Oral Exams

It's that time of season again, the oral exams. We try and block them, it is much more effective to blow off 5 or 6 a day, because the day is wasted anyway, than have individual exams on individual days.

We had it nicely planned, then it turned out that some smart alecks thought they could get themselves some breathing room by not registering for all the exams for the first sitting, they thought they would do it on the second sitting. But you can't have your orals until all the exams are finished and passed. So they will have to wait until next semester. Never get smart with German examination rules. They are inflexible.

It was an interesting comparasion, as we had orals for Diploma students (4-year program with is running out, we can ask them anything we want to) and for Bachelor's students (3-year program, we can only ask them questions about their thesis). Three had the exact same pre-qualifying grade, one Diploma and two Bachelor candidates. But the Diploma thesis and the Diploma orals count for more, so the Diploma woman managed to make her grade up to a top level, the Bachelor's could have stood on their heads and sung the national anthem, the thesis and the orals just do not count for much. Which begs the question as to why we are there.

Anyway, turns out you can still pretty much ask the Bachelor's anything, you just have to be canny. As my colleague said: just let them talk a bit at the beginning, and then pounce on any terminology they used. If they introduce it into the discussion of their thesis, then it can be probed.

We caught one person out (again!) fishing for an exact explanation of how the Internet works. We vowed years ago to retire the question when it was completely and satisfactorily answered by three people in a row. Still going strong... Another one was using the word "stack" to mean the data structure "queue". And since he kept talking about hashes, mean old me wanted a definition. And another dropped the word "compile", so we wanted to know the difference between a compiler and an interpreter. So we felt good that we were able to get in some "real" questions.

My feeling is, that if a computer person uses some fancy terminology, they should be able to define it properly. And if they are programming for the Web, for crying out loud, they really, really, really need to UNDERSTAND how the Internet works. It's not magic.

Everyone passed, so lots of parties tonight! More exams (and more parties) tomorrow.

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