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MIT student blogger Jess K. '10

Questions Omnibus by Jess K. '10

Okay, so it's not even really half a bus. But I'M not the one asking the questions...

(as if you really needed another reason)
ME: This morning, I was going to go to physics at 9, but then I decided I was too tired, so I changed my classes and went back to sleep.


NO JOKE! Last night I changed into 5.112, the next level of chemistry, which meant in order to keep the 18.02 (calculus) recitation I wanted I had to switch into 8.01 (physics) at 9 AM. So I did, online. But today I decided that was a bad move, so I switched into 8.01 at 11, changed my calculus recitation to 3, and went back to sleep.

(Note that this is possible only with recitations, which are smaller classes in which you review the lectures and ask questions about problem sets, but as long as it’s not full, you can change it online. In less than a second. No paperwork, no irritating confrontations with raspy-voiced office secretaries, just change into whatever time works for you or which TA you like the best and go back to sleep.)

So I finished my first half-week of classes, and my first problem set, which was intense. I’ve already got two other full-length problem sets on my shoulders, while I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to switch into 5.112. I’m in it for now, which is probably better for me since I’ve taken a lot of chemistry, and it IS pass/no record. This way it also works out so I get finished with classes every day at 3, which is great because I don’t learn well in night classes – once my dad and I took a programming class at our local community college in which we literally took turns snoring away in the back of the class. (I didn’t take it for credit. I took it for fun. In retrospect, it would’ve been much more fun sleeping in my own bed.)

Other than that, life here is pretty chill right now. I tried out for and made dance troupe, which is exciting, because I’ve never actually danced before – at parties, it looks like I’m holding a toaster underwater. There are some pretty amazing dancers here, especially breakers, so I had a lot of fun at auditions yesterday. An equally exciting occasion that happened yesterday: I discovered we have a trash chute. I took my dinner up to my room just so I could throw the plastic container down the chute in the dark, freaky room at the end of the hall. I even tried to make more trash just so I could visit it more often.

MY ROOMMATE NEHA: Why are you smashing my chair?
ME: I…well I really… the trash chute…

Anyway. You have questions, I have answers! (And pronouns. Man, that last entry was difficult.)

Sanja asked: Can you (or the other people here) recommend me preparation books for it or is there just one type of prep book?

Prep books! Good memories (including burning them at the end). There was a time when someone would ask what my favorite book was and I’d ask, “for what test?”
If you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a prep course, you can really just learn it all yourself from Princeton Review. Go through the book, do their exercises, and learn their strategies. Okay, some of them are a little weird (including one pretty useless one called Joe Bloggs, which is probably the worst fake generic name ever), but if you actually sit down and try to work with them, they can save you some time.

Books like that usually only come with a few practice tests, though, so I would suggest getting another book to help you out, especially The Official SAT Study Guide put out by The College Board. This one has 8 full-length practice tests, as well as several test prep strategies, so it’s quite a bit more substantial. It’s also always helpful to have the book put out for the test by the people who make the test. I also used 11 Practice Tests by (I should seriously be getting paid for this) Princeton Review, which are pretty similar to the type of tests given in “The Official SAT Study Guide”.
A good way to go about taking these is probably taking a bunch of sections separately, reviewing them to find out what you’re not that great at, and then taking another one. The Saturday before you take your actual SAT, get up early, sit down in a quiet place, and take a test the whole way through. It’s a really good way to relax about the test, as well as put those Joe Bloggie-esque methods into practice.

If you’re like me, and would rather listen to your high school government teacher drone on about his summer while playing Maroon 5 (which I did) than study for the SATs, I suggest Up Your Score. It’s cute and funny, and while it won’t teach you as much about the SATs, it’s a good way to get you started. There’s also a good recipe in there for brownies you can sneak into the testing room.

If all else fails, you could take a prep course. There are tons of prep courses offered by Princeton, Kaplan, and even other high school students, but in the end learning to motivate yourself is a really important skill, so it’s a good time to start. And it’s really expensive to get other people to motivate you. If money IS a big issue, and you don’t want to spend lots of money on prep books either, you can usually get them from your library, or from your school career center. Or buy them, take notes, take the tests on a separate piece of paper, and return them.

The thing to remember about the SATs, though, is that it is really only one part of your application, and that in a few months, they will never matter ever again. Never. Ever. Again. I promise. I actually don’t even remember what I got exactly on my SATs (although maybe that’s because I’m subconsciously blocking it out..). Soon, you and your friends will laugh hysterically about how silly that whole thing was. And then you’ll cry, because standardized testing makes you die a little inside. No wait, that was just me. Never mind.

Phillippe queries: I’m taking multivariable calculus & differential equations this year and I was wondering if it’s possible to test out of them? And if you do score high enough to test out of the class, does that mean you are qualified to move on?

Half yes and whole yes. When you get here, you can just go and take a calculus or physics advanced standing exams; if you want to test out of chemistry or biology, you have to sign up first. If you have AP credit for Calculus BC, you don’t have to test out of single-variable calculus, but you do have to test out of multivariable calculus. If you test out of that (18.02, which is what I’m taking now, you smartie), you can take differential equations again (which is why I say half-yes; I think you have to contact the professor about testing out of that one since it’s not as common), or you can take linear algebra (18.700, which I believe you can also test out of as long as you contact the professor).

The great thing about first semester freshman year is, again, it’s pass/no record. So as long as you pass the exam, you’re free to take the next level, whereas if you take one later you’ll get the actual grade you got on the exam on your transcript.

You can find out more about advanced standing exams here. But at the same time, it is really great to be able to do psets with your roommate or people in your wing or the guy lounging around eating peanut butter in the hallway, so don’t feel too pressured to prove that you’re a smart genius.

hopelessromantic09mom says: JessandColin–the new MollieandAdam???????? :-)

Sorry! More like the new MitraandSam. Except we’re not nearly as good-looking.

More questions, more comments, more spam.. drop ’em like they’re hot.

10 responses to “Questions Omnibus”

  1. confused says:

    What’s MitraandSam? And does this mean Colin’s going to be a blogger, too?

  2. Sanja says:

    Thanks a bunch smile

    Remind me to buy you huge chocolate when I come to MIT as Sanja ’12 smile

    Greetings from Serbia, country of the new waterpolo European champions smile

  3. Jon says:

    “MY ROOMMATE NEHA: Why are you smashing my chair?

    ME: I…well I really… the trash chute…”

    ya….that made me laugh…like…out loud….while im by myself in my room. I’m glad someone else finds the little things in life amusing/fun… how they brought back magic cupcakes at my school……but thats really irrelevant.

    if I end up at MIT next year, we pretty much have to be friends

  4. Andrew says:

    Wow, that music is interesting…

  5. Jeffx says:

    That’s so awesome Jess that I just had to comment on your blog… even though you’re sitting right next to me. Back to 5.112 psets!!

  6. Josh says:

    Glad you’ve discovered a garbage chute. Don’t be too… enthusiastic, though, office chairs are expensive (I just bought one… ouch -_-“). Unfortunately, I don’t have one. And despite the fact that Random used to be a 19th century era house, we don’t even have any dumbwaiters… or, at least, any that still function. Or the dumbwaiter shaft might now be our wireless network hub. Hmmm… *goes on mad quest to find out*

    I’m taking 18.06 linear algebra, which is actually more oriented towards engineers, while 18.700 linear algebra is more oriented towards math majors – just to be a bit more specific ^_^ And I seem to remember for 18.03 or 18.034 tests there’s some nasty business about contacting the math department a couple months in advance, then doing all the psets for the classes in addition to taking the final (I only know that part because for a very scary few minutes during orientation, I thought the 18.02 test required that kind of preparation).

    Um. Yeah. I am totally on anti-pset mode because of my big 8.022 kahuna last night. Unfortunately, I have another due Wednesday. WEEEEE. I should stop wasting time. But will I? Only time will tell.

    See you tomorrow! XD

  7. Colin says:

    It’s just that I

  8. JKim says:

    confused, I have no idea who the new bloggers will be. I just meant that Colin and I are good friends.

    John, we pretty much already are friends by you commenting.

    And thanks Josh!

  9. Damirbek says:

    Hi,I am form Kyrgyzstan.Now,I am preparing for SAT 1 and SAT 2.And also I am intending to apply to Mit,however,the thing that intimidates me is not having any International olympiyad results from any science lessons.Does that jeopardize my chance of being admitted to the to MIT?

  10. Jess says:


    I’m not an international student, so I can’t say exactly, but I didn’t even know what the international science olympiad was when I applied. I don’t think it’ll hurt you to not have entered.