Based on 121 Users
Do not take this class. The weekly reading quizzes are like mini exams every week that take up a large chunk of your grade, and they are extremely nit picky and hard. On numerous occasions, you have 4 days to do 180-200+ pages of reading, while having to prepare to do the quiz on those pages of reading. Students have constantly told him that the quizzes are unmanageable, but he does not seem to adjust the difficulty. I have had to neglect my other classes to focus on this one. I am not kidding when I say this class equates to the workload of two Poli sci classes. It has been an extremely strenuous quarter due to this singular class. I would avoid taking this class is possible. If you must, you absolutely have to do the readings and pay a painstakingly amount of attention to every little detail as literally anything could be on the quiz.
I would not take this course with this professor again. Professor Zaller has to be one of my least favorite professors at UCLA due to his sarcastic remarks toward students and his paranoid attitude on whether or not the material he is giving us challenging enough. It always feels like you are being talked down to as a student by Zaller. He makes quizzes based on the required readings a lot more complex than needed. Questions on quizzes are confusing sometimes and not straight to the point. Lectures always feels like he is rambling instead of be concise of what is the important points to take away. I do not recommend taking this professor, avoid if possible.
Please avoid this class. The man is stronger than a roofie and will put you to sleep the minute you attend his lecture. There is no soul to the class and the weekly quizzes are a pain in the ass. His quizzes are 5 questioned either multiple choice or short response. Now you would think that that doesn't sound so bad right? WRONG! His constant use of All of the above and none of the above makes it so hard to actually pick the right answer for the multiple choice quizzes. It plants the seeds of doubt in your head and I mean I am just going on a tangent. The man is very paranoid about cheating as well. I don't know why he cares as much as he does. Probably some deep rooted childhood trauma? Please don't get fooled by the reviews that rated him a 4.2 or whatever. There's so much reading involved in the class compared to the other PS classes I've taken. If you plan on taking one PS class and it just so happens to be Zaller, you might be able to manage it. If you're taking 3 other PS classes like me, DONT. He makes us read 200+ pages a week just so the question on the quiz would be "What did I dream about on June 15, 1967?" Please just don't take this class. I feel like I am always falling behind because of this class.
If you care about your GPA, do NOT take this class. The workload is incredibly overwhelming- we had to read an average of 100 pages per week. One week, we were assigned to read 180 pages, and we were quizzed on that reading. On multiple occasions, I had to skip my lectures for other classes, just so I could sit in YRL and try to finish the readings. Comprehending all of the assigned material was a continuous struggle; this class felt like the workload of two upper divs rather than one. That brings me to my next point... the quizzes. The quizzes for this class covered incredibly specific details from the readings that were difficult to answer. Even though the quizzes were supposed to gauge who did the readings each week, I don't think they were indicative of that at all. I did the readings every single week, took extensive notes, and still struggled with the quizzes (as did many of my classmates). Since the lectures were recorded and attendance wasn't mandatory, many students would leave after taking the in-class quizzes because of how overwhelmed they were.
Additionally, the lectures were very dry, and I often felt that the professor moved through the slides too quickly. The professor's monotonous lecture style and tone had me struggling to not fall asleep in class. Don't get me wrong- Professor Zaller is a very nice man, and I do believe that he wants his students to succeed. He offered extensive office hours, and has good communication with his students. Nonetheless, I struggled with the material throughout the entire quarter, and didn't walk away retaining much information. I cannot stress this enough- stay away from this class.
The grading system in this class is pretty close to being as corrupt as the political parties he lectures about. Every quiz has a different format and almost every quiz requires an explanation several paragraphs long just to figure out what his logic for the grading was. By far the most inconsistent grading system I have witnessed during my 3 years at UCLA. Prof. Zaller comes across as a caring person but anyone with a strong moral compass can see through the facade. This professor is a perfect example of someone who is paranoid about cheating and that is understandable, but he really takes it to another level and makes the quizzes harder than they need to be. The main complaint about Zaller and his class are...
1. Quizzes are way too hard
2. His grading system is corrupt
3. He will make your life very challenging
The readings are kind of OK, but when you have to read so you can pass a quiz, then it becomes a chore. Overall, I know some students tried hard and still got low scores, and some students didn't read and guessed the answers and still did very well. His system is broken. don't take this class unless you really need to.
I felt like I learned a lot in this class, which is more than what I can say for other classes in this department.
Not sure how he got decent ratings. Anyway, on the very first day, he expressed his concern about students "cheating" on his weekly reading quizzes, which is understandable. But, little did we know his concern literally became extreme paranoia. As a result, he made the reading quizzes so hard that even if you read all the material carefully, you will struggle. In other words, you could be a 4.0 student and still receive low/poor grades on the quizzes he makes because he only wants specific answers that he likes. As for the textbook (which you have to buy), to simply put, it's terrible - it's a selection of chapters from other books written by other people that's poorly scanned, making some of the pages shamefully unreadable or have a bad resolution. And no, I am not joking.
In summary, Zaller's performance and quality so far in this quarter do not, in many ways, match or reflect these decent reviews on Bruinwalk, so please avoid him and take another class.
This professor is super paranoid about cheating so he made the class extra stressful. For the final exam, he randomly has half of the papers graded twice and takes the average of that. Let's just say that the difference between my scores from the two graders was 11%. My first grader graded correctly while the other graded extra harshly. All you guys can do is pray you do not get double graded because this is done arbitrarily in order to make sure people get a lower score. John Zaller does this so that there can be more of a grade distribution at the expense of a student's grade. Please avoid this guy as he is not worth your time!
This class was A LOT of work, the other reviews aren't lying when they say its around 200 pages of a reading for each lecture. You will have to do the reading for the quizzes the professor gives in the beginning of lecture. He says that the quizzes are incredibly easy, but they require a pretty in depth reading. I did the reading each time but that wasn't enough. I often had to reread it, study it, and go over with other students for every quiz (which is a lot of work when you have a quiz every sing week and sometimes two). The midterm and finals were not hard though, it was just an essay prompt where you could bring in a cheat sheet version and just summarize everything you've learned so far. The lectures are posted online but remember you have to take quizzes so you have to go to lecture most of the times, at least in the beginning. Some lectures were honestly painful to sit through he often would get fixated on one comment that was hardly relevant to the lecture, reading, etc. For instance at one point I asked if we could deviate from the comment a study had used "crack baby" because I didn't understand a separate part of the reading and he refused to even let me ask my question because he wanted to discuss why somebody would use that phrase for over an hour. For reference the reading was largely just to point out there is extremes on both the left and right. Anyway, I digress. The class is a LOT of work but an A is possible. He offers extra credit make sure to do them. I am selling the course reader for cheaper than it is in Westwood text me at ********** or email me at *************
Professor Zaller's humor was lost on most students, but I found him very engaging. Keep up with the reading, and the weekly quizzes which tests whether you are doing the reading - will be very easy. There's a lot of room for error in the quizzes, which account for a third of the grade, but Professor Zaller is more interested in the quality of the essay, like an English professor would be, and a little less interested in mastery of the subject matter. This all being said, Professor Zaller is retired, and came out of retirement for this course this quarter, so it's unlikely he'll teach this course again.