Assignment Technique

I have a habit of diving head first into assignments trying to amaze and astound people by implementing very advanced techniques or the like into my work.

I’ve had several lengthy discussions with many of my lecturers about my attitude toward my work. Nearly all of them keep telling me to, for lack of a better phrase, take it a little less seriously. Generally they tell me to go for easy marks first, then go for the harder stuff. I generally dislike this approach to education as I don’t feel it really encourages students to push themselves. It’s hard to really push yourself when you already know that you’re going to pass. Also, bare pass marks are usually at a very low standard. I want top marks, all the time in everything.

This semester I’m amalgamating all the advice that I’ve had from my lectures and combining them with my usual approach. So far its serving me well.

For example, I have an assignment for concurrency. I’ve attempted this assignment several times and keep coming up against the exact same problem. Basically I have a resource shortage and I just can’t solve it. I’m reluctant to ask my tutor for any more assistance that he’s already provided me. It’s a huge class and I’m so far ahead of everyone else that it’s not really fair to be taking so much time from those who might be struggling.

I pushed onward and found come up with an implementation that solves the problem except for a very minor, but obvious, cosmetic problem. I’ve spent weeks on this assignment and it’s really starting to get to me.

So I’m taking a break, sort of. The assignment is done bar this single problem and I’ve got a lot of other, more difficult work to attend to. So rather than spending the next 4 weeks pulling out my hair trying to figure out I’ve applied my new approach, all be it, in reverse. I took a look at the marking scheme and have implemented each of the, extra marks, items. These are things like pretty graphics and other things that are might be slightly beyond the scope of the module. So counting up the marks I’m easily into the high 90% despite this little problem. The extra marks gained will more than make up for the marks lost. Now, if I don’t manage to get back to this assignment before the hand I’ll still be looking at an A. My assignment may not be perfect but I’m still getting top marks.

I realize that this might be considered contrary to things I’ve said in the past. But those were intended to be general student advice. This is specific to me.

On Studying

I’ve been asked a number of times recently on studying. How do you go about studying for an exam, or studying in general? So I figured I’d write a post on it.

1. Time-Keeping

Pace yourself. Students are in the habit of cramming before exams, which is fine as long as it works for you. But even when cramming it’s important to keep a steady pace. I’m not a crammer, the thought of leaving studying till the last minute freaks me out and as I have a hard enough time absorbing information it just seems like academic suicide. So I use all the time I have available to review in short bits with a break in between.

Let’s say I had 2 weeks to review for a math exam. Each day would schedule 2 lots of 1 hour for a subject, so day 1 I would look at one subject and only one, such as Vectors. After those 2 hours I’d stop regardless of where I was at. Day 2 I would pick another subject and do the same. Each day I pick a new subject and don’t repeat the same subject two days in a row. If I wanted to go over vectors again that’s fine, just make sure to put something between it, otherwise you end up spending half of the time on one subject.

2. Choose your subjects wisely.
As far as choosing the subject order I┬ástart with the things that I’m best at. Ideally you want to cover the course subject matter in its entirety but there’s not always time. Because I’m best that them they’ll take the least amount of time to review and most importantly, I find the harder things are easier to understand when you have a firm grasp of the easy stuff. And if you get to exam time and you’ve spent all your time trying to understand only a couple of the very difficult subjects, how prepared are you? Especially if those subjects don’t appear on the exam. This can be applied over any time scale, but I suggest that you stick to hour long blocks of study time. I.e. shorten the breaks, not the study.

3. Crowd-sourcing.
I’m against crowd sourcing generally for two reasons; 1. A crowd sourced opinion is no opinion at all. 2. there’s a lot of crap out there and some of it is… less correct than it should be. That being said, hit the internet and look at how other people interpret and express the subject. Especially in regards to math and programming I found it really helps.

4. Conversation.
Find someone who understands the subject at about the same level, or another people who is reviewing for the same exam maybe. And converse with them about it. I don’t read well, so library books and other literature is largely wasted on me, so I converse, with tutors, with students and some time with my 6 year old son. Any one who will listen and respond to me so that I can assimilate the information spoken out loud.
After explaining this technique to a fellow-student he responded with “So that’s why you’re always quizzing all us before exams?”

So that’s it. That’s my studying technique and it’s served me pretty well

Onward

I’m officially a degree student now.

I’ve completed my first semester and I must say, it’s good being on the degree course, even if it is all the hard classes. Let me explain.

Now that I’ve completed my HND, awarded with distinction I might add, I’m topping it up to a full blown bachelor’s, but in my HND I already took many of the modules, certainly many of the easier ones. So now on the top-up I’m enrolled in all the more difficult modules of the award, and all at the same time. As one lecturer somewhat apologetically put it, “The games top-up students either thrive or die within the first semester.”

So here I am, thriving I think. I’m one of only about 4 surviving games HND students and I’m just doing my best to keep up. I must be doing something right because so far it looks like I’m not going to have much, if any, work to do over the Christmas holiday. Just review for the exams.