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Course: ANE 10W
Professor Smoak may be one of the most interesting professors at UCLA. He demonstrates great enthusiasm for the course material. He understands that some of the topics may be foreign to students, but he excels at getting the themes across to each student. You know exactly when to take notes when he raises his voice to say phrases like "that emphasizes..., the authors make the case that..., what's important is..." Then you just type out whatever he says after that since you might have to use what he says for the two papers you will write.
There are some pros and cons to take away from the fact that this is a writing class.
PRO: There is only one midterm and a final. I cannot stress enough how EASY they are. Professor Smoak says it himself. He wants students to focus more on writing papers than studying for the exams. Each exam is made up of multiple choice questions. You can study the night before if you want because many of the questions are one-liners with a three-word answer. Very basic.
CON: These exams do not make up a whole lot of your grade. Again he wants students to focus on writing. If this class was graded on exams solely, then it would be considered the easiest GE.
PRO: He has PPT slides in class that are easy to take note of. Highlights the main themes from the readings. Not everything that appears on the PPT is on the exams but everything on the exams is on the slides.
CON: He does not put PPT slides on the course website. However, he does put up Study Guides of terms and dates needed for the exams.
PRO: Most information comes from the readings.
CON: There are a lot of readings but I suggest you read them (or skim) since they are long and he takes out only one or two points from like a 40-page passage.
PRO: The papers may be worth more than half of the overall grade, but don't fret. Yes, each requires research with the second one requiring much more than the first. No, they are not impossible. Simply research and research some more then use your findings and analyze.
CON: I felt this was pretty surprising but the TAs aren't so helpful. Sure they tell you that your paper should reflect and elaborate on your thesis but there really isn't much more from the TAs than that. The fact that this is a writing class makes it seem like the TAs should offer exceptional assistance in your papers but I didn't feel that way. In addition, that Hacker book - the one about writing - barely any mention of it.
Overall, it CAN be an easy GE if you feel like writing and analyzing are simple tasks. Exams are meant to be a breeze, a piece of cake, a walk in the park or whatever you want to call it (took 5 minutes to finish the 50 m/c final). Professor Smoak's delight in teaching shows in every class and he just wants the best out of you.
Course: Jerusalem 10W Spring 2011
I have not even finished the quarter with Professor Smoak but I have to say that he is one of the most pragmatic professors I have had. The class becomes extremely simple with his lecture style, he is very transparent of what he expects and does a great job at lecturing main points and not trivial info. I don't know why he has not gotten many more positive reviews but if you have a chance to take his GE Jerusalem 10W you should it is a very straightforward class in which you will actually learn something but not be super pressured.