A Definitive Ranking of the Easiest to Hardest STEM Classes I’ve Taken So Far

Rachel Glait Aerospace and Mechanical, Astronautical, Rachel, Study, Viterbi Class, Viterbi Life, Women In Engineering Leave a Comment

Ok so let me preface this list with a few important notes:

  1. What I say is as "hard" or "easy" is totally my opinion! I have friends who think the first class on this list was difficult, and friends who think the class I call the "hardest" was super easy. Everyone is different and has different talents. So what's hard for me might be easy for you and visa versa.
  2. Just because a class was "hard" for me doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it! (Spoiler alert: the last class on this list was one of my favorite classes I've taken at USC). And the same goes for my "easiest" classes. Some of those I didn't like as much as I liked more "challenging" classes.
  3. Also, if  you're curious when I took these classes I've sorted them by color: freshman year, sophomore year, junior year.

Without further ado, here's my list:

PHYS-151 : Fundamentals of Physics I 

This class was basically like AP Physics 1 from high school. Since I was a big physics nerd in high school I was more than prepared for this class.

MATH-245: Mathematics of Physics and Engineering I

Or otherwise known as "Differential Equations". I really excelled in this class because a lot of the calculations are pattern-based (I love patterns!). Also I was already solving differential equations in my physics and engineering classes when I took this class so I was already very comfortable with the material.

MATH-126: Calculus II

Same as with Math-245, I was doing Calc II in my other classes before I even took this course. I also felt super prepared going in since I had taken a really challenging Calc I class in high school.

MATH-226: Calculus III

Again same situation as the other math classes. It was definitely more difficult for me than Calc II, but I was already doing harder multivariable calculus in my physics classes when I took it.

MASC-310: Materials Behavior and Processing

This class was very straight forward. The material was extremely well explained by the professor that I had and the midterms and homeworks were very fair.

AME-308: Computer-Aided Analyses for AME Design

The most difficult part of this class for me was the time commitment. Homework assignments/ projects could take up to about 12 hours to complete each week. However, this class provided me with an incredibly useful skill that can super easily applied to engineering work in the real world. Thanks to this class I absolutely fell in love with CAD and use it for professional applications nearly everyday.

AME-201: Statics

This class was the first real engineering class I took at USC. There was definitely a learning curve when taking this class. However, it's pretty straightforward and the content you learn carries over to literally everything else you'll do as an AME, ASTRO, or ME engineer.  

AME-204: Strength of Materials

This class was about as difficult as Statics for the exact same reasons (learning curve). I did find the homework assignments to be a bit more tricky in Strengths, but overall very doable.

AME-302: Dynamic Systems

I'm actually currently taking this class, and I  really love it! It's a really clear continuation of most of my previous classes. In this class, I have been able to see more logical applications of the theories I had to derive in other classes. A lot of it is like a review of differential equations and dynamics!

AME-310: Engineering Thermodynamics

As someone who has always struggled with chemistry, this class was a bit challenging for me. I had to go way back in my brain and remember material that I hadn't dealt with since sophomore year of high school. I actually took this class in Florence, Italy as a part of the Viterbi Summer Overseas Program so the workload wasn't too bad, but I definitely had to work hard to understand the material.

AME-331: Heat Transfer

Another class I'm taking right now! This class is almost like a combination of Thermodynamics and Fluids. It's really interesting to see how the material in this class applies to the world around us in Mechoptronics. I think this class is a bit tricky because each problem has many specific assumptions that you need to memorize. Also, again, I'm not naturally gifted at semi-chemistry-related subjects.

AME-309: Dynamics of Fluids

This class was a totally new topic for me that I had no experience in before taking it. That's why I think it was so challenging for me. I had to really put in  a lot of outside work to fully understand the tops discussed in class just because they were super unfamiliar to me.

AME-301: Dynamics

This class is one of the building blocks of an AME, ASTRO, or ME degree. The actually content of this class wasn't terribly tricky, but there were weekly quizzes that could be a bit overwhelming if you don't stay on top of your work. One of the most challenging part of this class was notation and problem-solving strategy. There are like seven different ways to solve every problem so it can get a bit confusing if you go about solving a problem differently from the professor.

PHYS-162: Advanced Principles of Physics II

This was the 1st honors physics class I took at USC. The material was pretty advanced, but taking this class gave me a MASSIVE advantage over my classmates who didn't take it--especially in understanding calculus applications for electricity related mechoptronics material. I will admit that first learning the material was tough, but it gave me such a greater understanding over electricity that I have applied to many of my other classes.

ITP-168: Introduction to MATLAB

Ok so I know a lot of my friends would put this class way closer to the tops of their lists. Although the content of class wasn't incredibly difficult, it was definitely a challenge for me. I had never coded before this class and had absolutely no experience with coding languages going in to it. I am not naturally gifted at language, so I had to put in a lot of effort to figure out how to effectively use MATLAB and to develop a skill for which I had no previous experience. That being said, this class has proven to be one of the most important courses taken during my college career since now I use MATLAB almost every day. This class was a lot of work for me, but it helped to give me the confidence to practice my coding skills frequently and even teach myself Python.

AME-341: Mechoptronics Laboratory

This class is known as "the most difficult class that AME, ASTRO, and ME students have to take". Mechops is a lab-base class were your grade is almost exclusively based on extensive lab reports. This class is really cool because it combines of much of the knowledge you've obtained in your previous classes. The material is definitely a bit challenging for this class since you're expected to understand so many complicated topics. However, the most difficult part of this class is the time commitment since nearly every week you need to turn in some form of a lab write-up proving your knowledge on the subject explored in lab. This class is super applicable to the real world since it helps engineers to communicate their research and designs efficiently and effectively. Overall, I think that this class is really what makes a USC degree in AME, ASTRO, or ME so valuable since you leave with such a thorough understanding of difficult subjects and you can explain them at the drop of a hat.

PHYS-163: Advanced Principles of Physics III

Advanced quantum physics was absolutely the most difficult class I have ever taken. And it was also my favorite. The material in this class is incredibly hard to grasp and involves spending a lot of time in office hours, staying up late with your textbook, or researching topics online. However, the content in this class was so incredibly interesting to me that it was absolutely worth the hard work. I also was so lucky that I had an amazing professor who took the time to explain the complicated topics covered in class and helped us really gain an extensive understanding of the universe and the physics behind it.

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Rachel is a junior studying Mechanical Engineering. Click above to find out more!

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