Friday, December 16, 2005

Finals, my favorite part of the year

Classes are over, and all that stands between me and some downtime are two finals. Unfortunately, these finals illustrate two of the extremes encountered in classes.

- For my statistics final, we're not allowed to bring any sort of notes, so I have to memorize what amounts to ~13 pages of formulae. The entire class was basically an exercise in chug-and-plug: figure out what the right formula is, stick in the appropriate numbers/symbols and, voila, you get an answer. Very little emphasis on a deeper understanding of the material, so the only thing that really gets tested is how well you can pattern-match between what you've memorized and what the problem demands.

- For my machine learning final, we can bring whatever we want, short of a computer or another person. Unfortunately, if the midterm, past problem sets and the final practice problem set [which explicitly says "Some of these problems are very hard"] are any indication, that's not going to help much because this class actually requires a pretty deep understanding of the material and the professor has no qualms about making us squirm. An issue that is not helped by the fact that we covered lots of material, but generally not in very much depth.

Somewhere, there has to be a happy middle ground.

All whining aside, I thought both classes were [or will be] useful, which, in the end, is what counts.

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