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What are the hardest classes at the U of M? Great question. It’s nearly impossible to nail down a definitive list since everyone thinks different things are difficult and other things are a breeze. However, this list, compiled through some research and a very unofficial survey of my peers and friends, is a good starting place of classes to avoid unless you absolutely have to take them. And if that’s the case…good luck. I hope you’re ready. Here are 10 of the Hardest Classes at University of Minnesota!

1. CHEM 4311W – Advanced Organic Chemistry Lab

“Reactions, techniques, and instrumental methods in synthetic organic chemistry.”

Quite possibly the most dreaded and feared class in the entire U of M campus. “OCHEM,” as it’s referred to, has been terrifying students since the very beginning. Good luck passing on the first try.

2. JOUR 3279W – Professional Writing for Strategic Communication

“JOUR 3279W is a professional skills course designed to develop writing expertise for public relations and advertising agency work, corporate and nonprofit strategic communication and development of tactical thinking and publicity techniques.”

According to my Strategic Communications major roommate, what makes this class hard isn’t necessarily the work you do, but the insane amount of work. There are multiple lengthy assignments and readings to do every day, which makes it a very time-consuming and difficult-to-manage class.

3. PHYS 4611 – Introduction to Space Physics

“Dynamics of charged particles/plasmas in space. Physics of the Sun and solar wind. Solar/galactic cosmic rays. Interactions of solar wind with planetary magnetospheres. Dynamics of Magnetosphere. Formation of the aurora. Physics of radiation belts.”

When polling fellow students about the hardest classes they’ve taken, Physics courses came up numerous times. Though there was no definite consensus about the hardest course in the department, this one seems pretty darn intense.

4. CSCI 2021 – Machine Architecture and Organization

“Introduction to hardware/software components of computer system. Data representation, boolean algebra, machine-level programs, instruction set architecture, processor organization, memory hierarchy, virtual memory, compiling, linking. Programming in C.”

Yep, based on that description alone, this class sounds like a nightmare. Have fun with that, CSCI students!

5. MATH 1272 – Calculus II

“Techniques of integration. Calculus involving transcendental functions, polar coordinates. Taylor polynomials, vectors/curves in space, cylindrical/spherical coordinates.”

The word “Calculus” alone is enough to terrify me and many other students. I didn’t need to read the course description to know how hard this class is. But it didn’t help either.

6. BMEN 3411 – Biomedical Systems Analysis

“Quantitative analysis of physiological/biological systems. First/second order systems, linear time-invariant systems, systems classification/identification. Linear control theory/controller synthesis. Electrical, mechanical, thermal, chemical/biomedical control systems.”

Every part of this makes a CLA student and English major like me want to curl up in a ball and hide from school. And I don’t even have to take it…

7. MICB 4171 – Biology, Genetics, and Pathogenesis of Viruses

“Structure, attachment, entry. Genome replication/mRNA production by RNA viruses. Reverse transcription. DNA virus templates. Replication of DNA virus genomes. Processing of viral pre-mRNA. Translational control. Assembly, host defense, tumor viruses, pathogenesis, HIV, antivirals.”

It’s hard for me to even picture a lifestyle where this sounds anything but scary and impossible. And somehow, there are people who love this and turn it into a career. Those people confuse me.

8. ARTS 1801 – Ceramics

“An introduction to ceramic practice. Materials, methods, concepts, and history. Correlation between concepts and materials. Creative work with clay, glaze, kilns, and related procedures.”

What was that you said? “Art can’t be hard”? You’re wrong! Unless you’re an artist or have a natural knack for pottery, this class is extremely difficult and incredibly time consuming. Not only do you spend hours in class each week, but you’re expected to come in an extra 6-10 hours every week to work on your terrible bowls and sculptures! Be prepared: this is not as easy as you’d want and expect a fun art class to be. And if you’re a terrible potter like me, it’s also very disheartening.

9. GEOG 1403 – Biogeography of the Global Garden

“The geography of biodiversity and productivity, from conspicuous species to those that cause human disease and economic hardship. The roles played by evolution and extinction, fluxes of energy, water, biochemicals, and dispersal. Experiments demonstrating interactions of managed and unmanaged biotic with the hydrologic cycle, energy budgets, nutrient cycles, the carbon budget, and soil processes.”

The word “garden” makes me feel happy. The word “biogeography” takes away that happy feeling pretty quickly.

10. SLHS 1302 – Rate Your World: Quantifying Judgements of Human Behavior

“Methods for acquiring, summarizing, and analyzing judgments of human behavior. Measurement theory as it relates to ratings scales and physiological measures of behavior. Methods for summarizing and visualizing large sets of data, such as those used in research in the social sciences. Statistical analyses of data on human behavior. This course focuses strongly on using computational methods for analyzing and visualizing behavioral data using free open-course statistical software. Weekly laboratory sessions.”

I’m in this class right now because I was (falsely) told that it was the easiest class a CLA student could take to fulfill their math requirement. As someone who has always hated math and hasn’t taken it in four years, this class has not changed my mind. If you don’t like complicated coding and confusing computer programs, stay away from this class.


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Annie Burdick


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