I’m at that magical part of revision where full-blown panic starts to settle in and become normal. Suddenly finding motivation to sit down with my notes isn’t hard. It finds me, instead. No matter where I’m hiding from it. It’s not as bad as with the maths exam last year, because I’m more comfortable in general with the source. But I’m also convinced that means I won’t do as well because I’m not panicking enough to motivate quite enough revision.

Such is my mind. Or lack thereof, because I seem to have lost it somewhere.

Here’s some tips for revising M250 from what I’ve found so far. If you’re not me, then your style of learning probably isn’t mine, making these tips worthless. But they might be adapted to something useful for yourself.

  • Do as many past papers as you can.
    • I’m going to guess this is the top tip of any Open University exam where there have been exams previously. I don’t know what to do about inaugural module presentations … I don’t ever plan on taking another one at the OU as my first was … Well, not a literal disaster, but I’d rather eat my own foot, so somewhere between the two. Anyway, I’ve cut my answer time in half by doing this, and that alone would make it worth it. I’ve also found gaps in my knowledge that I’ve done my best to shore up.
  • Of course, hand-write the exam papers.
  • Start with the oldest past papers.
    • The earlier exams were based on a different structure. There were more questions, but not all of them are relevant to the current exam. So if you cut out the irrelevant ones, the remaining questions are quite a bit easier. So it’s harder to judge if you’ve progressed enough toward the end of revision.
  • Split up the questions.
    • If you don’t do a lot of handwriting (I’m doing it constantly these days just for the pleasure of a gorgeous buttery-smooth fountain pen nib on paper), you’ll want to practise writing for a three-hour stretch a few times. But other than that, it’s hard to find that much time at once in your day, and you can’t just save revision for the weekends. (Or maybe you can. I envy you. And am jealous of you. And probably hate you a little.) Just give yourself one hour per question, and do them when you can squeeze them in. You don’t even need to do them grouped together from the same paper.
  • Transcribe your answers into BlueJ. Or an IDE that’s actually usable.
    • We’re not given the answers (or answer examples) from past papers, but we can get some idea of how well we’ve done by seeing how much has to be changed just to get it to compile. We can also test the code and see if its execution matches the specification. In a few cases, testing can require coding a LOT of “assumed” classes that the code says will be provided in the scenario, but not literally given to the student. Implementing these requisite classes can be their own exercise in revision.
  • Submit your (corrected) answers to the M250 revision forum.
    • Having another set of eyes can help identify blind spots. I’ve had numerous such weaknesses in my code identified, and really help me get a better grasp of what’s possible on the exam.
  • Look over your TMAs and consider treating them as practice exams, too.
    • One thing my tutor has mentioned a few times is that at least one question on the exam for the past few years has borne a striking resemblance to one from the TMAs that year.

If I find anything else is really helping, I’ll come back and add to this later.

One thing I tried that didn’t seem to help was a revision tutorial the other night. It provided one example question for the exam, so that was nice (though I expect I’ll encounter the same one on a past paper in a few days), and there were some multiple-choice questions that highlighted that I haven’t memorised the module materials (there was one question where the answer is literally mentioned once in the assessed materials) … But it wasn’t anything that will help me either on the day, or with the rest of my revision. I’ve typed up notes for the tutorial that puts it into a format which would have made a nice handout, but that’s really about it.

Anyway, my result will be entirely down to my exam score. I got my TMA03 score back, and got the full 100 marks. That also means that my combined OCAS for the module is 100, so I’m very pleased with my effort levels. As always, my tutor provided excellent, insightful notes on how I can progress, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I hope I end up on a third module with him.

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.

A couple of months ago, I predicted a score on my EMA between 93% and 95%.  I’m pleased to have outperformed the prediction, and achieved a 98%.  My OAS for the rest of the module had been 97%.  It’s gratifying to see these two numbers so close, as it means my tutor was well calibrated to the overall module requirements, which means I can be confident when I rely on her recommendations going forward.  (Listening to her recommendations definitely helped in this score.)

It is all downhill from here, though.