Thursday, 22 October 2009

S283: The Exam

It has to be done - another exam. Why do we go through this I wonder?
Well I'll tell you - well actually, I'll tell you why I think its good to do an exam.
  • This is where the course really comes together. There is no avoiding it, you have to confront your weaknesses. You can't go back to the books in the exam and reread a subject and go "Oh yes, I must have skipped that the first time around". I find a lot of things become clearer when you have to be prepared to answer questions on it.
  • You feel validated. I have this nagging feeling that others may be able to do the course, just by reading from the books and repeating stuff without understanding it. I expect this is not true, but if so - well you can't do that in exams. So though its stressful, you feel having done it you understand the subject.
  • For those few weeks of revision - you are a real expert on the material. Sadly it fades sooner or later after the exam, but for a while, should someone make the mistake of asking you a simple question on the topic, they'll find themselves pinned to the wall for an hour or more as you hold forth.
What I don't like about exams is:
  • Memory stuff. In this exam for instance, you really need to know the distance of the planets in AU for the exam. That's just wrote memory test, not much more.
  • That feeling when you open the paper, read a question, and realise you don't know anything about this.
  • All that revision
Anyway - this exam consists of
Part A - 8 multiple choice questions
  • Q1 is about Venus, how far is it from the sun and whats in it atmosphere
  • Q2 is about the structure of planetary bodies
  • Q3 is about the structure of an unidentified planet.
  • Q4 is about the orbit of an asteroid, and needs some of Keplers laws.
  • Q5 is about the requirements for life.
  • Q6 is about Titan and its environment
  • Q7 is about Doppler spectroscopy for detecting exoplanets.
  • Q8 is a graph you have to identify.
Part B - About the solar system and stuff - answer 3 questions from 4.
  • Q9 gets you to normalise rock samples based on mineral components and plot a graph.
  • Q10 is more an essay question about how planets form, where you have to write some of the steps in their formation.
  • Q11 is about some craters on Mars, and how they form. Again you have to describe mechanisms.
  • Q12 is about meteorites and their inclusions.
Part C - Astrobiology and the search for life - again 3 from 4.
  • Q13 is about evolution, the requirements for life and Panspermia.
  • Q14 looks at Europa and gets you to label images and say what is going on in resurfacing terms.
  • Q15 is about habitable zones around stars, and is maths based, which you then have to comment on.
  • Q16 is exoplanet detection using doppler and astrometry. Then follows this up by exploring what else you might find out.
I've had worse exams, I've also had better ones. I think I passed, but possibly not as well as I might have hoped. Oh well, nothing I can do now.

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