Well In Hand

Wednesday in the first exam week of the last term. As so often, I got sick less than a week before the first exam (Certified Tester, tomorrow), leaving me unable to do anything useful for the whole weekend, worrying all the time whether I’d be able to attend the planned study meeting with our practicum group on Monday. But of course it worked out, and the meeting was quite helpful in coming to grips with the vast amount of confusing information that we’ll be required to make sense of in the exam. Granted, two in the group were rather passive, expecting my practicum partner and me to provide practically all of the input. In many ways it was more like a tutoring. But having to explain things always helps me to make them clear in my mind. That’s why I loved to teach. Developers call it rubber-ducking–you explain your code to your rubber duck and suddenly you understand it yourself.

Yesterday I studied at home, trying to get a grip on the rather contradictory test procedure classification (static vs. dynamic, functional vs. non-functional, white box vs. black box, and so on) because I want to use this for my five-minute opening statement in the oral exam. I was in chat contact with my practicum partner, and after a while it started making sense. Good feeling. Then I reviewed my 537 (!) flashcard several more times until I found that I remembered even the oldest ones (or rather, my software no longer showed me any except the most recently added as “oldest seen”). Even better feeling. In fact, yesterday I suddenly felt very confident. I guess this time I started studying just early enough to be sufficiently well prepared with exactly one day to spare (today). That too feels good.

I would have been ready for another day of studying together today as we had originally envisioned. Cross-checking our understanding of difficult definitions or routines. Solving problems from the written Altklausuren¬†such as finding control flow anomalies in a piece of pseudo code or determining the test cases for a certain coverage. Even though the exam will be oral so the assignments will have to be much simpler, the general setup will be relevant. But my practicum partner bowed out on the pretext of a spontaneous dentist’s appointment. Don’t know what’s going on. Anyway, I’m here in the cafeteria alone now with coffee, my flashcards, the official exam preparation book, the Altklausuren, and right now this blog. (And a meanwhile very familiar study group from the international logistics study program just behind me who have been animatedly discussing bills of lading before some British high court these past four weeks or so.) I don’t really need this day, but it’s fine. Let’s get just a little more confident.

A small setback is that my wife got quite sick yesterday, leaving me with the care of three small children and the additional worry that I too might get sick once more 24 hours before the exam. I have a great talent for feeling sick when others are sick anyway. But this too will pass.

Tomorrow is one of three or four dates for this oral exam (the professor is very accommodating in giving us several choices) and there’ll be only three of us, all from our practicum group of four. Unfortunately the other two are putting some pressure on me to go last. They feel (probably rightly) that I’m better prepared so coming directly after me will make their performance inevitably look worse in comparison. I see that point. But then I hate waiting for an exam. It makes me unreasonably nervous. I’d rather have it over with.

One way or another, though, it’ll be over in 25 hours or so. And then we’ll have a full week to prepare for the IT security exam, which is really generous. Another couple of weeks later we’ll take the official examination to get the Certified Tester certificate. That one will be in the style of the software architecture certification exam I took last fall, except with a lot more content. The 537 flashcards I have now for Certified Tester cover just 6 of the 8 sets of slides, the ones the professor rushed through in the lecture. In comparison, the entire content of the architecture exam fit on just 135 cards.

So yes, things are well in hand (if my health and nerves hold up, or maybe even if they don’t). For a while there I was still worried, not about the exams but the bachelor thesis and all that. My practicum partner had found a few nasty bureaucratic complications in the process. For instance, if you have completed all other exams provided for in the study regulations, as we will have come next Thursday, you will be automatically and retroactively exmatriculated, effective the day you take the colloquium (the oral presentation of your bachelor thesis en lieu of an exam). That means you are no longer a student on the next day. That, in turn, means you can no longer work as a student employee (Werkstudent). In fact, my present contract with my employer automatically ends when I lose my student status. So I have to start working as a regular consultant on the day after the colloquium at the latest (remember, I already signed that contract, only the starting date is still open) or I’ll be unemployed, with all the attendant nightmares of paperwork and loss of job tenure (which affects annual vacation days an so on). However, starting the job poses a (minor) bureaucratic problem if the first day of the contract is not the also first day of a month.

Worse, should the colloquium be later than the last day of August, we’re in the winter term, and I didn’t plan on being still matriculated then. Which means either I’ll have to take the colloquium as an external candidate, which we hear informally is not a problem, but there is no official, hard, reliable information on that; or I’ll nevertheless have to re-register and then pay the fees for the entire winter term but have nearly no benefit because I’ll lose the student status a few weeks into the term.

Which comes down to this: ideally the exam should be exactly on 31 August, the last day of the summer term, so I can start working full-time on 1 September. All problems avoided. If it’s earlier, I would have to make sure my company starts my contract on the very day after, whatever day of the month that is, if they go along with that; or else even earlier, say 15 August, so I won’t become unemployed. But then I’d have to take the colloquium, even prepare for it, while working a 40-hour week. If it’s later, all sorts of problems with UAS bureaucracy. So rather earlier.

But the earlier in August the colloquium, the less time to complete the thesis after the present exams. Depending on how long before the colloquium my supervisors want to see the thesis (four weeks seemed a reasonable expectation to me), and counting time to have the text proofread and printed, in the worst case I might have been left with just a couple of weeks after the second exam, during which time I’d also have to study for, and take, the official certificate examination in late July. Quite a bind.

So yesterday I just asked my professor whether there was a chance to hold the colloquium on 31 August. She checked with the second supervisor and within a few hours affirmed it would work. In addition, she said it was quite fine to hand in the thesis just a week before that date. Two weeks, she said, would already be a luxury for them.

I could hardly believe my luck. I mean, what were the chances? My practicum partner who is rather in the same boat in all respects tried the same, but her supervisor won’t be available on 31 August. But for me now everything will work out perfectly fine. Even after the official Certified Tester examination I’ll still have four weeks in which to complete the thesis. And I’ll almost certainly only need two if I’ll be doing nothing else.

Quite a load off my mind. No need to worry about the thesis, at all, at least before the second exam. I can become completely single-minded now, do nothing but Certified Tester until tomorrow, and then nothing but IT security in the week after that, and then the worst will already be over. What a luxury.

And it seems the colloquium won’t be a big thing either. Apparently of the 30 minutes allotted I’ll be giving a presentation for fully 25 minutes, leaving just a few minutes for questions. Not really an exam in any sense of the word.

So yeah, I really expect the last couple of months here to be reasonably relaxed now. As I said, all in all things are very well in hand indeed.

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