university

University of British Columbia (UBC) Course Review

Are you a student planning on attending the University of British Columbia (UBC)? Thinking of pursuing a degree in General Sciences or the Land and Food Systems? Here is a review of some courses that you might have to take.

Are you a current or prospective UBC student? Looking for courses that can give you an easy A or help boost your GPA? Here is an honest and brutal review of some classes I took my second and first year at university (some I recommend, and others I don’t).

To give some backstory, I began my first year in the UBC general sciences CSP program. CSP is an alternative to standard first year science, there were a few benefits of joining. For example, all of our lecturers were with the same cohort of students. This was nice because it allowed you to stay in-touch with the same people and build stronger friendships. I met some of the most amazing people who I still keep in-touch with to this day.

Another benefit of UBC’s CSP program is that there is a workspace that is made available to you in Irving K. Barber Learning Center. It’s somewhat hidden on the second floor, but TAs are there almost everyday.

We also had workshops once a week for a total of three hours. Truthfully, I found these workshops kind of pointless, but the instructor were very nice. Plus, our classes were small (only about 30 students) which is definitely a luxury in university.

I still can’t believe I made it out of this program alive, my GPA suffered a lot after first year.

My second year, however, was a lot easier. I decided to switch into UBC’s Global Resource Systems Program to major in Global Health and Nutrition. This program is in a completely different faculty, the Faculty of Land and Food Systems.

Why did I switch? I just couldn’t see my future in the Faculty of General Science. Unless you are interested in pursuing the classic pre-med route or are interested in becoming a lab researcher, science is not necessarily the right stream to travel.

I chose to take more of an applied sciences route because I love public policy and using my knowledge in a global context.

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Here are some of the courses that I have taken (listed in alphabetical order) in first and second year:

BIOL 112

The principles of cellular and molecular biology using bacterial and eukaryotic examples.

BIOL 112 is offered by Departments of Botany, Zoology and Microbiology and Immunology. 

Did I actually survive this course? Yes, I did. To say that it was hard would be an understatement… it was EXTREMELY hard. There was so much memorization involved and a lot of your learning had to be dedicated towards memorizing various molecular pathways.

My biggest tip for the exam is to figure out EVERYTHING about operons. They will test you about topics that have not yet been covered in class. Apparently, it’s to test your “applied knowledge”, but in my opinion, it’s just totally unfair.

Also, pro tip: teach yourself about the process of how the reverse of these pathways work. You will thank me later.

BIOL 121

Principles of storage and transmission of genetic variation; origin and evolution of species and their ecological interactions.

This course is a lot easier than BIOL 112. I found it to be a lot less memorization and a lot more of the usual applied knowledge concepts. If you are able to write quickly and enjoy evolutionary biology, you might actually enjoy this course.

I found the exams to be a lot of writing. There were a lot of long answer questions and by the end, my wrist really hurt. However, you can also bring a cheat sheet into the exam, which is a complete lifesaver!

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BIOL 140

Guided experimental investigations of biological questions.

This was definitely was one of my LEAST favorite courses in university. Biol 141 is a three hour workshop that makes you WATCH A SNAIL MOVE. I literally had to write an entire 10 page report on snail movement, and then, after going through every possible detail related to this topic on the planet, received a near fail.

True, it did not help that I had one of the toughest TAs marking my section. But, even the fact that I had to attentively watch a snail at 9:00 in the morning, I tried not to fall asleep in class. It was definitely not a fun course. That said, if you are in the General Science stream, you will have to take this lab section whether you like it or not.

CHEM 121 / 123

CHEM 121: Fundamentals of bonding theories and structural chemistry, with applications relevant to modern society.

CHEM 123: Fundamentals of chemical reactivity: thermodynamics; kinetics; organic chemistry, including stereochemistry; applications relevant to modern society.

Good luck, my friend. This is by no means an easy course to take. You will have to work very hard to attain a B in this course. I remember spending almost every day for three weeks before my final, sitting in the CHEM help center. I became good friends with most of the TAs there. They were all extremely nice.

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Both CHEM 121 and 123 have hard, yet fair exams. If you study all the material in the textbook, you should be fine. The finals also use Scantrons so most of your exams are MC (which can sometimes be nice, except when they give you the option ” or all of the above”).

Also, note that both CHEM 121 and CHEM 123 have mandatory lab sections.

LFS 250

In LFS 250, we begin the process of becoming food systems thinkers by analyzing global and regional food systems through theory and personal experience. By participating in interdisciplinary group work, students learn about complex food system issues and how their disciplines contribute to addressing food system sustainability, food security, and food sovereignty.

In second year, I transferred to LFS. I was able to write an exemption test for the 100-level course (which was nice). However, this lecture, was mandatory for all second year students. The instructor is extremely nice and all of the TAs are very supportive.

With that said, this lecture was definitely a bit too long for my liking. It also didn’t feel like we were covering any concrete information. However, I did enjoy the fact that we got to go on field trips, even though our class was in the ballpark of a few hundred students.

Note that in LFS 250 there is a mandatory tutorial and lab section. It also lasts for an entire year so you get a full 6 credits (which has a lot of weight on your GPA). That said, it was definitely an easy A.

MATH 102 / 103

Math 102: Math 102 presents models particular to life-science applications. It includes a computing component using spreadsheet software (like Excel or Google Sheets) to approximate functions and analyse data. It also covers differential equations more thoroughly than the other courses

Math 103: This course in integral calculus complements technical content with applications and examples drawn primarily from life sciences. The course starts by calculating areas and approximating the area using thin stripes as an introduction to Riemannian sums, which then lead to the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Applications of integration include determining the center of mass, calculating volumes and lengths of curves.

Ewww… I did not like these courses. To this day, I’m not sure how I even passed. They must have had to curve our grades. Even during the final exam, I wasn’t able to even start a few of the questions and had to leave them blank. I suggest trying to not do what I did. Still attempt to create some sort of answer even if it is re-stating the question.

Math 102 is not too bad if you have already taken calculus. If you haven’t, I suggest taking courses in the summer to catch up. However, Math 103 is a bit different, if you were in AP or IB during high school, you will be fine. I, however, was not and struggled a lot in this course.

I would HIGHLY suggest buying a subscription to Chegg to help you with your work (I think that it’s the only thing that got me through the term).

I would also highly recommend going to the math tutoring center. They can help you with your dreaded weekly WebWork.

PATH 375

A lecture-demonstration course designed to acquaint students in the allied health professions with a basic understanding of the causes, natural history, and pathophysiology of common disease processes. Prerequisites: 6 credits each first year Biol and Chem.

Great course! It was definitely a bit challenging, but I thought that the content was extremely interesting. Heads up: there is A LOT OF MEMORIZATION. But, with that said, the instructor is great and he is very passionate about the class.

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The only thing that truly frightened me was the fact that he would call on students randomly. It definitely keeps you accountable for staying ahead of the material.

The exam was definitely hard but, if you study a lot, you will be fine. It is definitely a fair exam by university standards.

I would also highly recommend this course if you are planning on heading down the MCAT route. A lot of the information will prepare for pre-med.

PHIL 333

I also really enjoyed this class! Be warned: there is a lot of reading and writing involved. That said, it’s not too difficult to get a good mark. Plus, the instructor is extremely kind and approachable.

I found the hardest part of this course was to get my writing to match what they (the TAs) were looking for. There was no clear rubric, so it was definitely a bit of a struggle.

I actually enjoyed a lot of the topics that were covered–I thought that they were very interesting. For example, some things that you might cover will include: abortion, hermeneutical injustice and a brief intro to ethics.

You definitely do not need to have a background in philosophy to enter this course. It’s designed for complete beginners or those with a basic understanding of ethics. So do not worry!

PHYS 101

Good grief, what did I learn? To be honest, I’m not even sure. Physics and math have definitely not been my strong suit. I found myself to be extremely lost in this course. To make matters worse, my prof did not speak loud enough and retired after our term. Don’t get me wrong, he was very nice; I just couldn’t understand what we were learning.

You will also have to purchase a textbook for this course that is a bit on the expensive side. I hardly used mine.

Also, be warned, there are a lot of iClicker questions. This will ensure that you come to class 90% of the time.

SPAN 201/202

SPAN 201: Expansion of fundamentals. Enhanced ability to exchange information, discuss the past and future, and express wishes, hopes and feelings in common personal and social contexts. Aligned with CEFR level A1-A2 objectives.

SPAN 202: Expansion of fundamental notions and presentation of more elaborate structures in a variety of tenses and modes. Communicate to explore Hispanic culture and to hypothesize about present and past situations. Aligned with CEFR level A2 objectives.

I LOVE these language learning courses! It’s most likely because I love the language. I think that’s what made it easier to get a good mark in SPAN.

There’s not too much work associated with this course. There are two to three in-class writing assignments, plus two midterms and a final.

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You will also have to complete a bit of online homework, but do not worry! My trick to completing this is to keep on using the attempts (it’s pretty much unlimited). The con to this course is that you will have to purchase a pretty expensive textbook.

However, it will definitely boost your GPA at the end of semester!

SPPH 302

I also really enjoyed this course! The instructors were great, but it was hard to reach out since most of them worked other day jobs. There is also A LOT of work to go through in this class.

I did find, however, that the marking was really nice and relaxed. It is definitely an easy A if you put in the time and effort.

The final is not an exam, but rather a 20-page report. The steps to completing it are extremely detailed and thorough. If you follow the rubric, you will do well. Just don’t save it for the last day because there is a lot of work involved.

There is also no textbook for this course which is really nice. You get to save some money!


Those are just some of the courses that I have taken as a second year student at UBC. Let me know if you found this post to be helpful, and I will write more!

Are you interested in similar articles about university? Check out my blog post An Electronic Diploma: What to Expect this Upcoming Fall Semester in University.

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