This course will involve three exams. My exams are challenging, but the purpose of this page is to give you some guidance as to what you should expect and how you might prepare.
This is material is intended to act as a study aide, not a formal contract. History has shown that a small number of individuals cannot always tell the difference. While I do not intend this material to be intentionally misleading, I also do not intend to in any way limit the questions I may ask or how I choose to grade those questions.
Everything discussed or assigned in this course to date is technically fair game for the exams. The purpose of this page is to offer some general guidance and suggest strategies to get you started in mastering significant amounts of technical material. You should, however, treat it only as a suggested starting point.
In the end, you are still personally responsible for your own exam preparation. Simply following the suggestions found on this page will not necessarily guarantee that you are adequately prepared for the exams. Use this study guide as a starting point, if you wish, but do not assume it will suffice as your ending point as well. I reserve the right to ask any exam question I determine to be fair.
The exams will likely include a mixture of long answer and short answer questions. Long answers are likely to involve writing short essays (roughly half a page in length), but may require you to work with HTML and/or CSS code. Short answers are most likely to be things like true-false and/or fill-in-the-blank. Partial credit will be available for all long answer questions, and may be available for short answer questions at my discretion.
Due to the nature of the course material, in which each topic covered builds upon those that have gone before, the exams are officially cumulative. However, in each case the overwhelming emphasis will be placed on the material covered since the previous exam.
The exams will test your mastery of the course material presented in lecture and supplemented by the reading assignments. Since the lectures will cover the most important materials, the focus of the exams will be on material covered in lectures. Therefore, the bulk of your preparation for this exam should focus on the material presented in lectures. However, the reading is meant to supplement the course material and is technically fair game for exam questions, so if you are sure you have mastered the material from lectures and have time left before the exam, you may find it beneficial to review the reading assignments.
If you have not already done so, printing a complete set of the slides used in lectures would be a good place to start. If you’ve been taking additional notes during lectures, you may find it helpful to merge your own notes with the printed slides at this point. The slides combined with your own notes should form the primary focus of your exam preparations.
There are pros and cons to making the PowerPoint slides available to students. The primary advantage is that it is easier and more efficient for me to lecture without constantly turning my back on the class to write on the boards. But if you rely too heavily on the provided slides and neglect taking your own notes, you are likely to suffer for it on exams.
Therefore, in preparing for the exams, you may find it useful to take a complete set of lecture slides (with any notes you may have taken added) and rewrite them in your own words. If you can obtain and merge in the notes of one or more classmates as you do this, so much the better. This is easiest and most effective if you do it as the semester progresses, but there is no reason it cannot be done in the days before an exam. However, the sooner you start the process, the more effective it will be.
When you complete the process, you should have a set of notes covering the entire semester to this point. Hopefully, you’ll also have a pretty good sense of which parts you know and which areas need work. Study this set of notes for a bit, and then move on to the next phase.
In the next phase, make one last pass through your handwritten notes and mark everything that you are confident you know. When you’re done, go through and copy the notes again; this time copying only the parts you haven’t marked. Now you should have a significantly shorter set of notes that is focused on the material you do not yet know.
Study the reduced set of notes for awhile, and then repeat the process, producing an even shorter set of notes. Eventually, you should be able to reduce the whole thing down to a page or so. When you do, that page will represent the material that you are having the most difficulty mastering. Coincidentally, it will also be the material that you’ve written by hand the most times, giving your brain the maximum opportunity to absorb it. And it will be much easier and more effective to focus on a single page of difficult material immediately prior to the exam than it is to flip through several pages trying to find the stuff you most need to study.
Admittedly, this approach requires a great deal of time and energy, but if you’re willing to invest that time and energy, this strategy should prepare you well for the exams.
When grading subjective essay responses, I use an additive rather than subtractive model. That is, rather than starting with the full number of points allocated to the essay and losing points along the way, you start with no points and earn them as you go. You earn points by:
You may earn up to the stated number of points for each essay. However, it is important to realize that not everyone earns full credit for every essay. In fact, the way I grade, full credit essays are relatively rare. The primary reason for this is that I feel better essays should receive better grades. Therefore, you must work hard to place your response among the best in the class if you want a chance at the best grades.
Also, it is worth noting that there is no minimum or maximum length requirements built into my grading scheme for essays. In the past, I’ve seen remarkably short essays score very well and exceedingly long essays score very poorly. As a general rule, I advise students not to write just to fill the page, but to use the time available to add any statements in which they have reasonable confidence. Adding statements that are erroneous can work against your ability to earn points, but adding statements that are accurate can help (if they are appropriate to the question).
Short answer questions are graded strictly on the basis of the correctness of the answer. For short answer questions that are worth more than one point, partial credit may be allowed if I determine it is appropriate.
When grading true/false questions, your response must be unambiguous. If I cannot tell with certainty whether your response was meant to be true or false, I will consider the response incorrect.
For grading purposes, acronyms are considered equivalent to their spelled out form. In other words, the answers “IP” and “Internet Protocol” are equivalent.