Wednesday, February 13, 2008

From the Computer Science Exam

Last night was the first exam in computer science. It was a relatively long exam. Really left you no time to think and ponder about a problem. Most of the questions were of the form "prove or disprove" or "decide if blah is a this or a that and justify your answer." I'm pretty sure that I came down on the right side on all of them; where I'm expecting to lose points is in the justifications.

In the problem about countable/uncountable, I used a more general proof technique than the one I think he was expecting. With the short time, it was easier to whack at the problem with a hammer instead of carefully finessing it to fit the desired technique. I did have the good sense to refrain from appealing to the Schoeder-Bernstein Theorem. In another problem, I only had time to sketch the argument I wanted to make and didn't have time to justify my choices and to show that they were opitmal. And there was one problem where I couldn't get the proof at all; I am very eager to see the solution to that problem, as it is either fiendishly clever or excruciatingly difficult. I was happy enough with the rest of my answers.

After class, a bunch of us from the class clumped outside the building to talk about it. Most people seemed to have done at least mediocre; no one admitted to dismal defeat. I ended up getting dinner with some of the students from the class; my major contribution to the conversation was that no matter how much they like being in school here that they should consider all their options before deciding to go to grad school and that they should seriously consider going to grad school not-here.

The exam as a whole (aside from the length and my frustration at the fiendish problem) seemed very reasonable. Many of the problems were things that he had mentioned in class as "You need to know X." Or things where he said, "I'm going to assign a homework problem about X," and then never bothered to assign the problem. Since I take good notes*, I had a record of all of those asides and made sure to be familiar with them.

*I take AMAZING notes. If I know that you are going to be absent and will want a copy if my notes, I will take notes so thorough that you will think you were there. And, yes, I use two colors.