Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tales from the Computer Science Exam

Scary exam.

Thirty points of multiple choice; twenty-nine points of programming.

Of course the scariness of the multiple choice is completely deserved from a karma point of view: I'm giving my students an all-multiple choice final exam. And he's just as insidious as I am about providing a wide assortment of attractive wrong answers. With less time pressure, I would have been more sure of my answers.

And the the programming was totally scary because writing code on paper is not one of my greatest skills. Nor is writing code quickly. Most of the time that I spend working on the homework is spent just staring into space (not even at the computer) and writing out the algorithm in complete sentences in English. I think I ended up writing and revising one of the programs twice and the other one three times (after I wrote out my plan in English). After the second attempt, I learned to set aside an entire page for declaring variables and initializing things and to start the procedural part of the code on the second page. That way I didn't need to squeeze in stuff that I thought of later. And for one of the problems, about an hour after the exam was over, my brain helpfully percolated up the idea that I should have used pointer arithmetic in one of the function calls. But during the exam, I wasn't settled enough to keep pointers and non-pointers straight, so I just pretended everything was whatever was easier to deal with. With a little more time (and a compiler!), I could have done better. But, oh well.

And then after the exam I started to get caught up on everything else that I'm supposed to be doing for my actual job. Like going to meetings and talking to my students about their final exams. Maybe this weekend I'll have time to catch up on a bunch of things I should be doing?