Strategy and Conflict

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Professor Most Helpful Review
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Michael Chwe See Full Profile

Overall 3.5 Easiness 2.0 Workload 2.2 Clarity 3.5 Helpfulness 3.7

Most Helpful Review

A very intelligent, kind, and fantastic professor, but don't forget that the 172 course is not for the faint of heart PS kids looking for that easy A grade. As a student who has excelled in other game theory application courses (I'm not talking about 30), I can say that Chwe's course includes some rather challenging concepts.

PS 172 is essentially an introduction to more interesting and fundamental concepts of game theory (in comparison, PS 30 is very very very introductory course that is taught through simple examples requiring no more than simple algebra and a little intuition). He teaches concepts that apply to game theory beyond simple political examples, making it more like a game theory course taught in an economics department (like econ 106g).

Grading is based on weekly homework assignments, a few quizzes that are scheduled ahead, and a final. Like his other classes, the actual grade distribution is based on a ranking of overall performance. I thought he did a great job increasing the difficulty incrementally. I know a lot of his PS 30 students tell others to stay away from him for this, but Prof Chwe really tests how much command you develop over the taught concepts. Homework problems are slightly harder than similar examples presented in lecture to teach concepts. The quizzes were a mixed balance of questions similar to those of the homework and maybe 1-2 variant questions that add a twist to scenario similar to homework question. The same is true for the questions on the final exam in comparison to those of the quizzes.

The point I am trying to make with explaining this is that the difficulty of the course is similar to the challenges students face in any math or econ course at UCLA. If you have this exposure, you know that while homework questions are good practice, there will still be some questions on the final that require you to apply concepts that you should have mastered in a new way. Your performance should reflect your knowledge of general concepts, not how well you can recall "boiler plate" solution steps while just swapping integers to the same problems you had in homework. As someone who has taken plenty of poli sci classes where it is way more important to know "how to do well" than actual study contents, I can understand why this may turn students away from the class.

To wrap this up, consider taking this class if you are prepared to challenge yourself and enjoy a struggle. While this review may sound intimidating to some, I cannot stress enough how receptive Prof Chwe is to helping students. There were plenty of people in my course (Winter 2011) who consistently struggled and asked questions. He welcomes questions and has no problem going back and rehashing examples slower than the first time he present them. Furthermore, the class is rather small, creating a much friendlier environment for students to ask questions and discuss solution concepts.

Sept. 5, 2012
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