Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Final week of uni!

Wow! It’s the final week of university and yet the workload is still the same, or maybe it could be said that it has increased! I have two more lectures to attend; Finance on Thursday and Actuarial Mathematics on Friday, so it’s busy, busy, busy for me.  On Monday we were going over the last topic, Finite Element for elliptic equations. It was quite an interesting lecture which only lasted for an hour. The second hour was spent answering a past exam question based on this topic as well as comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the three different methods; finite difference, finite volume and finite element of elliptic equations. In my opinion, it was a great idea to go over a past paper question as it gives an insight into what to expect in the real exam this May.

In terms of preparation for the exams, the best way to revise in my opinion is to do past papers my lecturers have recommended to look at 2 past paper one from May 2011 and May 2010. Tackling those two papers should give us enough confidence and reassurance to perform well in our own examinations. For most of my modules I have at least 3 past papers, in some cases 4 but this is only because I downloaded some 3rd year papers last April whilst I was studying for my 2nd year exams. Although my brothers did complain at the time that I should be focusing on the 2nd year exams and doing the past papers for that year only, looking back, I have no regrets. Sometimes the previous past papers can get taken down from the website automatically or otherwise by the lecturer’s request.

Before answering past exam questions, it’s a really good idea to go over the tutorial questions. Obviously its not compulsory to answer the computing based questions (some computing is involved in Mathematics), it’s much more important to answer the questions that are doable by hand especially considering all the final exams will be hand written and we won’t be allowed to use a computer. Answering the tutorial questions is really useful as it provides a summary of the lecture material. In my opinion, answering the tutorial questions and getting at least 80% of the questions correct, demonstrates good knowledge and understanding of the concepts of that particular topic.

Another good revision tip is to learn the formulas. Obviously some of the formulas are provided in the formula booklet; however I always find that I need to use some formula which is not written in the booklet. Only the most basic formulas are provided, and most of the time we don’t end up using them, either because they are not needed or we already know them.

One more good tip is to have a scientific calculator, or 2 or 3, but even I think that’s a bit over the top. Alternatively just have one scientific calculator and a few batteries. One of my favorite tips and most important for me is to bring a few pens and pencils. Pencils are extremely crucial for a maths exam because we have to draw diagrams, sometimes sketches, other times more accurately using fancy stuff like compasses and protractors. I usually find myself starting an exam with a pen, then as soon as there’s some drawing involved, I do switch to pencil and do my drawing. However, I do forget to switch again! Its only 20 minutes before the end of the exam that I realise that I have completed more than half of the exam in pencil. I often use HB pencils for drawing, simply because they are the best, they come out light on the paper and so it’s easy to rub out if I make a mistake. 

Other important items that are needed in a maths exam are a 30cm ruler and rubber. Me being who I am, I have 2 rubbers, 2 sharpeners; 1 single sharpener and 1 double sharpener and 2 rulers, one 30 cm and one 15cm. My brothers say I am a bit obsessive and over the top about my stationary, bur there you go.  Maybe I am. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Busy life but supportive friends :)

It’s been a few weeks since I lasted posted a blog, so I thought I’d write something. A few weeks ago, one of my friends called me up just for a casual chat and she commented on my blog writing. One of the things she recommended that I do was comment on what student life is like for a third year maths student. I thought this would a great idea and so I decided to write this blog. Back in January I wrote about the three options which I am studying this term; Numerical Methods for Partial Differential Equations, Financial Modelling and Analysis and Actuarial Mathematics.

I have completed the coursework for both Numerical Methods and Actuarial Mathematics. I have one final piece of coursework to complete which is the Financial Modelling and Analysis as well as my final year project report. The Financial Modelling coursework is going well and is due to be submitted next Thursday. In my opinion, the golden rule to being successful in any subject, but especially Mathematics is to practice regularly. The best way to do this is answer the tutorial questions and have a go at the past exam papers (answer all the questions).

To complete the coursework successfully, always read and reread the lecture material thoroughly, make additional notes in the margins during lecture time, whilst the lecturer is speaking. If any difficulties arise during the lecture, then write down the question quickly in the margin, so you can ask the lecturer later during the tutorial or student/staff office hours. Personally, I find in this university the maths lecturers are pretty thorough in the way they go about explaining the notes.

My friends and I help each other, especially during the tutorials. We do the questions separately and then group together to discuss our answers and compare the solutions. If we get different solutions (which has happened on more than one occasion, all three of us obtained completely different solutions), then we try and justify why we believe that our solutions are correct. If we still remain unconvinced, then we ask for guidance from our lecturer who points out what mistakes we have made. We then try and redo the same question again and hopefully obtain the correct answer. Although the correct answers and full solutions are posted on the student intranet about two or three weeks after the tutorial took place. The lecturers do this to give us students the opportunity to try all the tutorial questions by ourselves, not just during the tutorial hour but also at home in our own time.

Overall, I am really happy with the modules I took. Of course I do have some difficulties with mathematics sometimes, but if I give it a few days or even a week or so, eventually things to click into place.