Friday, 17 October 2008

S282: The exam

Time to face the decider, the exam for this course where all hopes and aspirations live or die.

After getting to the exam centre in plenty of time, and finding my seat and unloading all my stuff on the desk, and then having forgotten my watch and had to go back to the bag dumping ground to fetch it, I started on the admin tasks of filling in all the ids and stuff on the answer book.

Then one of the invigilators came over to the two of us taking this exam and gave us a couple of corrections to the exam paper. Basically a couple of the multi choice answers were telling you to pencil in the wrong rows.

Then it was time to start. Eight multiple choice questions that all have to be answered. Some of them are ok, work out a value and tick the right box. Others are much more tricky given eight statements and pick out the two right ones or two wrong ones. These are tricky as sometimes it all hinges on one word. Some most of the sentence is correct, but a small word somewhere like always can make the whole thing untrue.

Then part 2 - four questions, answer 3 - mostly on the life and death of stars, and often something specific about the Sun.

Part 3 - four more questions, answer 3 - this time on galaxies and cosmology.

I got through the multi choice in about 20 minutes, the paper says to allow 50, but there were 3 of these that I wasn't very sure about and didn't have a good answer, so I left them hoping inspiration might strike.
Then I did 3 of part 2, and followed by 3 of part 3. Then back to part 1 again and this time narrowed it down to at least the right number of answers. Some of them I just couldn't get to gel, and had to guess between two possibilities. Then I still had 30 minutes time, and as they take the best marks from section 2/3 (allegedly anyway) I did the two question I hadn't done, as it filled in the time.
I got stuck on one of them, when I couldn't find the equation for rotational mass/velocity to derive the weight of a black hole. I tried first working it out in terms of an unknown which you needed for the next part, so it would end up as something like 3.4 * M (where M is the answer I couldn't work out for the previous part).
However at some point the equation more of less jumped into my head, and after working the numbers the result didn't look out of place, so I went with it and gave a figure for an answer.

So now - over to the markers - hope they can read my scrawl!

Monday, 13 October 2008

S320: The exam

Well, the day finally came. It was an afternoon exam, which I find the worst. You are pumped up with adrenalin but nothing to use it on for most of the day. I decided after a few attempts at abortive studying to just relax, and watched a film instead. That worked quite well.

After lunch it was off to the exam room. We waited in the hall until the invidulator called us to come upstairs and sit down. There was a wall chart showing a seating plan, and after a false start I found my desk, and unloaded pens, pencils, rubbers, rulers, sharpeners, and calculator. Also my passport for identification, and the exam allocation letter. Not all the seats in the hall were full, but I think all the S320 ones were.

Whilst waiting for the official start, we were allowed to fill in our identifiers and other details like calculator make. I requested a second answer book, as I wanted to put down an essay plan if possible. Then the fatal time came and we all turned over.

I turned straight to the final question, and read up the title. It was a comparison of MRSA and C.diff asking why C.diff was doing so much better. I started to unload all my facts into a quick plan in note form on the 2nd answer book and planned to add to these as the missing facts hopefully drifted in during working on the other questions.

That done, I turned back to the start of the paper and read through the 16 questions, of which we had to do 10. I circled a few likely looking candidates and got eventually to 9 I thought I could do ok, and scratched around for a 10th.

Then I set off answering 1 per page. They went ok and I was doing OK for time, I generally find either I can answer them, in which case I can write down the details in a minute or two, or else I can't so thats that. I finished the 10 in just over an hour, and you are advised 90 minutes, so I was a bit ahead of the game.

Then the part B data analysis question, and a bit of a suprise. It was based on data we had used in TMA-1. It was nice to feel at home a little with that, although there was still pause for thought. The question had also come up in a past exam paper, but I didn't quite think it would occurr again!

Then onwards to the essay, and I skipped the title and abstract and wrote the main body of the article, with conclusion and intro. I managed to draw a reasonable graph of some statistics about the diseases, and a less than average cycle diagram of infections which I don't think worked very well. I finished off the title and abstract (10 and 40 words respectively) which are quite tricky to think up something relevant in that tight a word limit.

I now had about 40 minutes left, and started to check back through my part A answers. I always struggle with this, getting rather bored doing it. I know its important but by now I've about had it with the whole thing! I added the odd sentence here and there. Suddenly decided my answer to one of the questions was probably not answering it at all.
On quiet reflection, I thought there were a couple of other questions I could answer at least part of - so wrote something for those. Even asking for another answer book.
Then it was just checking all the admin was filled in, the number of answer books reported, everything tied together and then the exam was over, and in the hands of the markers.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

S282: CMA

This is the last bit of coursework for S282, and it doesn't actually matter. Its informational to give you practice in filling in a Computer Marked Assignment, which is what will have to be done in the exam.

There are 12 questions in all, each with several possible answers - typically A-H. Sometimes there is just one right answer, sometimes two or three. The questions vary across the whole spectrum of the course, and are pretty tough in places.
Some get you to do a calculation and see if there is an answer that matches. Sometimes these are a little tricky, like working out energy and some of the answers are in joules, and some in electron-volts. So you have to calculate both potentially.
Others try and catch you out - asking you which is a true statement out of the 8 given. However at first glance at least 4 of them look correct, and then its looking for detail words like all, or always. These are sometimes a giveaway like "All stars of the mass of the Sun have the same luminosity".
Anyway, it takes a while but it got there. So now - just the scary exam.