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All the current reviews of the professor are accurate. I took her class because I heard a lot of good things about her, but her tests (especially the final) were harder then they needed to be. The tests were very picky on grading and weren’t fairly graded based on knowledge of the subject, but based memorizing specific key words to write in specific sections. Example: if you didn’t right the word entropy (even though you explained the concept correctly) you still would get the question wrong. I felt as if her lectures were also unclear of what was tested. Also not sure if this was only me but she’s not the most friendly in person.
Don't let the past distributions fool you. Tests are unclear and are meant to trick you. She seems like a nice teacher but her grading was nitpicky, and I did not feel like what she covered in lecture was indicative of what she was going to test on.
The final was extremely difficult, I was not expecting that at all... The midterms were ok but in general the grading was just too specific and annoying at times. She is pretty nice and Joseph is the best TA ever but BEWARE of the final it was absolutely ridiculous, and too much was being covered in week 10 to have a Sunday final right after. It wasn't anything similar to the practice problems and practice exams she provides. Beware...
Awad's clarity in lecturing is unmatched, but she can go fast at times, but I guess that's what Bruincast is for. The 2 midterms in the class were very fair, with the average on the first being 75%, and the second being 70%. But wait... the final. It was one of the toughest exams I've ever taken at UCLA as an undergrad, and I'm sure many others would vouch for this as well. Let's just say that I only saw a handful amount of students leave before the 3 hours were up. What bothered a lot of students is that the TAs told students before the exam that we wouldn't need the entire 3 hours to finish, but that was a blatant miscalculation. Many questions were vague and so detailed, that even the most astute student wouldn't be able to answer them. Stay tuned for an update...
Professor Awad is a stellar and talented lecturer. Her ability to convey such complex information about enzymes and metabolic pathways is honestly unparalleled, and all of her explanations are very clear and succinct. She knows her material very well, and it shows. She does talk fast, but she bruincasts, so you can rewatch the lectures and make note of any details you may have missed. I never read the book and relied solely on Awad's lectures, and they were more than enough.
The class itself was really interesting. I enjoyed most of the material, especially the last three weeks. There are just so many concepts you have to master, especially after the second midterm, and it involves a ton of memorization and critical thinking. However, the study questions (albeit very tedious at times) did provide enough practice to really drill those concepts in and to clear up any misconceptions. I feel like I left this quarter with a solid foundation in biochemistry and metabolism.
Sometimes, the discussion worksheets felt disconnected from the lectures, but they were very helpful in preparing you for test questions. If you're able to master all of the concepts from the discussion worksheets and study questions, you'll do awesome in this course.
The only qualm I have about 153A is the exams. The rubrics are nit-picky and often do not reflect your understanding of the material. Sure, if you really know your material, you'll probably get more points than if you don't, but it felt like a bunch of points were docked off for strange reasons. Even if those reasons were valid, the amount of points taken off felt incongruous to the magnitude of the error. I acknowledge that it would be difficult to grade 500 students' exams objectively without such a strict rubric (other than making it completely multiple choice), but it annoyed me at times. Additionally, I hear that this is a common complaint for some of the other 153A professors, so it's not just relegated to Awad.
Overall, I enjoyed this class. Awad was an incredible lecturer who made lectures a pleasure to attend, the TAs were all very friendly and willing to help, but the exams are frustrating and difficult.
Probably the toughest time I've had with a class ever, not because of the difficulty of the subject itself but working around the class structure in a way that would allow for survival of the grading portion. Awad curves the class to your benefit a fair amount, but it does not end up becoming a bonus because the grading of the short answer exam questions are based on key phrases and vocabulary terms that are mentioned in lecture and sometimes discussion. You would be given a vague question which has a very specific answer, and if your answer does not match the rubric's word for word, you won't receive points. Because of this, it is in your best interest to memorize the association of biochemistry ideas with these key phrases. If you can put a lot of time and effort into doing this, you will do well in the class even though it will be painful.
The class is based off of some quizzes explicitly based on memorizing (she tells you exactly what's on them) e.g. amino acids or processes, clicker participation points, two midterms (only 52 minutes for each, you'll finish them but sweatily) and the final, which is definitely cumulative and very difficult- testing every minor case to each big concept and obscure enzyme that may have been discussed for a minute or two in lecture. She offers some extra credit opportunities (including making a biochem music video where she picks the best and most hilarious of the class and shows them on the last lecture day) that aren't a whole lot of points, but make you feel better about your standing in the class.
The lectures were too fast to understand, so you'd be best getting your clicker points during lecture and watching bruincast at half speed later. The discussions were good to solidify some understanding of class topics but became more like press conferences about the exams as the quarter goes on, with students asking about how to recite the answers for the exam or quick and dirty strategies on solving certain types of problems without spending too long thinking about them. Weekly, she writes long pages of study questions for each exam which, if you memorize thoroughly, will prepare you fine for the exam (even if one week's study questions can be more than 50 questions long). The TAs and LAs would explain something and then apologize all the time for the grading structure of specific questions, which is not reassuring in the days leading up to an exam.
Even in hindsight, I can't decide whether this disconnected memorization is because of the class structure or the introductory nature of the class's scope of the subject, but the key phrases and terms are definitely where people lose points even if they have a deep understanding of the subject. Most of the people that seemed like they'd get As got their As, even if it looked bleak during the quarter with a C or two on an exam. She curves the grade cutoffs lower at the start of the class and then curves it even lower after the rough final. If you can take with another professor you should, but if you have to take it with Awad, know that it's definitely possible to do well in the class even if it's stressful and frustrating. I don't feel that I learned a whole lot besides some fundamentals, and I'll need to relearn most of it for the MCAT. Biochemistry as a subject can be interesting, but I didn't feel that at all while taking the class. Just be clever with your studying and turn to the TAs about how to best process information while doing the study questions.
I have mixed thoughts about Agape. On one hand I can't deny the fact that she is a really, really clear and articulate professor. She's incredibly generous with extra credit and letter grade ranges (you see the grade distribution from Fall 2018). However, her tests, as everyone already said, are super nit-picky. She is also super condescending during lecture! She will sarcastically respond to anyone who asks questions and often acts as if we should know everything but constantly saying "obviously" after concepts that aren't necessarily that way to everyone. Little things like that make me really not like her personality or attitude. I literally can't tell if she's truly a nice professor or not but I guess that doesn't matter because we are here to grind and get those As and learn, and at the end of the day she's good at giving us that.
Okay as you've probably read about this professor, the tests may seem a bit daunting. The rubric is very meticulous and looks for very specific keywords and phrases. For example, you described the function of this protein but you didn't mention its conformation change; you wouldn't get points. The TAs grading the exams are also religiously following the rubric so there's no way to argue points unless they blatantly made a mistake.
That being said, this class was extremely generous with the grading. Like the averages weren't insanely low for my quarter (74/100, 70/100, and 139/200 which were historically a bit higher). The quizzes (that make up 100 points) aren't difficult at all but require a lot of memorization. 25 points are from clickers and Awad lets you drop like 2-3 days. Then there are the extra credit assignments (music video, 1-page online research summary, and teacher evaluations) that give 15 points. She even lowered the grading scale for an A by 15 points (450 to 435) and gave EVERY student a 5 point buffer. Honestly, people are really out here hating on Awad when (if you do everything that you're supposed it) the averages fall between B~A-.
Awad's probably the best choice for chem153A. It's going to be a grind regardless of the professor but I think the grading distribution will help accommodate those looking to get an A in the class.
Professor Awad is an engaging professor with lucid explanations of subject material. The class is very well organized, with structured lecture packets and study questions. However, beware of her tests. The majority of the final grade, aside from 25 points of clicker participation, is comprised of quizzes, midterms, and the final. The quizzes are rote memorization for the most part, and it is not too hard to do well on them. However, her grading on the midterms is very nit-picky, and you will lose points if you don't have the exact wording that she's looking for. Moreover, her final was by-far the most difficult exam I have taken at UCLA. As someone who: scored significantly above average on the midterms (high 80s), aced all quizzes, has succeeded in my previous UCLA chemistry courses, and studied diligently (and much in advance for the final), I can confidently say I did not score above a D on that exam. Her wording was very vague to the point where I was unsure of what she was asking for and the combination of the latter with her grading rubric makes me unsure of my final grade. She does offer extra credit (a music video, written assignment, a few pre-course assessment tests), so make sure to do it. I'm unsure of why reviewers in the past said to take this class with her; I think her difficulty compared to Tienson from what I've heard and experienced is about the same. However, it's also entirely possible she made the class much harder this quarter, so your mileage may vary for future quarters. Regardless, she is a strong lecturer and is organized, but beware, this class is extremely difficult.
P.S. Joseph is a great TA!