I did alright with getting ahead during September.  I’d hoped to get four weeks ahead, but ended up only getting three weeks ahead.  But since the modules actually started last week, I’ve done … Maybe four hours of work?

The problem is ITIL.  This is different from the problem being TM254.  The module and module materials are about as good as they can be, considering they’re covering ITIL.  People in the UK who have adopted ITIL sing its praises and talk about how wonderful it is.  I think they have to: If they’ve invested the time and resources required to even understand the depth of ITIL, they don’t want to look like fools.  ITIL was initially created by the British government, but you don’t need anybody to tell you that.  From the moment you start to look into it, it’s obvious that only  the British government could create this kind of bureaucratic mess with as much paperwork as ITIL.

I have a lot of specific concerns with ITIL (such as its teach-to-the-quiz mentality of service improvement, reducing human beings to nothing more than the functions they perform, and the assumed context of IT services being third-party), but they’re far behind the main concern that if one were to run an ITIL shop, all the time would be spent managing ITIL, instead of managing IT services.  To its merit, the TM254 materials are way ahead of me here, warning that, as an infrastructure library, ITIL should be viewed as an a la carte menu of IT concerns which need addressing.  And I agree.  ITIL’s value (and I admit it has substantial value) lies in its questions, but certainly not in its solutions, or rather in its framework for solutions.  Any time you see anything in ITIL that has a number (7 steps, 4 processes, etc.) that’s when it stops being useful.

So it’s proven difficult to study without screaming at my monitor.  Frameworks for management are not the same thing as management, and I pity the organisations who can’t figure out why it takes so much time and money to get things done when they’ve clearly ticked all the boxes on their list.  Thankfully, the UK organisations I’ve dealt with all only pay lip service to ITIL, and none have actually implemented it to any degree.

I guess the real solution is for me to put this unit behind me as quickly as possible.  I just hope I’ve filled out the right form for that.

Related to the service management studies of TM254, I have a hard Rule Number 1 for service transition: Never make a change on a Friday.  (Ask any IT professional why.)  For whatever reason, this hasn’t been implemented into ITIL, yet, but I’ll continue my campaign.

Likewise, I’ve recently started to note a de facto Rules Number 1 & 2 for Open University study: Get ahead of the study planner, and Stay ahead of the study planner.  I’ve given this advice here a few times, now, but it’s actually becoming my default advice to any new student.  You never know what challenges are going to come at you during your module, but you can be pretty much guaranteed they’re coming.  The last thing you need when dealing with real-life tragedy is trying to play catch up in your studies.

With this in mind, I’ve gone through the module guides and first units of each module, to get a feel of what I’m in for this year.

I’m impressed with the level of discussion in both modules, but particularly in TM254.  I find myself almost having arguments with the material, and either coming around to its way of looking at things, or at least being able to better defend my viewpoints when I disagree.  This is sure to continue to be the case with the service management block of TM254, but I’m hoping to have similar challenges with the discussion in the other blocks.  Also, I enjoy that the module discusses that ITIL has specific best practices for service management, but rather than having students memorise them, it simply discusses that a best practice will need to be considered and arrived at, but leaves the specific practices considered up to the student.  It isn’t providing a solution, but a way to frame the problem so that it’s easier to find a solution.

One unfortunate aspect of TM254 is that when it says the workload for a task is three hours, I’m not getting away with just putting in two.  They’ve done too good a job estimating my ability to grapple with the materials.  It’s going to take a lot of time this year.

M250, on the other hand, is almost exactly what I expected to find.  It’s a mature module, and has all the hallmarks of an OU module with a module team who has adapted as students have fed back their reactions to the materials.  The software installation, for example, has been dumbed-down to an insanely simple drag-and-drop affair, with the drawback that you have to kind of take it as it is.  It’s not going to want to work outside of a drive’s root (for Windows computers) without considerable work.

There’s also an active campaign at the beginning of the module that feels like they’re encouraging students to drop the module rather than do poorly on it.  While I appreciate that this can definitely benefit a student who is spending their own money on a university degree, I wonder if it might be motivated by internal evaluation factors of the module team.  Regardless, for those students willing to stick it out, there’s an enormous amount of support that likely wasn’t there for the first run, such as programming bootcamp exercises, quizzes, forums for helping get up to speed and even collaborate on approaches to assessment questions (though of course not actual solutions).  It’s not as supportive as MST124 was, but it’s another good example of a mature module better supporting students with challenging material.

Both modules have significant portions devoted to group work.  I refer you to the Linear Sequence of Strife.  TM254 even goes so far as to having students determine a group name, so clearly somebody’s been watching too much Apprentice.  Which is everybody who’s watched the Apprentice.  I honestly go into these assuming I’ll have to cover all the bases myself (or at least making sure it’s clear I’ve gone at least as far as boundaries allow), so any help I get will be a nice surprise.  I should probably be more concerned with bad help than no help, but so long as someone’s willing to try, we can all help get the standards of work up.

I don’t think M250 will give me much in the way of headaches, though I have been warned about it.  We’ll see, but I honestly think any time sink to come from M250 will be me playing with it for giggles rather than frustration with an assignment that won’t work.  (Working code is always a bonus, but I’m not silly enough to believe it’s an actual requirement to passing!)

The websites for both M250 and TM254 open on Tuesday, so I’ll have another post later this week, maybe on the weekend, after having a bit of a nose around.  But M250 books arrived a couple of days ago.  My study area had … deteriorated its study-conducive environment … since I finished (or really started) revision this summer, so I decided to tidy it up nice and proper before unboxing my new materials.  Here they are:

M250 materials … and tea

The contents are:

  • Getting started with objects
    • Units 1-5
  • Inheritance and how to program
    • Units 6-8
  • Collections and file I/O
    • Units 9-12
  • Exam Handbook
  • Contents Checklist

In addition to the books, there’s also a module guide and a software guide, which are only available online.  I’m happy to look/read through these books before reading the guides, but I’m not likely to start studying properly until after I at least get the software guide.  I want to know I’m using the correct version of BlueJ (the module’s preferred/required programming IDE) and plugins/software modules.

The Exam Handbook only allows for highlighting for use in the exam, and must be the OU-printed version of the handbook.  So I’ve put that back in the box, slipped it under my monitor tray, and won’t get it out again until the exam.

That’s in contrast to the other books, which are now back in the box under my monitor tray, where I’ll leave them until after the entire module’s over, at which point I’ll toss them in recycling.  I wish the OU would give me a choice of whether or not I want to receive hard-copy materials.  I still have my useless SenseBoard on my desk, not sure if I can ever find any proper use for it.

There’s one book due to be shipped for TM254, but I suspect they missed the shipping date, which is standard procedure for first-run modules: Make certain that everything is behind schedule.  The book being shipped is Project Management for IT-related projects (2nd edn), edited by Bob Hughes.  There’s also an ebook being made available to us (likely on a limited time loan, I’m guessing) for ITIL Lifecycle Essentials by Claire Agutter.  I’ve snooped through this as it’s available to all students through the OU library.  It seems well written, and is thoughtfully laid out, so I don’t think I’ll have any issues with it.

Normally through the summer, I like to do a (fairly large) bunch of MOOCs.  I do this to keep my study habits sharp, and learn lots of new things … Or re-learn old things, as I’ve re-done MOOCs to cement my knowledge before.

This summer, I don’t think I can be bothered.  One issue is that I think I fairly well burned myself out with revising for the MST124 exam.  As great as it felt to put that exam in its place, I was still academically exhausted after.  Another issue is that there just aren’t any good MOOCs right now.

Which I’m sure isn’t true.  There aren’t any that I’m interested in that are high quality.  What I should really be doing, right now, is studying for a Cisco CCENT or CCNA.  And I tried.  But I tried using a Udemy “MOOC”.  I’m not going to name and shame the specific one I tried (I actually tried multiple, but one stands out), because I think the entire Udemy business model is flawed and engenders worthless courses that aren’t fit for purpose.  It was basically as though some guy wrote some notes from an actual MOOC, turned them into a PowerPoint presentation, and video taped himself reading it.  It’s completely worthless as a way to assimilate knowledge.  The others, whilst providing additional materials, were essentially the same.  Their pedagogical value was very close to nil.

Let’s put it this way: I now have more respect for Microsoft training.  Which is still pretty close to zero, but it’s a tiny bit less close to zero than it was two months ago.  I’ll probably end up taking TM257 and TM357 now, though.

The flip-side to taking it easy is that I’m going stir crazy.  My brain’s dying to learn, so it’s occupying itself with other things in the mean time.  I wanted to improve my handwriting and writing speed as both of my exams next June will be written exams.  What started as a perfectly logical plan of action quickly devolved into me becoming completely obsessed with fountain pens.  (Though common here in the UK amongst school children when I was going through the system, I never touched one in the States until I’d grown up, and then tried a defective one that put me off trying another for decades.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy in my obsession, especially as I know it will die down and disappear soon (like all of my obsessions) but it’s not exactly productive.

Anyway, I’m going to give a few eBooks a go for preparation for M250 and TM254, but mostly … I’m taking the summer off, academically speaking.

For MST124, I was pleased to see that my exam form wasn’t lost due to the bureaucratic nightmare of exams forms, and I received the expected 98% for the exam.  This OES goes alongside my module OCAS of 99%.

In TM129 the EMA came back at a 97%.  This OES matches quite nicely to my module OCAS of … 97%.

Distinctions in both!  All three Stage 1 modules, really.

Didn’t get much feedback this year.  That’s fine, as I feel pretty confident with the learning outcomes of both modules.


I realised that I didn’t talk much about the TM129 EMA.  It’s not accurate to say that I rushed it, but I did put it to bed pretty darned quickly.  The first part was a Choose-your-own-adventure exam section, where they gave us three questions (one each for Robotics, Networking, and Linux) and we had to answer two of them.  In the interest of time, I chose networking and Linux.

The networking question had two parts: A 400-word essay that pulls its information from a specific article, with other references welcome, and a prose-and-maths description of subnetting a class C IPv4 network.

The Linux question was a single 600-word essay about Internet of Things and embedded device security.  It required the use of a specified article and two other sources to answer specific concerns within the essay.

I used my regular TMA methods for these questions.  I think each one took about two days, though I’d read the main articles several times over a couple of weeks preceding work on the EMA.

The second part was to revise (in the American sense) two ePortfolio articles per block, using feedback from our tutor.  My tutor appeared to love my ePortfolio activities and never offered any suggestions, so I just cut-and-pasted these.  Job done.

And finally, there was a tragic attempt by the OU to prove value-for-money by pretending that TM129 had prepared us for the job market, and asked us to prove it by writing some CV cover-letter dross about a job posting we researched.  I’m a little embarrassed for the module team being asked to create the question, but I understand the market forces that cause it.  I resent market forces impacting my degree almost as much as I resent the notion that the purpose of education is employment, but it is what it is.  Also, I resent the phrase “it is what it is.”

If I had to guess where my marks came off, I’d wager there were one or two taken from the network subnetting part, because I just didn’t have the patience to write down maths for converting binary.  (You want me to show my workings?  I put it into a calculator, like everybody else.  Or sometimes I count in binary on my fingers, like all the other freaks.)  I put the binary into my prose (limited to 100 words), but for “showing my mathematical workings” I just drew a pretty table with a lot of ones and zeroes.  I hope another mark came off because I pasted an entire job ad, which took up two pages.  I don’t think they understand what job postings look like in the Internet age when recruiters don’t have to pay newspapers for inches and ink.

I worked hard on it, but still finished it relatively quickly, and submitted it two-and-a-half months early, so I could concentrate on MST124 revision (in the UK sense).

Anyway, done until October.  I’d normally be doing MOOCs right now, but I may be a bit burned out by the MST124 revision, and other stuff I’ll probably leave in another blog post soon.

These last two Stage 1 modules couldn’t be more different.  TM129 was far too easy for 30 credits, was a waste of both time and money, and makes the OU look a bit like a fake university for even offering it.  The tutor support on the module was amazing.  MST124, on the other hand, while being far too time-consuming for a 30 credit module, was a wealth of information, well structured learning, and left me with the single largest academic confidence boost I could imagine.  The word to paint my tutor in the best possible light would be “terrible”, though.

TM129 was born as three separate 10-unit modules.  My guess was that, much like now, students were forced to take all three modules, with no alternatives, so eventually bundled them up and called them a single module.  There’s not much to really tie them together, however.  The first block in the module, Robotics, doesn’t see students building a robot.  Or designing one.  Or touching one.  Or controlling one.  Or learning how to build or design one.  Students do learn how to control one, by using a (barely) modified programming environment for controlling Lego robots.  The amount of programming done is significantly less than in TU100, and probably less than in TM111 and/or TM112, making that bit of the module superfluous.  Understanding actuators, sensors, different high-level models for robot behaviour, and what can only be described as robotic ethics and sociology round out the block.

I’ll be honest, I enjoyed the robotics block.  Most students I spoke to did not.  I was interested enough in the topics covered to start playing around with Arduino processors, and have made some pretty fun little projects since then.

The second block is on networking.  For this, they just give students a Microsoft networking essentials book, and tell them to read most of it.  And that’s the block.  A £30 book which is pretty darned out of date.  On the one hand, it’s not useless information.  It’s a good primer for networking.  On the other hand … It’s a £30 book!

The third block is on Linux.  Several students found it difficult to complete the module because the tools referenced in the module were so far out of date.  It was very, very light on actual information, again.  I didn’t really hate it outright, because I found plenty of tips for every day Linux use.  But as a primer for somebody who doesn’t know Linux, it was insufficient.  For anybody familiar with Linux, it’s unnecessary.  So it’s a block without an audience, really.

Most horribly in relation to all three blocks, the assessments (TMAs and EMA) had essentially nothing to do with the Learning Objectives.  One task asked students to evaluate a server and client needs to recommend a Linux deployment running several different servers, how to install them, how to test them, and complete it in 400 words.  The problem with this is that only installation and testing were mentioned in the module.  Evaluating client needs and researching server software weren’t part of the learning objectives at all.  Neither were questions on Intellectual Property law, and a host of other questions in the other blocks.  It’s like the module team didn’t even read what they’d written, they just came up with some questions that sounded related to the block titles.

Though I enjoyed the blocks (and, perhaps surprisingly, I really did), I have to say that I feel objectively that the module is not fit for purpose and should be boiled in tar.

MST124, on the other hand, was nothing short of amazing.  I started preparing for MST124 literally over a year ago.  By the time October rolled around, I felt like I barely knew enough to get started.  Indeed, I was still making silly mistakes left and right when I started, because I was so far out of practice.

It was an absolute slog of a module.  It would often take me significantly more than 20 hours a week, when the recommendation for a 30-credit module is about 8.  Most of Unit 3 (functions) and Unit 11 (Taylor polynomials) are written very, very poorly, and I recommend anybody studying MST124 find outside reference material to help with them.  Activity 17 in unit 7 will possibly remain in my memory forever as the most horrifically impossible task, until I again sought outside help understanding it.  But other than these rough spots, it was a steady, continuous climb.

I felt like I’d learned everything well enough by the time I completed the routine unit study, but I wasn’t testing well at all.  So I really, really threw myself into revision.  I revised more every week than I’d spent studying.  It would have been six solid weeks, but I was extremely ill for the better part of one week.  (ALWAYS stay one or two weeks ahead of the module planner to cope with unexpected emergencies.)  When it all paid off in time for the exam, I felt completely unstoppable.  I’d gone from struggling with basic trigonometry and never having dealt with logarithms at all to nearly acing an exam which covered topics most people will never learn.

So if my tutor was rubbish, it’s alright.  The materials were brilliant enough without the help.  (Although it was nice to be part of the Facebook group.  Don’t know how far I would have gotten without them.)

So that’s it.  Two completely different modules.  The OU could really learn a lot by having all of the module teams take MST124 and see how amazing it can be done.

Wooooo!  It’s over!  Yesterday was the big day, and I’m done with it.  What follows is sure to be a very long, very rambling description of my first experience with an OU exam.

Things basically began the evening before, when I took my final past exam (September 2014) in exam conditions.  By “exam conditions,” of course, I mean I had to let the dog in and out every twenty minutes, deal with the exam room doubling as a kitchen and tea station, and a desk unsurprisingly as large as a kitchen table.  But it was close enough to get an idea for how well my revision had gone, and it was great: My fastest time (90 minutes) and best score (100%).  I knew it was too good to hope the real thing would go so smoothly, but it bouyed me up with sacks of confidence.

That confidence really took care of my nerves throughout the day.  That, or maybe it’s that it’s my busiest week ever at work and I didn’t have time to panic.  Either way, I didn’t have any performance anxiety.

I’d been advised several times not to arrive more than about 15 minutes before the start of the exam, but that’s not in my nature.  I had to fight with myself not to show up an hour early, but still ended up being about 45 minutes early.

Though the OU description of the venue said that there was “ample parking onsite”, there was not.  It was completely full to bursting, but just caught a space as I was leaving to park at the (expensive) mall car park a ten minute walk away.  I entered, and was greeted with several lovely signs directing OU exams students to wait in the atrium to be called.  The exam was in a hotel, and the atrium was a relaxing place to wait, with a restaurant and a coffee bar, and a water feature filling the room with pleasantly soothing sounds.

It also contained the reason for the lack of parking: Three or four dozen Open University students waiting to take their exam.  Apparently being an hour early would have been about average.  Still, there were enough comfortable armchairs to go around when I arrived, so I settled down to wait.  About half the students I saw had MST124 (or MST125) handbooks with them, some others had different maths books, and there were a few Stage 2 students doing non-maths.  (Interestingly, there were no Stage 1 exams for anything other than maths in our centre.)

I’m not sure when we were called into the hall, as I’d left my phone (and therefore clock) in my car.  I had only my wallet, keys, MST124 handbook, Casio fx85-PLUS calculator, pen, and three pencils with me.  Oh!  And a sack of rhubarb and custard sweeties.  There was a hastily drawn A2-sized map of the room by the door, showing which rows different modules were sitting in, and where the alphabet breaks were on each row.  There were about sixty students in all, with about two dozen there for MST124.

The desks weren’t large.  I’d guess about sixty centimetres wide, and less than half a metre deep.  They could have been worse.  On top of the desk were our desk record (an A5-sized slip of carbon paper with your personal identifier, name, exam number, course name, signature box, and a few boxes to write things), the question booklet, an answer booklet, a folded-over CME (computer-marked exam form), a plastic … clip of some kind, and a flat metal paper clip.  This took up basically the whole desk.  My stomach actually cramped sitting down at it because of the tight squeeze.  I opened my sweeties and placed five of them across the top of the desk (and stowed the rest under my desk) and my three pencils covered the rest of the desk.

One of the invigilators went on for about ten minutes about what not to do, and saying over and over to read all instructions, and follow all instructions.  (What he meant was don’t read all of the instructions and follow all of the instructions, instead guess which instructions pertain to you and follow those, instead.)  And then we started.  For MST124, I should have taken the unnecessary answer booklet and placed it under my desk, and ignored it completely.  But I filled it out dutifully, as it had instructions telling me to do so.

I filled out my desk record, and left it with my driver’s license.  That always has to remain on the desk, so there’s a large chunk of the desk real-estate you’re never getting back.  Next I filled out the admin part of the CME, and placed it on the bottom of all my paperwork.  Finally, I opened up my question booklet, and got to work.

This part I’d practised about half a dozen times at home, so there were no difficulties with it.  I would work a question, see if it matched any answers, and then see what went wrong if it didn’t.  By question 2, I was already stymied.  Nothing matched my answer, or looked very much like it, so I re-worked it, and got the same answer.  I did it two more times, and noticed myself start to get frustrated.  At this point, I mentally put the brakes on, took a deep steadying breath, and convinced myself to skip it and come back to it later.

I completed questions 3 and 4, and noticed while finishing question 4 what I’d probably missed in question 2.  Sure enough, I had the right answer, but a simple re-arrangement soon had me circling one of the answers, and moving onto the second page.

After that, the answers mostly tumbled out.  The pace felt slower than normal, but I wasn’t struggling.  Everything made sense.  There were some tricky questions (and trickier answers) but I felt (mostly) confident about all of them.  I did run into a degrees/radians mistake at one point, but caught myself in time.

My pencils flew off the desk several times, and I felt I must have been the noisiest one in the room.  I didn’t hear anybody else flipping through their handbooks for formulae like I was.  But before I knew it, I’d circled the last answer, and I was reaching for the CME form to put my answers down.

I had bought a pack of Staedtler HB pencils last week, and I’m glad I did.  Even though I’d been using HB pencils for my practice exams, the Staedtlers marked the paper much better.  I’d used one for the question book’s rough work, and one for marking the CME.  So having an extra one that was sharpened and ready to go if anything went wrong was nice.

At this point, 90 minutes had passed, matching my best practice exam.  I then turned my attention to memorising my answers.  All rough work must be done in the question booklet or (unnecessary) answer booklet, and no writing should be done in the handbook, and nothing you write on should be taken out of the room with you.  But I found no rules against memorising my answers.  It’s not easy to walk away with 42 characters memorised, but I stared at my CME for about fifteen to twenty minutes with various mnemonics, and finally had it down.

I gathered my forms and papers and sheets and booklets together, bolted and clipped them all together, and then raised my hand and waited for an invigilator.  She whispered that I’d basically done it all wrong, had me write some numbers in boxes, and did some origami to sort out my paperwork.  Hopefully it all gets marked properly.

I gathered my things, swooped out of the room as quietly as I could, sat in the atrium, and wrote down my answers.  Our results won’t come back for about six weeks, but we can get the questions in about two days, and I’ll be able to check my answers against Wolframalpha and find out how I did.

And I think that’s it.  When the questions are released in a few days, I’ll update with what I think my results are, and I’ll make a different post when my official results are received in July.


2018/06/07 Edit: It looks like I’ve got a 98%!  At the very least, assuming my form gets marked, I’ve got a distinction.  I didn’t seriously consider that a possibility coming into this module.  For my module result to be 98 (from OCAS 99 and OES 98) would have been completely unbelievable to me when I signed up for MST124.  It’ll take a few days to get over the shock.)

It’s practically my first real exam.  I could count my CompTIA A+ certification (1995?) and my Knowledge of Life and Language in the UK (2014, I think) exams, but they were each considerably quicker than an hour.  My Graduation Equivalency Diploma in 1996 definitely counts, though.  It was a three hour exam taken at the community college I dropped out of, so … Awkward.

Subsequent to my last post about MST-124 revision, I’ve gone through every unit of the module completing practice workbooks offered on the module.  I had intentionally saved these for revision, but forgot about them until just after my last post.  It took about three weeks to get through them, but it paid off.  My performance on past papers went up nearly 10%, and I now feel like I’ve got a real shot at a distinction, if I can keep my brain fresh for just one more week.

Next Tuesday is the exam.  I panicked today and bought new pencils to keep in my car.  And cough sweets/drops because … Look, I already said I panicked.

What I’d like to do from now until then is just do every past exam paper over and over.  I’m not remembering the exact answers, and the questions are all so similar (at least for the 2-mark Section A questions 1 through 32) that they all blur together, which may be further helpful in the exam.  They take just under 2 hours each, though, so the commitment is not insignificant, and I only have time after the little ones’ bedtime.

At some point I’m going to properly review MST124 and TM129, but I don’t know if I’ll get it done before or after results day, which is mid-July.  I should probably do it sooner rather than later, because my opinion of TM129 appears to be plummeting the more time passes.

My revision plan has been … untenable.  I had hoped to start with a practice of the entire exam, find my weak spots and get a sense of time, and slowly work away at those, then do another full practice of the entire exam maybe a week before the actual exam time.  I liked this plan because the weak spots identified this way would be exactly the types of questions to show up in the exam, as the exam questions seem to (mostly) follow similar types of question year after year.  The practice exam before the real exam would hopefully work as a confidence builder going in, or at least a road map of where to start cramming in the last week.

Unfortunately, this plan requires two uninterrupted blocks of three hours several weeks apart.  I can’t seem to get any block of time that large while working full time, caring for little ones, and other responsibilities.  I’ve been so good with time management for studying over the last two years that it’s completely escaped my attention that I normally handle small day-to-day home life responsibilities a few times an hour between blocks of concentration.

So instead, I’ve been revising … everything.  All twelve units.  I got through the last one a couple of nights ago.  I’ve been tracking my progress using MST-124’s Revision Quiz.  This is a quiz with just 12 questions, one random one from each unit.  I’d have thought that this structure would make it very uneven for a battery quiz, but it proved to be quite effective.  No matter how many times I took it prior to revising, it took me one hour (with a variance of 7 minutes).

After three weeks of revision, it’s down to under 25 minutes.  I’m pretty sure that’s as fast as I’ll be able to get, so the rest of revision will be all about accuracy.  It’s a shame my revision time is nearly half up already.  Most students are starting their revision period today, though (as our final TMA was due last night), so I’ve given myself a large advantage.

More good news comes in the form of realising how much I actually have to remember.  A pass is 40% and the exam is made up of multiple-choice questions with five possible answers each.  If x is the percentage of the exam I can remember from revision, then assuming I get 1/5 of the remaining answers correct from the things I don’t remember, then in order to pass, I need

x + 0.2(100 – x) ≥ 40
+ 20 – 0.2x ≥ 40
0.8x ≥ 20
≥ 25.

So if I remember 25% of the material covered by the exam, and I get 1/5 of the remaining 75% (or 15% of the total) questions due to probability, that should combine to see me through to the 40% needed to pass.  Although making assumptions based on probability isn’t wise, at least I know my basic algebra is sufficient.

I’m done with the OCAS portion of MST-124!  That means that all my assignments are submitted, and the only the left is my certain doom the exam.  Thanks to the bewildering array of rules which make up the OU’s assignment substitution policy, I didn’t really have to submit my last assignment, TMA04, and would still have achieved a distinction level on the OCAS portion of the module.

It’s in, though, and I’m done!

Oh, wait, no.  There’s still that doom exam I mentioned.  Erm.  Imma talk more about the TMA.

The last TMA was by far the most difficult.  At least two, and maybe three questions aren’t directly referenced by the module materials at all.  And one other question is quite possibly a trick question.  I found three distinct and justifiable answers to it, so we’ll see how the one I picked goes.  (I liked maths because there wasn’t a subjective nature to the answers.  What are you doing to me?)

There’s one sub-part to a question which … Goodness.  It looked darned near unsolvable.  In fact, I thought it literally was for a few moments hours, because the modules basically only state that this type of thing exists, and doesn’t describe it at all.  Other websites also didn’t go into very much detail about the topic, so for once that didn’t help at all.  After trying very, very hard to crack the nut, I randomly selected the right nutcracker and found that … well, it was really all very simple all along.  (Except that it specifically asks you to do it in a way that makes it look impossible.)

I tried to make that last paragraph more vague, and I think I just about got it perfect.

So … Guh.  Revision.  I have a plan.  I’ve glanced at enough past exams papers to note that the majority of questions come from a set of very specific types of questions.  If I only revise those types of questions, I’ll probably come out with a Pass 2.  I’m starting to think a Pass 1 will be impossible due to how slow I am, and not all questions are from that specific set.  But we’ll see how it goes.  I’ve managed to give myself two extra weeks of revision time by finishing the study materials early.


2018/05/17 Edit: The mark on TMA04 for MST124 was the same as all others: 100.  I really would have liked some kind of feedback on my TMAs, and really only got tick marks on the answers.  I’m sure there were different approaches I could have used which could have been faster, or easier to remember, or in some other way preferred.  At least I can say I’ve been happy with my effort level all year long.  My practice exams are all coming within 3% of a distinction, so I’m really going to have to get that up about 10% to be confident under exam conditions.  I’ve got two and a half weeks, so here’s hoping!