NUS Module Reviews AY20/21 Y2S2

NOTE: This was another fully online semester so reviews may vary from classes taken under physical settings.

1. EC3342: INTERNATIONAL TRADE I
Lecturer: Dr. LIU Chen
Tutor: PhD student
Format of classes: 1.5 hours weekly LIVE (and recorded) lecture + weekly 1-hour ‘live’ tutorials
Assessment:

  • Class participation (15%)
  • 24-hours Take-home midterm (30%)
  • 24-hours Take-home non-cumulative finals (40%)
  • Homework x 2 (5% each)
  • News article: 10 mins group presentation (10%)

NOTE: I believe that this is the first time the professor has taught EC3342 and hence, there were many occasions where the teaching is not very optimal for undergraduates (probably too used to teaching graduate students).

But anyways, this module is about international trade and topics covered include the Ricardian model, Specific-Factor model, HO Model and the New Trade theory like Krugman model and Melitz Model. Some trade policies such as quota and import tariff were covered briefly too. It was an interesting and insightful module as you learn how trade benefits/harms countries depending on their endowment and the size of the country. The concepts were hard to understand at first, but once you grasp it the rest is pretty intuitive. For those who enjoy dealing with MPL, MPK, PPF and math you would enjoy this module because there are A LOT of mathematical derivation in this module.

I personally find live Zoom lectures ok though I would prefer watching recorded lecture videos. It was (quite) hard to understand what the prof was saying in his classes so I recommend just emailing him or consulting when you need to. Tutorials were quite a waste of time because the tutor merely read off the solutions and provided little to no insights into the modules. In fact, I don’t really recall seeing a full attendance class throughout the entire semester. Also, there were some tutorial sessions where the tutor spent the entire one hour going through homework solutions, midterm solutions and one STATA data set so effectively, there were only 6 tutorial sets to be done the entire semester (which is very odd and little).

The homework x 2 sets covered content pre-midterm and post-midterm and while done individually, can be discussed with others too. Because of this, the median is almost a full mark every time. Meanwhile the group presentation is just a mini presentation where small groups of 2-3 members will present either a journal article or a newspaper article that is related to the topics covered in class.

The midterms was manageable as it was a take-home and prof tested questions similar to the Homework and tutorials. Finals were slightly tougher but still do-able. But note, it’s those type of questions where if you cannot solve part a you cannot do the rest, so keep calm and read the questions very carefully.

To summarise, this module has an incredibly light workload and content covered is interesting. The prof is approachable though his teaching style might not be very suited for undergrads (first time teaching a 3k mod so I think it’s pretty understandable). The content (in terms of understanding concepts) is very manageable, Google-able and all from textbook (read textbooks) but you would need strong math foundation to do it. Plus there is a lack of practice, I feel so be expected to be surprised by midterms and finals questions. If your math is VERY strong e.g. can differentiate, manipulate equations very well, then EC3342 would be a breeze for you.

2. EC3303: ECONOMETRICS I
Lecturer: Dr. SEAH Kelvin
Tutor: Dr. SEAH Kelvin
Format of classes: past-semesters lecture webcasts + 2-hour ‘live’ tutorials (odd/even weeks)
Assessment:

  • Class participation and attendance (10%)
  • 1-hour MCQ e-quizzes x2 (25 + 25%)
  • Individual Homework x 2 (20% + 20%)

This is an economics core module and is about finding causal relationships between variables in linear and non-linear settings. I would say that this module differs vastly from what I thought it would be, especially for the first half of the semester which focused quite heavily on theoretical concepts like LSA, OLS proving. To say that I dislike this module is nothing but an understatement, however I still understand the usefulness of this module; economics is nothing but about causal effects.

For the first three weeks, the lecturer just did a quick overview of what was covered in EC2303 and what was needed for this module, basically the usual hypothesis test, estimators, confidence interval etc. Based on my experience, nothing regarding PDF, CDF or even the Chebyshev’s inequality were required for EC3303 so it’s quite ok if you did badly for EC2303. There are three main models covered in EC3303 and they are linear regression with single regressor, linear regression with multiple regressors, and non-linear regressions. For each of these models, a range of topics from estimators, measures of fit (R-squared, RMSE etc) and conducting hypothesis tests were covered. DO read the textbook because almost all of the lecture materials are from there.

My tutorials were conducted by Dr Kelvin himself and in the first 20 – 30 minutes, it is the typical part where students present tutorial questions. Afterwards, Dr Kelvin teaches us the basic commands on STATA and since he has recordings of the STATA sections from previous tutorials, all we need to do is just listen; no active participation required at all.

I would say that the homework sets are pretty similar to the e-quizzes but given the fact that you can collaborate with your friends, the bell curve for the homework is exceptionally high (as like every other economics module). Likewise, people usually score well for the quizzes (which test quite a bit on proving for the first one) so be prepared to get wrecked by it especially under a tight 1-hour time constraint LOL.

3. EC3102: MACROECONOMIC ANALYSIS II
Lecturer: VU Tranh Hai
Tutor: PhD student
Format of Classes: 1.5 – 2 hr weekly pre-recorded lectures + 1 hour weekly ‘live’ tutorials
Assessment:

  • Class participation and presentation (15%)
  • Open-book Midterms (35%)
  • Open-book non-cumulative Finals (50%)

This is another economics core module and one especially relevant for those seeking entry into the money and financial sector. I myself didn’t liked the module at all because of one, its heavy emphasis on financial terms and monetary terms which I find too abstract for my liking, and two the vagueness of the tutorial questions; essentially the same sentiments from EC2102. But regardless, the prof was still very friendly and passionate about teaching and you would be in good hands under his lecture.

I would say that the pre-midterms materials are a slight build-up of EC2102 and EC3101 knowledge; they focus heavily on the infinite time-period model, extensions of the government budget constraints to include bonds, stocks, fiscal deficit, and a simple analysis of monetary policy and fiscal policy in action. Concepts taught in EC2102 like AD-AS, IS-LM-FE, Keynesian and Classical theories are NOT covered in EC3102. However, a very heavy emphasis is placed on Lagrange in the first half of the semester and at times there are more than 5 -6 unknown variables so I would say it’s important to get familarise with doing math without substituting in numbers and to master Lagrange (very) well. Midterms comprised of around 3 structured questions and some of them were 90% similar to tutorial questions so revise the tutorials well!

Post-midterms materials are about economic growth, and specially why some countries grow faster than the others. There were four models taught: Production model, Solow model, Romer model, Combined Solow-Romer model and each of them was more content-based and on graphical analysis. Not much math was involved in the second half apart from proving and mathematical derivation. There was also a lecture on fixed exchange rates, particularly a case study on the Argentina currency crisis; didn’t enjoyed it and I find it tough to understand these concepts. I personally enjoyed the content after midterms better as it was more relevant and applicable in the real world (for me) but it is also tougher because of the graphs and everything. Finals were non-cumulative and slightly harder than midterms (cohort finds it hard too) but still do-able.

P.S. I believe it is possible to do EC3102 together with EC3101 but maybe not since both are quite content-heavy in their own ways.

4. GES1035
Module leader: Noorman Abdullah
Lecturers: NIL/Varies
Tutor: Masters sociology student
Format of Classes: 1.5 – 2 hr weekly pre-recorded lectures + 2 hour odd/even ‘live’ tutorials
Assessment:

  • Class participation and group presentation (30%)
  • Group write-up (20%)
  • Critical reflections (20%)
  • Online 1-hour open-book quiz (30%)
    P.S. This is a CS/CU 4CU GES-coded module.

The most sought-after module in NUS: GES1035. I finally got it after three unsuccessful attempts. I was pretty lucky to got it especially when the demand is always in thousands… Anyways, GES1035 is hosted by the Department of Sociology and it teaches the students a wide range of challenges and opportunities Singapore currently faces and will face in the next 50 years or so. For those who have taken Social Studies in local secondary schools, GES1035 is similar to that and pretty much an extension of it.

There are six main themes: Introduction, Population, Economy, Security, Diversity, and Aspirations. BTW, this module is jointly created by the local autonomous universities in Singapore so each university creates its own lecture videos – which are in the form of interview clips with key figures and academia – for students to watch. Since the ‘lecture’ videos are just interview clips, there is no slides/reference handover whatsoever, although the module leader does send out a consolidated key takeaways every once in a while, so taking notes can be very troublesome for this pass/fail module. There is also a compulsory and optional reading for each topic and it is important you read through the compulsory ones because those are tested for the online quiz and your critical reflections which are to be submitted before your tutorial slots will be based on the readings.

The quiz was open-book and consisted of six short-answer questions. I would say the quiz is manageable though it is highly recommended that you read through ALL your readings and lecture videos thoroughly as the prof does test the tiniest details in the course materials. The group project consisted of two parts: presentation and a short group write-up. Allocations were entirely random. The assignment expects us to think of an issue/problem related to our assigned/balloted topic and to come up with solutions for it. It was not that difficult to handle but of course, pure fluffy answers are not welcomed.

I really enjoyed the GES1035 module, not because it was pass/fail (it actually took up a lot of time because taking notes was almost an impossible task), but because it really gave us a broader understanding of the issues Singapore faces and the challenges in solving them. The readings also gave us a microscopic view of the life of everyday Singaporeans and how the institutions set up have caused things to turn out that way. That being said, this module and GL1101E shed so much insights they made my entire semester a rather depressing one LOL.

5. GL1101E
Lecturer: Joshua Ryan Watkins
Tutor: N/A
Format of Classes: 1.5 – 2 hr weekly pre-recorded lectures + NO TUTORIALS
Assessment:

  • Exam 1 (20%)
  • Exam 2 (25%)
  • Exam 3 (30%)
  • Forum participation (25%)

Finally cleared all my baskets with this module. GL1101E serves to clear my Humanities basket and I was very relieved I did not cleared HY1101E with my friends in Y1S1 because I actually find myself liking this module. Simply put, GL1101E is about examining the issues happening around the world using social sciences lens. The timeline extends from the Westphalian System to the Colonial era to the World Wars to the Cold War to decolonization and the rise of newly independent states, all the way to present day. Hence, I highly recommend anyone who has taken History in secondary school or a more advanced modern history course to do this; it should be easy for you.

The first theme is on Economic Globalisation which of course is very linked to neoliberal ideas, modernisation theory, dependency theory and Bretton Woods systems etc. The first theme talks mainly about the Development Project and how it was conceived, and its gradual transition to the Globalisation Project which coincides with the rise of the neoliberal ideas, and all the related problems these projects have caused. Some issues examined were why developing countries are still poor, and how the rich North got their resources and were able to benefit today because of the exploitation of the South in the Colonial era.

The second theme was on Political Globalisation which basically is about NATO, Warsaw Pact and global security etc. Some of the case studies covered were on South China Sea, rise of ISIS (there was an entire reading on ISIS and its establishment) and the Rohingya Crisis. Other than that, the second theme also talked about the responses to these global institutions in the present day and the return of nationalism as seen in the 2016 Brexit and 2016 Donald Trump election examples. I would say that this theme is pretty much logical and easy if you at least know the basic issues happening around the world. I have friends who have never taken history before and they did not fully appreciate the power relations and background behind states in this theme.

The last theme was about the environment and artificial intelligence and the topics covered are exactly what the name suggests. There was literally an entirely lecture on plastics. I felt this theme slightly harder because there were quite a few unfamiliar concepts and the readings did not really explain them well. This theme also explores how some institutions set up in the past have caused unequal consequences for developing countries, or “sacrifice geographies”. It also explores a quick overview of the market solutions to solve these problems and how they can be problematic too. The A.I. part was, in my opinion, boring and the main takeaway was the risks of A.I. to the labour market and national and human security in general.

The exams are based on each theme and are non-cumulative. It was around 50-60 MCQs within 2 hours on Examplify, open-book so reading through your readings and bookmarking the important pages would come in handy. The prof does a great job explaining these concepts and even if you do not understand it, the compulsory readings (which are mainly textbook and other guidebooks) will surely help you understand those terms. If not, the prof and the TA do have their consultation hours during the tutorial and lecture slots and you can consult them.

6. FAS3550
Lecturer: Varies
Tutor: N/A
Format of Classes: 1.5 – 2 hr weekly ‘live’ seminars (guest lectures) + NO TUTORIALS
Assessment:

  • Participation (20%)
  • Resume + cover letters + internship applications via TalentConnect (40%)
  • Reflection (20%)
  • LumiNUS Quizzes x 2 (20%)
    P.S. This module is only 2 CU, graded on CS/CU basis and held from week 1 – week 6 only.

This module comprises of mainly guest lecturers by companies who will share about their role, what are the challenges they faced and how they overcome these challenges. Of course they will promote their organisations and welcome any questions students have regarding their organisation and companies. Some of the invited guest speakers were from Loreal, Shopee and NEA.

This module requires you to submit two internship applications via TalentConnect with cover letters, do two simple MCQ quizzes based on the short readings, as well as a 600-700- word learning reflection.

It was quite an eye-opening module and I have to say I felt motivated by the speakers and their journey from a student (most were from NUS actually) to where they are today.


That’s all for year two. Moving on to year three in Aug 2021!

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