ASE pass rates up for most GIRs, especially biology

Math GIR tests still passed by most, but 18.01 sees slightly less success than in previous years

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The Advance Standing Exam (ASE) takers, mostly students from the Class of 2018, generally did well on the tests during orientation this year, garnering an overall pass rate of 54.9 percent. This pass rate is slightly higher than last year’s 54.2 percent and 52-53 percent in recent years.

The ASEs are offered during orientation, as part of each semester’s finals schedule, and at the end of IAP. However, only the ASEs taken by freshmen during orientation will not affect those students’ transcripts.

The ASE-takers performed especially well in the biology ASE, where 32 out of 67 students, or 47.8 percent, passed. This is significantly higher than the past two years’ average of around 27.2 percent, and is close to the high of 51 percent for the Class of 2015.

Professor Dennis Kim, the Undergraduate Biology Academic Officer and Associate Professor in MIT’s Department of Biology, acknowledged that there has been some “variability” in the Biology ASE passing rate throughout the years. He also said that while there were 93 takers last year, there were only 67 this year. The fluctuating number of takers may contribute to this variability, but he said, “The process for generating the Biology ASE was not different this year than it was from prior years.”

While Kim said that the Biology ASE is meant to “reflect the material that’s covered in a standard introductory 7.01 course,” he strongly encouraged students to take one of the 7.01x courses.

“I think I myself could benefit from sitting in 7.016 hearing Angelika Amon talk about meiosis or 7.012 and hear Bob Weinberg talk about cancer,” he said.

As usual, the most commonly taken ASEs were for General Institute Requirement (GIR) classes: 7.012 to 7.016 (Introductory Biology), 5.111 (Principles of Chemical Science), 18.01 (Single Variable Calculus), 18.02 (Multivariable Calculus), 8.01 (Classical Mechanics), and 8.02 (Electricity and Magnetism). Other common ASEs included 18.03 (Differential Equations) and 18.06 (Linear Algebra).

The Chemistry ASE proved to be the hardest for the students, as only 17.9 percent passed, the lowest among the ASEs. This is slightly lower than last year’s 21 percent, but higher than the 14 percent of previous years.

Hung Jui Huang ’18, one of those who passed the test, said it would probably take more than 30 hours to study for the Chemistry ASE, and that the preparation still might not guarantee success. Huang added, “There is not enough online material for students to work on to prepare for the test. Some test problems are out of the class syllabus of online OCW (Open CourseWare).”

“I know some people who have also taken all OCW videos but didn’t pass the Chemistry ASE. I also think unless you are a IChO (International Chemistry Olympiad) medalist, you have to take all the OCW videos to pass [the] Chemistry ASE, and it is just [a gamble],” he said.

The math ASEs — 18.01, 18.02, 18.03, and 18.06 — generally saw the best results, with pass rates of above 70 percent. Only the 18.01 ASE showed an unusually low passing rate — 49.2 percent. The pass rates of the math ASEs are historically the highest, with only a handful of students not passing the exam in some previous years.

Sze Nga Wong ’18, who passed both math GIR ASEs and the 8.01 ASE, explained that OCW helped her prepare for the tests.

She added, “I would not say any of the tests was super easy, because there were always materials outside the regular high school syllabus.”