Friday, July 17, 2009

Needlessly Lengthy University Post

I wrote my last exam today (not counting the Nachklausuren*, which will take place some time in early October). In other words, I am now free until October!! Well, it's not as if I won't do anything constructive in the intervening months (or so I hope), but the burden of weekly assignments and exam/studying-related guilt has been lifted.

Some comments about my courses this semester:

Grundlagen der Theoretischen Informatik: In this course, we mainly learned about formal languages and grammars (decidable and recursively enumerable problems, reduction, the Chomsky hierarchy, Turing machines, deterministic and non-deterministic finite automata, regular expressions, etc.). Interesting and enjoyable, I found.

Although I thought that I had a good grasp on the concepts, I didn't find the exam easy. The problems were somewhat subtler than expected and required some thought (not just brainless following of known procedures). Nonetheless, by the time the allotted 90 minutes were over, I felt that I had written reasonable answers for all the questions. It was, accordingly, a bit of a shock when I saw that my mark was 2,0 -- not a bad mark, but less than what I had hoped for. My disappointment was compounded by the fact that I was at first under the impression that I had managed to pull off a 1,0 (I stupidly mistook last semester's TI results for this semester's GTI results). Well, the mark has since been raised to 1,7, but I'll write the Nachklausur anyway. It certainly won't do any harm.

Lineare Algebra II: Once again, my favourite course. We learned about determinants, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, diagonalization, the Jordan canonical form, scalar products (along with norms, metrics, orthogonality, orthonormal bases, etc.), and dual spaces. It amounted to rather more calculations and less proofs than last semester, but it was engaging and nicely structured as always.

I don't yet know the results of the exam (which took place the day before yesterday), but it seemed to go better than the exam last semester. That is to say, I wrote something for every question, and (on the whole) didn't have any trouble figuring out the solutions. Nonetheless, it is (of course) entirely possible that my mark will be a disappointment. I have a feeling that my solutions were sometimes missing some steps (more specifically, the reasoning behind some steps), and it could be that I made outright mistakes. Still, I'm awaiting the results eagerly.

ALP II (Objektorientierte Programmierung): I didn't like the lectures for this course. The pace was generally too slow (knowing some Java already only made matters worse), and it didn't take long before my attention began wandering on a regular basis. It's not that there was nothing new to learn (quite the contrary), but it was often so diluted that I couldn't bring myself to take it seriously.

That said, I worked on the assignments with my Übungspartner every week, and did my best to participate in the tutorial, so I didn't think I was falling behind too much. But, much like last semester, the exam was a disaster -- due, again, to a combination of inadequate preparation on my part, and a less than lovely set of exam questions.

Ah well. Since my expectations weren't high to begin with, I don't really mind it. I'll just have to make more of an effort for the Nachklausur.

Incidentally, my mark for ALP I ended up being 2,0 (thanks to the Nachklausur), which is quite all right by me.

Technische Informatik II (Rechnerarchitektur): I found the professor agreeable, and his lectures well-paced, so it is unfortunate that I was often preoccupied with other assignments or fatigue during the lectures. Well, to be honest, I didn't always find the subject matter particularly thrilling anyway, but I could and should have learned much more from the lectures than I did.

More unfortunate than my lack of attention during lectures, though, was my decision to leave the work for this course to my two Übungspartnern. It was very generous on their part, of course, but I think that -- since four assignments a week were too much for me -- it would have been better for me to simply drop the course and take it later. As it is, I really did fall behind.

Since I didn't do enough studying to make up for my neglect during the semester, the exam didn't go much better than the ALP II exam. It was a much more pleasant experience, though, because at least the exam itself was nice and clear.

On the whole, although I didn't dislike this semester, I'm not pleased with it either. My good intentions for next semester:

1. Attend every lecture and pay attention.
2. Get more sleep, so that paying attention isn't such a torment.
3. Take notes dutifully.
4. Complete as much of the assignments as possible myself, and make sure that I understand any solutions I didn't come up with myself.
5. Eat healthier food.

*Nachklausur: A second, optional exam that takes place after the actual exam. It's usually intended as a second chance for those who didn't pass the first time around. In some cases, however, the Nachklausur is open to anyone who isn't satisfied with their mark (even if they passed the first exam).