First semester at the ETH done!

ETH Zürich I had my last exam last Friday, so now I’m finally done with the first semester here at the ETH. Two of the exams were written tests, and the remaining four were oral exams.

The written tests was in OOSC and LBS. In OOSC we made the Object Spyglass project and then had a 45 minute multiple choice test. I have not quite made up my mind as to whether or not I like such tests — on one hand you can quickly answer a lot of questions when it’s just a matter of ticking some boxes, but on the other hand it’s very rigid and you cannot really express yourself in such a test. For the project I got the grade 6 together with Peter Brandt, and for the exam I got 5.75. Since the project counts 60% my final grade for the course was 6! :-)

The test in LBS was much more like what I’ve had back in Denmark: a two hour written test with lots of varied questions from the entire curriculum. I got 5.75 for that test which I’m very pleased with since I think the course was interesting.

The oral exams were more different than what I’m used to. First of all they were shorter: just 15 minutes and without preparation time. I like exams without preparation time for then you’re tested on what you really know and not on what you can memorize in the preparation time. It makes the whole exam much more natural and relaxed since you’re basically just talking about the stuff like if you had bumped into a friend in the cafeteria. I mean — we’re not supposed to have to use 15 minutes to think before we can explain how a quorum system or Shamir secret sharing works. We’re supposed to have learned that stuff. Of course one cannot expect you to just remember huge proofs and to recite them of the top of your head — for that it’s very fair to get some preparation time. But for testing if people actually have learned anything from a course, then I think it’s best to just simply ask them.

With all oral exams you have the little ceremony where you select your questions. And here at the ETH they all seemed to have their favorite little game for doing this… At the E-privacy exam the questions were written on some small pieces of paper and I had to choose two (I think). I don’t remember the questions anymore, but they gave me a 6, so I must have been able to remember both the questions and some suitable answers then…

The PDDBS was more simple: the professor simply asked me about what kinds of partitioning systems we had seen in the lecture, and when we went from there with him picking the questions. I still haven’t gotten a grade for that exam, but I believe I did well.

At the SS exam Nathalie Weiler took a long time to explain me the system, probably because I was an exchange student and she wanted me to feel comfortable. I had to pick the area of the first question and then she would ask me something. After that it went as usual with her asking questions from other parts of the curriculum. I talked and talked and got a 6, so I must have said something right :-)

My final exam was SFT and Christian Cachin has deviced a cunning system for picking the questions. First I had to pick three numbers between 1 and 20 (I picked 5, 13, and 17). Then the surpice came in the form of a secret offset! Whua! :-) So in the end I got questions 7, 15, and 19 which now got titles attached to them: Quorum Systems, Secret Sharing, and Broadcast with Byzantine Failures. But the game wasn’t done by then — I could choose to drop one of them. So I dropped the third and we could finally get started :-) For that exam I’m also waiting for my grade.

So now I’m looking forward to next semester. I still haven’t decided which courses I’m going to take, I’ll have to do that before November 6th.

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