DISCLAIMER: Please remember: It’s still college, so I expect your definition of “easy” to be somewhat nuanced. But fret not! This time, no matter how long, shall pass!
“Do what you love and the money will follow automatically”, or so is what I have heard. UC Berkeley follows this adage to the fullest. The immense variety of classes is truly amazing, and makes decisions about course load and unit limits something genuinely difficult for me, as a student. There are some tough technical courses, some fun and queer courses run entirely by graduate AND undergraduate students, and some enlightening seminar courses that edify one’s mind through heavy discussion and faculty interaction. However, the ultimate ‘feel’ of a course depends on the student’s personal academic interests, their overall course load, their intended major, their abilities and time management skills, their work ethic, their passions, their goals, as well as other factors that all depend on THEM. But some are, more or less, defined as universally easy. Read on for 10 easy courses at UC Berkeley that are sure to be less intimidating than most other classes at Cal!
Note: these courses may not appeal to every student, and may not be available at all times to all students due to the Phase I and II registration system of choosing classes at Cal, but, for the most part, they are considered to be typically ‘easy’ courses with “doable” workloads. These courses may not be easy at all if the instructor is different as well; there’s no hard and fast rule to tell which instructor teaches when, but some are known to be regulars for certain semesters. I hope they satisfy the greatest number of the greatest minds of readers on this website (anyone into utilitarianism?)
1. XEPS80: Environmental Earth Sciences
This is one of the courses offered in the Fall Program For Freshmen (FPF) Program, for those experiencing their very first semester at UC Berkeley in the Fall. FPF offers a small, collaborative learning community for first-year students in UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science. This course has weekly quizzes, and only meets once a week, and does not have a discussion section (so only lecture truly counts). You can skip lecture, but I wouldn’t advise that; the Powerpoint lecture slides posted online contain only bullet points, and the professor only truly elaborates those points in class, or during office hours. The best part: the Final Exam is optional for all students, regardless of their grade in the class before taking the Final. Oh, and the Final’s a take-home one!
2. XSOCIOL 3AC: Principles of Sociology: American Cultures
This class, for the Fall Semester of 2016, was taught by an exceptionally young and wonderful woman (not that all other female professors couldn’t be described using these adjectives). This was the first time that this PhD professor had taught this course at Berkeley. From the very beginning, she reminded me of Mother Teresa, with her sweet voice and Socratic seminar-style of teaching. She encouraged discussion all the time, and promoted the practice of asking questions, which is what I think is most important for any instructor. She was slightly lenient, but she taught the course extremely well, since she possessed a true passion and keenness for the subject, and had a wealth of knowledge of the content. The professor was a former engineer who took a leap of faith into the realm of sociology; that was such a contrasting experience for me to hear from a professor! Very inspiring.
There was only one midterm in the class (worth 25 % of your final grade) and one research paper (worth 30 % of your final grade), followed by a cumulative final that can be easily aced if you attend all the review sessions and memorize/internalize the given study guides by heart. It’s a matter of focus, and initiative – all the slides are online too!
3. NST 10: Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology 10 (or NST 11)
Known as the one of the easiest classes at Berkeley, after doing some research, I found out that this course is not that easy for EVERYONE at Cal, but is for the majority. The caveat here is that it is easy for Biology majors, or those with a good/extensive knowledge of Biology, since the material is already quite familiar and repetitive. For non-MCB (Molecular and Cellular Biology majors), this class may prove daunting due to the sheer AMOUNT of rote memorization required.
For those who are not Bio geniuses (like me), it can genuinely be difficult, since a lot of the class is just pointless memorization, with brute force rote learning of complex Biology, photosynthesis, the leaf structures, toxicology terminology and nutrients. Though I haven’t taken the class yet, I’ve heard that most students skip lecture and only go to discussion section to hand in assignments. NST 10 is a highly simple and straightforward class that requires little but memorization, but it can be a pain for those who dislike these very tasks that the class entails. On another note, I’ve heard NST 11 is even easier – there’s less terminology to cram in your brain.
4. ASTRO C10: Astronomy
Many students have absolutely loved this class. Paying attention to lecture and reading the course reader for about an hour a week, is all some students needed to score an easy A. I’ve heard that students have learned so much from this class (topics included the planets, life cycles of stars, phases of the moon, black holes, supernovae, cosmology, etc. – so current/very recent research in the field was often discussed!) that they decided to switch to being Astronomy majors! There were also opportunities to see celestial objects (planets, stars, Andromeda Galaxy, and more) through the telescope on top of Campbell Hall.
The professor is also amazing, as throughout the class, he is always open to questions, is very enthusiastic, does a lot of fun demos, and holds plenty of office hours (as Reddit tells me). The GSIs are also really helpful, and, in addition to office hours, they help with homework during specific hours. This class does require some effort/work, with weekly graded homework, quizzes, and labs, in addition to two midterms and a final, but most students enjoy the content. Getting the reader is crucial, and so is interest in the course itself.
5. Any deCal Course
One of the best courses available at Berkeley are deCal courses, classes run by students that are typically one to two units long. There’s a Critical Studies of Pornography deCal, a fencing deCal, a “History of Middle Earth and Knitting 101” deCal, and even a Botanical Gardens deCal where all you do is tour the Berkeley Botanical Gardens! There are tons of fun, bizarre deCal courses to suit any and every student’s tastes. For example, there is a FemSex DeCal at Berkeley that seeks to explore a myriad of subjects on female sexuality, such as anatomy, sexual behavior, consent and gender-based violence.
The course includes discussions, readings, guest speakers and films. In an official statement, FemSex course facilitators said that the purpose of FemSex is to create a safe space that encourages and facilitates the ability of students to learn about their bodies, explore their boundaries, desires, experiences and expand their understanding of power and privilege. I found it quite quirky how, recently, this DeCal has garnered media attention for requiring all students affiliated with the class to agree to a contract stating they will not “hook up” with other students or the student facilitators. That said, I’ve even heard that some students learn more from deCals than they do from their regular professor-taught classes.
6. Big Idea Courses
Big Ideas courses are courses that bring together two (or more!) outstanding professors, from completely different disciplines, and one BIG IDEA, putting these elements in a room full of bright Berkeley undergraduates, allowing for spirited discussion to flourish. These courses aim to inspire students and faculty alike, while the topics span the liberal arts (since these courses, and most of the above courses, are the ones exclusive to the College of Letters and Science in UC Berkeley).
These courses endeavor to make students take on risky, intellectual challenges that fundamentally shape their experience and growth of knowledge at Cal by exposing them to new, different, and multiple viewpoints from differing, diverse perspectives, providing them a chance to engage in new material that amuses and arouses them, mentally, and intellectually. Some Big Idea courses include Societal Risks and the Law, Origins of Science and Religion, Sense and Sensibility and Science, as well as many other courses, many of which are taught by Nobel Prize winners!
Now, that calls for some serious swag.
7. Discovery Courses
These courses, exclusive to the College of Letters and Science, try to expand the horizons of a student’s mind. Many students have reported how these courses contribute greatly to their understanding of the world and their general education and college experience at Cal; it continues to inspire them in the future through the courses that they take in later semesters and through the new issues and perspectives they gain with new insight. It makes them think differently, and most people who take Discovery courses, take them for the sake of their own personal interests – not because of their intended major or any other reason, which is simply awesome!
Examples of Discovery courses include L&S C180U: Wealth and Poverty, taught by the extremely famous Robert Reich, the famous American professor and political commentator who served in the Ford and Carter presidential administrations, L&S 70C: Living on the Edge, L&S 70A: Physics and Music, L&S C30Y Biology for Voters, L&S C30Z Bio-inspired Design, L&S C30U Americans and the Global Forest, and many more! The L&S stands for Letters and Science, by the way, referring to the College of Letters and Science.
8. Scandinavian C160/Religious Studies C108 – Norse Mythology
Known as quite an “awesome class”, the professor is really cool for this class, which causes students’ GPA to boost up. He confessed quite guiltily and reluctantly that he has a YouTube channel, as well as a “Patreon” (whoever or whatever that may be) that helps him “pay his dues” (hey, rent and basically everything is extremely exorbitant in Berkeley). His YouTube channel can be found here.
Please help support him; his videos are amazing, refreshing and extremely informative for anyone wishing to know more about Norse myth and religion! He has thousands of subscribers because his style of teaching is so likable. Many people cite this class as “undoubtedly their favorite breadth class”. The assigned readings are entertaining and brief, exams are comprehensive and easy (if one used the study guides provided), and lecture is interesting. I have heard, though, that another professor is known to be a better professor, as he grades the term paper and the exams rather leniently, making this course a very stress-free class. This other professor is himself a very sweet-natured professor who clearly loves his field of research and loves teaching students about Norse myths. Overall, it is a highly recommended class because of its direct and straightforward approach to the subject.
I’m currently taking the class with the YouTube professor, and I can attest completely to the relative ease/interest of the course; very very manageable, fun, and insightful! I would absolutely recommend it to anyone at Cal.
9. Music 29
Music 29 is an easy A plus class for most. Frankly, my research showed that any of the Music “insert course number here” courses are generally easy or at least ‘medium-ish’ to do well in. Music 29, in particular, is not much of a workload at all. One just shows up to the lecture and labs for attendance purposes and attends 2 (or 3?) concerts that are approved during the year. The midterm and the final are also quite easy, as students on reddit say. There are many pretty awesome demos shown during class, though lab is sometimes “weird/kind of pointless”. The hugest chunk of your grade is simply attendance.
You get study guides for the two exams, and lab is free time to just go online or do whatever you want on the computer. One peer summed up this class quite nicely: “You basically just mess around with software that plays noises and stuff.” The concerts seen for class are a plus too. Another music class I’ve managed to eavesdrop into – Music 26 – takes place right after my Economic lecture, in the same room, exactly half an hour later. Once the professor comes in, he pops open his laptop, clicks open his presentation powerpoint on the projector, and starts playing some music that puts me straight to sleep (That’s why I run away from that hall as soon as I can). Okay, enough said (and confessed).
10. PMB 13: Plant and Microbial Biology – Genetic Revolutions
This class is similar to Bio 1A (not 1AL), the typical intro level biology course at the college level, except that this one is for non-majors, majoring in something non-Biology. Tests are regurgitation; 11/25 gets you an A-. If you don’t get that score, you can retake it, until you get an A-. Or so I’ve heard. It’s a three unit course, so one unit less than the typical 4 unit course. The course description, as according to Ninjacourses, goes like this: “Genetic discoveries have changed our lives. All are controversial. Especially changed are human physical and mental health, agriculture, social systems, and worldviews. Having many DNA-sequenced genomes, including human, accelerates discovery. This course will study the science, history, and philosophical implications behind past discoveries and will contemplate future genetic revolutions.”
Frankly, the “All are controversial” part makes me wonder a little…
For fulfilling the Biology breadth requirement for the College of Letters and Science, this course is recommended by some students more than NST 10. It is definitely easy, but not interesting – to the point that some students found this class so boring that they honestly wished that they had taken something slightly harder but more interesting. And this is coming from some students intending to major in business/economics/non-science subjects, from those who DERIVE NO INTEREST FROM MOST SCIENCE-RELATED SUBJECTS. That said, exams are still meant to be passed, so you can’t really fail! People who fail this course honestly impress the people they tell it to; it’s hard not to pass. Awesome professor, super interesting material, and the people who take this class are usually chill so lecture & section are fun. Another easy way to fulfill the Biological Science breadth requirement for the College of L&S would be take Molecular and Cell Biology C62 – Drugs and the Brain. A good and fun course, I hear!
I hope this helps students (including non-UC Berkeley students, and all members of the general public) to a good extent!
What are your favorite easy courses at UC Berkeley? Comment below!
Featured photo source: dronestagr.am
AN INTENDED ECONOMICS MAJOR, ALIZA IS A SOPHOMORE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LOOKING FORWARD TO ALL THAT LIFE AND SOCIETY19 HAS TO OFFER. SHE HAS STUDIED IN SEVERAL DIFFERENT SCHOOLS IN OVER SIX DIFFERENT COUNTRIES SINCE BIRTH, AND HAS THUS SUFFERED SEVERAL INFORMAL 'LAWSUITS' OVER FABRICATING A NEW RESPONSE TO THE “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” QUESTION EVERY TIME IT IS ASKED; THE ANSWER DIFFERS DEPENDING ON THE CURRENT LOCATION AND, OCCASIONALLY, THE ASKER. ALIZA, PERHAPS THE ONLY EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD WHO LOVES BROCCOLI AND LOATHES WHITE CHOCOLATE, ENJOYS WATCHING ROMANCE MOVIES, SLEEPING - BUT ONLY DURING THE DAYTIME - WITH THREE DIFFERENT LAYERS OF CLOTHING ON, AND LAUGHING HER SILVERY SOCKS OFF WHILE BINGING ON SOME GOOD QUALITY BOLLYWOOD COMEDY SHOWS. IT IS ALSO TRUE THAT WHILE WRITING POETRY IN HER LEISURE TIME, ALIZA ALSO WATCHES COUNTLESS SOAP OPERAS ON HER DUSTY LAPTOP AND MUNCHES ON HARIBO BEARS (GO BEARS! - IT'S HER COLLEGE MASCOT!)