How to fail

Exams and your course grade

Some of your grade depends on exercises, but most depends on exams. You come into a lab, are given a task, and write a program. Right then, right there.

Exams are different every semester. One semester, an exam might use data about goat soap. The next semester, how long sloths sleep. The next, '70s rock bands. Every exam is different, and they are not reused.

However, the patterns for analyzing data about goat soap, sloth sleep, and '70s rock bands, are all the same. They're used differently, but they're the same patterns.

By exam time, you'll have done exercises with the patterns you need. If you've read the lessons actively, and done the exercises, you'll have no trouble. (Learning well talks about active reading).

But suppose you want to fail. How would you do it?

Don't do the exercises yourself

This is the easiest way to fail. Some options:

  • Just skip the exercises. Don't hand anything in.
  • Get solutions from a friend, maybe someone who took the course last year.
  • Pay someone to do the exercises for you. Plenty of websites offer this service.

As they say in horror movies, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Yeah, it's pretty obvious. You won't know how to write code. You can try randomly copying-and-pasting, but you won't know what patterns to use, how to adapt them, or how to link them together.

Don't try to understand

Skip the reading. It's only the exercises and exams that count, not the reading. So, jump to the exercises in each lesson. Copy-and-paste code, randomly alter it until it works. Or mostly works.

Trouble is, you won't really know what you're doing. It'll also drive you crazy, randomly trying things until your code works. Frustration will be your companion. And exams will be a living hell.

How to do well and feel good

Read lessons for understanding. When you get to an exercise, you'll know what you're doing. It's easier, and less frustrating.

If you don't understand something, ask. Friends, your instructor, goats.


​No, don't ask me. I don't know. Really.

Work with others. This is one of the best things you can do. Hang out together, with your laptops.

In fact, this is what class time is for, hanging out and working. It's why there are no lectures, so you can work together, and ask your instructor for help. This is the most pleasant and efficient way to do well in this course.

Don't know anyone in the class? That's OK. Go along, and introduce yourself. Yes, that's hard for some people, but try doing it anyway.

You can do it

Programming isn't easy, but it's not too tough, either. Read actively, do exercises, work with others, ask for help when you need it. You'll be OK.

You'll feel good about yourself, and you'll learn skills that employers want. You know what that means.


​Get you some Benjamins

A bad sign

If you find yourself guessing, copy-and-pasting trying to get something to work, trying this and that, just in case, then...


It won't work.

Make it easier on yourself. Work through your code, and understand why it is doing what it is doing. Look at code on this site, and compare.

This will end up being faster, and less frustrating than continuing to guess.