next term I’ll be adding an organic lab course and dropping my 2 social sciences (PS12 and Law33).
Now, I had 5 finals - one in each of the 9-unit classes (units generally refer to the number of hours of work per week each class is expected to take - and usually for science courses they’re gross underestimations, I probably spent more like 15 hours a week on physics). These finals varied in difficulty, and I’ll try to walk you through my week:
Saturday: Take Ph2 after the review session. I’d done very well on the sets and quizzes, so I was expecting it to be one of my easier finals. Proceed to only understand 60% of the final and not even have time to complete it. Turn it in, taking comfort in the fact that the class average is likely to be 50% or below.
Units: 12/51 (3 from PE + 9 from Ph2) - I’ve completed everything for classes accounting for 12 of my 51 units on the term
Sunday: Take PS12. Game theory is super intuitive (at least at the intro level), so I barely needed to study and felt great about this exam. Made me feel a little better about bombing physics.
Monday: Work in lab all day, studying math during every incubation period. That night, take math. It’s a 3-hour exam, with 5 problems. Immediately cringe in fear - normally, a homework set takes 1-2 hours per problem, and that’s with collaboration and open notes, book, previous homeworks, and Wolfram Alpha (the exam is only open book). Proceed to finish only about 60% of the exam because it’s so long. Ouch.
Tuesday: Wake up, study orgo for an hour and a half. Go on a tour of Rudy Marcus’ lab (my “final” for Ch10), then go to lab to try and do the experiment I’ve been working all term to set up. Take orgo - pleasantly surprised by how easy it is. Thank god I have a nice modeling kit so I can visualize some of the more awkward structures in 3D. (42/51)
Take a break to get a snack, then start my law final. It’s 7 pages at the end, with 1 full essay, 2 short answers (about a page each), and 6 paragraph-long definitions of legal terms, at the end of 3 hours.
Units: 51/51, done with term!
Now I get to sit back, relax, and spend all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in lab before driving home Saturday afternoon.
Moral of the story: Caltech’s a lot of work, and it makes me feel pretty stupid sometimes -like after my physics and math finals. But the cool science makes it all worthwhile.