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Exams and thoughts about exams.

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I'll be honest with you, I'm kind of scared about the upcoming exams. 

I suppose I'm not alone, and I suppose that such a fear is natural to have. The fear is, exactly, that I have no idea if I'm going to pass or not. I really want to pass. And in fact I really want high marks. For the MS327 exams, so far, doing the practice exams, I haven't been fully successful. The problem is that, in OU exams, you're almost always surprised with a question that you don't know how to answer. The thing is that, with these problems, if I ever get to see the solution, I can easily follow it. My fear is that I won't be able to find a solution. 

What I'll have to do, in the main, is fudge my way through those surprising questions, employing the use of as many valid techniques as I can, even if I don't get the right answer. I think that's the difference between mere passing grades and distinctions. Those who get distinctions will always produce the correct answers. People who pass have often used the right techniques, or shown some insight into the solutions. 

Last night, as I was reading and studying through the books, I stumbled on a thought. It was a very refreshing and illuminating idea that - just as I had realised near the end of my very first year of higher education many years ago, that there is a difference between the uneducated person and the educated one - this level three study over the past year has led me to develop an even higher notion of educational level; that is, I felt like I could visualise the level of a Master of my subject. It was a surprising thought that led me to have a very nice night of dreaming. 

Of course, that idea has all but disappeared today. But the day draws on, and I am coming to my night-time period of study, and in thinking of ways to maximise my academic success, or at least my success in exams, I have asked myself, for example, for what do I want to learn Fourier Transforms? 

I searched Fourier transforms on Wikipedia earlier on, and the depth and complexity of the subject is just astounding. I should even have another look, to crystallise the ideas. But most of it was specialist doctorate level content, which I couldn't understand, to be honest. That's why I consider myself lucky that the OU provide such comprehensive material - that is, the material is consolidated and "basic", in the sense of an introduction. Everything you need to know to get started on a topic is there, and, even if you find the material abstruse or intractable, I find it at least satisfactorily terse, and one can peruse a paragraph several times and still not have got to the essence of the meaning. 

I suppose, that one reason why I would like to learn Fourier transforms, is to put them into practical use with science and so on - they have use, apparently, in quantum mechanics. But also, we use them in signal processing, and I imagine that would be the premise of an engineer, and I have no grounding in that. I hear they help transposing digital signals into analogue signals and vice versa. This might be useful in computer coding, if ever I was able to find talent in that area and music development. I admit, it might be a bit late in the day for me to pursue this avenue of academic research. Nevertheless, that is one practical reason to want to get good at Fourier transforms.  

All this mathematics, in fact, is very, very useful for the science that I want to pursue. Also, in future, I may like to think about electromagnetism as a course of study; I hear it can help you achieve a place on a masters of physics at the OU. Electromagnetism as well as quantum mechanics have uses for Fourier transforms. 

In any case, the techniques are worth knowing. My only bugbear is that I am not good enough at doing them!! I certainly could be, if I put my mind to it over the next two or three days. 

In fact, my plan of action is, over the next week and a day, is the following. 

  1. Work on MS327 past and specimen exam papers until Tuesday or Wednesday (ideally Tuesday), focussing on Fourier series and transforms, the diffusion equation and random walks. There is some content I could do with understanding better there. 
  2. On Wednesday I restart my revision of SM358 The Quantum World. I will do some more past exam paper questions, and glance over the relevant books once again. I need to revise spin, angular momentum, entanglement, ladder operators, and I will review the topics I know well, but concentrate on those I'm less good at. 
  3. From Wednesday to Monday, I will interpose SM358 revision with little bits of MS327 revision, just to keep it fresh, although my first exam is on the Monday night at 12 midnight (or 00:01 Tuesday morning). I will take the exam at this time, for it is peaceful, away from distractions, quiet, and also my mind will be lucid, having studied up and refreshed my knowledge earlier in the evening. I need not be too concerned about being awake at that time. I have been adjusting my sleeping pattern to accommodate this concern. 
  4. Monday night, 12:01 am (Tuesday morning, 00:01), I will take my SM358 exam. I will finish it in good time, having downloaded the appropriate programs needed for combining my scans into a single PDF file, and all will go off without a hitch. Hopefully. 
  5. Tuesday, 6:00 am, I will eat breakfast, and get some sleep, and continue on revision in the evening for MS327, and I will do this until the same time on Wednesday 8th June, and do the same for Thursday. However... 
  6. Thursday 9th June is the day prior to my MS327 exam. It will be made available at midnight (or 00:01 on the morning of Friday 10th June). I hope that the three days of revision leading up to it will be enough to ensure I pass. 

Obviously, I am going for the highest marks I possibly can. But when all is said and done, I will be happy pass. 

I have thought that, sufficient revision providing, the exams will have been designed so that a passing grade will be relatively straightforward to achieve. But to achieve a distinction, well, that would take something a bit more special. I hope I have that special thing. But I can only do my best. 

In any case, good luck to all who are taking exams this next month. May you all get the questions you wanted. May you all get the results you wanted. May you all at least pass your exams, and get onto the next stage of your lives, be that further study, a job, or satisfaction that you have another qualification. 

Best wishes, 
Daniel. 

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Saint Lucia

Some Thoughts About The Situation in Hand

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Hi, how are you? 

I'm blogging to crystallise some concerns I have with the situation about my upcoming exams, which are SM358 The Quantum World (on Tuesday 7 June) and MS327 Deterministic and Stochastic Dynamics (on Friday 10 June). 

Well, what can be said about this? First of all, I think it apt to say that the SM358 exam will be a touch more difficult than MS327. I say this because it seems evident that the questions we will be posed will be more apt to contain the unfamiliar, whereas with MS327 the situation will be more of a case of using the formulas we've learned. 

I have three weeks till the first exam. So my revision, having already begun in some form or other, must continue and continue with a more severe approach to intensity. For SM358 I must sit and complete several past papers, and complete the iCMA medleys, and also have a look at some of the additional exercises. 

My outstanding topics of which I need to study better are all those of book 3. I need to look at entanglement, perturbation theory, angular momentum, many-electron atoms, diatomic molecules, good quantum numbers, and the Linear Combination of Atomic Orbitals method, to name a few. I shall write a list of outstanding topics, and tick them off when I am confident. 

I feel like I can't have a repeat of last year. Although then I did do a lot of revision, I was unable to dig deep enough to get some of the more abstruse topics clear. And now, I have twelve hours a day for at least one week to do something about it. 

This blog should serve as a motivational enterprise. 

There are topics in which I feel I have a good grounding: Normalisation, operators, Schrodinger's equation, the sandwich integral rule, some Dirac notation, some Ehrenfest's theorem, some angular momentum, and some spin. But I should revise these topics nevertheless, and revise them well, by completing past papers. 

My MS327 exam should require at least one week of attempting to complete past papers. There is not a great deal with which I am concerned in this module, but I do need not to be complacent. That week is the week beginning 22nd May. Perhaps I will blog for more motivation closer to the time. But I would definitely be better off just doing the calculations. 

As with last year, my main source of revision should be that which is called "active" - that is, calculations, calculations, calculations! 

There are books I wish to review, however, they should be done in what would otherwise be my spare time, i.e. before bed, and so on. 

There is not much else to say about the matter. Calculation is key. Active study is the way! 

Wish me luck! (and good luck to all others doing exams!). 

Daniel xx

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