Exams & Tips

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On studying at our university: "[...] Is there really studying or just studying for exams [...?]", an online comment on an article of the HNA from 21.11.2014

The idea, of course, is to learn to master all the material, not just bits and pieces of it for the exam; the latter would be complete nonsense!

Just have a look at the following video:


Exams are designed to ensure that you have understood and internalized the fundamentals of the subject , that you have sufficient subject knowledge, and that you are able to independently approach problems and solve specific tasks. Although 4.0 means bebut certainly not verunderstood.

What exactly is required in terms of knowledge and skills minimally you can look up in the module descriptions in the module handbook: Here are references to the nature of the questions and what you must be able to deliver, but certainly not exhaustive.

Get an idea of the requirements that apply to examinations (§14 of the General Regulations for Subject Examination Regulations of the University of Kassel):

Preparation for a written exam

In addition to comprehension, our written exams mainly require the completion of concrete tasks, often "calculating". How do you prepare for this?

Principle: First you have to understand it, then you can practice for it!

The goal should be to master the material, but not to "just" practice for the exam. Therefore, distinguish between learning (understanding and mastering the material) and practicing (routine in calculating). Practicing only makes sense when you have understood the material! If you have mastered the material, you will pass the exam well in any case and will also be able to keep up well in later lectures. A good learning concept saves time and can also be transferred to other types of events. Here are a few tips on how you can achieve this.

Learning and practicing for exam preparation in 4 steps

Step 1: Solve homework in a study group (during the semester)

You should definitely find a regular study group, ideally you meet in and after the common lectures and work together on the practice exercises. This includes for sure that you look also times in a textbook, while you calculate the exercises together . 

Step 2: Exam preparation through learning

You should start studying at least 6 weeks before an exam. Your brain needs time to process, no one can study concentrated for 8 hours a day or internalize a semester's worth of material in 2 weeks. It also allows you to study for multiple exams at the same time without stress.

How do I learn? Use the textbook for the lecture and the lecture notes to write your own "script" (important: handwritten!), in which you compare all contents of the lecture notes with the book and compile them, supplemented with the contents of the book. In a second step, condense this script by rewriting it and thinking about what is unimportant enough to leave out - take a close look at this content: can you really leave it out? The result should already be much shorter, and the structure of the material (and the lecture) should now stand out clearly in it. Now write a "cheat sheet" from it, on which only the core contents of the total material are written. Rule: Each lecture fits on max. 2 DIN-A3 pages!

You can proceed from the compressed version chapter by chapter. As soon as you have understood (!) a section of material, go on with it to step 3.

Step 3: Exam preparation by practicing

Practicing is only useful once you have understood the material! (see step 2)

First, look at an example of a practice task or an old exam task on a topic. Do you know the approach and the solution? Go through the task step by step: Is each step clear and familiar to you? If not, you have not fully understood the material and you need to go back to step 2. If everything is clear to you, you can now solve several tasks until you are sure that no more unknown facts appear and you have developed some routine. You can do all this together in your study group or you can do it alone.

Remember, however, that in the exam you have to solve a task alone and without a sample solution. The fact that your group can solve a problem or that you can solve it by looking it up does not mean that you will be able to do it on your own. Therefore, practice solving exam questions on your own in good time. To do this, use e.g. previously unused practice questions. 

Step 4: Try out the exam situation

To do this take the time you also have in the exam (e.g. 90 minutes) and calculate a previously unknown sample exam completely without interruption and without sample solution. Mark where you got to after 90 minutes, but then finish calculating the exam and write down the total time needed!

Then compare your solution (and the solution paths) with the sample solution. This should give you a good impression of your learning level. The minimum goal should be that you achieve atleast 90% of the points reproducibly  and that you need atmost 20% longer than the time in the exam . 

Because: Even if the insight during the exam preparation is difficult, remember: You do not learn this to pass an exam, but because it belongs to your overall skills as an engineer or computer scientist and forms the basis of any later activity, especially any scientific one. Moreover, this way you ensure that you will deliver a decent performance even in the stress of the exam!

As long as you do not score enough points this way , the following applies: Back to the book (step 2), study the concept again, then: next round.

If you are not comfortable with the suggested textbook, find another one. Often several are mentioned in the lecture, otherwise you can find others yourself in our library. For each topic.

Preparation for an oral examination

In oral examinations, the focus is on testing the understanding of contexts as well as facts and methods. Procedures are discussed and tested on small examples (application to concrete facts). In addition, the ability to formulate one's own thoughts clearly and to argue with them is also important.

To prepare, you should follow steps 1-3 as for written exams.

Have you understood how the material is structured overall and how the individual topics are connected? Can you explain the main content of the topics? Can you apply methods (e.g. an algorithm) to a specific example and explain and justify your approach? Can you explain the process of an algorithm when you have the pseudocode in front of you?

You should be familiar enough with each subject area to be able to name and explain the most important points and demonstrate them in a dialog. You should also be able to explain the relationships between topics and the structure within a topic . You should have a very good understanding of the main diagrams (e.g. 'block diagrams') and be able to roughly sketch them and explain the diagrams presented in detail.

Sounds very time-consuming? Yes and no: If you have really understood the material , you will automatically be able to explain connections, list key points and draw rough sketches easily(!) . For more detailed sketches and e.g. the explanation of algorithm details ('pseudocode'), however, you really have to look at everything very carefully, but it's worth the effort!

Ah yes...

You don't have to memorize algorithms verbatim with us - either you have to explain the (general) process or you are presented with the code to explain (details).