QR or WCT: Which should you take first?

USP students would be familiar with the dilemma of deciding whether to take a WCT or QR module first in their first year. In this edition, The Cinnamon Roll collects feedback from various freshmen (and a senior) to find out if there is a "right order" to these USP foundation modules.

By Dinise Chng

Many people have suggested doing a Writing and Critical Thinking (WCT) module before taking a Quantitative Reasoning (QR) module, but does it really matter which one you start with?

For some background, WCT and QR are both foundation modules, with WCT meant to be completed by Year 1 and QR meant to be completed latest by Year 2 Semester 1. WCT’s main purpose is to teach individuals to read and think critically, and engage with texts rather than simply repeating them, as well as to write persuasively.

On the other hand, QR introduces students to the basics of quantitative reasoning, defined broadly as “the way in which we can use numbers to provide evidence for our arguments.”

What really are the differences that arise from taking either QR or WCT first?

To get to the heart of this issue, I started off by interviewing some students who decided to take their WCT module in Semester 1, which is seemingly the more common option among USP students.

The most commonly voiced opinion of the students who took WCT first was that it helped improve their writing skills, which paved an easier route for completing future writing modules in university.

Hiok Tong (Y1 Business + USP), mentioned that WCT helped her become a more independent thinker and trained her inferential skills. She highlighted that we students were sometimes so “accustomed to being spoonfed advice and guidance”.

“Essay writing is taxing, and it takes up a lot of time; you don’t know the standard of how good is good, there is no example, thus it takes time and a lot of effort.”

“My professor’s insistence on not wanting me to be dependent sometimes felt crippling, but he had told me to just write and everything will turn out fine and so I have learnt to trust in myself and trust in the process”. Thus her Professor’s insistence on being independent and trusting her own ideas was an impactful lesson reaped from taking WCT first.

Another individual, Claudine (Y1 FASS + USP) also mentioned how WCT made her more aware of her writing techniques. Instead of writing instinctively, she learnt to sieve through the important and essential points.

Similarly, others also mentioned that they decided to take WCT first as they had to clear heavy major modules in the future semesters.

However, some interviewees raised difficulties associated with taking WCT modules first, such as the heavy workload. A common complaint was the large number of drafts that needed to be submitted, which affected their major modules. This was especially taxing to some individuals who were overloading in Semester 1, and at the same time adjusting to university life.

Moreover, the readings were also rather heavy and challenging, particularly for certain WCT modules. Some WCTs also required one to come up with his/her own research paper and issue, which was fun in giving one the freedom to explore their own choice of topic, but difficult to choose material to delve into.

“Essay writing is taxing, and it takes up a lot of time; you don’t know the standard of how good is good, there is no example, thus it takes time and a lot of effort”, mentioned Charlotte (Y1 Pharmacy + USP), which summed up the major difficulty that many others faced when it comes to WCT.

Next, I interviewed some students who took their QR module first instead of WCT.

When asked why they took QR first, there were varying responses, with some individuals mentioning that they were preallocated the QR module and decided to stick to their preallocated option.

On the other hand, there were individuals who explicitly made the decision to complete QR first.

Valerie (Y1 FASS + USP) was one of them.

“I chose the QR module first because I felt that I would find QR more challenging than WCT. And wanted to get it over and done with first.”

Her explanation is not an anomaly. Si Yi (Y1 Industrial Design + USP)  highlighted that the lighter workload that a QR module has in relation to a WCT module made it easier for her to complete her Industrial Design modules this semester.

However, despite their choices of deciding to complete QR first, it was not without some difficulties faced.

Both interviewees highlighted that consistent work needed to be put in to ensure that they were able to stay on track and keep up with every lessons. This was especially so when new concepts were taught in class, for example that of data comparison.

“I chose the QR module first because I felt that I would find QR more challenging than WCT. And wanted to get it over and done with first.”

Valerie reiterated that it was indeed challenging to complete the Data Assignments given in class, especially when there were other individuals in the class who had prior knowledge and skills in that field.

Despite that, Andrea (Y1 Business + USP) highlighted that QR broadened her thinking and she learnt many new skills such as how to analyse data, interpret tables and compare means. She also learnt about various biases and how to ask meaningful questions.

After consolidating these observations from freshmen, I also interviewed a senior who did her QR module in her first semester to get her opinion on how it impacted her.

Ianna (Y2 English Literature + USP), was not allocated a WCT module in Y1S1, and thus decided to take QR first. Other than taking QR, she took up a Science inquiry, Mathematics and Reality, in the same semester.

Some difficulties she brought up about not being able to take WCT first included the disparity between writing essays in university as compared to in Junior College. The citation procedures such as including  a bibliography were not made known to her and having the necessary skill set for academic writing was taken as a common assumption. In hindsight, taking WCT first would have imparted those necessary skills to her, which she feels is one of the benefits of taking WCT first.

Ianna also felt that taking WCT first would allow for a match of skills from WCT to one’s core major modules, especially for FASS. If one’s field of study is writing-intensive,taking WCT is a good primer to the rest of one’s university career as one gets used to writing and reading academic papers. It would also teach one to analyse readings and  break them down into points, arguments, and arguments from other authors.

The skills learnt in WCT are also transferable to inquiry modules, which makes it easier to cope with the higher inference levels and skills needed in an inquiry module.

“In my WCT (UWC2101N Clothing Identities), we used the MLA writing style, which is the same for English Literature. I became more conscious of my citation styles and formatting when I wrote essays for English Literature.” said Ianna.

All in all, it does not seem as if doing a WCT module or a QR module makes much of a difference – it depends on one’s interest in the module and the other available modules. After weighing all the potential benefits and challenges faced in taking both the modules, it seems that taking either the “traditional path” of WCT modules or QR modules first both have their plus points. Instead, one should weigh it out for themselves on whether to take WCT or QR first based on the workload of their major modules.

The writer is currently a Year 1 FASS student and still majorly confused about university and its workings. She hopes to be able to help fellow lost students out so we can all graduate on time 🙂

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