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  • Writer's pictureShirley Li

Your Guide to Tackling Required 1st Year RC Courses

For the first few months of my first year, I too was extremely confused on how to approach my coursework: How many hours should I be studying? Should I be reading the textbook before or after the lecture? Should I even read the textbook at all? Should I be taking notes? Are homework and practice exams a waste of time? How come I’m revising and revising, but I’m still not getting the results I want?

*Sigh* Needless to say, I was not as prepared for University as much as my over-inflated high school ego thought I was.

So, whether you’ve stumbled across this article just in time for the start of the school year, or you’ve got tears streaming down your face as you read this after your first ECO101 midterm, here are some course-specific tips that might just help you master survive your first year at RC:

Disclaimer: The following advice is merely based on my personal experience and observations. As with everything you read online, take this with a gigantic grain of salt.


ECO101 (minimum requirement: 63%)

Ah yes. The good ol’ Microeconomics 101. To be honest, I was borderline arrogant going into ECO101, as I had previously taken IB HL Economics in high school and I didn’t find it too difficult. After the first midterm though, my confidence was slashed from an 80 to a -80.

The two Professors that teach ECO101 are Prof Freitas and Prof Gazzale. I personally had Gazzale and he was great at explaining things, and I’ve heard good things about Freitas too. Regardless of your Prof though, you must not underestimate the amount of tedious work you have to do in order to get a good grade in ECO101.

Tip #1: Have a routine and be consistent

Attending lectures alone will get you nowhere in this course—unless you’re some sort of genius, in which case, good for you. Watching lectures AND attending tutorials won’t get you far either. Attending lectures AND attending tutorials AND doing all the weekly practice problem sets/past exams AND asking questions during office hours AND revising previous weeks’ content might get you far… only if you repeat this process every single week for 12 weeks straight.

That sounds like a lot because it is a lot. It’s very easy to fall behind and have weeks’ worth of content to study for right before a midterm. What I personally found helpful was to break up all the small tasks I had to do for this course across multiple days of the week, which made it feel less overwhelming:

Tip #2: Internalize what you’re learning, don’t just memorize

Tip #1 is useless if all you’re doing is memorizing how to answer the word problems. All you should really be memorizing is how to draw the graphs as well as the math equations. No word problem that appears on a midterm will be identical to the one you’ve solved in class or in a past paper. Instead of trying to remember the steps you took to solve word problems, aim to remember your thought process—aka the *mechanisms* of how to solve a word problem. If you can familiarize yourself with how to unpack word problems under the pressure of time, you’ll be less likely to blank out and waste time on a midterm.

Tip #3: Prioritize and budget your time

Realistically, you won’t always have the time or the discipline to go through each step of your study routine each week. In which case, budget your time accordingly and prioritize which tasks will help prepare you most for that upcoming midterm. Personally, I often skipped reading the textbook and only went back to it when necessary for clarification, because I found that Prof Gazzale’s slides and lectures were sufficient to learn the concepts.

Tip #4: Practice exams are your best friend

Speaking of priorities, besides lectures and tutorials, setting time aside to properly complete practice problems is non-negotiable for ECO101. If you can do MCQ and word problems from past midterms without looking at notes and within the time limit, you’re more likely than not to be ready for your upcoming ECO101 midterm. The Prof will provide a lot of exams from previous years directly on Quercus, so take advantage of that. Also, a good idea to check out the good ol’ U of T exam repository.

Tip #5: Get extra help

Literally, there is no shame in asking for a bit of help. You’d be the dumb one if you don’t ask for extra help LOL.

Tutorials: Always go into your tutorial having completed the weekly problem set. Have questions ready to ask your TA if you don’t understand why you’re getting a problem wrong or you have no idea where to even begin with a problem.

Office Hours: Attend the office hours held by your Prof too! If you need clarification on a specific slide or a specific concept your Prof mentioned during the lecture, chances are going to the source will help you get the answers you need. I also found office hours to be useful just by listening to other students’ questions because that often prompted me to think about concepts I wouldn't have otherwise thought about.

ECO Study Centre: Take advantage of the free ECO Study Centre (ESC) sessions. ESC leaders are upper-year Economics students who, in simple terms, are very smart and have mastered ECO courses themselves. For example, if you just have a question you’re dying to ask someone, but your tutorial for the week has already passed, you can count on the ESC. Or sometimes, it helps to have a concept explained by another fellow student.

ECO102 (minimum requirement: 63%)

Congrats, now that you’ve made it through ECO101, you’ve got an equally tedious course ahead of you: ECO102.

Frankly, I’m not going to give you a whole other set of tips, because I approached ECO102 with the same study techniques that worked for me in ECO101 and I ended up with similar grades. Keep in mind, however, ECO102 assessments are somewhat more math and calculations-based, so make sure you practice all those different formulas and graphs.

MAT133 (minimum requirement: 63%)

If you did well in high school math, whether you took the OSSD curriculum, IB Math SL or HL, or AP Calculus, then MAT133 probably won’t be too difficult for you.

Tip #1: Get ahead

One of the best ways to stay on top of MAT133 is to read the textbook, take notes, and do practice problems before your lecture. The first half of the fall semester was pretty manageable—difficulty-wise—it was mainly a review of what you learned in the earlier years of high school. The content did get slightly more difficult starting the second half of the fall semester. Sometimes, there wouldn’t be enough time for the Prof to go over enough examples during the one-hour lecture, which meant that self-studying became more important.

There also isn’t much weekly homework you have to complete, besides WileyPLUS, which frankly isn’t sufficient to help you fully grasp the concepts taught. So, it’s all up to you to find time to complete those practice problems at the end of every textbook chapter.

Tip #2: Get all those participation marks

This sounds like a no-brainer, but make sure you’re getting full marks for anything you possibly can get full marks for homework, iClicker, mini-assignments… Something as simple as completing your homework on time each week can give you a safety net, in case you end up scoring lower than you wanted to for your midterms/final exam.

RSM100 (minimum requirement: 67%)

Believe it or not, RSM100 was actually my favourite first-year RC course. Prof Michael Khan did a great job introducing real-world case studies and contemporary examples into lectures, which made the course content more engaging. I must say, this class made me feel like a legitimate business student. That said, I would be lying if there weren’t times throughout the semester where I doubted if I would even pass this course—mainly because I often had no idea if I aced or flopped every midterm. In the end, I finished the course strong and I think it ultimately came down to these factors:

Tip #1: Make friends

One of the first things you should do before you even start your journey at RC is to make friends with your fellow classmates. This tip may sound antithetical to everything you hear about a business school—the cutthroat culture, peers sabotaging you, toxic competition—but I guarantee you that people are friendly 99.99% of the time.

I was super lucky to have met so many other first-years through the RCIG Summer Mentorship Program and subsequently through the RCIG Internship Program. We really had each other’s backs when it came to sharing study resources, note-taking, teaming up for the Case Comp, or just venting to each other about how we’re all chronically sleep-deprived.

Tip #2: Delegate note-taking

Everything is testable. Everything is testable, EVERYTHING IS TESTABLE. This is why it is imperative for you to take notes on everything discussed during lectures—even if it’s a small detail that Prof Khan or another student mentions and it’s not written in the slides.

Now, transcribing a two-hour lecture by yourself sounds impossible, but if you followed Tip #1, you can delegate the two hours amongst your friends to take notes. For example, my Case Comp group and I (6 people total) divided the two hours into 20-minute segments. On a shared OneNote notebook, we would take turns making annotations to slides and typing out what was discussed about each slide. This was a great method because (a) we could participate and enjoy the lecture more when others were typing notes and (b) these notes turned out to be super helpful to refer back to during midterm season.

Tip #3: Attend lectures as if your life depended on it

Not that you should be skipping lectures anyway, but especially with RSM100—you skip class, you won’t pass.

And when I say “attend lectures,” I don’t just mean showing up. Make sure you are actively participating and contributing to class discussions, staying engaged, and overall just pretend you’re a sponge soaking in every bit of information you get from lectures.

Tip #4: Start your Case Comp project early

Start forming your Case Comp group and brainstorming ideas ASAP. While a month-or-two may sound like a lot of time, when you have a bunch of other coursework and midterms to study for, finding time to meet up with your group and work on the Case Comp becomes exponentially more difficult when everyone has super busy schedules. It may also take you quite some time to come up with a business idea that everyone is excited about. Also, budget enough buffer time in your project timeline in case you have to re-do certain portions of the project.

Tip #5: Choose what to study wisely

Most people say that aceing RSM100 comes down to having an eidetic memory. While that may be true to a certain extent, I would argue that knowing what to memorize is perhaps more important.

If a certain case study took up a significant portion of your lecture, chances are, the Prof didn’t do that for no reason. If the Prof constantly refers back to a case study, chances are, the Prof also didn’t do that for no reason. You get the idea. Also think about how the case study could be tested in the midterm: How would the Prof phrase the question? How many supporting points would you need to get full marks? Would you need to argue multiple perspectives or just one perspective?


Final Thoughts

So, I hope after reading this blogpost you’re still excited as ever to start your undergrad journey at RC. At the end of the day, sure University is about grades, but it isn’t all about grades. Just try your best, have fun, and you’ll have no regrets. If you’re looking for more first-year advice, check out our other blog posts on elective course recommendations and general first-year tips. If you’d like another blog post on how to tackle other first-year RC courses (RSM230, RSM250, RSM219, …) then make sure to let us know.

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