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Want an easy poli sci upper div? This class is really straightforward once you know what you're doing
-Lecture is podcasted, and slides are made available online, so no need to show up
-Your grade comes almost entirely from exams (40% from the midterm, 50% from the final), so study for the exam, not discussions or lecture
-It's not really emphasized, but the study guide for the final exam is available from day 1
-Read the books, because the material from the books (which does not appear in lecture) constitutes a large portion of your grade
-The exams are usually only 3 or 4 questions that determine your entire grade. They are not hard at all, however, you either know it or you don't
-The lectures are really dense and have a lot of detail to them. Most of this detail is unnecessary to know. The best thing to do is to sift through the information based on what's on the study guide for the midterm or the final exam.
One of the more "doable" classes i've taken at ucla. The reading load is pretty average for an upper div. But professor James is extremely organized and his lectures are very clear and well structured. He also gives you a study guide with all the questions that'll appear on the midterm/final (4-5 short essay questions) so you could just look for those in the reading (most of them are sufficiently covered in the lecture) and easily pull off an A. There are no surprises here. What you see is what you get, and if you just do what he tells you, and it isn't much, you'll easily get an A. Highly recommended
First of all this class is DRY! I only took it b/c I couldn't get into anything else for my minor. That being said this class is an EASY A if you try even minimally (and the class is podcasted!).
His class is 40% midterm, 50% final, 10% section (NO PAPER AT ALL). Exams are ID's/essay but he gives you ALL the possible ID's and exam questions (and honestly he picked the easier ID's I thought, like the ones he spent at least 20+ min on in lecture.
Biggest advice is to not buy the books, waste of money and you get all the key points from his lectures/ section (which are mandatory).
Also find 2-5 people and just use a google doc for the ID's. Makes it so much easier and is a huge time saver.
I only ever studied the week of the tests and it's just straight memorization. I doubt you will take away many important facts from this class (although there are some cool points but they are few and far between) but its an easy upper div class
Final grade: A (and that was just studying mostly the day before the final. If you can memorize facts this is your class)
I feel like I can't really complain about the course, since you literally know everything that could be on the midterm and final from the first day of class. He gives you all the possible IDs that could be on the exams, INCLUDING the 1 or 2 essay questions. As long as you just start preparing early for the IDs (or just create google docs with other people), there isn't much difficulty to it. All you have to do is understand/memorize the Ids and flesh out the essay questions beforehand, (enough to be able to write a coherent essay). There is no 15 page paper on top of the final for this class, so the class was basically 40% midterm, 50% final,and 10% participation. The discussion sections aren't really that helpful, so don't rely on those to really hammer in the points. I think James does a pretty good job in lectures (plus, it's bruincasted so you can just rewatch lectures if you didn't get it the first time), although the lectures do get super specific sometimes. My TA really tried to force us to do the readings in the books (for example, by centering discussions around them and making sure we bring them to class), so I'm not sure how much you can avoid buying the books.
That's actually the one part of the course that I didn't like. I spent so much money on the textbooks, and instead of mandatory, they should have just been supplementary optional readings, because James's lectures are so dense you can pretty much get all the info for the IDs in them. So, in hindsight, I regret wasting so much money on the books since they weren't useful (although, like I said before, depending on your TA I'm not sure if you can avoid buying the texts).
It's a lot of self-study, but that just means that your final grade is truly the result of how much work you put into studying the IDs. The one book that you do have to buy is the Vogel book at the end of the lecture (he might change the book for future courses, but he used this one for our class). The essay question for the final was on the Vogel book, so you probably won't be able to avoid buying that one.
All in all, your grade will reflect your effort, so you can't really blame anyone else but yourself for what grade you get. The grading is pretty fair (I mean, you're just regurgitating information, so there can't really be much bias in grading), and that's pretty much it.
James is also a nice guy. Although the information is quite dry, at least the course logistics is simple enough so that if you just work hard, you'll succeed.