Table of contents

  1. Course Info
  2. Realistic Prerequisites
  3. Subject Matter
  4. Course Staff
  5. Lectures
  6. Problem Sets
  7. Exams
  8. Resources
  9. Grading
  10. Advice to Future Students

Course Info

Class Size 70
Hours/Week 9.2 (32 responses)
Instructors Michael Artin (Lecturer), Xavier W. Herbert (UA), Anqi Li (UA)
# of Responses to Course 18 Underground Questions 23/70

Realistic Prerequisites

  • Mathematical maturity: familiar with group theory and linear algebra. Proof writing expsure is very important.
  • Almost every student felt that 18.701 was a necessary prerequisite for the course.
    • “18.701 is necessary and sufficient”
  • One student warns that “This class picks up midway through the textbook and you absolutely need to still have the 701 material fresh in your head.”

Subject Matter

  • Foundational, almost entirely theoretical, broad and useful.
  • The course covers field theory and ring theory, and builds a very strong foundation for the rest of the 18.7 courses.
  • A student lovingly says “This class complimented the knowledge gained in that class, and it actually revitalized my love for algebra, which had been leaving me ever since the end of 18.701 last semester.”
  • Many students point out that the course doesnt delve much into applications but many of the 18.7 courses are applications of the material.

Course Staff

  • Extemely helpful, approachable, supportive!!. The staff was also very open to questions, and accommodating of extenuating circumstances.
  • Both the professor and the TAs were caring and helpful.
  • Many students noted that the Piazza was quiickly answered and that was a highlight for the course.
    • “… I really want to emphasize Murilo; he really showed his knowledge through all of the help he gave through Piazza.”
  • Almost all the students who reviewed the course thought highly of Professor Artin and adored him.
    • “Mike Artin is one of the most kind, caring professors I have ever met at MIT. Truly a G.”
    • “I think one of my favorite parts of the class were the course staff.”
    • “Caring!”
    • “Artin is great”


  • interesting, slow, and useful
    • “The lectures were good. Classic style, but I understood a lot from them.”
  • The lectures followed the book and many students used it heavily for learning
    • “I learned this class entirely from the textbook for this virtual semester.”
  • Lectures were engaging and reinforced the book.
    • “Textbook + lectures is all you need to learn. I recommend reading the textbook then going to lecture.”

Problem Sets

  • Moderately hard, to challenging. They were also short and sweet and very doable if you went to office hours.
  • The problem sets were an application and very representative of the class material.
  • Extremely useful in learning the course content, tested understanding of the material, and sometimes required creativity which many students liked.


  • Very short and easy and straightforward quizzes.
  • The problems were far easier than the problem-sets..
  • Solving psets and knowing critical facts from lecture was helpful.


  • One textbook: Artin’s Algebra.
    • A student notes “Artin’s book is a masterpiece and should be read in depth by anyone taking this class”
    • Another student lovingly points out that the “Textbook is your best friend”
  • The course follows the book chapter by chapter.


  • very kind, fair, and lenient.
  • Grading was very transparent but the grade distribution is extremely skewed to the high 90s.
  • Students generally felt that grading was fair and consistent.

Advice to Future Students

  1. “Take this class if you get the chance. It will probably be great in person.”
  2. “Have a solid 18.701 background, otherwise this class can be very hard. There will be 3 or 4 major topics in this class: if you get lost in one of them try to survive until the start of the next. Then things will be somehow reset.”
  3. “Enjoy the content and make sure to ask staff if you ever get stuck!”
  4. “Whenever you receive your next problem set, take a few minutes to memorize the questions. Over the next few days, occasionally come back and think about ways to solve it, but only start working a few days after. In my experience, if I ran head-first into a pset I hit a wall very fast, but if I know what the problem is actually asking, then I know where I want to go when I run head-first.”
  5. “Be prepared to be confused, a lot– but a good kind of confused.”