Using Your Syllabus

Every MIT subject has a syllabus—a document written by the instructor to show students and TAs how the subject will be taught. The syllabus is a very useful tool: be sure to pick one up at the first class meeting or download it from your class site, Canvas or Stellar.  Keep it in a folder where you can find it easily throughout the term.

Crucial information on the syllabus includes:

  • Statement of goals or learning outcomes for the subject
  • Contact information for the instructor and TAs
  • Dates, times, and locations of class meetings
  • Dates for in-class tests, midterms, or other required activities
  • Deadlines and directions for getting and submitting psets and other homework (online or in a drop box)
  • Outline of lecture and recitation topics, showing when they'll be covered
  • Required and recommended textbooks, readings, and resource material
  • Information about the final exam or project
  • Grading policies (how much each test or assignment counts toward the final grade, penalties for late submission, possible extra credit, etc.)
  • Standards for appropriate collaboration on psets and group work
  • Policy on missing class or a test (makeups for illness, etc.)

Review the syllabus early in the term to:

  • Decide if you want to continue with the subject. Does it interest you? Meet a requirement? Fit your schedule?
  • Record the times of all lectures, recitations, and other class meetings in your personal planner.
  • Record dates of tests, deadlines for papers/projects, and the final exam (if known) in your planner. Set alerts for these a week ahead to help plan your work.
  • Skim the schedule of topics to lay a foundation for your understanding of the material you will learn.
  • Be sure you understand the standards in this subject for collaboration as you work in a group: different instructors may have different policies. See Academic Integrity for additional advice).
  • If anything is unclear, contact the instructor or your TA.

Use the syllabus later in the term:

  • If you miss a class or test, check the syllabus for instructions on how to proceed. 
  • Use the schedule of topics to organize your review for tests, and the recommended readings for enrichment or project research. 
  • Some syllabi include an extensive bibliography that may be useful for future reference, especially if you take other subjects in the field: hold onto these.