Ratemyprofessors website?

  • #1
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What do you guys think of the ratemyprofessors website? So many of the reviewers complain about certain professors because the material on the tests was never covered in class. Should I take this website seriously?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Before you answer that question, ask yourself two questions:

  • Why do people rate a professor low? Because he is bad, or because the student failed to get satisfactory grades due to laziness?
  • Who is responsible for your education? YOU or the instructor?
Also, the material covered on a lecture is sometimes a supplement to the textbook, not a direct substitute.
 
  • #3
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I think it is generally accurate. Usually the good professors are pointed out, and the bad ones as well. There are some students that you can tell were probably lazy and not happy with their grade, but just try to use some common sense in the reviews. However, some people like certain professors, and other people hate those same professors, so it sometimes comes down to your style.

Also ask fellow students, people that can tell you a little more detail about specific professors.
 
  • #4
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It's a good place to vent your frustrations over certain professors and a good place to sing the praises of a professor you really enjoyed. However, this also means that one of students' primary motivations is to make this professor sound either really good or really bad.

It's a good place to get an idea of what the professor is like, but expect a lot of bias. And if you're trying to get a feel for a professor it might produce better results if you ask your friends on campus. Or better yet, go talk to the professor and ask him/her what the class will be like.
 
  • #5
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I think it can be useful, as long as you don't choose your classes based on what kind of smiley face the prof in question has next to his name. Remember to read some comments to see if the reviews are somewhat reliable..
From a student's point of view, I don't see anything wrong with checking out a prof's rating.
 
  • #6
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I use the website whenever there is a class taught by multiple profs to help decide which section to register in, however you have to use your discretion when deciding whether the reviewers were being fair or not. I have been in a few classes where the prof didn't get the best rating because of test scores, difficulty or whatnot but found that I quit enjoyed the class and did very well.

If the prof has consistently bad reviews then I reconsider taking a class with them, but if they are generally good with a few bad ones mixed in then usually it's a pretty safe bet the class will be fine. You can usually tell a reliable review from a review sent in by a "lazy" or "poor" student fairly easily.
 
  • #7
Tom Mattson
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I think that the site is a joke. As someone who is both an educator and a student, I can attach names and faces to several of the reviews that people have either made about me, or about professors I am currently taking. Of those who I can identify, I can tell you that there is a direct correlation between the student's grade and his opinion of the professor. Even for some of the comments whose authors I don't know, the comments are just plain stupid.

Here are some comments about my teaching, at Hudson Valley Community College.

Course: Circuits
Date: 5/31/06

I personally could not stand him. He moved throught the material way too fast and he did a horrible job teaching it. I ended up dropping my firt class ever. Also, he made the lab writeups way too long. Try to avoid at all costs.
We had to cover 15 long chapters in 15 weeks. And while I can't say for sure who this student is, I do recall that last spring everyone who dropped the course had an extremely poor grasp of Physics II, which is the course in which circuit basics were first taught. It was knowledge that I took for granted. Too fast? Tough $hit. And as for that "long lab writeup" comment, just wait till you get to a university. Or better yet, wait till you have to write a professional paper that you want to have accepted.

Course: Circuits
Date: 9/5/06

He was a cool guy, and seemed like he might be fun to drink a beer with or something. But as a professor..his lab write ups are extremely long. I'm a straight A student and I now attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and I'm taking circuits here. It's much easier to understand. Good engineer, sucky professor.
Yes Einstein, every course is easier to understand when you take it a second time. Especially when your first time was during a 6 week summer session.

Course: Calc II
Date: 1/9/07

Very difficult course and Mattson is adjunct from RPI, so he assumes students will be smart. Isn't an amazing teacher, as are few in the math areas. However, he's very smart and knows his stuff. Asking him for help or easing of a grade is just about worthless; the best way to study is to do massive practice problems.
What a strange comment. It's as if this kid thinks that my "assuming students will be smart" and that having to do "massive practice problems" is somehow bad! Well, I guess it is bad if my assumption about you is mistaken, or if you don't like to do your homework. But if that's the case then I don't care about what you think anyway, and neither should anyone else. And chances are that this student didn't even attempt to ask me for help until it was too late, because I have more office hours than any instructor in the Department, and I am always happy to talk to students. (Well, just the smart ones who are willing to do their practice problems. :rofl: ).
 
  • #8
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yeah, you shouldn't use the site to see how much you'll like the class or how well you're gonna do in it. Personally, I use it to avoid profs who speak poor english, are unpunctual, etc..
 
  • #9
Tom Mattson
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That's not to say that I haven't used the site. I've posted 2 ratings, which I'll place here for contrast. These are both mathematics professors (won't bother saying who) who I took for graduate math courses last semester.

Nice lady, but not a good teacher. She'll start a proof, spend 20 min on it, then realize that she screwed it up and must start over. Happens too often for comfort. The maddening thing is that it wouldn't happen at all if she would just prepare for class. She's a high level researcher and knows the stuff, but doesn't seem to care about class. Boo.
This was a negative review, but I don't just say, "She sucked, avoid at all costs." The anecdote I related here is a fact. Of course, you can choose to believe it or not, but that's up to you. It just means that if you take this lady's course despite my review, then I get to say "I told you so." :biggrin:

He is The Man. He walks into class with nothing but 2 markers, and delivers the whole lecture from memory, and he does it better than most professors do with lecture notes. I can see why an undergrad wouldn't like him b/c the level of the course is much higher than I expected, but hey this is grad school. XXXXXXXXX rocks.
I liked this guy a lot. He's gotten several negative reviews for being too fast and talking above students' heads (esp in undergrad courses), but I acknowledge that he would be tough for an undergrad to take.
 
  • #10
JasonRox
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yeah, you shouldn't use the site to see how much you'll like the class or how well you're gonna do in it. Personally, I use it to avoid profs who speak poor english, are unpunctual, etc..
Exactly. It's good for that.
 
  • #11
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I haven't used the site very much (mostly because my last two years, my required classes were only taught by one professor each). But when I have used ratemyprofessor.com, it turned out to generally be pretty accurate.
 
  • #12
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It's not a bad site so long as you mentally move the ratings up a few notches and ignore the guys that can't seem to find the shift key, have a penchant for replacing s with z, and so on.
 
  • #13
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Personally I think the site is useless unless you are trying to decide on an elective, or you have a choice between two professors who are teaching the same class. OK, teacher so-and-so sucks, but he's teaching a class you're required to take. You don't have a choice, so why bother with reading reviews and just try your best?

For electives, it can be very useful. If I have a choice of taking class A or class B, and the professor for class A has many more positive reviews, that'll be a factor when I have to select which class I want to take.
 
  • #14
JasonRox
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I looked at my schools thing and I disagreed with a lot of it. It seems like students give pity points to nice profs regardless if they suck at teaching. They even mention the fact that they aren't good, yet they give a good score. That's messed up.
 
  • #15
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I think that the site is a joke. As someone who is both an educator and a student, I can attach names and faces to several of the reviews that people have either made about me, or about professors I am currently taking. Of those who I can identify, I can tell you that there is a direct correlation between the student's grade and his opinion of the professor. Even for some of the comments whose authors I don't know, the comments are just plain stupid.

I agree the site is used by lazy students as I also attend a community college. My chemistry and physics professors had like a 2.0 rating for ease so I got all scared that I might not do well in the classes. In my chemistry class, all I did to prepare for exams was do the HW problems and study them lightly. I ended up getting over 95% on 3 of the 4 exams. In my physics class, the professor made the exams open-book and made the exam problems EXACTLY like some of the exercises/problems and EVEN EXAMPLES in the textbook, so essentially each exam, you were pretty much guaranteed at least a 50%. Yet he still got only a 2.0 for ease.
 
  • #16
mathwonk
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i never heard of this site before, and i was all ready to trash it, but i just went on and read my reviews and those of a couple of my friends who i know are good techers.

well the reviews of us were not that untrue in my opinion. some liked me and some in beginning calc thought i was the worst prof ever, but in the case of my friends who i know are excellent, like shifrin and zabcic, the students pretty much agreed they are great.

i am not disagreeing with tom that many negative reviews may be from losers, i am just saying these reviews resemble the ones i am used to seeing, or in my case are actually even more positive and accurate than usual.

i mean they all said i was hard, and I teach in depth, and present theory, and am stingy with A's, and this is all true.

as to whether i am the worst ever, you have to pretty much take the more detailed description of my teaching the others gave, and decide if for you that is bad.

for someone it was awful to have a hard teacher who wants you to understand in depth and only gives a high grade if you actually do very well.

i sympathize with teachers who find it painful and frustrating to be critiized bitterly for trying to lift the standards of their students, but after over 40 years teaching I am getting used to this.
 
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  • #17
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Mathwonk,

What does it take to receive an A in your class?
 
  • #18
J77
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Sites like that are rubbish -- and don't matter anyway to the overwhleming majority of people out there; ie. those who don't know about them.

Students who get bad grades moan about bad lectures -- was the case before the internet, and such sites, is the case now.
 
  • #19
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I've used this sight to rate my professors in the past and have always been very honest. I'm an A student, so I don't have any reason to trash a teacher because of a bad grade.

Here are two of my most recent reviews:

From between being allowed "cheat sheets" with formulas to being able to use a graphing calculator and take home tests this teacher just pushed everyone through. I audited it because I THOUGHT I could get a deeper, more thorough review of trig. No such luck.

If this as far as you need to go in math, take her. She's an easy grade. HOWEVER, if you need a good solid trig background for Calc I/II and further, take someone else. She rushes through classes and tests are easy. Don't recommend.
And this one for when I audited Calculus.

Mr. Xxxxx has been described as making the subject difficult, but he's just showing you what it takes to make it. He's available for help often in his office. Sometimes you have to ask him to dumb it down a bit. Good teacher if you know your stuff, if you're weak in the subject, take someone else. If you do know your stuff..he'll help you excel.
Obviously since they were both audits, I had no motivation to bash or give undue credit.

I think if you sift through the crap, there is some truth to the reviews.
 
  • #20
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I think that the site is a joke. As someone who is both an educator and a student, I can attach names and faces to several of the reviews that people have either made about me, or about professors I am currently taking. Of those who I can identify, I can tell you that there is a direct correlation between the student's grade and his opinion of the professor. Even for some of the comments whose authors I don't know, the comments are just plain stupid.
I agree the site is used by lazy students as I also attend a community college. My chemistry and physics professors had like a 2.0 rating for ease so I got all scared that I might not do well in the classes. In my chemistry class, all I did to prepare for exams was do the HW problems and study them lightly. I ended up getting over 95% on 3 of the 4 exams. In my physics class, the professor made the exams open-book and made the exam problems EXACTLY like some of the exercises/problems and EVEN EXAMPLES in the textbook, so essentially each exam, you were pretty much guaranteed at least a 50%. Yet he still got only a 2.0 for ease.
Then why not go on the site to give the professor a good review? I think it can be useful if you can differientiate between a raving lazy student and someone who demonstrates specific problems with the teaching method.

If a professor has one review from someone complaining that he gives too much homework and you are a good student that knows that doing lots of homework is good for you in the long run, who cares? Are you going to be scared off?

On the other hand if a professor has 10 reviews that complain about him not being prepared for class and constantly making mistakes to the point where you can't trust your notes (I think we've all had that guy), then I'd say that it might not be a bad idea to avoid that professor if possible.

In your life you will have to learn to take information from different sources with grain-of-salt and use it as a tool to make the best decision, not to just take eveything at face value or dismiss eveything either.

Its just another part of the learning process.......
 
  • #21
Tom Mattson
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
5,500
8
I agree the site is used by lazy students as I also attend a community college. My chemistry and physics professors had like a 2.0 rating for ease so I got all scared that I might not do well in the classes. In my chemistry class, all I did to prepare for exams was do the HW problems and study them lightly. I ended up getting over 95% on 3 of the 4 exams. In my physics class, the professor made the exams open-book and made the exam problems EXACTLY like some of the exercises/problems and EVEN EXAMPLES in the textbook, so essentially each exam, you were pretty much guaranteed at least a 50%. Yet he still got only a 2.0 for ease.
My story is similar. Every semester I hand out an assignment sheet with a bunch of practice problems on it. I tell the students that I don't collect or grade them, but I will do any problem in class or in office hours. The students also have access to full solution manuals in the Learning Assistance Center. I tell them that despite the fact that I don't collect homework, it still behooves them to do it anyway, because I choose my exam questions verbatim from those problem sets. My exact words to each section at the start of each semester are, "If you've done the homework, then you've done the exam." I also give them a practice exam with solutions that they can take home and try to do in 1 hour. So not only do they know the pool of questions from which I'll be drawing, but they also know the exact length and format of the exam.

But it never fails: every time I give an exam there are some students who are shocked at this "curveball" that I've thrown at them. My current "ease" rating is 2.6!

Whenever a student says that I'm a hard professor, I have to pretend to take the complaint seriously. But inside I always wonder, "What is this kid's major malfunction???"
 
  • #22
mathwonk
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i give pretty simple minded grades, 90 percent or better is an A.

but i give lots of extra credit, so a 90 is often 90/110 or evn over 115 or 120.

still so few stduents actually master the material in depth that such scores are very unusual.

they are increasing now that our hope scholarship program encourages more well prepared stduents to stay in state, but they are stilll pretty rare.

i will give a simple example that may or may not surprize you. a very good prof and teacher who predated me here used to tell his students on the first day of every class that he would ask them to write down the limit definition of a derivative on the final exam, as question one.

then he would patiently tell them the answer. in over 30 years of teaching he never had a class in which every student answered this question correctly.

the full credit answer is this: f'(a) = the limit as x-->a of [f(x)-f(a)]/(x-a).

thats all.


When he told me this I also began to do it. he retired a couple years ago and I have continued this practice. In almost 30 years of my own teaching I also have never have everyone get even this simple predictable question right, whose answer is given in advance.


in fact it is much worse than that. once when i taught an honirs calc class to abut 8-10 students, i said i would ask the statement of the fundamental theorem of calculus part 1, on every test, and if i ever failed to ask it, they could write it down for extra credit. (I imitated this practice too from another top prof).


the full credit correct statement was this: if f is continuous on the interval [a,b] and if G(x) = the integral of f from a to x, then G'(x) = f(x).

The entire semester i gave between 4 and 8 tests, and never had all 8 people state it correctly, although on the last test, 7 people got it right.


Encouraged then, on the final i decided to test whether they understod what they had memorized, so i asked whether the function f(x) = e^[x^2] has an antiderivative, i.e. a function G such that G'(x) = f(x).

Not one person said yes, even though the FTC says that every continuous function f has an antiderivative, namely, G(x) = the integral of f from a to x, is an antiderivative. recall this was honors calc.
later i learned that one of my B students had never earned less than an A in any other clas in his college career.

By the way I gave a makeup test for every test, so the 8 tests actually only counted for 4 test grades, the higher of each grde being counted.


so getting an A is not really that hard for someone who is actually prepared and does the work. some of the students getting low grades in my class are not even attending regularly.

so a really truthful average evaluation of my class might read like this:

"I was a good math student in high school, and got all honor grades even though I did very little work. The grades were easy, everyone got high ones so we could get a hope scholarship, and i thought college would be the same.

of course my SATs were only around 470/800 in math but so what? I had mostly A's in my courses and really knew the material, just did not function well on tests. But Dr Smiths class was a terrible experience.

I went to class most of the time, well not on fridays, and i went to the lab to get help on the hw almost every week, well not when there was a football game, but the grad student couldnt even do dr smiths hw!

How are we expected to do it?? I admit my notes were not so good from class, but i never looked at them anyway, and the book was too hard to read so I ignored it most of the time. the problems are what counts anyway right?

then dr smith crossed me up by asking theoretical stuff on the final like: define the derivative. we never had any definitions in high school, and i got a 3 on the AP exam.

He was way too strict, and I heard he was not always helpful to the people who went to his office, although I never bothered to go myself. I am no gong to walk all the way over to the math building when the tutorial lab is closer.

I got out with a W, because he made sure we all knew our running grade going into drop day, but what a waste of time, I would not recommend him to anyone wantng a good GPA, thats for sure."
 
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  • #23
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My story is similar. Every semester I hand out an assignment sheet with a bunch of practice problems on it. I tell the students that I don't collect or grade them, but I will do any problem in class or in office hours. The students also have access to full solution manuals in the Learning Assistance Center. I tell them that despite the fact that I don't collect homework, it still behooves them to do it anyway, because I choose my exam questions verbatim from those problem sets. My exact words to each section at the start of each semester are, "If you've done the homework, then you've done the exam." I also give them a practice exam with solutions that they can take home and try to do in 1 hour. So not only do they know the pool of questions from which I'll be drawing, but they also know the exact length and format of the exam.

But it never fails: every time I give an exam there are some students who are shocked at this "curveball" that I've thrown at them. My current "ease" rating is 2.6!


Whenever a student says that I'm a hard professor, I have to pretend to take the complaint seriously. But inside I always wonder, "What is this kid's major malfunction???"
See, this is the kind of professor I would want. If you do the homework and master it, you will have mastered the exam. The reviews that worry me are the ones that say the exam resembled nothing from the homework nor anything covered in the lectures.
 
  • #24
mathwonk
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you cant even trust those. i gave calc once and taught in class how to maximize the volume of a closed topped rectangular box with square base and given area.

then on the test i asked the class to maximize the volume of an open topped rectangular box with square base and given area. one kid said it was unfair to test about an open topped box when we only did the closed top box case in class.


if anyone here agrees with that kid, then you are in serious trouble. the only place you can look forward to working is a fast food restaurant, and even then not if the customer doesn't want fries with that, when you have always given them fries before.
 
  • #25
mathwonk
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i would even suggest that tom is being much too easy on his class by testing only on problems they have seen before. i know why he does this, because it is so hard to get even this much mastery from an average class.

but i recommend asking for them to be able also to generalize from what they have learned to other settings, at least gently.

of course he is not working those problems out for them unless they ask, so actually most of his students are neither doing them nor asking him to do them, so he is really testing maturity, which is greatly lacking in many cases.
 

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