Based on 153 Users
I had the absolute displeasure of listening to this so-called "Dr. Heather Tienson-Tseng" for the past 10 weeks. Let me start by sharing with you an excerpt from the final email to the class as she posts final grades:
" I know some of you may be disappointed with your grade, and I am sorry about that. However, they are final. Grades cannot be changed; no matter how much you whine or beg. "
Whine or beg. These are the words she uses to address her class. I have never met such an arrogant, rude, and downright unpleasant person in my life. Let me put the personality complaints aside and tell you about the exams. The first exam was incredibly easy with a median score of 84%. Being so high, she sends us an email about how she is surprised and essentially wants/expects a lower average. We all get very nervous for the second exam, so we study very hard to prepare. Boom, second exam results come in and the average is a 50% with a HIGHEST SCORE of a 72%. The exam was IMPOSSIBLE to do well on, and was obviously designed for students to fail (hence the average). She comes into the class smiling the next day, without any sort of apology for such a terrible exam. I knew it was completely on purpose to lower the overall average grades of the class. Final exam was not so bad with an average of a 73%. A 90% overall grade was the A cutoff.
The course was rather boring and uninteresting. The material was super easy until the end of the second midterm material where it suddenly picked up and was way too fast. She decided to lecture a massive amount of material in week 10 when our final was on Sunday (so Friday lecture was tested on in depth less than 2 days later). She never told us anything about what we were expected to know for exams except "look at the learning outcomes." This was hugely misleading since none of the learning outcomes for a particular section said we would be required to draw the mechanism of RNA splicing, but there it is on the 50 minute midterm. She was so unclear on what we had to know that we would spend hours memorizing meaningless details that were never tested on.
The curve in this class is extremely weak. You barely get 3-4% grade boost at the B+/A levels. With a midterm of 50% average. Tell me how this is fair to the students. Clearly, she does not care about her students and is teaching purely for a paycheck and to banter to her top 2 favorite students about how women scientists don't get recognized for Nobel prizes.
If you can avoid her, then BY ALL MEANS steer clear. Her course is boring, unforgiving in terms of grades at the B+/A levels, and she doesn't show any care for her students' success. She wrote a midterm to be impossible on purpose to bring her class average down because she simply doesn't want to give out more than 20% A's. What kind of professor does this?
A bad one.
I highly recommend you read the other reviews, as I found them to be generally accurate toward Tienson. Her lecturing is pretty mediocre, a solid 3.5/5 maybe. But her tests are the trashiest that I've ever seen. Her tests alone make my overall rating 2/5.
In general, I don't think the any of the course is worth much emphasis except the tests. There's a ton of things that you can point out that's terrible, so let's just list them out.
1. Questions are worded vaguely or in a misleading way. You often struggle to figure out what in the world Tienson actually wants. Tienson doesn't seem to have the self-awareness to realize that if a bunch of students complain, then it's probably the question's fault, not every single one of the student's fault.
2. The short answer questions have a strange limitation that you cannot write more than x number of sentences. Mind you, x is usually something like 1 or 2. Try explaining a concept in 1 or 2 sentences. Then she takes off points during grading for not being detailed enough. Oh, and writing run-on sentences gets counted as multiple sentences.
3. Her grading policy allows partial credit in a question. The only problem is that her grading rubric demands relatively specific things to be mentioned, such that having a question mostly right will usually still net you almost no partial credit.
4. She only allows 10 regrade requests for the entire quarter. That is, 10 questions. Due to how vague the questions are and how oddly specific the grading rubric tends to be, it can often be a struggle to figure out if it's worth it to use up a regrade request on that question. Of course, if she does determine that the question was graded incorrectly, then you get one regrade request back, but come on. I've never seen a professor that mistrusts students to this degree to not abuse the regrade requests.
The course is *not* graded on a curve, though the professor does scale it so that something like an 82% still counts as an A. Good luck getting even 80% on the tests though. Anyways, I find that the best way to prepare for the tests is to watch the Bruincast lecture vids before the test. That'll refresh your memory on what it was that Tienson brought up in class, since you can bet that she'll use something that's only mentioned in passing as a question on the test.
When you are in the classroom and hear the lecturer talks like "ah...today...ah...we gonna talk about ah...ah...DNA...ah..."; guess what? You are in the class of Dr. Tienson!
She uses the iclicker to take attendance, but the only purpose of her lecture is to torture her students' ears. She doesn't know much biochemistry, not even good at reading from the slides.
She can't even produce a complete sentence without saying "ah..ah..ah..", but she is truly a master in annoying people.
The exams were graded using gradescope, and please be informed that you almost can never get a score that you expect because the answer key really contains everything one can think of, and it is impossible to write them all down within a such short time.
Her class has made me to doubt myself...Indeed, I thought that I was crazy, so I went to see a shrink. Fortunately, after a few sessions, the shrink told me that the problem wasn't on me, but there are some serious mental issues with Dr. Tienson. It is extremely disappointing that such a pathetic "lecturer" teaches at UCLA.
Ok.. let me start by saying that it doesn’t matter how much you study or how well you understand the material, you constantly feel inadequate because of the style and grading keys of the exams. You will have to fill 10 empty pages with correct answers within 50 minutes which makes it very hard to complete. Do not overestimate yourself just because you only have to get 75 points out of 100 points to get full credit on midterms( maximum points are cutoff at 75). Because you would have to write down the grading key, not similar plausible answers. If its possible, please skip this instructor for this course. After having midterms that are averaged almost 50%(37.75 out of 75), it is unreasonable to have a cutoff of 90% for an A.
I have never worked so hard for a class in my life!
Its safe to assume that she somewhat enjoyed our struggle!
Please do something more useful instead with your time
The courses must not be designed based on what exact words to use when answering questions. Thats why synonyms exist! Good luck getting points if you don’t read her mind and extract her choice of words. This is just one of many different issues. Feel free to read all other comments to aknowledge yourself of other issues. :)
I do not intent to be disrespectful. This is the nicest possible way I can express my opinion about this instructor and this course.
I wish very best of luck to people who take her due to unavoidable reasons. Trust me, you need it..
~Quick Grade Breakdown / Stats from Fall 2018~
Clicker Points: 20/20 (reduced from 25; fewer days than expected)
Homework: 30/30 (2 extra credit points were possible here)
Quizzes: 100/100 (Doing the pre-assessment gives 10 free points ONLY in quiz grade )
Midterm 1: 85/100
Midterm 2: 91.5/100 (1 extra credit point was possible here)
Final: 175/200 (or 87.5%)
Extra Credit: 10/10 I think (EXCLUDING extra credit mentioned above)
[3 surveys, 2 points each
This Quarter in Biochemistry, up to 3 points (would have been 5 if your response was selected to be presented, but we didn't have time for any)
Course eval, 1 point]
MY TOTAL: 511.5/550 or 93.00%
AVERAGE MIDTERM 1: 69/100 before regrades and before Dr. Tienson-Tseng changed the grading of a question
AVERAGE MIDTERM 2: 73/100 before regrades
AVERAGE FINAL: 135/200 or 67.50%
OVERALL AVERAGE POINTS IN THE CLASS: 418/550 or 76.00%
NOTE: as mentioned above, our grading scale was adjusted down from 555 to 550 because she didn't believe we had enough clicker days. Therefore, she adjusted the grade cutoffs by 5 points.
Dr. Tienson-Tseng did not adjust the scale to be more lenient this quarter, so the bare minimum to get an A- this quarter was roughly ~82.7%, or 455/550. She determines plus or minus grades only after the quarter has finished, I think. An LA mentioned to me that from her understanding, basically, the top 75% of those in the A range (455-550) will get As or A+s, and the bottom 25% will get an A-. I believe a safe estimate for any future quarters would be roughly 87% for a solid A... This was also confirmed to be a good estimate by an LA.
So anyway. Wow. Biochem was DEFINITELY a ride! As others have mentioned before, Dr. Tienson has some rather odd pacing. In retrospect, I partly recognize the purpose, but it was still very stressful to go through at the time. The first week will seem to drag on forever - we took THREE days for general chemistry review, primarily thermodynamics. You DO need a very solid foundation of this though, particularly thermo, to be able to give what she calls "biochemically sound" reasoning. Whether that's for protein folding, metabolic pathways, etc. The second half of the quarter does pick up a lot, and post-midterm 2 felt like a MESS.
Our midterm 1 was Waeek 3 Friday and I was chilling all of Week 1 and part of Week 2. I tried to get my ass into gear on the weekend of Week 2, but still felt blindsided when we were given new lecture material literally the lecture before the midterm. The worst part was having the pyMOL assignment due RIGHT before the midterm too. So if you are reading this, PLEASE, for your own sanity, since she seems to love the pymol assignment - keep this in mind when prepping for Midterm 1.
Also note that for pyMOL, the first part where you're just giving data about the protein is more chill, and she's generous when you're measuring distance between side chains of proteins also. However, be detailed in your explanations for the parts that ask for one. I unfortunately lost 2 points for being more concise in one part, though I did get the 2 points of extra credit.
In terms of studying for this class... as everyone else has already said, the study questions are important. Rewatching parts of lecture can be helpful also, because Heather will be randomly slow at parts and fast at parts of the lecture. I will say though, be really careful when reading questions on the exam! Sometimes over-studying the study questions can actually be harmful if you assume she's asking the same thing she did in the study questions, when the question may actually be asking something slightly different.
Also, YES, she is EXTREMELY particular in her key words. This is no joke. Learn how to break this down super mechanically/systematically though! I know I would panic whenever starting a question because all I could think about was how many details I was missing or freak out about how I would fit all the knowledge I had into the word limit. This hurt me a little for Midterm 1, but realize that in her study questions that she's also extremely wordy. Try to cut out the fat, so to speak, yourself. For example, with protein folding, you should be thinking of the entropy and enthalpy for both the water/protein respectively as well as the overall favorability... Realize that she may not bring some of these things up in the study questions because the questions specifically focus on entropy or enthalpy. You need to be able to think critically about what it is she's truly asking, rather than just mindlessly rewriting the answers (no shade intended here!).
What I think is very anxiety-inducing is that although there is a good amount of predictability with the exams, it can be hard to tell what exactly she's looking for. Like, depending on how you vibe with the exam, you could do 5-10 points better or worse - and that was definitely a terrible feeling. Especially when reviewing, and the answers actually don't seem so difficult to attain. So seriously, try your best to keep a cool head!
As a whole though, I would say that all the exams were fair, but studying for this class constantly feels like a mind game with just how much content and NUANCES TO THE CONTENT that there is to go through. Keep the fundamentals close to heart though, always, and try to find comfort in that because it really should carry you most of the way.
NOTE: everyone freaks out about the final, but I SWEAR, even though the questions do force you to """think outside of the box""" I really DO think they are graded more leniently than the midterms because I literally have no idea how I would have gotten 175/200 otherwise. Like yes, I busted my ass for this class and 85% of time spent for ALL my classes was actually directed toward biochem... and I would have expected as much for any regular class, but this final does have a well-earned reputation. If this final were graded like the midterms I would have expected myself to get ~150, max 160 TBH. All my friends did leave feeling scared though, as did I.
TIP: go to LA review sessions, because I do think the intent was for students who took advantage of these opportunities to do better than the average student. I can pretty clearly see how she tried to prepare us for the Final with similar questions in the LA review.
ALSO, be aware that when she says 50% of post-midterm 2 content is on the final, don't assume that this means a ton of electron transport chain stuff, which is taught at the VERY end. Glycolysis and TCA cycle may not seem totally new by the time you get around to the final, but the REGULATION of metabolic pathways technically is, and literally everyone I knew left that final feeling really surprised the questions weren't awfully specific on ETC details. This may vary depending on whether you finish early though, and we were scrambling to finish.
By the way, shoutout to Agape for subbing for Heather after her father passed away. I absolutely ADORED Agape, and although the grading scheme will be EXTREMELY similar and they share many study questions/resources (as Agape was formerly Tienson's TA)... I do believe Agape was more clear and had more consistent pacing.
EDIT: I just wanted to come back and affirm that even though I didn't end up hating the class and I even changed my major to biochemistry... that EVERYTHING that the person who wrote the review on December 28 is saying...is true. There is not one single thing in that review that I can say isn't fair criticism - though I would be slightly less harsh.
I would clarify that Tienson/Awad seemed to collaborate on some final exam questions because I checked in with a friend who took Awad and there were definitely questions that were EXACTLY the same between our classes - but we also did have differences between our questions on electron transport chain near the end of the quarter and it would be frustrating to hear in Awad's office hours that we would be tested on this topic in more detail than her class.
I only took Tienson because Gober's class filled up before my pass and I definitely wish I could have taken Gober. Tienson's class is not hard but it's just a lot of unnecessary work to be fully honest. 153A is supposed to be a MTWF class but Gober's class didn't even meet every Tuesday. Tienson has around 8 or 9 quizzes, 2 of which are online that are worth 100 points of your grade. Your preassessment quiz will give you 10 points of leeway (aka not extra credit since you can earn 100 points max).
She DOES NOT scale the class more generously when the averages for both midterms and the final are around a 70%, so use that for reference. This means that it's necessary to get an 82% average for an A-. The A grade depends on your class but generally aim for an 87% for a solid A.
The tests are quite honestly not hard in terms of the content. The questions are all very fair. However, if any one tries to tell you that she doesn't require key words or phrases to be in the answer, they're wrong. Even if you explain something fully but you don't include a specific term, they're going to mark your answer as incorrect. I'm not talking about excluding important words, but I'm referring to cases where you explain what a futile cycle is, but don't specifically mention the words "futile cycle." My advice in this case would be to examine all past exams you can to learn what words and kinds of answers she wants as that is what helped me get ~10% above the average on the midterms. Thus, this class is a lot of memorization. I understand needing to memorize the steps of glycolysis and TCA, but it was annoying to need to memorize the answers she wanted even though I knew I understood the material well enough to explain it.
Class was also super disorganized with us waiting a minimum of 5 minutes pretty much every day to start class, which was frustrating considering that we were already behind schedule by Wednesday of Week 1. We ended up not covering a lot of material and not doing the TQIB extra credit presentations.
All in all, try to go for Awad or Gober if you can, but if not, it's not the end of the world. You just have to learn how to take Tienson's tests and you should be good.
To be honest, Professor Tienson was a caring professor. She was understanding due to the circumstances that arose because of COVID-19- she made our tests open note, open book, and open friend. Although she usually lectures at a fast pace, she is usually willing to answer any questions. Her lectures are not always the most engaging, but she does cover a lot of material. Her clicker questions are also hard asf and borderline unfair sometimes, but her lectures and discussions did prepare us sufficiently for exams.
I am going to second anyone who has said that this class is TOUGH. I have heard horror stories from upperclassmen about this class, so I knew to take this class seriously from the start. With that being said, it's not impossible. You really just need to enter this class with the right mentality and *know* that you're going to do well. I'm not gonna lie, there were times that I felt so utterly defeated and didn't know if I would do well in this class. I was SHOCKED when I saw my final grade (believe me, I am so thankful for this class's curve because it is soooo generous) but it still took an unbelievable amount of hard work. Lemme break it down for ya.
LECTURES: Personally, I found her lectures to be quite helpful. Heather does a decent job at covering all the basic concepts in class, and I found the clicker Q's to be pretty helpful. However, she speaks waaaay too fast in class (I don't blame her because there is just so much material to cover), so I started to BruinCast every lecture after the first midterm, and I couldn't believe all the details that I missed during lecture!! I would highly recommend using BruinCast to extract all the key details from lecture because they show up again in study questions and exams.
DISCUSSION: Not mandatory. My TA wasn't amazing so I stopped going UNTIL I discovered Agape. BLESS HER SOUL. Her discussion sections were amazingly organized and helpful. She went over the discussion worksheets in such a methodical and organized fashion and related to the problems to the key concepts covered during lecture. I am forever indebted to her.
HOMEWORK: There is only one assignment (protein structure assignment using PyMOL) and I cannot stress the importance of starting early and checking your work! I spent a solid week on this assignment and still had to go to OH and check up with friends on how to do it. The assignment is worth 30 points, which contributes quite a bit to your final grade.
TEXTBOOK: Not required. Heather provides a PDF on CCLE. I never used it except for assigned reading to take the two online quizzes.
STUDY QUESTIONS: Do every single one of them. Aside from past exams, the study questions are the single best study tool that you have for this class. Do them the week that they're assigned! They pile on soooo quickly. Some weeks only have 20 questions, and others have 50 questions. You really don't wanna save all of them right before an exam because they are pretty time-consuming to go through.
QUIZZES: The in-class quizzes are a breeze because they're just memorization. You only get 5-10 minutes (depending on the quiz) at the beginning of class to do them, so know your stuff. Remember to brush up on the quiz content before midterms & finals because she expects you to know them for exams! There are two online quizzes on CCLE, which requires assigned textbook reading, so they're not as straightforward as the in-class ones. I think there are 110 points total for quizzes, but only 100 points count towards your grade, so there was some leeway if you forgot to study for one.
LA SESSIONS: I went to a weekly LA review session, which I didn't find that helpful. I did, however, attend all the review sessions before exams, and the LAs basically went over past exam questions, which was helpful!
EXAMS: Oh boy they were difficult... You can't just get away with memorization to do well on her exams. I didn't do so hot on the first midterm and had to reassess my studying habits. Some things that I did that helped me for subsequent exams: use BruinCast to get all the key details from lecture, start study questions EARLY, and take advantage of any practice midterms and final you can find. The final was significantly harder than the two midterms, so stay on top of the material! Also, I also am indebted to AK Lectures on YouTube- he goes over the key biochem concepts SO well!!
Some final words: if you're reading this at the beginning of the quarter, I BELIEVE IN YOU and you need to believe in yourself! Start your shit early because I know I did, and I still felt like I was pressed for time on studying. You can do anything you set your mind to. If you're reading this right after getting your midterm grades back, pick yourself back up because YOU GOT THIS. I got 68.5% on the first midterm and lost almost all hope in getting an A in the class, but I'm letting you know that is *still* possible. This class is difficult, but you get what you put in. Good luck, and GO BRUINS!
I came into this class thinking that it was going to be super hard. I heard people saying this class is all about memorization and you needed to study every detail that the professor says. This is partially true, but the professor (I took Awad) makes it so that she covers everything on the exam. Nothing is a big surprise.
The exams in this class are very predictable, so nothing should really come as a surprise. Doing the weekly study questions is very helpful, as they are all past 153A exam questions. I didn't really pay too much attention in lecture, and instead I focused on UNDERSTANDING everything in her study guides.
That said, I also used a bunch of old tests that she had. However, you should only do these after throughly looking through the study questions. Doing these (or just reading the answer key) helps in that you start figuring out what key words she is looking for. There are questions that repeat themselves quarter after quarter. I received an A+ in this class (Proof: https://gyazo.com/173dc13688ace402788371ed4f781f5f) from looking over her old tests before going in for her midterms and finals.
If you'd like to purchase a few tests (or my entire bank, about 4 years worth of tests), email *************. I'll get to you ASAP.
Before 'rona Heather wasn't the most popular 153C professor (as you can tell by previous reviews) but luckily she made the class a whole lot easier to pass online. Her lectures are rather tedious (fun drinking game: take a shot every time she says "uhmmm" and wipes her nose) but it is probably a good idea to watch them (preferably at 2x speed) to cover exam material. Exams (three midterms, no final) are written and graded rather poorly: short-answer questions are often vague and open-ended with extremely specific answers required for full points. The upside to this is that the exams were only 20% of our grade, with a hefty 40% of our grade being the group project (this will likely change in the future since many people got A's). Another plus is that she gives a rather generous amount of extra credit, and discussion sections are not mandatory. Basically, Tienson online: easy, ok. Tienson irl: maybe hard, idk.