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During coursework, there are sessions where a problem set is distributed beforehand and a TA works out the solutions in front of the class in a stipulated session.

Given the student works out the problems himself and is confident of the material being covered, is it alright to skip such sessions? Is this viewed adversely during grading, etc?

  • Is this viewed adversely during grading? — Only your instructor can answer that question! – JeffE Oct 8 '12 at 20:51
  • This question is perfect for this SE new site: undergraduates if you find it useful you can follow it and help us in spreading the word about it. – Daniele B Jan 21 '13 at 11:10
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Yes, skipping the sessions is not only alright, but is in fact advisable. Will it be viewed adversely during grading, you bet yeah. The key thing to remember is that in grad school grades don't matter. If skipping the session means you can put an extra hour into your research, then that is better time spent.

The way it will affect you in grading is you might lose some participation points and the benefit of the doubt for borderline grades. The instructor may be less inclined to write you a letter of recommendation, but ideally your letter writers will be talking about your research.

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    Burn that on your arm: "In grad school, grades don't matter" – Suresh Oct 8 '12 at 15:50
  • Grades in grad school don't matter if you're staying in academia. If you want to go to a field where someone in HR will review your résumé before a trained person in your field will, your grades can matter. My previous employer, for instance, required at least a 3.5 GPA for master's degrees—even those earned decades ago! – aeismail Oct 11 '12 at 17:21
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“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.”

Yes, you should do your best to maximize your gain from grad school, including skipping sessions/lectures which are not profitable, unless it is explicitly against the rules (in some institutions, there are mandatory lectures). If that means you skip some lectures, do it. If asked, be polite but direct about it. Some people will take it badly, most probably won't.


I'll reinforce my (and Daniel’s) answer with an anecdote: as a student, the department head welcomed us at the beginning of my first year. He said his institution was a place of science, not of conventions, and independence of great minds mattered above all. “Some people learn best in books, in chats with researchers… not by sleeping in lecture rooms. That's okay.” — Two months later, I went to him a morning because I needed his signature on an application. He gave me hell because I dared skip his own coursework session, which was happening at the same time with a TA from his group.

So, you can skip lectures, you don't have to try to hide it, but don't rub it in either :)

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    The theoretical difference between theory and practice and the practical difference between theory and practice are more similar in practice than in theory. – JeffE Oct 8 '12 at 20:49

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