Exam news

When Mood Music
2011-12-02 21:58:00 tired Salka – Sigur Rós

This morning we sat the exam on the Networking block of the Computer Systems module. In contrast to the other blocks in this module, this one has been something of a farce:

  • Instead of the 4 lectures mentioned in the course guide, there were only 3.
  • The first lecture didn’t cover a lot of stuff mentioned in the course handout. However, it wasn’t made clear whether this was background information or examinable material.
  • The first week’s tutorial was ‘sit down and do these questions’ – I don’t recall the lecturer for this block saying anything. Some of the questions needed information from the bit omitted from the first lecture.
  • The first week’s ‘practical’ session was taken up with feedback from the previous block’s exam.
  • The second week’s tutorial was cancelled – no reason was given.
  • The second week’s practical didn’t occur because the lecturer was ill. Because it was due to start at 9am, it’s understandable that no other lecturer could be draft in that day to present it. What’s not understandable is that it wasn’t rearranged for another time.
  • The third week’s lecture was crammed with at least 2 lectures’ worth of material – the only material I’ve had any difficulty with in this course. (For the curious, it was subnetting – in particular the differences between classful and classless subnetting, which were not clearly explained: who does subnetting, when do they do it and why do they need to bother?) I struggled with this for a couple of days: it did some damage to my ongoing note-rewriting and revision schedules and to my sleep pattern.
  • In the third practical, the lecturer went over DHCP and DNS, topics he’d not covered in lectures even though these were in the course handout. At the end, I asked the lecturer if he might have some time later to go over what I was beginning to understand. (Earlier in the session, he had invited us to ‘please ask – I am here to teach you – or email me’.) He said, in what appeared to be an exasperated tone of voice, ‘we are just teaching you simple stuff – just read the notes, it’s all there, that’s all you need.’ I walked out near to tears.
  • Despite having said the 4th lecture wouldn’t occur, he later told us he’d been at the venue in case any of had any questions.
  • The lecturer was late for another session (I think this was the 3rd tutorial) by about 30 minutes. By this time, I’d found a few books and online sources which, although slightly at odds with each other, made things clear. Kudos to the author of the online TCP/IP guide!
  • The cherry on this cake of shit was today’s exam.
    • We were ready to go into the venue by 8:55 for a 9am start.
    • A cleaner let us in at 9:05 and we waited, without any sign of any staff member, until about 9:15. (The exam was due last 45 minutes and some of my classmates had other lectures at 10am, during which they needed to present final work for that course.)
    • Eventually one of us went to the department office, only to be told that the lecturer was on his way.
    • He arrived about 9:25 and then cheerily said something to the effect that everything was OK.
    • The lecturer in charge of the whole module then arrived and gave a genuine apology for the total breakdown in communication which had caused this delay, for which he took total responsibility.
    • The lecturer for the block then arrived with the exam papers – rather than having already printed the papers and locking them in the department office so that any staff member could have been drafted in to invigilate, he’d needed to print them and had found that at least two printers were out of service.
    • But we weren’t to worry because we would only need 15 minutes to answer the questions. To give him his due, they were pretty simple – mostly parrot-learning rather than any deductive stuff and no questions on the stuff I’d taken hours to get to grips with.

I’m pretty sure I’ve passed this exam but won’t know for sure until Wednesday. I then have to decide whether to take the final exam for the whole module on Friday morning: I’ve already passed the course because my marks from the two previous blocks already exceed the passmark for the module. However, I might want to improve on my mark for this block. (I won’t need to answer the questions on the previous two blocks – we’ve been told ‘You can attempt any section or sections of the exam and we will give you the better of the two marks for each section (i.e the better of the class test or the exam section). As always, it is an overall mark of 50% that gets the pass: you can compensate for a fail in one section by getting a higher mark in another section.’

If I don’t take this full exam, my final assessment for this term will be a full exam on the Database Systems module on Tuesday morning. It will be in the Sighthill campus, at least 45 minutes’ hard cycle from here (and two of the roundabouts on the way are rather, er, exhilarating) at 9:30. We won’t know which room the exam will be held in because the university doesn’t announce venues until an hour before the start of the exam. Sighthill is said to be very hard to navigate, especially if you’ve not been there before, so we are advised to be there about an hour before the start of the exam, so I’ll need to leave for the exam around 7:30. We will get the results of this exam after 19th January.

I’m also now waiting for the mark for the Software Development module – the lecturer saw my program running on Wednesday and appeared to tick all the boxes on his marking sheet. (I was a little disappointed that he didn’t try any invalid data because I’d put a lot of effort into trapping invalid entries.) I hope he likes the copious comments within the program and the detail I put into the written submission.

So I can’t yet update my marks diagram but I’m reasonably confident of having passed 2 modules this term. (Software development was a full module, while Computer Systems and Database Systems were both half-modules.)

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