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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Let It Bleed by Sam M. '07

There will be an answer, let it bleed.

DID YOU KNOW? Bonsai Kittens were a hoax started by MIT students.

Yesterday I overcame yet another longtime fear and gave blood. I couldn’t help but think of the time in high school that my friend Allison was giving blood to get extra credit in AP Bio (no, really) and she passed out in the middle of it, in the process missing the first hour of our ultra-important fail-if-you-miss-it concert band rehearsal that night. Luckily, her dad was the drivers’ ed teacher and bailed her out. It was like Boy Meets World, or what I imagine Boy Meets World would have been like if I had ever watched it.

Anyway, no. What I really couldn’t help thinking of was the slipstream flow of my blood through the needle, and how the blood was being collected into a lower than my arm in order to establish a pressure head on the fluid, and how the cuff she had tightened on my arm was helping to dilate my blood vessels, and how this all related to the pressure taps in the pipe that we were using in 10.26: Chemical Engineering Project Lab to do fluid mechanics research, which I had to go to 5 minutes after giving blood.

MIT is really like that.

Anyway, somebody had a questions about AP tests, and since they’re kind of like some relentless vampire designed to suck money out of unsuspecting high-achieving high school students, I decided that this anecdote would pair well with an answer to this question.

AP tests are mostly good for getting you out of GIRs. This is usually a good thing. If you don’t have so many GIRs to take your freshman year, you can take more classes in your major and figure out if you really like it or not. My second term at MIT, 18.100B taught me 101 reasons not to be a math major, while Sarah Tabacco and 5.12 showed me that I really could do organic chemistry, if I just believed in myself. Had I not taken the advanced standing exam for 18.03, I might be studying for the actuarial exams these days instead of turning turkey carcasses into a usable fuel.

On the other hand, sometimes GIRs are there for a reason. I’m not particularly good at thermodynamics, but last spring I totally rocked 5.60: Thermodynamics and Kinetics by taking it two terms late, with a bunch of Chemical Engineering freshmen. I didn’t study harder than anybody else, but after three terms of MIT I had developed the ability to study smarter than your average freshman. No doubt that any of them would now be able to go into any freshman class and get the same results. It’s really great if you can come into MIT and take sophomore physics right off the bat, especially if you’re a physics major–however, remember that you’re going to be taking it with mostly sophomores (and nuclear engineers) who aren’t coming right out of high school.

That being said, I would still personally use all the AP credits I could possibly get if I were you. As I have discovered too late, there are too many awesome classes here to spend time taking GIRs and introductory classes that you don’t need to take.

So, here’s how it goes.

Physics: The GIRs are 8.01: Mechanics and 8.02: E&M. Most people take them in their first two terms here. If you get a 5 on both parts of Physics C, you get credit for 8.01. Nobody knows why you need a 5 on the E&M portion of Physics C just to get out of Mechanics. There are also advanced standing exams for both classes offered during orientation.

Physics B gets you NOTHING! However, I got a 5 on Physics B and was kind of bored in 8.01. I would suggest trying to take the advanced standing exam in that case. Alternatively, you can take 8.012 and 8.022, which are physics for masochists. Having taken 8.022, I can tell you that these classes will NOT NOT NOT be boring for you after the AP test.

Biology: There is one GIR, 7.01x, offered in three different-flavored classes in the spring and fall. Most people don’t take it their freshman year, put it off as long as possible, then take it with a bunch of grade-hungry freshman pre-meds, get mad because they’re getting a B in an “easy” GIR, and end up hating bio forever. Which is kind of unfair, because one of the guys who teaches it identified the first oncogene. A 5 on AP Bio gets you credit for it, and there’s really no reason not to take advantage of that whether you want to major in biology or not. I took both 5.07: Biochemistry and 7.06: Cell Biology over 2 years after taking AP Bio, and didn’t feel unprepared for them at all.

Chemistry: There is one GIR in chemistry. You can satisfy it with 3.091 (easy), 5.111 (hard), or 5.112 (masochism), which most people take in their first term at MIT. There is an advanced standing exam, but don’t even bother unless you did, like, the international chemistry olympiad or something. I know somebody who got an 800 on 8 different SATII subject tests and still did not pass it. Even if you were a stellar AP Chem student, 5.112 will cover everything you learned in two weeks, then derive the Schrodinger Equation from first principles and plunge you headfirst into a bathtub full of quantum and inorganic chemistry from which there is no escape. Seriously, 5.112 is a fantastic class to take if you’re interested in chemistry at all. And if you’re not, you can always take 3.091, which is “chemistry for people who don’t want to take chemistry anymore.”

Math: This is a challenging one. My first semester I qualified for entrance into seven separate calculus classes. I think they have since trimmed out a few of those. Awww, here goes.

A 4 or a 5 on Calc BC gets you credit for 18.01: Single-Variable. From here, you could take one of three flavors of 18.02x: Multivariable, or you could take the ultra-rigorous 18.014 for math majors. YOU DON’T NEED TO TAKE IT IF YOU ARE NOT A MATH MAJOR.

A 4 or a 5 on Calc AB, or on the AB subscore of BC, gets you into 18.01A/18.02A. You spend half a term reviewing Single-Variable, half a term learning Multivariable, and get the remainder of multivariable in IAP.

Basically, no matter which of the above five classes you take your first term, you will probably end up in 18.03: Differential Equations your second term at MIT with 700 other people. You can even pull a Laura and take 18.01 your first term, then 18.02 and 18.03 together your second term. The only limit is yourself.

Also, if you happened to go to one of those crazy people schools with 18.03: Differential Equations or 18.06: Linear Algebra in the curriculum, you can get credit for that, too. I believe that if you do it before entering your first semester, you just have to take an advanced standing exam when you get to MIT. However, if you wait until IAP to test out of it, you have to do all the problem sets for the class on your own time and then take the advanced standing exam. Yep, it’s as much fun as it sounds.

As for AP Statistics, yeah, that was a nice waste of $76 on my part.

Computer Science: Nope. Sorry, Chester.

Communications Requirement: Okay, the humanities program and communication requirements here are more complicated than quantum mechanics. So, there are certain introductory classes designated as CI-HW that you have to take in order to prove that you’re good at writing. However, you don’t have to take one if you get a passing score on the Freshman Essay Evaluation, given over the summer, or if you got a 5 on AP English Literature or AP English Language. There’s more communications requirement stuff, but you will figure that out once you get here. And then you can tell me, because I still only have a cursory grasp of it after three years.

Humanities: If you get a 5 on basically any humanities-oriented test except for Studio Art, you get 9 units of “general elective credit,” which are pretty much only useful for hitting that magic 270-unit mark necessary for the double major that you no doubt want to pursue coming in to MIT. However, don’t forget that Mollie took 18.01 her first term and came in with 27 units of AP credit, and she is now a published researcher and illustrious MITblogger who completed two majors in four years and is now going into Harvard’s PhD program next year. So you could be like her if you want to.

I know I do.

Whew, that was a workout!

20 responses to “Let It Bleed”

  1. Anonymous says:

    So…what’s the infamous TEAL physics all about?

  2. Mollie says:

    I’m blushing.

  3. Carmel says:

    Awesome post Sam. I think I’d really really love physics.. if my teacher weren’t a mismatched-shoe-wearing, stuttering, absent-minded, arithmetically-challenged, creepy, idiot with a brain addled by two or three strokes! I know I won’t do even marginally well on the Mechanics exam this Monday, and even if by some miracle I did pull a four or a five out of my ass I’d want to take physics all over again in college, just to unlearn every idiotic wrong thing I’ve learned. So my question is, do AP scores factor significantly in admissions, or are they more about class placement?

  4. Anonymous says:

    good post..!!

  5. nehalita says:

    I love how i’ve taken almost every science/math-related AP that doesn’t count towards a GIR. Actually i think i’ve taken all of them.

    oh well.

  6. JKim says:

    Hey, this was awesome. Really helpful. I wish I had known this whilst taking AP Chem, both comp sci’s, and stat :( Arrrgh. Pretty much all my exams are useless, except calc. Ah well. I had a (sort of)(kinda)(not really at all) fun time taking them!

    And, I definitely remember being a 12 year old who thought she knew absolutely everything and left an angry comment about how people are horrible on Bonsai Kitten. ahahahaha. Good memories :D

  7. Anonymous says:

    Good to know I’m not the only one completely mystified by MIT’s HASS and communication requirements… =D

  8. Shannon says:

    Augh, the AP exams were only $76 when you took them? Try $82 now. I swear, all of the money just goes into the plastic wrap and stickers they give you. So annoying.

  9. Dan says:

    “DID YOU KNOW? Bonsai Kittens were a hoax started by MIT students.”

    HOLY CRAP, HAHA! that was all over myspace for a while! the website talked so seriously about it, with the glue and everything. I can’t believe it. I mean I really knew it was a hoax, but now I know it was by MIT students, ha!

  10. nehalita says:

    love the reference to the beatles =D

  11. Aziz says:

    Amazing post Sam thank you so much!!! One problem, I wish I’d known that before :( Ah well, at least next year’s freshmen might benefit ;P It was pretty darn useful though now I have a better idea of what to expect!

    Thanks a lot!!!!


  12. Mike says:

    I’m lucky, our school pays for every single AP exam you take!

  13. Drew says:

    So I haven’t done calc in awhile, and I’m worried that I’ve forgotten everything but the very basics of integration and derivation. Can I retake single-variable and get general credit from the AP? Or should I just start out in multi-variable and try to review single-variable and hope that it comes back to me?

  14. Drew says:

    Shannon, most of the money goes to monitoring the rest of your life so that you never mention the multiple-choice section…ever.

  15. Kim says:

    Thanks for all the awesome info, Sam!

    I enjoy the BonsaiKitten website immensely. smile

  16. Kristin says:

    Mike, I am 1000 kinds of jealous. Paying $246 for nine hours of torture is basically pure evil.

  17. Amy Perez says:

    Hi Sam and everyone:

    I can try to shed some light the Communications Requirement since I’m a freshman advisor. All freshman will take a CI-H class (stands for Communications Intensive HASS). These classes are great because they satisfy your HASS General Institute Requirement (GIR) and your Communications Requirement all at once. Now, there’s an additional writing component if you have not satisfied the writing prerequisites by the start of Orientation (these prerequisites include scoring a 5 on AP Lang. & Comp. or a 5 on the AP Lit. & Comp. Exam and/or passing the Freshman Essay Evaluation/FEE). The FEE will be mailed to your home and you should complete it and send it in by a specified date during the summer. The additional writing class that is required of these folks who didn’t meet writing prerequisites is taking a CI-HW class (stands for Communications Intensive HASS Writing) instead of the CI-H. Taking a CI-HW class is not the end of the world-it just means you have slightly fewer classes to choose from and, of course, you will have to do some writing. I have personally heard really good things about the writing classes in that they’re fun and not solely focused on writing.

    Over the course of your four years at MIT, you will have to take four CI courses, two in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CI-H) and two in your major (CI-M). You also have to take 8 HASS classes as part of your GIRs. When you arrive on campus in the fall the HASS Department publishes HASS guides that are found in the Student Services Center and they explain the Communications Requirement and other info. about the HASS classes. In the upcoming mailings this summer and at the freshman orientation website (which you’ll receive info. about shortly if you haven’t already) the Academic Resource Center (ARC) will explain more of this in detail. The ARC handles the freshman class registration process.

  18. MITmom says:

    you have to do the differential equations problem sets before you can take the advanced standing exam regardless of whether you take it at Orientation or later. The problem sets basically amount to a semester worth or homework, so even if you know differential equations cold, it is a significant investment of time to do the problem sets. Another option is to take it self-paced through ESG.

    there’s kind of no reason to take the linear algebra advanced standing exam, since that isn’t a required course to major in math. If you already know it, you can just go on to something else without bothering to get credit for it.

  19. victor says:

    hi there,

    can one really finsih, say, a course he takes,in a short period, about 2-3 years?

  20. Elina says:

    A tiny detail ppl may find useful:

    To get into the 18.01/.02 A… you can not have any of the AP maths, sit for a simple calc exam during the orientation week, pass it and get into the program..