Love it or Hate it: Paper vs. Problem Set Classes

By Varnel L Antoine

What’s the better way to suffer: writing papers or doing psets? The debate is older than Harvard itself. Let’s settle this once and for all with some ~spicy~ points from our writers.

Papers: Rachel L. Reynolds and Stuti R. Telidevara

Objectively, papers win over psets every time. First of all, they’re at least a little more fun because you get to actually be creative. Can you put a fun, punny title on a pset? Didn’t think so. Not to mention, as long as you have the evidence to back you up, you can basically write whatever you want. There’s no set answer, so you can fake your way through a paper much more easily than a pset. Plus, you can justify basically any procrastination as part of the “writing process.” On the other hand, when you’re doing a pset, you’re either working or feeling awful about yourself for not working. And why be at the mercy of a study group to save you, when you can just grind it out yourself while listening to that perfect writing playlist you made in order to procrastinate even more? We all know there’s a clear winner here.

Problem Sets: Peyton A. Jones and Hannah J. Humes

Everyone loves to complain about psets, but they’re truly the only tolerable form of classwork. First things first: There’s actually a right answer. While a particular TF’s strictness can make or break your essay grade in a non-pset class, the right answer on a pset is all you need. Of course, getting to that correct solution is easier said than done. Luckily, the time-honored tradition of collaboration on tough problems makes the process doable (while abiding by the Honor Code of course). Late nights in the library working through difficult questions and/or cycling through the five stages of grief bond pset classmates together for life and help even the most notoriously grindy of courses (“Chemistry 27: Organic Chemistry of Life,” we’re looking at you) seem manageable. But if you and your study buddies’ collective brainpower just can’t hack a particularly impossible problem, fret not — office hours for pset classes are actually helpful. Gone are the days of vague feedback in essay-writing classes. And if all of the above points still leave you stranded, you’ve got one last shot: the magic of YouTube. Don’t understand how your friends and TFs are explaining a problem? Google your way into understanding. If you’re not #TeamPset by now, you might just have bad taste.

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