Author: Benji Huang, BCom 2018
Year course taken: Spring of 2014
Final mark obtained: 100
Every instructor teaches ECON 102 differently, but unless you have been living in a cave for the last couple of months, you would know that Gateman’s course is a definite outlier from the others. If you have taken ECON 101 with him, this shouldn’t be a surprise. If you haven’t, you will find out soon enough why Prof. G is both feared and respected after the first midterm. Truth be told, Gateman is not out there to get you – I know a few students in my year who got really good marks. At the same time, some of you will certainly fail. So just make sure it isn’t you.
Making sure you are not the one who fails
This might sound really loaded, but this is really all there is to it – the one and only sure fire way to survive Gateman’s ECON 102. As you might have heard, Gateman’s exams are notoriously hard. But you might also know about Prof’s G legendary scaling (for one of my midterms, the section was scaled up by something around 14%, and as you might have guessed there were people whose adjusted scores were above 100%). But at the same time, there were also people who definitely bombed that same midterm. So what does this anecdote tell you? It tells you that you are not really locked in an uphill battle against Gateman’s tests, you are actually in a fight to beat out other people in your class. Period.
How to beat out people in your class
At this point you might see a sliver of light at the far end of the dark tunnel. But don’t rejoice just yet. You still need to figure out how to get over there. You get there by doing two things: study hard AND study smart. Just as important, you must also be prepared to make some hard choices and some real sacrifices, especially in the weeks leading up to the exams. You can’t survive Gateman if you leave studying to the night before. But at the same time, you have much better things to do than to contemplate economics all day long (unless you are an ECON major of course). In the following paragraphs, I will teach you the sweet mixture of brute force and efficiency needed for studying his material.
Study Hard and Study Smart
Studying hard is easy (well comparatively). You poke around to find out approximately how many hours a week your friends put into ECON 102 and double that, then throw in a couple more hours in the days prior to the exam for good measure. You are looking at 5 solid hours a week excluding time for quizzes. And if you plan to check Facebook constantly, the 5 hours can easily escalate into 7 or 8. You will need one full day to prep for a midterm and two full days to prep for the final. Keep that in mind when you plan your review schedule. Also, don’t study to fill a quota. It does you no good if you are just staring at the textbook blindly for 5 hours on a Saturday night while listening to Katy Perry. Log off, unplug and focus. You know you are doing it right if you don’t have to learn much, if anything new, when you are reviewing. If you are learning 80% of the content the day before the test, you are doing something horribly wrong.
Next is what to study. Remember how Gateman stressed again and again at the beginning of the semester that he is not really there to test your knowledge? He is much more interested in your ability to think. But make no mistake, it doesn’t mean that you can get away without knowing the concepts. On the contrary, you are pretty much going to fail for sure if you don’t know the fundamentals inside and out. You learn your fundamentals by first memorizing the keywords, the bolded terms and the glossary. Then you must internalize the ideas behind those words. It is not enough if you know the definition of stagflation; you must be able to think of an example in real life and be ready to explain what forces led to that outcome. If you don’t know what stagflation is yet, don’t worry. You will definitely know what it is by the final. It is critical you don’t learn new things the day before your exam because you will not have enough time to really understand and think through those concepts. At best, you can only regurgitate the definition which will result in a B- if you are lucky.
Finally, don’t just read the textbook over and over again (if you think the “G-book is all you need” promise is too good to be true, it is). You only ever need to read the textbook from beginning to end three times. The first time is just to read like how you would read a novel. Try to understand, but if you don’t understand, don’t worry. The second time around, grab a pencil, take some notes and draw graphs to follow along. Find the answer to everything you don’t understand the first time around (ask Gateman! He doesn’t bite). Then for the hardest round, the third round, don’t read. Cover the text with your hand or a piece of paper, leaving only the headings or subtitles exposed, then try to recite as much as you remember about the concepts covered in the section. After you think you have exhausted every idea, read the text and you will realize just how little you actually learned or retained. Don’t be too distressed, just read the stuff one last time to make sure you have truly grasped the knowledge.
In summary, there are no short cuts. You need to study hard and you also need to study smart. Start with terms and definitions, move into more complex concepts, and cover the text and test yourself during your third run through of the textbook. Can you explain the idea to a twelve year old without trouble? If you done can do that, then you are well positioned to perform better than the lazier bunch in your class. And that is the one and the only way to survive Gateman’s ECON 102 class. Don’t forget to come to CMP’s review sessions as well. We have wonderful resources designed just for you to help you prep for the infamous critical thinking problems.