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Computer Science in general

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      22.12.2008 23:08
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      Having completed a computer science degree at Warwick this I feel that I can write a fully justified review here of my experienced and ups and downs (mostly downs unfortunately) of Computer Science.

      Initially I am not sure why I chose to do Computer Science. I had never touched programming in my life before but I was very good at ICT A level and aced all my coursework's in that, so I figured I wanted to do something to do with computers at a good university. So looking about through UCAS and university guides I looked for ICT degrees but unfortunately could not find any university better than De Montfort University (No offence to anyone affiliated with this uni) that had the choice of an ICT degree. I had my sights set on a top 20 university and the closest related degree I could find was Computer Science and to be honest all I knew that this degree entailed was programming and really had no idea what programming was, but figured I could tackle it like I have tackled the rest of my studies relatively successfully. So I saw that all the good university had Computer Science as a choice and aptly applied to Warwick as my number one choice with universities like Kings and Nottingham as my other choices. After achieving sub standard AS Levels with grades of ABEU, I suspected my chances of receiving an offer from Warwick were close to none but to my delight I received a conditional offer on the terms that I get AAB and worked my ass off. In the end I achieved AAC and luckily they still took me. Hence my journey in Computer Science at Warwick University began...

      The first week was interesting with the course entailing introduction lectures where barely any material was covered at all. It was just an introduction onto computer science and what to expect over the coming three years. The main aspect in terms of the course was the Personal Tutor meeting where we got to meet are Personal Tutor, who would be our advisor on course and general life crisis issues if needed over the next three years. I was fortunate to have a very kind gentleman as my Personal Tutor who encouraged me when I initially proclaimed my doubts about taking a course that I knew nothing about. He gave me emails of former students and also other second and third year students and they all convinced me to take Computer Science and not change to Maths. Looking back this was a good and bad choice. Good as Computer Science seemed to be slightly easier then Maths, bad as Computer Science at Warwick in my opinion is one of the most challenge degrees available and is definitely not for the faint hearted. Proceed with caution.

      As the first term came to a conclusion I had finished lectures on three modules, with the main module being called "programming for computer scientists", which was meant to be an introduction and suitable for people like me with no programming experience. What I found thought was that after the first few lectures a lot of the material was going over my head, but what with social commitments at the beginning of university life I found it unable to keep up with and fully understand the lectures. Night after night I was up till 4am trying to complete the Computer Science coursework's, but to no avail. Then right near the deadline everything came together and I achieved very high marks for both the coursework's, although I took like three times longer than everyone else. I feel that this was a false pretence and made me feel that I was capable to do this degree when for a lot of the other students these two coursework's were simple, whilst for me it was the hardest work that I had ever completed, and little did I know that the following exams and coursework's over the next few years were ten times harder.

      I achieved decent marks in the rest of the assignments during the first year, but I did have help from friends, but in the end what was important was the exams and these did not go smoothly at all. There were a number of reasons that affected my performance, but firstly instead of blaming the course for once I can freely admit that I did not put enough effort into these exams, although they were very hard. In the end I failed five modules out of the seven that year and hence had five retakes in September, and two months to revise for these retakes. Over the first month I sent off many emails and had very slow communication with the Business School at Warwick in an attempt to do Management or Accounting as I felt that Computer Science was out of my depth. Nothing came of my efforts and I had the choice of taking the retakes and passing or leaving the uni. I figured that I may as well attempt the retakes and then worked my ass off and had no distractions at all. Then I went to uni and achieved a 58% average for the five exams and passed all of them. I know it is not a brilliant mark, but I was still chuffed and it made me believe that I had a chance to scrape a 2:1 in my degree...

      Now the next year was the worst in terms of my studies. There is really not much to say here, but I found the assignments incredibly hard and averaged around 50% which I guess is just about OK. Then the exams were the killer and I am not going to lie. I did terrible and I am sure some of you reading this will laugh at me, but understand that I put effort into these exams and that the course is incredibly hard before you judge. So I achieved a 37% average this year and had twelve exams in ten days which was excruciatingly difficult. Out of these twelve exams I failed six and passed six. Even the exams I passed were not by much with only a couple of exams above sixty percent. Three of the exams I achieved below twenty percent and one of them was so low that I will not even mention the mark. The way the system works now on my course was that there are no retakes and they just put you through to the final year and you take whatever mark you got. So for me I worked out that I could take extra credits to make it slightly easier for me to achieve a 2:1, but I would still need 71% overall to achieve a 2:1 and 58% to achieve a 2:2. My realistic aim was to get a 2:2 as I had failed the previous two years and I knew I did not stand much chance, but wanted to give it my best show. I chose my modules wisely and come the end of the year out of the eight modules I took, I only failed once module and achieved 56% for the year. For me I was proud of this, as I achieved below 40% for the first two years, however unfortunately with the average taken over the whole degree I received a 3rd overall. This was a disappointment and I really did feel like it was three years down and the drain and to be honest I guess it was. There are no decent firms that would take anyone with a 3rd class degree and I guess I have to live with that. However I have now started studying for the ACCA qualification, which for those of you who do not know, it is a Charted Accounting Qualification. This is also a hard qualification, but I am doing well having achieved high marks in the first few marks. I believe it was my experience through my whole degree that has now given me the mental toughness to tackle the ACCA and if there is a silver lining, then the ACCA is it.

      Overall I would say to anyone out there who is looking to do Computer Science, to make sure that they have programming experience first. I know at some university Computer Science is not the hardest course, but if you are looking at University like Imperial or Warwick then prepared for one hell of a ride. I am not saying it is impossible and I have plenty of friends who achieved first and 2:1's in this degree but I believe they are amongst some of the brightest minds and were not from this country. The degree does have a variation and thankfully is not all programming. I feel the best way to prepare for this degree is to practise and study great programs that others have written and believe in yourself.

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