1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Easiest and hardest college majors

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by thirdwind, Feb 16, 2014.

    I came across a magazine article recently that listed the easiest and hardest college majors by GPA. Some of the easiest include Education and Language (including English), and the hardest include Engineering, Math, and Economics. This got me thinking about whether some subjects are inherently harder than others or whether certain departments are being too lenient. I'm inclined to believe that it's a combination of both. What are your thoughts?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Before I read your post I was going to guess Education as easiest and Physics as hardest.
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I remember Physics was up there among the hardest. I don't have the exact list with me since I read it in a print magazine. I did find an article by CBS that was written a few years back. They list Chemistry as the hardest. No Physics in the top 5, though, which I find strange. Maybe the physics department at the university they looked at grades leniently.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe. Physical Chemistry and Physical Biochemistry were two of the hardest classes I took.
     
  5. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Easiest: Physical Education

    Hardest: Biochemical Engineering

    Molecular Genetics isn't exactly a cake walk either.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It might also depend on the school, but I can't say for sure.

    I studied electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and I know from personal experience that engineering students there had the heaviest workload. We had more classroom hours, more lab hours, more tutorial hours, and generally spent more time on our assignments than any other major. Does that mean it was the hardest? It depends on your aptitude for math and physics. Some of the guys in my class were brilliant, and thought it was a breeze. I knew guys who handled engineering school easily, but had a really hard time writing essays. They would have found history or philosophy very difficult, even if the workload was lighter.

    Maybe the question is, what kind of brain do you have?
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    So no one thinks departments like English or Philosophy should start becoming stricter with grades? I say this because I've seen people put in very little effort and get good grades in English classes. And when I say little effort, I mean that it clearly showed in the quality of their work. Yet the professor chose to be lenient. :mad:
     
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  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In subjects like math and science, there are definite right answers and wrong answers. In English, philosophy, or other arts subjects, things are much fuzzier, and the grade a student gets is largely a matter of the professor's opinion. I'd hate to be an arts professor, because the grades I would give students would be subjective, and I'd always be wondering if I was being too lenient or too strict. And how could I know I was treating every student fairly?
     
  9. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    The fact that Education is almost universally considered to be the 'easiest' college major should tell us something about the current sorry condition of our public schools. I'm sure there are many dedicated teachers out there, but a program crafted for slackers will attract same.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    which are the 'easiest/hardest' will depend on each student's abilities... while physics may beyond the ability of a brilliant english major, a budding einstein may find english courses at the top of his/her 'worst' list...

    so, i don't see how anyone's list can claim to be valid for all...
     
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  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    From my personal experience and from what others have told me, science and math majors have a much easier time in liberal arts classes than liberal arts majors have in science or math. I've also heard similar statements on academic forums. There are even studies showing that fewer students are majoring in STEM fields. Here's a long report from the US Department of Education on enrollment in STEM fields, which says that part of the reason students drop out of STEM fields is because they get lower grades compared to non-STEM fields.
     
  12. Cogito
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    I don't think there are inherently more or less difficult majors. Mathematics and physics have a reputation for difficulty, but I believe a big part of it is because so many people balk at mathematics. However, those inclined to choose one of these majors tend not to be math-phobic, so these majors are not handicapped going in.

    Personally, I've found that the technical majors in recent years have become a bit more difficult because they have been softened to remove much of the mathematical rigor. Without that, you aren't learning as much from building on solid layers of foundation as learning upon "faith and formulas."
     
  13. chicagoliz
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    It could also be due to the difficulty in evaluating mastery of the material -- in mathematically-based disciplines, there is generally ONE right answer. You get something right or you don't. (Although there are differing theories on some things, there are still a lot of concepts for which there is only one answer, and everything is based on those.) Whereas, in subjects like philosophy or Education, there are fewer concrete and indisputably "correct" concepts. Synthesizing the material could be done in a variety of ways, and there's more room for accepting or rejecting certain concepts and making the case for newer concepts. It's therefore also more difficult to say for certain that someone's idea about something is, in fact, outright wrong, and so deeply flawed that it could not be correct.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    At my school, architecture was held to be one of the hardest. I think that was partly because my school happened to have a very demanding architecture program, but also because architecture involves a lot of art *and* engineering/science/psychology/human factors/blah. The building has to look good, be usable by humans, and not fall down.
     
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  15. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    When I first read the title of this thread, not seeing which forum it was in, I thought it was about what majors to assign to each of your characters in a university-set story. Anyone care to give their two cents about that too? You know, what would the ditz only bent on not having to work for another few years choose, what about the handsome guy who always got all the girls in high school, the loner who doesn't know what he wants to become and only got in on hard work and the spending of almost all his family's money, etc.
     
  16. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    As an English Lit. Major I stand in full defense of humanities in level of potential difficulty. ;) I have no question in my mind that Chemical Engineering and Physics and those hard sciences have a level of computational rigor that many people cannot live up to. However, I've met far to many of them who were "so glad to be done with English" because they "just don't get it."

    I'll admit, many of the humanities tend to be graded less tightly, but that also depends on the university. I'm pretty sure majoring in English may prove more challenging when I go back to California, just based on the level of work my former classmates have to do. Then again, there is an element that pertains to professors. Will they grade harshly or easily? As a math or science professor, there are easy ways to judge the quality of one's work and progress. There are right and wrong answers and methods. In English, many professors will grade more leniently if they can find a logical argument in your papers and sound writing that looks like you put in more than rough draft effort.

    I, for one, may turn out to be a hard grader. There are easy standards that are easily traceable in people's works: diction, syntax, grammar, structure, content, even style to list some. Then there is the student's effort to factor in, as well as progress. Students who put in more effort, tend to show more progress, which means they deserve a higher grade in that category. You're in the class to LEARN not to prove yourself.

    That aside, as @mammamaia pointed out, the level of difficulty largely depends on the student. The point of choosing a major is to choose a field in which you are most interested and most likely to succeed. Some people really understand math, so majoring in it, while challenging is not as hard. They tend to grade more difficultly in that field though because there are right and wrong answers and methods being tested. But those same brilliant mathematicians, may struggle with foreign languages like French or Spanish.

    As a Computer Science major, I did not have a foreign language requirement. It was irrelevant, and many students would have revolted. ;) These same students would also hate the idea of droning over Shakespeare and Milton and Wordsworth. Why do these figures matter? Why does analyzing them matter? Why do Jane Austen novels matter today? Those are all fair questions, and I know many an engineer who would fail to figure it out in 4 years.

    In choosing a major you play to your strengths. GPA and test scores are not an accurate indicator of the level of difficulty of the major, only perhaps the level at which professors grade. The fact is, most students think very differently. Maths and sciences are a bit more challenging for the majority of people, and that is only increase by fast paced classes, endless concepts that must be memorized, and extensive amounts of homework. They have to learn how to do math and science, Humanities majors generally only have to learn how to think about things, and we're usually already decent in that regard.
     
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  17. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Jesus, I am long-winded today!
     
  18. DPVP
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    I studies Business and Economics, so it seemed wicked easy, it was math and common sense. the math also did not advance beyond the "fallow directions and its done" style so i have trouble seeing anyone finding it hard.

    The Humanities i would say are a lot harder. its not fallow a process and i also found the professors of it to be less interesting. most of them had never been anything but be in acadamica. Made regional studies seem great, at least they had been their and talked about it.
     
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  19. 123456789
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    There's no such thing as "doing math" or "doing science," except at the most basic level eg, plugging and chugging and following simple procedures.

    STEM is all about thinking about things ,especially math and physical sciences, and in ways the human brain is not automatically accustomed to (your statement attests to this). Let's take a really, really basic example. Intuitively, "cold" and "hot" might appear to be opposites, but scientifically, this is nonsense.

    The human brain wants to make assumptions, but in STEM you plain and simply can't. That doesn't mean there's no thinking involved. In fact, I'd say there's a whole lot more thinking involved and a lot less feeling.
     
  20. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Well... I do believe you misinterpret me. o_O I was not implying that there is little to no thinking involved. Those majors require high levels of critical thinking. There are a lot of abstract and/or counterintuitive qualities to the material, but you seem to have missed my point, entirely.

    In those fields you are actively trying to solve problems by application of functions, methods, and concepts. That's just the nature of those courses. Students are also taught to critically analyze problems in order to develop new, more efficient ways of solving problems, and possibly apply familiar techniques or concepts to new problems. There is a computational element that requires students to do. There is a goal that students try to accomplish.

    In most humanities, English in particular, the only skills students are expected to master are critical reading and writing, comprehensive analysis and communication. Students study history, literature, art, and language--things pertaining to people--in order to learn how to analyze textual evidence, identify relationships and draw conclusions that will help us to understand the world at large. All this, I have bundled into thinking because the only actions these majors require are researching and writing/communicating what students have thought/found.

    Moreover, I hold to my original statement. You're not wrong, but I believe that the math and hard science fields require more action, more "doing" than the humanities. That is not to exclude the high levels of thinking that must be done in both areas of study. :cool:

    Also, I have no idea where you pulled "feeling" from.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2014
  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is exactly what you do in science, in addition to what you mentioned.


    I'm not concerned with which fields in college are the hardest (I believe there is more than enough data out there to answer this question). I just want us to avoid the stereotype (not saying you were making this stereotype necessarily) that all science majors are little more than robots with no higher understanding of anything. This misconception is as unfair as the fair-weather lit major who parties all the way up to finals.
     
  22. Mans
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    It dependent on a person talent and interest. Some people are predisposed to learning math. Another group are predisposed to learning literature. Maybe other groups of student are capable to learning, art, economy or engineering. It is unclear, why persons are different in learning and why they tend to a field which maybe it is unpleasant for other groups. Probably it is genetically or in addition, is relevant to the series events in the persons' memories ( specially in school and during the training ) . I personally think, students are two group. A group of them are serious and provident and another group are mostly playful and dreamy. These two kind moods, are effective in their course selection.
     
  23. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    One thing I appreciated about engineering is that, when you reached the right answer, it was indisputable. Nobody argues about whether 2+2=4.

    On another forum, though, I started discussing Cormac McCarthy's The Road and No Country for Old Men. I'd spotted a common theme between those novels, so I asserted that that theme was something McCarthy was concerned with. I'm not a literary critic, but to me it was pretty darned obvious. The other members of that forum, though, told me in no uncertain terms that I was laughably full of shit and I had no idea what I'm talking about. They had read those books completely differently from the way I had.

    It's hard to be confident in what you know when you're dealing with the arts. You become convinced of something, and others say you're wrong, and there's no way of adjudicating the issue. Nobody is provably right and nobody is provably wrong. So I always feel like I'm at sea in a dense fog when I'm discussing literature.

    To that degree, I like math, science, and engineering. I have solid ground to stand on there - I can even go into a lab and prove that what I'm saying works. So those subjects feel easy to me, or at least comfortable.

    With literature, though, I can't prove a damn thing and neither can anybody else. I'm lost; I lose sleep over it. It's hard to think of a subject as "easy" when there are no answers. It seems that those who love studying literature at university enjoy being in that position, though. They like the ambiguity and the endless discussions that don't lead to any final answers.

    So it isn't just aptitude for one subject or another. Whether a subject is easier or harder also depends on how comfortable you are with not knowing for sure.
     
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  24. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Couldn't Cormac answer that question?
     
  25. Mackers
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    What was your interpretation of the two books out of curiosity? :)
     

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