I'm guessing because you're against a bunch of cut throat competitive people who are desperate for good grades so they can get into a good medical school. If people are on a bell curve, it's easy to imagine they would want others to fail so that they don't end up on the wrong side of it.
i would say that the content of some classes, like BIO 1b, math 1a or chem 1a are the same as the level of ap classes-again its just the lecture hall youre competing with that makes things difficult. everyone is too smart
CampusBuddy (when they reported grades for free) showed MCB at a 2.96 departmental average.
Here are the averages for other departments that have biology majors (I am using the definition of biology major given by biology.berkeley.edu)
Average departmental GPAs from CampusBuddy
IB is 3.34
BioE is 3.51
EPS is 3.50
ESPM is 3.45
ES is 3.39
PMB is 3.28
Public Health is 3.62
NST is 3.37
To say the obvious, the difference is in grades given between MCB and other biology departments is huge.
In the past (and probably in the present too), premeds and other prehealth students have been told (or have been led to believe through some medium or another) that being MCB offers them some advantage in admissions and that if you are prehealth that you should be MCB (when neither is true).
As a result, there are a lot of competitive prehealth students all grouped together in a major that they might not actually like. If you go into the MCB corridor in VLSB (it is where the Bio 1AL labs are), there is a wall display that shows various alumni talking about their MCB experience, most of them recommend that a prehealth pick a major they like (i.e. that they themselves did not like MCB but majored in it anyway). I have also seen corroborating evidence on the Career Center's website.
The fact that MCB is a difficult subject to begin with, plus the competitive nature of the student body, and that a sizeable portion of the MCB population is just there because someone told them to be MCB, all adds up to MCB being a very difficult major.
Last edited by LeftistHominid; 09-22-2009 at 08:31 PM.
To the poster who began this: often it has nothing to do with how hard the material is, and how hard the class is might be a totally different thing. I think it's safe to say some of the UGBA classes teach very standard material, but they tend to grade very harshly, even if the material's easy. MCB material in lecture may not reflect the grueling detail of the books, and the exams may ask very nonstandard application of knowledge that one just doesn't do well on in the given time.
This is my comment, knowing the EECS department: EECS material itself isn't really that impressively challenging to me, as a mathematician. Some of it is, but a lot of the stuff is really manageable looking...but the major is still hard because they give you lots of work, and not much time to do it, and challenging applications. I sincerely cannot think of anything that really comes close to beating the mathematics I've grown to become acquainted with in terms of pure intimidation value and being intellectually daunting when one just glances at the material, but that isn't to say my experiences are in the end more painful than those of, say a CS major enrolled in several project courses. Quite the contrary.
So in short, MCB is hard because it's competitive and harder to succeed in the setting of the offered classes.
Somewhat elementary knowledge can be applied to solving very hard problems -- for instance, the Putnam competition for math. Much different in character from the real abstract mathematics, which is killer material by itself to even learn the definitions for.
here's my two cents:
chem 1a is a problem for many people mainly because
1. although the pace isn't ridiculously quick, it is very easy to fall behind and get lost, especially for the few in my class that actually didn't even take chem in high school
2. the exam itself is not impossible, but really can't be compared to any sort of high school test (at least not one that i've taken- ap or not ap). in chem exams, the questions are not straightforward plug and chug sort of problems that you see in high school. it requires a different kind of thinking and application. there are very few freeby points and some of them look completely irrelevant to the material until you think a little harder. however, i remember getting out of the exam and having everyone think that it was alright, but the next day when the scores came out, everyone was super depressed.
its just tough because the grade distributions do kind of settle out into a bell-curve, but the professors do everything in their power to prevent students from feeling like they are competing with their peers.
MCB profs don't really say what they curve to, so you really have to be aiming for 90%+ in every class in order to assure you get an A. This can be realistic for some classes, but completely unrealistic for others.
The difficult of MCB classes lies in the fact that lecture material can be simple, but the level they ask you to apply it can be extremely difficult. Sort of like how for the first Bio1AL lecture exam, you learned pretty basic stuff and then the questions are really hard and you have no idea how to do them but you have all the tools to do so. Similarly, MCB exams are often on lecture material only. The books go in much more detail, so it isn't your best use of time... however, if you don't read, that hurts you too... so you need to find a balance between the two and how to make the most of your resources.
Chem 3A. I don't know how Pedersen teaches/does his exams/etc since I took it with Frechet & Vollhardt. But for ochem, to do well, do tons of practice problems. The basic first few problems at the end of the chapters in the vollhardt book help you remember the basic concepts, and the middle problems help you apply the concepts/do synthesis, etc., and the last few problems are ridiculously difficult and unnecessary. I did almost all the problems for every chapter in that book and got A+s in 3A/3B. Other things - stay on top of things, go to lecture, read the book, etc. You really need to put the work in to do well in that class and actually ENJOY it for what it is. I've found that a lot of Berkeley students loved ochem and thought it was much better than Chem 1A.
MCB is difficult because of all the hardworking students.
We all want that A, and thus people study. You study less, and you're at a disadvantage.
I worked damn hard to pull an A in CHEM 3B, and harder to pull an A-/B+ in Physics 8A/8B. These were filled with pre-meds.
Not to malign pre-meds, but they make the non-pre-meds slightly angry by shoving the curve up to unattainable heights. Thus, I stay away from the MCB classes that are predominately pre-med (MCB 102, 104), and stick to the smaller, more in-depth courses (MCB 100, 110, 140) that tend to have a smaller proportion of pre-med students. Granted, im pre-PhD, so it makes sense, but that's my two cents.
There's a reason why MCB 102 and 104 are 400 students....PREMED. Apologies for being so anti-pre-med. I respect them, just.....you know.